Tag Archives: Garden Bloggers Fling 2014 Portland

meeting plants in person for the first time

By now you’re probably wondering will this blog ever stop dining out on the Portland garden bloggers meetup. Just one more for now on the plants that really had my number. Which is undeniably an odd number, but the heart wants what it wants. Many times I become infatuated with plants through magazines, online catalogues, or blogs, in a process I imagine is not dissimilar to online dating. Both have in common beautiful photos, seductive descriptions, but not necessarily the whole story. When plant and gardener finally meet and a trial period of compatibility is undertaken, disappointment can ensue on both sides, but there’s always the tantalizing possibility of a lasting attachment.


 photo P1016898.jpg

Earlier this year I finally made the acquaintance of long-time crush Crambe maritima, a European coastal plant with uncommonly beautiful leaves, thick and blue as an agave, curled and frilled at the margins. I think it was planted in my garden last fall. (Checking email records, I did purchase it last September via mail order from Oregon nursery Dancing Oaks.) Although impatient for the sea kale to thicken up, it’s exactly as I imagined it. We’re a good match, the sea kale and I, and all signs point to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

 photo P1010212-001.jpg

I thought I knew everything I needed to know about the sea kale, but I discovered in Portland an unexpected twist to this plant.

 photo P1018726.jpg

Crambe maritima, aka the sea kale, in the Floramagoria garden in Portland, Oregon this July.
I had no idea its seedheads, like tiny white button mushrooms, would be as much of an attraction as its wavy, blue-green, cabbagey leaves.
In Willy Wonka’s garden, this would be labeled the wasabi pea plant. (By the way, the plant is edible.) This unexpectedly nubby, bubbly texture endears the sea kale to me even more.

 photo P1018728.jpg

Crambe maritima’s pearly seedheads with pitcher plants and what looks like a gold-leaf Aechmea recurvata in bloom.

 photo P1018611.jpg

Then there’s the equivalent of meeting an intriguing plant for the first time and not getting its phone number, so to speak.
This rusty tumbleweed’s name was given as Rumex ‘Maori,’ but I’ve had no luck finding any reference or additional information.

 photo P1018750.jpg

Here’s a plant I’ve been stalking for some time, Asphodeline lutea. Two new ones planted this spring have withered away.

 photo P1018927.jpg

At least I’m fairly sure this is an asphodel, again, a plant with which I have little real-world experience.

 photo P1018918.jpg

On the tour I bumped into a plant that I purchased the first day of the tour at the nursery Cistus, Berkheya purpurea. A nice coincidence.

 photo P1018915.jpg

Fantastic stems, leaves and, when it blooms, large lavender daisies.

 photo berkheya_purpurea.jpg

(photo of berkheya in bloom found here)

 photo P1019027.jpg

An acacia new to me in John Kuzma’s garden, Acacia covenyi.

 photo P1019026.jpg

The same acacia seen here with a large clump of anigozanthos that overwinters in situ in the garden with protection

 photo P1019022.jpg

Possibly my favorite plant on the tour, Acanthus sennii. I’ve noticed I’m falling more for plants that have a chance of succeeding where I garden.
I’m no longer throwing myself at every good-looking, high-maintenance type that comes along. A sign of maturity maybe?

 photo P1019005.jpg

Also in the Kuzma garden was this stunning velvety silver potentilla. Possibly Potentilla calabra or hippiana…or something else entirely. (P. gelida. thanks, Heather.)

 photo P1018403.jpg

A beautiful grass, new to me, Achnatherum calamagrostis ‘Silver Spike,’ at the Grass Master’s incredible garden.

 photo P1018456.jpg

Scott was also growing the native thistle Cirsium occidentale. I’ve already killed one but found two more locally.

 photo P1018384.jpg

A wiry, tough cushion that caught my notice at the McMenamins Kennedy School, Bupleurum spinosum. Very cool.
The admirable evergreeen shrub, Bupleurum falcatum, was also seen on the tour, which blooms in chartreuse umbels in summer.

 photo P1018306.jpg

Eryngium maritimum in Loree’s Danger Garden. I started seeds of this in spring. Zip germination so far.

