Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tricks and Treats for Halloween

My newfound friend and I wish you a happy Halloween!  We saw each other at Watson's Nursery and fell in love. Alas, our time together was not to last as there's only room for one b witch in any relationship.
She is spectacular, standing nearly 15 feet tall and with fabulous bat-like wings which make me wonder why she needs the broom.  Well she is, after all, a Watson's witch and that place is always squeaky  clean so maybe she has to pitch in with the housework.

She must have quite a sense of humor as these guys always seem to be laughing.

These glittery pumpkins are kind of cute! O.K. let's have a little chat: Lavender/purple has always been a  color present in the autumn garden with ornamental kale, mums, asters, colchicum and others all putting on their violet show and adding a light pastel foil to the screaming warm colors of fall foliage.  When, however, did this jewel-toned purple and chartreuse start creeping in on Halloween's traditional orange and black palette?
Don't get me wrong, I love color and have a "the more the merrier" attitude about it but was just wondering about the change.

The zombie garden gnome atop the pillar on the right caused me to laugh audibly.

These tree ghosts are always present in the garden but at this time of the year they look especially spooky.

And speaking of tree ghosts...  

Suppose you keep this year's Christmas tree, let all the needles fall off while storing it over the summer, spray paint the remains metallic silver or gold and use it again the following year?

So much for tricks, here are a few of the treats I saw.  This year is the first that Watson's has had Chief Joseph lodgepole pines.  This one is starting it's color shift from green to bright yellow for the winter. I no longer lust after this plant as my Sister and Niece gave me one in September.
Walking a little further and what to my wondering eye should appear but lots of  baby Chief Josephs.  See the cute little yellow tufts of needles?

The $40.00 price tag on these little ones is quite reasonable as one sometimes sees this size at specialty plant sales for fifty to eighty dollars.
This visit was full of reminders of my eldest sister; for instance, this other old bat I saw.

Speaking of the old bat, one of my students made this one.  I asked him what the cute little critters were and he said, "those are all the happy people."  Seems that everybody knows that the old bat brings happiness to those around her. 
Lest you think that I'm the meanest brother on the planet, 1) It is the job of the youngest sibling to be spoiled, irresponsible, and to irritate his family  2) We lovingly called my mother the old bat and upon her death, the niece and I declared, "the bat is dead, long live the bat."  The torch had been passed. 3) My sister's birthday is very near Halloween so she's a natural.

Meanwhile, back at Watson's,  the Acers were putting on holiday colors.

Coprosma 'Evening Glow' dressing up for winter.
Speaking of evening glow, this shot is from later the same evening.  I've never mooned anyone before but there's a first time for everything. 

Tricked ya! (Thank goodness!)  Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Seedy Post

O.K. it's not what you think.  Well, maybe it is... You do realize that flowers are the reproductive organs of plants, right?  We seem to be fascinated by plant sex.   Why is it that we are so fascinated by flowers?  Why are we attracted to floral fragrances?  I get that insects, bats, and birds are attracted to blooms because of the nectar but what evolutionary purpose would human attraction to fragrance serve?  Found a couple of interesting thoughts here and here . One of my favorite and oft quoted lines comes from Michelle at Garden Porn, "Is that a pistil in your calyx or are you just happy to see me?"

The following  shows the result of unprotected plant sex in a factual and explicit manner.  You have been warned.

This summer, one of my brugmansia 'Charles Grimaldis' bloomed it's everloving head off.  It was in a plant stand that made it look much taller than it really was but it was magic to walk beneath those large golden fragrant trumpets!  I noticed that a seed pod was forming on a branch that was out of reach and being too lazy to haul out a ladder or pull the plant down for this single operation, I left the pod.  A few days ago, I removed the plant from the outside stand to bring it inside for the winter and decided to remove the pod. I probably should have let it stay on longer to ripen the seeds but I wasn't thinking about that, just wanted to explore the seed pod.  One of the  differences between daturas and brugmansias is the shape of their seed pods.  Those of datura resemble spiky horse chestnut seed pods or medieval flails while brugmansias look alittle like long okra and are smooth.

Because I'm so selfish, I plucked the thing without thinking of you at all.  It wasn't until after I twisted it open to discover what the contents looked like that I thought that maybe y'all might like a peek, too.  The pictues show it smushed back together, sorry I'm such a pig.
And now pulled apart.  For many of you, this may be old news but I'd never seen brugsmansia seeds before so it was kind of fun for me.  I'm easily entertained.
Do these seeds look like brains?    Maybe the darker ones have matured enough to be viable?  Could be fun to start brugs from seed and see what happens.  Have you ever tried?
I hope this post wasn't too jarring to the more refined and genteel  among us. 
My thoughts are with all who are affected by the damage caused by Sandy! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

An Agave Story

You may remember my post a month or two ago in which I talked about the agaves that were given to me by Sally Priest.  The car was already full of other plants so I could only take a few.  However, there were still some more left that needed a good home and I know  this Portland gardener who likes agaves a little so I made a trip back to retrieve the rest.   From the pictures below, you can see that they had been neglected and needed to find a good home.

First I cleaned them up a bit - here's the aftermath:

Here are some of them after a little care for a few weeks.

