“Hi January, it’s me, Tish. Um…calling to apologize about my prior blog post where I said you were my least favorite month of the year – among other less than complimentary things. Hey, you have been a real peach this year.”
Actually I should call El Nino and thank him. January has been mild and enjoyable this year thanks to a strong El Nino pattern sending storms south (which is not a good thing for CA due to the heavy rains). For us, it means less precipitation and warmer temps. All will be well as long as we don’t dive back down into a deep freeze in February which will damage buds that seem to think it is spring already. In the meantime, I think I will enjoy another sunny day in the garden.
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Posted in garden design, tagged echeveria on 2010/01/22 |
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I love Echeveria. These chubby little succulents are fabulous looking with waxy, unreal colors. My only complaint is they are not hardy here. If I lived further south in San Francisco or LA, I’d have whole beds of these succulents with agave too. I’d stuff them in everywhere. Alas, the Pac NW climate is the antithesis of succulent happiness (gobs of rain), so I have them indoors in winter and outdoors as soon as those evening temps climb higher and things dry out.
Lola also loves Echeveria. Fortunately for her, they are not poisonous. Unfortunately for me, she routinely mangles them. I think she also likes their chubby look and cannot resist the temptation to bite. So after a few months, I may be left with a few good looking ones and several that have been hole punched by her fangs or where the poor things have lost all their leaves after the repeated and rude assaults.
Given Lola’s penchant for browsing, below is my recent recreation of the Echeveria pot after a visit to Home Depot. Note: I am not a supporter of big box nurseries and the strong chemical odors in Home Depot nearly always give me a migraine. On the other hand, they can be counted on for a wonderful selection of Echeveria at good prices when no one else is carrying them – like in winter. So I get in and out as quick as possible and head home with the loot.
For a pot like this – select three or five of a few varieties and go for differences in texture, size and color. I opted for blue and chocolate colors in a matte black pot. Then, cram as many as you can in…you will be harvesting some smaller ones, but the look is best when it is stuffed. Make sure to have the pot in direct sunlight indoors and out. I added a smaller pot to the big one with a few of the extras. Lola has already noted that this is conveniently at her mouth level and has been sampling. We shall see how long this arrangement lasts…
the perp - do not be fooled by the cuteness
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I think January is the hardest month of the year for gardeners…or maybe just me. It is the one month of the year where I really can’t justify working in the garden because I would just be compacting the soil and stepping on dormant plants. Likewise for Bliss, this is a quieter time of the year where much of my work is at my desk. In short, I am not getting my dirt fix. My garden slumbers and with the low light and rainy days, I am not sure if I am awake either. I remind myself that there are just a few short weeks until February when the hints of early spring arrive and I begin the process of getting my garden ready for the upcoming season.
However, this where being a gardener is a distinct advantage. While I know well that this weather will continue off and on until, let’s be honest with ourselves - MAY – once I see life begin to return to the garden I no longer care whether it is a little dreary outside. In fact, I prefer the cooler weather for my work. I know that seeing the buds grow larger and tips peaking out of the soil promises much more to come, and that is enough for me.
That said, while January is my least favorite month of the year, I try to remind myself that there is plenty of beauty to appreciate and be thankful for. My favorite winter treat - seeing the sea green colored lichen on the bare branches of shaggy big leaf maples (Acer macrophyllum).
If you are like me and gazing outside wishing for spring, take heart – it is closer than you think. In the meantime – check out the NW Flower and Garden show in early February at the Convention Center to get your fix www.gardenshow.com/seattle/index/.
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Posted in garden design, ornamental grasses, tagged Acorus gramineus 'Ogon', Anemanthele lessoniana, Deschampsia cespitosa 'Goldtau', Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue', Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola', Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio', Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light', Molinia caerulea 'Variegata', ornamental grasses on 2010/01/06 |
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Like many gardeners, I am a plantaholic. While I try to plan before I buy, I am not always immune to the charms of plants. Sometimes fall prey to the outstanding beauty or unique nature of a certain plant then work to find a home in my garden. In fact, I have been guilty of completely redoing an entire bed to design around a plant. Despite this, I need to keep the garden looking good year round and my beds are also stuffed with dependable friends. With the motto that it is best to test things in my garden before a client’s, I try a variety of plants. Then, I cull what I think are the best.