 photo P1018683.jpg

I’ll close with the “It” plant of the moment, one of the hardy scheffleras. This visit to Portland was my first introduction to them, and they were everywhere. S. delavayi maybe.
Beautiful, but not this zone 10 garden’s type…


It happened one night; August rain

I bought my first water plant Saturday, and it rained all that night. Not a downpour, but a steady drizzle. I’m not saying there’s any causal link between the two, just that they’re both rare events that happened to coincide one day in August when I finally made good on an old, wilted promise to start a water garden. Nobody is immune to a little magical thinking, especially gardeners and other anxious weather watchers. And I don’t mind at all buying more water plants in the offchance it pleases the drought gods that I do so. After the overnight rain, it was so nice waking up Sunday morning to the clean world.

 photo P1010049.jpg

My first water plant. Ruby-stemmed Sagittaria lancifolia ‘Ruminoides’
The fiberglass/concrete container was not intended to hold water and may be a temporary arrangement. Marty sealed it with waterproofing, so we’ll see.

 photo P1010037.jpg

I don’t think that whitish mottling is a good sign, however.
It clouded up like that before the waterproofing, too, when it held just a few glass fishing floats.

 photo P1019952.jpg

What’s submerged and rendered invisible by dark waterproofing is the desperate need for repotting, with the gallon container split open by bulging roots.
For repotting, it will need muck, won’t it? I asked the kind nurseryman, trying out the one word I know that has something to do with bogs and ponds.
Have you got muck? he queried me with a strange expression.
No, have you? I’m muckless, I rejoined, matching his strange expression with one of my own at the bizarreness of it all.
It’s not often that “muckless” gets incorporated into daily conversation, but given the chance, I’m going for it.

 photo P1010027.jpg

Tiny romneya-like flowers bloomed Sunday morning.

The nice nurseryman said a cheap solution for a suitable potting soil is a 50/50 mix of decomposed granite and pure compost.
Compost I’ve got. I just need to beg some d.g. off of Holly across the street.

 photo P1019938.jpg

Inspired by the garden rejuvenation wrought by a single pot of the common arrowhead, a container of Salvia guaranitica was plunged into the garden near the tank.
This salvia has been hanging around for years in the garden, deprived of the care it needs as I’ve moved on to other salvias, but still it lingers.
I noticed it growing near the fence under the cypress and potted up some straggly shoots a month or so ago.
No sense in taking a survivor like that for granted.

 photo P1019925.jpg

Welcome to the clean world.
Not glistening from the hose but from that holy of holies, August rainfall. That cussonia has already been moved elsewhere.
I’m on fire with pot shuffling lately, motivated by this shiny, new world.

 photo P1019989.jpg

The cussonia will get more sun here. Naturally, table and chairs had to be moved nearby to admire the cussonia.
The rain’s shiny polish doesn’t last long, does it?

 photo P1019955.jpg

The tall burgundy line in the background is drawn by a gawky Pseuderanthemum atropurpureum ‘Black Varnish,’ a plant that never loses its polish.
A tender tropical, there’s no problem overwintering it here, just that crazy legginess it gets the second season.

 photo P1019972.jpg

Pinching it back doesn’t seem to help.

 photo P1019966.jpg

More news on dark plants. Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ is faithfully performing her job of hiding the compost pile behind her massive girth.

 photo P1019988.jpg

Since it’s clean, let’s take a walk on the east side.
Pots reshuffled against the fence that separates the front and back gardens on the east side, which has always been problematic for me.
Too many fences, gates, awkward angles, the canyon effect. Seen through the window behind the leggy pittosporum is the blurred shape of the east boundary hedge of dwarf olives.

 photo P1010077.jpg

It’s such a great “breathing” space despite all the harsh angles, so I’m working on making it more inviting somehow. (On the cheap, of course.)
I’d love a long table and chairs and some great hanging lamps, so will keep it mostly empty until that fine day miraculously arrives. Until then, nothing terrifyingly big and spiky will be allowed here.
This entire east side was covered in overgrown oleanders when we bought the house, which made the house’s interior dark and gloomy.
The dark woodwork indoors gives the interior more than enough gravitas already. (Marty and I have the typical seesawing argument that takes place in old houses such as this:
Paint the interior woodwork white to brighten things up or leave it original? I always argue for keeping it original, but then I’m an impractical softie.)

