Friday, April 30, 2010

Tiny spring flowers (and a few exceptions)

With just a few exceptions, I seem to have very small flowers on anything blooming in the garden at this time of year. It's too early for roses or many of the rhododendron trusses, and too late for most of the spring bulbs, so many of the things blooming right now seem bright and tiny.

Another theme that seems to permeate my garden choices is a propensity for flat, simple, sunflower-like blooms. It's probably because I love all those hot-weather, gray-leaved plants that frequently have very simple bloom forms anyway.
Here's one exception to the "tiny" rule, however this cistus does have a very simple form.
I have at least four different helianthemums that are beginning to bloom right now with flowers that are less than an inch wide. This is helianthemum 'Belgravia Rose'.
Helianthemums are in the cistus family. They all have the bright yellow stamens of their bigger cousins.
I love the bright petals against the gray-green foliage this time of year.
Potentilla is another sun-lover with a similar flower form to heliathemum. They share the same grayish foliage, too. But while heliathemums are low-growing ground covers, most potentillas are small, upright shrubs. This one is McKay's White, and it's been blooming for weeks now.
This isn't a simple flower by any means, but it is a tiny one. Grevilla juniperina 'Low Red' has been happy to bloom since I bought it in February.
While I've been inside waiting for the rain to slow down, the callas sneaked into bloom. They seem to love this cool wet weather. Another exception to my theme, they're neither sun-oriented nor tiny, but I'm happy to see them filling this bed under our breakfast room window.
Sedum pachyclados has the tiniest flowers yet. They can't be more than a quarter inch across, but they're creamy, star-shaped little gems.
Besides the many roses I inherited in my garden, there are just a few other blooming plants we kept. The callas were in the garden when we moved here, and this little no-name heuchera is another plant that's been moved a few times, but that I didn't have the heart to throw out. Its foliage is nothing special, but it rewards me each spring with wiry little stems of salmony-pink blossoms for weeks.

Do you have any "heritage" plants you probably wouldn't have chosen, but that you find yourself enjoying in your garden anyway?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Some women shop for shoes...

Okay I do that, too, but is there a better time than spring to indulge in shopping for plants? Well, maybe fall, when you've seen amazing and desirable specimens in gardens and online throughout summer. But for sheer exuberance and seasonal potential, I vote for spring plant shopping, hands down.

I shopped conservatively at the Lan Su (Chinese Garden) sale a month ago, then lost most of my restraint at the Hardy Plant Society sale this weekend. Blame it on the weather: it was sunny and warm here in Portland this weekend!
At Lan Su I bought euphorbia 'Bonfire'. I've been reluctant to grow euphorbia (an early bad experience with a prolific spreader scarred me) but recent gorgeous examples have tempted me and have gotten me over the hump. Bonfire is supposed to stay small and well behaved. Let's hope so.
From the Gossler Farms booth at Lan Su, I got a Trachycarpus wagneriensis. I'd been concerned about the smaller of my two Trachycarpus fortuneii that was looking pretty sad after our hard winter, so I wanted to hedge my bets.

Good thing I did: today I discovered the poor little thing had completely rotted in the middle. There's no saving it at that point, so wagneriensis will take its place. It's even more cold tolerant than fortuneii, so if bad things (and winters) come in threes, I'm better prepared.
This little darling is eryngium 'Jade Frost'. Cute, no? I have always loved eryngiums, and this pink-tinged one is perfect to replace last winter's cold-weather victim.
This Syneilesis hybrid is so cool. Just look at the fuzzy hairy tops to these little umbrellas.
Megan of nest maker called it the must-have plant of the Lan Su sale.
She was right.