Brought in from the rain to dry a little before being placed in boxes.
Now packed safely into the car and ready for their trip to Aunite Loree's Agave Rescue.
I know that they will be safe and happy for the rest of their lives.  Hooray!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Euonymus europaeus 'Red Ace'

While walking down my sidewalk, I noticed a flash of pink from the hellstrip.  It was Euonymus europaeus 'Red Ace' that came from Steamboat Island Nursery a few years ago when they still did retail sales.  If you don't know the nursery, do check out their website.  While they no longer do retail sales on site, they have a wonderful schedule of sales at which they vend, some of which have been new to me.  It's always fun to find a new plant sale, right?
I've posted before here about  the Euonymus europaens  inside the fence which is now fading but had a much more purple/red  seed show and, perhaps because it gets more sun, an earlier fruiting.
Euonymus europaens 'Red Ace' is a riot of color right now in my fading garden.  According to Plant Lust, this is available at Cistus Nursery in Portland but I also saw it last year at Vassey Nursery in Puyallup. 

My eye for color may not be the best, but I'd definitely call this a pink and orange combination rather than scarlet/orange.  Perhaps this, too is due to this plant being in the shade.  I'll be cutting down the shade-causing tree this winter so time will tell. 
In any case, I love this plant which somehow looks cheerful and spring-like in October! 
In keeping with Random Friday, here's an unrelated picture of part of my garden this month. I uploaded it to be part of an earlier post but somehow it got here.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

P.S. A Disaster

So, the garden is collapsing around me.  The recent return of heavy rain accompanied by strong winds after nearly 90 dry and relatively still days is causing things to fall, droop, sag.  It's depressing how similar the aging garden is to the aging body but let's not dwell on that.  Anyway, on Saturday last, there was a little bit of sun between the showers and I ventured out to survey the garden. 

From this angle it's not too horrible.

Big blank spot where  Rheum palmatum atrosanguineum decided to collapse early.  It was every bit as beautiful this spring as the one on the cover of Shocking Beauty by Thomas Hobbs.  Now, however it's just fallen down and gross.  The tetrapanax is a sucker from some far-off bed. 

Big empty space once occupied by Euphorbia  griffithii 'fireglow' that looked great but then suddenly decided to go dormant which has not happened to this plant in my garden before frost.  The roots look good and there are new growth buds underground but  for some reason the tops are DYK (dead you know.)
 I love grasses, especially the big ones but if they decide to fall over and cover up everything in front of them, I consider perhaps digging them up and giving them to another gardener or maybe murdering them.  This is a perfect illustration of what Linnie W. at Women Who Run With Delphiniums calls "inappropriate plant horizontality."  If you haven't checked out her blog and you enjoy garden humor, click on over there.

At times like this, it's best to take close ups and forget that the garden is collapsing faster than the stock market in 1929 so we'll end the tour and just look at some things that caught my eye.

On the bright side, the asian pear is producing nicely this year.  Not too little and not so much that limbs are falling under the weight of the fruit.  I keep wanting to remove this tree but it produces pest free fruit with no spraying or other help from me.  It's not a pretty tree and it casts shade and sends suckers up everywhere, though.   What would you do?

I brought this coral bark maple with me from my former garden.  I had purchased it before they were available at every Lowes, Home Depot, and KMart on the planet & I remember thinking that I wouldn't leave behind such a treasure.  the bark is gray and only the new branches on top are coral in color.  I threaten to replace it with one that will stay coral barked but it's achieved a certain size and anchors the whole back garden and it's the first tree to start turning in the fall & holds it's color for a long time before the leaves fall. 
My current favorite evergreen, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'van pelt's blue', is  the bluest conifer I've ever seen. 

 Brugmanisas blooming as if in denial of the changing weather while we actually turned the furnace on for the first time a couple of days ago. 
 Last but not least, the hydrangea 'Pistachio' that I got earlier this summer and has been in continuous bloom since.

I guess the yard isn't a total disaster...nothing that a few days work with a front end loader couldn't fix.  I hope you are enjoying October in your garden! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Clerodendrum Trichotomum

I read on a plant tag at Cistus Nursery that in Portland, Oregon, Clerodendrum trichotomum is liberally used as a street tree in a certain part of town.  Lucky Portlanders!  The leaves of this shrub which will form a thicket or can be trained as a tree smell like peanut butter when bruised and it's late summer flowers smell like jasmine and are a humming bird magnet.
I planted this C. trichotomum, also known as Harlequin Glorybower, many years ago thinking that it would be a small shrub.  It decided to be a couple of small trees but then, toward the end of one summer, they decided to suddenly wilt, loose their leaves, and die.  From their roots grew many more stems and soon there was a large group of them.  Every now and then, some branches go through the sudden death thing for which I've still not ascertained a cause.  The roots must like my garden as I find suckers of this coming up in several nearby beds - they pull pretty easily but are quickly replaced.  Do be careful of where you plant this beauty.
This variegated form called 'Carnival' came from Cistus and is planted in the very poor soil of my hell strip where it gets very little water.  It has grown beautifully but hasn't put out a single sucker.

 The blooms are followed by cool metallic turquoise to blue seeds surrounded by the red calyxes. 

 There is a great picture of a C.tricotomum grown as a tree so covered with these that the tree appears to be nearly red here.

 If you're looking for a fun tree with three season interest, or a thicket to cover the back 40, Clerodendrum trichotomum might just fit the bill!