 photo P1010059.jpg

Speaking of terrifyingly big and spiky, Agave ‘Mr Ripple’ greets you through the Dutch door, usually left open during the day.

 photo P1010106.jpg

Mr. Ripple’s lower spines near the walkway have been clipped back, but he still has his uppers.
Marty cannot wait for the day Mr. Ripple blooms (and dies).

 photo P1019913.jpg

The copper pot is filled with rhipsalis and other hanging cactus. A Mina lobata is climbing up the iron scaffolding.
Apart from the pittosporum, now tree height, there’s currently not much planted in the narrow strip against the blue fence other than some succulents.
I’m enjoying the starkness of it all, but old habits die hard.

 photo P1010067.jpg

I can’t stop adding stuff, like the giant tree aloe ‘Hercules’ to the right of the potted agave. But that’s it, I swear.

 photo P1019918.jpg

The newly planted City Planter just moved in, the first attempt at planting anyway. It may need revision. (Too stark against the blue fence?)

 photo P1010091.jpg

Currently planted with rhipsalis, Echeveria multicaulis, and the trailing blue echeveria, whose name I’ve forgotten. A couple sprigs of Sticks on Fire may or may not root.

At the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling, Lisa Calle, the raven-haired bloggess from Spain, was the rightful winner but graciously threw it back into the raffle since it didn’t fit inside her suitcase.
(Thank you so much, Lisa ! Thank you, Potted !)

 photo P1010096.jpg

And that concludes the mini-tour of the rain-fresh east side. Mind Mr. Ripple on your way out!


back on the home front


 photo P1019685.jpg

It’s finally happening.

 photo P1019680.jpg

 photo P1019848.jpg

Miraculously, after a couple close calls resulting in an almost fatal wilt, Musschia wollastonii has survived and begun to hoist up that much-anticipated chartreuse candelabra of blooms.
The Madeira Giant Bellflower must be an unforgettable sight in bloom on its native cliffs of Madeira. As with Aeonium tabuliforme, the cliff face is what’s shaped that remarkable architecture. Some claim to grow musschia mainly for the leaves, but I don’t find them wildly exciting, possibly because it’s been struggling to survive here. Musschia is monocarpic, meaning it will die after blooming. Which also means I can now die happy, having seen it bloom in my garden. But what vigilance to get to this point! In spring I parked this pot right by a hose bib on the north side of the house for its daily shower.

 photo P1019763.jpg

Also newly in bloom and slightly offbeat, Emilia javanica ‘Irish Poet,’ the Tassel Flower.
A delicacy that couldn’t compete in a waist-high, full-throttle summer garden, but it stands out fine in mine, which is in the process of undergoing accommodation to the ongoing drought.

 photo P1019786.jpg

Emilia may be small, but it packs a big orange punch in its ‘Irish Poet,’ form, seed from Nan Ondra.
Many years ago I grew the species, which is a darker, burnt orange bordering on red. I much prefer the electrifying orange of ‘Irish Poet.’

 photo P1019662.jpg

These pots give a sense of its scale. Last agave on the left was just brought home from the recent Orange County succulent show.

 photo P1019835.jpg

Agave ‘Tradewinds,’ a blue-green striped potatorum selection thought to be a seedling of ‘Kissho Kan.’

 photo P1019825.jpg

Diminutive emilia is barely visible on the lower left, unlike the fountain of Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket’ in the distance.

 photo P1019775.jpg

The plumes arch just where the Cussonia gamtoosensis canopy begins, a wonderful effect that’s unlikely to be duplicated next year as the cabbage tree continues to grow.
Today I watched for the first time as a sparrow landed in the baby cussonia, which to my mind makes it a real tree now.

 photo P1019869.jpg

There’s also two big clumps of this grass fronting the lemon cypresses on the eastern boundary*

 photo P1019774.jpg

And another clump growing amidst Gomphrena ‘Fireworks.’ Both thrive on minimal supplemental water, which keeps them in trim, upright shape.