Here's a sad sight. Multiply it by two to get the number of young arbequina olive trees I lost this winter. I needed at least one replacement and it needed to be big. What better place to find it than at the Hardy Plant Society sale?
Since deferred gratification is not my strong suite, I splashed out for the big, 2-gallon olive from One Green World. It will go into the front hot bed and I hope it will be well-enough established to weather whatever the winter of 10-11 can throw at it.
Mr. MulchMaid asked for some additional huckleberries (vaccinium ovatum) for the Northwest native part of our garden. Buying plants on request? No problem! These are a variety from the UBC Botanical Garden called 'Thunderbird'. There's everything to like about huckleberries, including...mmm, berries!
 I fell for another pretty Lewisia cotyledon from Rare Plant Research:  I thought the one I bought last year was looking lonely this spring.
This Northwest native is Menzie's Penstemon, Penstemon davidsonii v menziesii. It's a mat-forming evergreen that won't get much bigger than about 10", but has (according to the picture I saw) a pretty purple flower in summer. Just perfect for the slope below the pinus contorta.
Sedum kamtschaticum f. 'Variegata' from Joy Creek Nursery is just what we need for some attractive ground covering in the hot bed. I had hoped Joy Creek would bring rudbeckias to the sale, since all mine died and so far, show no sign of reseeding. Since they didn't have them at the sale, it looks like a trip to Scappoose is in my future.
Last, my favorite new discovery: Callistemon viridiflorus. This reputedly cold-hardy shrub (zone 7a) from Xera will get to 8 feet tall and five feet wide in five years. As it gets bigger, it gets white, corky bark. In May and June it should have chartreuse/yellow bottlebrush flowers "in profusion."  Minus flowers, the plant is already wonderful with its fuzzy, fine texture and unusual form. It's the newest in a series of  "privacy" plant attempts, and I really want this one to succeed.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - April 15, 2010

Forget taxes. If you haven't done them yet, file for an extension. The garden is MUCH more important today.

So here are a few plants blooming in the MulchMaid's garden this month, with apologies for a couple of repeat bloomers from last week's post.
Evergreen huckleberry, loaded with blooms. Karen from Greenwalks asked if I fertilize them: I do, with some mild, naturally derived pellets I get from a great local Portland company, Concentrates.

Eddie's White Wonder dogwood is a beautiful, stately tree, even as a youngster. The pale green blossoms are growing larger and whiter every day.

The last few flowers on Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths'.

Arctostaphylos 'Martha Ewan' is just beginning to bloom. And it has the loveliest gray-green, slightly fuzzy leaves.

Last, Loropetalum chinense 'Sizzling Pink' is covered with cute, strappy pink flowers. In the MulchMaid's garden of many Northwest natives with their quiet, small spring blooms, this pretty and unusual flower really stands out.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Click on over to see what's blooming in her garden and gardens across the US and around the world today.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring-like behavior detected

Lately it seems every time I have a moment to go out in the garden, it's raining. By the same token, the sun comes out when I'm sitting behind my computer at work. So I had some visual catching up to do this afternoon as I wandered around the garden. Let me share some of what I saw.

Candles springing up on the lodgepole pines (pinus contorta).

Spring-green (duh!) new growth on the kinnick-kinnick (arctostaphylos uva-ursi.)

Our dogwood (cornus x 'Eddie's White Wonder') beginning to bloom. The blossoms are a gorgeous pale green, but as they open, they will turn pure white.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata is starting out reddish, but will turn deep green by summer.

The evergreen huckleberries (vaccinium ovatum) have lots of beautiful, red, new leaves...

... and lots of pretty flowers on their second-year wood.

One mahonia nervosa has a few new branches, also in seasonable spring-green.

Our pyracantha 'Mohave' has been in the garden for three years now. It's to the top of the fence and looking robust.

That pyracantha was such a success (unlike multiple other "privacy" plants that died over the past two winters) that I put in three more Mohave along the fence a month ago. I'm determined to get some year-round screening. Although they'll take some time to reach the stature of our big pyracantha, the three are looking perky this spring.

Grace, over at Gardening with Grace, posted this week about her crabapple. My image of our young malus 'Prairifire' can't rival her gorgeous pictures (take a look!), but I have been thrilled by the intense, dark pink flower/foliage combination out our dining room window. We planted Prairifire to screen us from the big house across the street, and it's already doing the job of stopping the eye in the most beautiful way.