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

Monday, March 31, 2014

End of the Month View -- March 2014, The Bottle Tree Bed

It's time again for the End of the Month View, per Helen Johnstone's meme at her blog The Patient Gardener's Weblog. (Take a look at her post here, and don't forget to peruse the comments, where other bloggers leave links to their own EOMV posts). I actually have some changes to show this month, which I got done just barely in time for the end of the month. It's hard to get much accomplished out in the garden when it's raining so heavily. We broke records for rain in March this year, which is saying something for the PNW. I spent every dry and even dryish days (where it only sprinkled a bit) out in the garden, cutting back dead top foliage and pulling weeds. I try to stay on top of the weed pulling, basically making the entire rounds of every bed at least 3 and sometimes 4 times a year. I try to be methodical about it. If I can get to the shotweed before it seeds I am ahead of the game. I try not to overlook even the tiny ones, because tiny weeds eventually get bigger, and they make more of themselves.

Anyway, I managed to cut back and tidy all the dead foliage, and pull most of the weeds and pick up most of the debris left from our winter storms in the bottle tree bed.

On March 30, at the end of the day it looked like this.

Bottle Tree Bed, March 2014

Compare that to how it looked at the end of February, in last month's EOMV post, which you can read here.

Bottle Tree Bed in February, 2014

Tidy clumps of perennials

Mukdenia rossii 'Kurasuba' looking good, but slated to be moved to a new spot about 15 feet away in the same bed

A much tidier Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea with last year's old flower heads finally trimmed off

Emerging peonies are probably too far along for transplant, but I'm taking a shot at it anyway.  They'll survive, although it's possible they might not bloom.

Peonies that were just nosing their way out of the soil at the end of February are quite far along now.

Today, March 31, I put in a full day of work on the bed, digging up the hydrangea and all of the perennials in the bed. I then amended the bed with some lovely compost from my own compost bin.

By the end of the day on March 31, compost spread, Hydrangea and Mukdenia both moved, and Hellebore on the right has been dug and will be moved to that hole to the left of the Mukdenia

Various Verbascum phaeum grown from seed

Sheffield Pink mums and Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' dug and waiting

Hardy Geranium waiting to be divided and planted on either side of the Mukdenia, also four pots full of rocks unearthed while digging.

I've also started planting some of the perennials that I bought last year in anticipation of this project. I originally planned to do this bed renovation last fall, and collected plants all summer for that purpose. But my back had other plans, so I ended up putting it off till now. This morning I finally pulled all those plants out of my pot ghetto for an inspection. There were a couple that either didn't survive the winter in their pots, or are late risers. I haven't tossed them yet, I'll be keeping an eye on them for a bit.

Here's a list of what definitely survived:

Lamium orvala 'Silva'
Anemanthele lessoniana
Actaea 'Hillside Black Beauty'
Carex 'Banana Boat'
Amsonia hubrichtii
Paeonia ludlowii
Verbascum 'Clementine'

I have a plan for everything. The weather should be nice tomorrow too, which means that I'll be out there again hard at work. Check back when I do my End of the Month View post for April to see how it turns out.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday -- Pulsatilla vulgaris

For Wildflower Wednesday I'm featuring Pulsatilla vulgaris, a cute little perennial wildflower that is native to Europe and the British Isles. Recently renamed by those annoying taxonomists, its Latin name used to be Anemone pulsatilla. I have several different specimens of it growing in various spots throughout my garden, in the gravel garden as well as in a bed in the back. Right now the only one flowering is a white one in the gravel garden, but a red one nearby is close to blooming.

Pulsatilla vulgaris is also known as Pasqueflower, a reference to Easter, which basically just means it blooms in early spring. One of the features of this plant that I find so endearing is that it is fuzzy all over, with tiny hairs on flowers and foliage that often catch raindrops and glisten. But unlike the also-fuzzy lamb's ear, Pasqueflower doesn't become a smelly, bedraggled, soggy mess in our very wet PNW climate.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given the plant its Award of Merit (Read about it at the RHS website here, where you'll also find a delightful list of other common names). In England it is considered Vulnerable and is classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. In its natural habitat, it grows in wooded areas or meadows, often in calcium-rich soil. There is a large colony (estimated at over 20,000 plants) in the Cotswolds, at the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's Pasqueflower Reserve.

