Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Color or form?

How about threads? I love the thready spikes this agave filifera wears. I tried to separate the pup next to its mama, but it didn't want to come loose, and I was afraid to force it. Maybe when I get more experience with agaves I'll feel braver about trying again.

Here's a filifera pup that was growing inside the pot, scrunched up next to the plastic. It's making a very slow recovery since I liberated it. I hope it will eventually open out a bit more than it has over the past two months.

Speaking of pups, here's a lovely agave Americana pup, courtesy of the danger garden. It is putting the baby filifera to shame, growth-wise, having put on several new leaves. I love its great combination of both form and color, with its open rosette shape and its sleek stripes of cream down each leaf edge.

Now we have perfection, in both form and subtle color. This is probably my favorite agave, so far. Agave parryi var. truncata has it all. Can you believe that rosette?

And how about those perfect red thorns and terminal spikes?

Eucalyptus debeuzevillei has lovely gray-green color on its side, but I'm pretty happy with its form this year, too. It added at least four feet over summer. You can see how much higher than the fence it has grown.

The leaves of this ficus carica Negronne have beautiful, long, deep green fingers. It's hard to see how Adam and Eve could have used leaves like that for modesty. But this fig has also grown about four feet this summer, so I'm thrilled, even though its form is pretty rangy. It even has a few figs on it!

I hope you can see how this carex flagellifera 'Toffee Twist" is developing the most delicious coral color on some of its leaves (stems?) this fall.

And the pink in my phormium "Pink Stripe" has deepened so that it's becoming more of a magenta. Along with the gray-green leaves, it's a wonderful contrast.

The Meyer lemon, sitting out in the garden for the summer, is surrounded by toffee twist carex and sage. The lemon leaves are such a bright green by comparison. It's not a tree I would grow for its form, but the lemons ripening on it and its fragrant indoor blossoms through winter let me forgive its slightly ungainly shape.

Here's a final contrast: Agastache 'Acapulco Orange', helichrysum italicum microphyllum and toffee twist carex. I love the way the gray curry plant makes the other two look so rich. Color wins in this graceful grouping.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This is not a plant.

At lunch time yesterday I visited Pioneer Square, here in Portland. As I arrived, a public relations event was just concluding. And I couldn't see the object of all the excitement until I walked over and entered the crowd:

This amazing little vehicle is all-electric and gets an estimated 190 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). It has a top speed of 55 MPH ... and does it using only three wheels.

The Pulse is made by Eugene, Ore., company Archimoto, and it will be available in 2010.

The MulchMaid wants to plug one in!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nursery loot

This summer I've filled up my extra garden bed space with a mixture of vegetables, and annuals like sunflowers. But when harvest is done, I know there will be some holes in the garden. So I've been on a modest plant-buying binge.

While my brother was visiting from Pennsylvania, we went to Cistus and I acquired its namesake above: Cistus x obtusifolia. The tag says "masses of white flowers." Sounds good to me.

I also picked up a little Delosperma congesta 'Gold Nugget', but with no flowers on it it looks just like any little triangular sedum.

Being unable to resist most things in the manzanita family, I fell for arctostaphylos x Martha Ewan, above, at Cistus. She's a little smaller and better sized for the spot where I planted her larger cousin, arctostaphylos Austin Griffiths. I'll move him and put her in his place.

I stopped in at Pomarius for the first time last Friday and had a nice time looking at all the offerings. Since I wasn't going home and I didn't want lots of plants baking in the hot car, I confined myself to just one plant - this sweet little Lewisia cotyledon. It would look great in our native alpine area, but will probably end up in the south bed.

Last, but certainly not least, I hit the Hardy Plant Society fall sale. I think I showed remarkable restraint in only buying three plants. Above, Eucomis comosa 'Oakhurst'. I'm not quite sure where this should go yet, but after seeing the gorgeous eucomis at Danger Garden, I had to have at least one.

I went to the HPSO sale looking for Luzula of any kind, but no luck there. I found a few growers that have them at their nurseries, though. Instead, I ended up with two Carex morrowii 'Evergold' to brighten up my front porch this winter.

Now I'll just be patient (maybe) while the vegetables finish out the season, and the weather cools down enough for planting all this loot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pittock Mansion perennials - a Saturday walk

I've posted before about weekend walks I take in the Portland area. I usually find something a little more offbeat to post about than your standard, lovely perennial plantings. But Saturday, it was just such plantings that delighted me at Pittock Mansion, after we'd hiked up the wildwood trail from Macleay Park.

It was a warm day, so we started early. We hiked in the shade, but by the time we reached the top, the sun was hot and the plants were loving it. Above, Rhododendron Yak Van Zile. I like the fuzzy leaves with their warm brown undersides.

They grow a fair number of roses with simple, often very small blossoms. Not all are marked, but the white one above is a shrub rose, Cliffs of Dover.

Beautiful, but an unnamed mystery rose.

The terrace of Pittock Mansion is a favorite location for bridal party photos. Interestingly, they always seem to speak Russian or another Slavic language. Of course the brides are always beautiful!

This is Darlow's Enigma. I was interested to see the mature plant, below, since I just planted one in my garden this summer to help cover the chain link fence. Now I'm not sure it's up to the task, but I'll give it a chance anyway.

In the shady circular bed near the entrance, there were some nice hosta selections. Above, Francee, and below, Lake Port Blue. I was impressed at the intact condition of the leaves. They obviously have any slug problems licked.

I guess no one has told the gardeners that English Ivy is a menace, but the ivy is also supporting some other kind of smaller vine that is the majority of what you can see in the picture. The effect looks like my idea of what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon might be like.

There was a bed of wonderful Pulmonaria selections in fairly deep shade. I haven't previously been too impressed with Pulmonaria, but these nice specimens grouped together were quite an eye-opener.

Unfortunately, only one was marked: the spotted one on the left above is Pulmonaria saccarata Mrs. Moon.

This beautiful tree, just barely beginning to turn color is Acer palmatum Sango Kaku. This particular tree is one of my favorite specimens.

After our walk we went to Hoda's on Belmont for a Middle Eastern lunch. The Belmont Street Fair was in full swing, with music, crafts and food.

They even brought in grass and some red-twig dogwoods, along with chairs and an umbrella to make a little park right in the intersection of Belmont and 34th! Fairgoers were putting it to perfect use in the bright Saturday sun.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A beautiful metal retaining wall

Neighbors across the street from friends in the Richmond neighborhood installed a new steel retaining wall early this year. Their lot is on the northeast corner of an intersection, and both sides of the sloped front yard had been covered by that type of no-maintenance juniper planting you see all over Portland. You know, the ones that always smell like cat pee.

The homeowners designed the wall themselves, then had it fabricated. They had weep-holes cut into the metal, and backed them with screening. The wall is installed on heavy-duty footings, as you can imagine.

Once the soil was backfilled they started landscaping this spring. They used lots of Mediterranean and drought-tolerant plants and shrubs: with just one summer's growth, the results are spectacular.

The steel is slowly gaining a nice patina. It's an amazing improvement, and a beautiful solution to retaining the garden slope.

I really like the way the modern lines of the wall complement their attractive midcentury ranch/bungalow. As nice as it already is, it'll be even more interesting as their garden matures around it over the next few years.