Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, February 28, 2014

End of the Month View -- Bottle Tree Bed, February 2014

What? It's the end of the month already? Oh yeah, February is such a short month. I can't believe it's here again already. I haven't done anything to the bed that I'm concentrating on for this meme (Helen Johnstone's End of the Month View, you can read her post here.) I haven't even managed to clean it up and cut back the old dead foliage from last year. It's still full of Douglas fir cones and debris from all the windstorms we've had this winter. I've been out there gardening 3 days this week, because we've finally had some nice weather, but I just haven't made it to this bed yet.

The Bottle Tree Bed at the end of February.

Well, time marches on, and the plants in the bed aren't wasting any of it. They're all showing up to play, including some that I totally forgot about in my January post, which you can read here.

Mukdenia rossii 'Karasuba'

Centaurea montana

Centaurea dealbata

Back in the fall, after I hurt my back, I enlisted Nigel's help in moving a couple of shrubs around in this bed, as well as digging and moving three rhubarb plants. It looks like we left a bit of root in the ground. At the time, I had been planning to redo the bed then, in the fall, but my back had other plans.

Tiny little rhubarb leaf

I also managed to move several pieces of this Petasites japonica out of a bed where I feared it would take over, and into a less moist and somewhat less hospitable spot near the fence in the Bottle Tree Bed. It looks like only two of those pieces survived the winter, because there are only two flowers coming up. Petasites flowers first before it produces leaves. I'm hoping it will have less of a tendency to take over in a spot that is less to its liking.

Petasites japonica flower
 Some of the shrubs in that bed are starting to leaf out as well.

Sambucus nigra 'Black Beauty'

Ribes sanguineum

And the other perennials are getting progressively bigger too.

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee'


Sheffield Pink mums

I fear I may be running out of time for moving these plants with impunity. They would much prefer to be moved before they are too far along in their seasonal development, so I'm going to have to shake a leg in March.

Especially if I want to move these peonies, which are already nosing their way above the ground.

Peony noses

And the drunken Mahonia is still there waiting for me, leaning crazily on the fence.  I think I'll probably cut it back and leave it where it is, in hopes that the lower portion will grow up straight.  But it's so lost in this obscure corner, behind all the other shrubs and perennials. I just don't know how it will react to being moved to a more prominent spot in my garden.

Drunken Mahonia

I think I'm going to have to sacrifice this lovely foliage

It looks like I have my marching orders. So much to do, so few dry, pleasant days.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hellebore Parade

While I was at Vassey Nursery buying my Blue Atlas Cedar (read about that purchase here), I couldn't resist ducking into the perennial area (after all, it was covered against the rain) to check out their Hellebores. They had some really lovely and different ones, and two proved hard to resist. I would have bought more, but I was already spending a pretty penny on that cedar. It's so easy for me to forget how very many Hellebores I already have.

Here are the two I bought on Saturday.

The buds on this one start out really dark.
The color lightens as it opens, but it's still such a pretty dark red from the back

Inside is pretty too, with that dark red collar around the stamens

This second one has very frilly petals and a darker picotee edge

The frilly petals are pretty even from the back

After I had finished planting my cedar, I decided to make the rounds of my gardens and photograph the many Hellebores that I already have growing here. I don't know the names, I'm afraid. Some of the tags are well buried near where they're planted, and others have been shoved in a drawer somewhere.

Like a ballerina's tutu

I'm partial to freckles and frills

More freckles, sorry the photo is so blurry.

I wish there were more pretty Hellebores that face upward. Some do, but the really frilly, colorful ones all seem to still be the type that face down.

Sometimes the reverse side is quite pretty

But inside is really stunning!

I still haven't cut back the old foliage to show off the flowers better.

More frilly tutus

I like the very dark, almost black ones too.

I've heard they can self-sow quite a bit, but I don't think I've ever seen a seedling in my garden. Of course, I do have a tendency to be a very conscientious weeder, so it's possible I pulled seedlings out thinking they were weeds.

Do you grow Hellebores? Which do you like best? Have you ever seen seedlings? Don't you agree that at this time of year they are hard to resist?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Peek Inside the Greenhouse

Now that the greenhouse is up and running, I've started migrating my indoor plants back outside, and into its heated environment.

From outside you can see that it is starting to fill up.

The view through the door -- it will probably never again look as tidy as it does right now

A single electric heater turned up full is keeping the temp in the mid-60s during the day, and mid- to low-50s at night, while the temps outside have been just above freezing.