White Pulsatilla vulgaris in the gravel garden

White Pulsatilla growing with companions black mondo grass, Ann Folkard Geranium, Sedum 'Angelina' and Kniphofia caulescens

Pulsatilla vulgaris is hardy from Zone 4 to 8 and likes well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. The flowers open when the stems are only about 4 to 5 inches tall, and after flowering, as the fluffy seedheads reminiscent of a Clematis form, the stems elongate further. I always leave the decorative seedheads for a long time, but have never seen them self sow. Once established, they set down long taproots and resent transplanting. Several different online resources claim that slugs and snails may eat new growth, but I've never had a problem with that, perhaps because I have other food to keep the buggers entertained.

Red Pulsatilla nearby getting ready to flower

I bought mine online from Bluestone Perennials here. It's also available from other online nurseries.

Shooting Star Nursery

You can also buy seeds here from Chilterns.

A closeup of the white Pasqueflower showing the delicately hairy nature of the entire plant

What wildflowers do you grow?

Wildflower Wednesday, a celebration of wildflowers from all over the world, is hosted by Gail at the blog clay and limestone, and appears on the fourth Wednesday of each month. You can read about Gail's current featured wildflower False Rue Anemone here. Check out what other bloggers are saying about the wildflowers they grow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Favorite Plant in the Garden Is...

...A primrose. But not just any primrose. It's Primula auricula marginata 'Mauve Mist.'

Given the nasty beating my garden has taken from winter's big ugly stick (not to mention my neglect), it's been quite a while since I've had a plant in my garden worthy of being labeled my favorite. But with our recent stretch of dry, sunny, if not necessarily warm, days (it reaches 50 degrees by about 1 in the afternoon, and then immediately starts declining back into the 40s), I've been making good progress on tidying the garden beds one at a time. I finally made it into the area way back under the Douglas firs, where I have a number of shade-loving selections, and what should I spy when I get there but this...

Primula auricula marginata 'Mauve Mist' -- although I wouldn't call that color mauve

Quite unlike any supermarket or big box store primrose, it has the most wonderful whorls of jagged leaves that look like someone edged each one with pinking shears, and then dusted them with flour (an interesting look in early spring on a primrose leaf, not so pretty or welcome late in the summer when it's caused by powdery mildew). The proper name for the powder is farina (although why that is also a breakfast cereal I don't know).

It's hard to get the camera to capture the true light bluish-purple color of the flowers (below it looks Gentian blue, and it's not that either). Although it's called 'Mauve Mist' it's most definitely not the pinkish shade that I consider mauve. This spring is its first time flowering, as far as I can remember.

It's available online from Digging Dog Nursery here, which has this to say about it:

"Dawdling throughout the limestone-rich areas of France and Italy's Maritime and Cottian Alps, this unique evergreen Primula promotes low growing waxy rosettes defined by thick deep-toothed blue-green leaves dusted with an alluring silvery white powder. Large, cut-flower-worthy clusters of fragrant flat-faced lavender-colored flowers further enhance the lovely soft foliar shades. Cherished as one of the most attractive early spring Primulas for an alpine garden, rockery, trough or pot, easily grown 'Mauve Mist' develops from a reliable woody rootstock, fends off deer and rabbits, and relishes a brightly shaded, sharp draining abode."

I bought my two plants while on Whidbey Island about a year and a half ago, from Cultus Bay Nursery, a trip that you can read about here.

You can find a link to a listing on Dave's Garden here, which says it is evergreen, likes partial to full shade, moist but well-drained soil, all of which have been true of its spot in my garden where it's thriving amongst its companions Cyclamen coum, Primula veris, Hepatica, various Epimediums, ferns and Podophyllum pleianthum.

My second plant, placed further back in deeper, more unrelieved shade, is flowering a bit later than its sibling.