Below is the first installment of my picks. I’ll start with my favorite group, ornamental grasses. I could design entire gardens with grasses, their seasonal color, movement and grace is unmatched. Every garden should have several. Some of these are quite ordinary, however I have found if you fill your garden with many dependable performers, then save a little room for the unique (read: needy), you can be a collector, yet still have a well designed garden.
- Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ – There are a few cultivars, but I always select ‘Aureola’ which has a fine line down the blades that gives the grass more definition. Cascading over a path, a rock or massed in a group - this one is dependable, low maintenance and breathtaking. Slowly expands to a larger clump. Prefers some shade and does need regular moisture. Also prefers humus rich soil. Pairs beautifully with the black heucheras such as ‘Obsidian’. In sun, it will bleach a little lighter - but this color effect is beautiful too. Herbaceous.
- Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’ – Another light colored grass for those damp areas, however don’t put it in the shade – this one needs sun or it fades away. The purplish-bronze inflorescence in late summer are outstanding – better when positioned for back or spotlighting with the late afternoon sun. Herbaceous.
- Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’ and ‘Morning Light’ – There are so many Miscanthus to choose from, however many will flop on you later in the season if not given perfect conditions…and in my eyes – nothing is worse than a grass that has opened up and is rudely smothering its neighbors or sprawling over a path. I love to use them for form and movement, but I stick to these two for dependable upright habit, coupled with good color effects. ‘Adagio’ stays shorter, has a fine white stripe down each blade and bronze inflorescence in late fall. ‘Morning Light’ provides a punch of white – like a beacon of light but often will not flower until the clump is mature. Thin blades keep this grass upright and strong. Both need as much sun as possible to reach peak performance. ‘Morning Light’ is a little slower to fill out, so if you want immediate impact, invest in a little bigger specimen at purchase (#3 or #5). Not always easy to find these sizes – but Wells Medina seems to carry them in the bigger grasses. Herbaceous.
- Anemanthele lessoniana – Still included, despite its marginal hardiness here in the Pacific Northwest. Winter 08-09 did some significant damage to these – especially ones already hampered by poor drainage. Regardless, what else gives you this effect? You might say Carex testacea…but I would argue in favor of Anemanthele any day – especially with that foamy pink inflorescence….wow. Lots of sun, and drier conditions seem to keep these guys happy. A protected position also helps keep them looking good. If there is too much die back after winter, cut back to the ground well after the last frost in spring. Better yet, give them a good clean up in spring by raking out the dead bits. With the orange color effects, I love to pair these with blues. Semi-evergreen.
- Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’ – Many deschampsia are not stocked at retail nurseries – primarily because they don’t show well in the pots. Are they worth it? Take a look at Piet Oudolf’s work. Get these guys in the ground and you will not be disappointed. ‘Goldtau’ has attractive, dark olive, semi evergreen foliage that sticks around through winter (and looked great after the last winter with all the snow). Then, in mid summer, masses of foamy gold seed heads coat the plant. Needs some moisture like all deschampsia. Best in a mass – even better back lit. Semi-evergreen.
- Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ – In the wrong position, this grass looks terrible – sulky and anemic. Put this pup in your tough hot and dry positions and it will thrive with splendor. Very little else will give you this ice blue color – plant in trios or masses for best effect. A good combing each spring keeps the thatch out. I love it with the smaller, deep burgundy barberry like Berberis thunbergii var. atropurpurea ‘Concorde’. Evergreen.
- Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ – OK – not a grass, but everyone thinks this is a grass and it looks like a grass so I include it here. It is actually an evergreen perennial. Outstanding chartreuse evergreen foliage brightens shade. Takes sun in stride too – but does need moisture. Great for edging ponds or creating a watery effect. One down side to these that I sadly learned this year – voles love them as much as I do; specifically their fleshy roots. I had a magnificent full stand that was devastated by these little monsters, and I have not had much luck with the ultrasonic devices. I refuse to bait because of the impact on the food chain (e.g. – vole dies in forest and eaten by larger animal that then gets sick too). Not above trapping and relocating to another part of our property…
- Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ - Sadly an annual here in the Pac NW (hardy to about 40 degrees), mature stands are ubiquitous in warmer climes. This is a fine looking grass with soft, fluffy seed heads that look fabulous in pots or beds. Purchase a larger one for the best summer show. You will find that you want one in the garden every year.
That’s it for part 1. Up next – dwarf conifers. Forget about the swathes of junipers overused in the 1970s – there is so much more out there now…
Molinia caerulea 'Variegata'
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