There's not much room left on the table

'Red Tiger' Abutilon is starting to flower

A Bromeliad hangs in a birdcage

My Brugs have been released from captivity in the garage and are now getting both light and warmth

Three Bromeliads sit under the table, where I'm hoping they won't burn if the sun comes out
There's more room on the left-hand side, where I have a few plants on metal stands.

I hope now that my Musa sikkimensis is getting more light that it will straighten up. It had started leaning over in my dining room, maybe trying to catch the light from the only south-facing window. I'm trying to decide if I want to put a chair and a small table inside. It would be lovely to be out there with a cup of coffee, while it's cold and rainy outside. While moving plants from inside the house, Nigel and I paused a few times to listen to the patter of rain on the roof, a strangely comforting sound. Nigel says it's starting to smell like a greenhouse, the smell of soil and green growing things.

It hasn't taken long for Macho Mocha to start getting some of its freckles back

You can see into the greenhouse from the Folly

I'm on a steep learning curve with the greenhouse. I'm not sure a single heater is enough. Is mid-60s during the day and mid-50s at night warm enough for these tropical plants? I haven't put all of my Bromeliads out there. I still have a few inside the house, where they've been thriving all winter in the high-60s and low light. We've actually disabled the automatic vents for the time being, while I see just how hot I can get it. They were opening as soon as it hit the mid-60s, which probably wasn't good for that heater.

Do you have a greenhouse? What do you use it for? Starting seeds? Overwintering tropical plants? Do you have any advice for me?

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Successful Nursery Trip

Over the weekend I went looking for a dwarf Blue Atlas Cedar/Cedrus atlantica 'Horstmann.' After reading Peter The Outlaw Gardener's recent post here about Alpine Nursery and its excellent selection of conifers, I decided to give it a try on Saturday afternoon. I looked it up on Google maps before we set off, but I still didn't realize just how far out in Puyallup it was. And of course I didn't count on having to drive down Meridian Street in Puyallup, which, being a major franchise alley, is a mess of traffic most days but even worse on Saturdays. We crawled along amongst the Saturday afternoon shoppers and errand-runners. And of course, it was raining. In fact, it had been briefly snowing earlier in the day, but it changed to rain when the temps rose.

Anyway, we finally arrived at the deserted nursery. No one else apparently was on a mission like I was. I set off from the car and had barely set foot into the nursery when a man came out into the rain and cold to ask if he could help. I told him my mission and he showed me a couple of small specimens, which were really too small for me, unfortunately. One had a nice form, but looked sort of Bonsai-ish, sitting in a hypertufa trough. So he very kindly told me that his friend who owns Vassey Nursery had exactly what I was looking for, since he had been there recently and seen that they had a couple of very lovely Blue Atlas Cedars about 3-4 feet high. He made a call and told them I was coming and to pull their best one and hold it for me. I wish I knew the name of the man at Alpine who helped me out, but I'm assuming he was the owner. I'll definitely be going back when the weather is nicer to check out what else he has for sale. That's only fair.

I wish I had thought to check Vassey first, since it's actually much closer to our house than Alpine. Anyway, we set off for Vassey and when we got there, found the most perfect specimen waiting for us. In no time, we had it paid for ($74.99 for the curious amongst you) and loaded into the car.

What a beauty!

I just love those clusters of blue needles

On Sunday I couldn't resist going out to plant it, despite frigid temps. I put it in the front bed next to my Pinus sylvestris 'Nisbet's Gold,' a lovely Scotch pine that turns yellow in winter and greens up in summer sun. Not right next to it, of course. I've allowed room for both of them to reach their mature size in 10 years or so -- 6 ft. by 3 ft. for the pine and 8 ft. by 3 ft. for the cedar. Hopefully the info on the tags is correct. They're about 6 1/2 feet apart, measuring from trunk to trunk.

Pinus sylvestris 'Nisbet's Gold'

The long golden needles will make a nice contrast with the cedar's clusters of short blue needles

Right to left: Blue Atlas Cedar, 'Nisbet's Gold' pine, 'Sunlight Lace' Hinoki cypress, and far beyond them and out of focus, Abies koreana 'Silberlocke' and against the sky still waiting to leaf out, Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'

It was so cold when I finished that my hands were aching and red, but I still had to capture that lineup in a picture.