All of this one's buds are still tightly closed

Loree at the blog Danger Garden hosts the Favorite Plant in the Garden. Go to her blog here and read about her favorite this week, and don't forget to go back a few times to check out the comments, where other bloggers leave links to posts about their weekly favorite.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Peek Inside the Greenhouse 2

It's been a month since I last showed inside the greenhouse, so I thought I'd revisit it as part of The Greenhouse Year meme at The Patient Gardener's Weblog by Helen Johnstone (you can read her post here, and if you're curious about others' greenhouses, you can find links in the comments).

It's getting more crowded in there, so I've already given up on the thought of putting a chair and little table out there for sitting. I visit the greenhouse at least once a day, sometimes just to check on things, but also to sow seeds (and listen to the rain drumming on the roof). I did a post recently about all the seed sowing I've been doing, you can read it here.

I sowed grass seed in the small round area on the right, but so far no germination. But it's been less than a week.

I've moved all of my indoor over-wintering plants out to the greenhouse now, so real estate is getting precious, especially if I still want to be able to move around in there without knocking something over.

My Walla Walla onions are germinating like crazy. Don't they look cute with their seed hull hats?

So far only one artichoke. I'm hoping for more from seed I saved from my own plants.

Lettuce is doing well too.

Are you wondering what's in the bins? They're the ones I was planning to use in my hoophouse. I decided to move them in here instead. Inside the bins are heat mats and pots with seeds of Ricinus communis 'Carmencita' and 'New Zealand Purple,' as well as Solanum marginatum and Solanum pyracanthum. So far, no germination, but they've only been out there a couple of days.

All of the tropical plants that I either bought recently or that I had been over-wintering inside are going like gangbusters.

My Musa sikkimensis, which indoors produced all-green leaves all winter, has now started producing green with dark stripes again.

Ctenanthe oppenheimeriana 'Tricolor' is flowering

My variegated orange Abutilon has started flowering since I brought it out here too.

Remember all those ghostly white leaves my Brugs started producing in the garage? They've all greened up nicely, and are looking so lush.

And the variegated one is variegated again

It looks good next to this Begonia.

The new fronds on the Cycad are almost finished unfurling

I recently repotted a bunch of little Agaves, and while moving them around, I managed to impale the back of my hand on the large Agave 'Baccarat' in the brown pot. That was a big ouch!

The Bromelaids are all out there now, cowering from the sun underneath the table.

My rusty bat from Blackwaters Metal is hanging beside the door.

If my seeds don't all sprout, I'll have to unleash my flying monkeys (also from Blackwaters Metal).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Foliage Followup, March 2014

It's the day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and you know what that means, don't you? It's not just the day when all the laggards finally get their Bloom Day posts up. It's Foliage Followup, which takes place on the 16th of every month, in which garden bloggers celebrate the uniqueness of the contribution that foliage makes to their gardens.

Right now leaves are busting out all over in my garden, with our recent string of warm sunny days.

Ornamental Chinese rhubarb
And the same leaf from the front

When this plant starts to swell it reminds me of the eggs from the movie Alien.

Ferny poppy foliage has been out for months, since last fall, in fact. But now it's getting even more lush.

The crinkly dark leaves of a Kennedy primrose, which was in every nursery this time last year

The first flush of Dicentra 'Gold Heart' is a heart-stopper

My favorite hardy Geranium, 'Samobor'

The PNW native Heracleum lanatum aka cow parsnip

I love its big lush leaves

The mottled leaf of an Erythronium

Arum italicum 'Jack Sprat' has cool black spots on its leaves

Iris 'Gerald Darby' from Scott at Rhone Street Gardens still in its pot

'Bright Star' Yucca is looking pretty good (my other two have way more damaged leaves)

Both of my poor Trachycarpus fortunei were beaten into tatters by our stormy winter season, only the newest foliage looks good

'Fat Albert' Spruce with our single enormous laurel -- the only one left from the previous owners

Emerging foliage of Viburnum trilobum 'Red Wing'

Technically not foliage, but the lovely red branches of my 'Pacific Fire' vine maple really stand out, especially when the sun shines

Before you know it, we'll all be sitting pretty like these two froggies in a corner of my recycled concrete wall, pretending to be lost in tropical breezes.

Check out Pam Penick's blog Digging here, our host for Foliage Followup. Other bloggers leave links to their foliage posts in the comments. Check them out!