 photo P1019768.jpg

The front of the cussonia border, which shows how Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ looks in its summer dormancy period here.
I can appreciate ‘Zwartkop’s’ skeletal form, as opposed to the giant ‘Cyclops,’ which was getting increasingly annoying in its off-season shabbiness, so it’s been pulled out of the garden to be grown in a container.
All the plants here are well adapted to low water use, except for a couple patrinia I foolishly included this year. Crambe maritima is doing really well, another plant I saw in several Portland gardens recently. Yucca, furcraea, gaillardia, adenanthos, coprosma, Pelargonium ‘Crocodile,’ anigozanthos, agastache, echium, Rekohu carex. A Beschorneria alba is in here somewhere too. Variegated St. Augustine grass is weaving through the legs of the aeonium and spilling onto the bricks. The iron pyramid was propping up a castor bean I recently pulled out.

 photo P1019808.jpg

In ‘Cyclops’ place I decided to try agapanthus, something I’m as surprised to type as I was to purchase, having never brought one home before. This one is ‘Gold Strike,’ and it wasn’t easy to find. I wrongly assumed I’d have the pick of tender varieties in inky blues, even deep purples, all within a few miles’ radius of home. After all, they grow like weeds here. There must be a wonderful selection locally, right? And if not, there must be U.S. growers with extensive lists, right? Wrong on both counts. The best selection, of course, is found with UK nurseries. A couple years back I attended a lecture given by Dan Hinkley on what he’s up to at his new garden at Windcliff, and a good part of the presentation was on his new-found love of agapanthus. “How suburban!” I thought at the time, and “Dan’s going soft!” But as usual, Dan’s right. Mature stands are tolerant of drought, make a mid-summer garden look fresh again, and now I can’t wait to try them with Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket.’ The deepest blue to be found locally is ‘Storm Cloud,’ but I’m not done searching around for other kinds with names like ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Night Sky.’ Still can’t believe I’m shopping around for agapanthus, though.

 photo P1019753.jpg

A large mint bush near the ‘Cyclops’ aeonium was showing its age, so that was given the heave-ho recently too.
Prostranthera never gets older than a few years in my garden and is well known to be short-lived.
Waiting in the wings, outgrowing its pot was Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon,’ which I intended on planting in the mint bush’s spot in the fall.
This is one of the mallee eucalyptus, which are more large shrubs than the towering giants Californians associate with eucalyptus.

 photo P1019656.jpg

Never much inclined to wait, I called Jo O’Connell at Australian Native Plants Nursery, where I bought the eucalypt, to ask her opinion.
She said to absolutely go for it now, mid-summer, a woman after my own heart. And so it’s been planted.

 photo P1019721-001.jpg

Speaking of suburban, how about some marigolds? (Now who’s going soft?)

 photo P1019728.jpg

What an undeserving bad rap the bedding plants industry has given marigolds. The tall strains like this one, ‘Cinnabar’ from Derry Watkins, are so hot. If you don’t have a bias against orange, that is.

 photo P1019602.jpg

And I don’t think there’s anything easier to grow from seed than marigolds.

 photo P1019736.jpg

The grey shrub arching over the marigolds is Olearia virgata v. lineata ‘Dartonii,’ brought home from Far Reaches Farm a few years ago.
(“If you’ve hankered for a willow but lament your dry conditions, then weep no more.”)
It was so cool to see this shrub growing against the greenhouse at Old Germantown Gardens in Portland recently, where it was tightly clipped in a more columnar form.
The Agave attenuata is ‘Boutin’s Blue,’ formerly ‘Huntington’s Blue,’ not quite happy in full sun. In a large pot, it’s the Goldilocks of agaves and gets moved around quite a bit.

 photo P1019581.jpg

Marigolds in the distance, the new Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ in the foreground, handling its first summer beautifully so far.
The sideritis to its right wasn’t so lucky, inexplicably collapsing a couple days ago, about a day after this photo was taken.
Every so often around mid-summer, this mysterious soil-borne wilt process takes out a plant.
I know in my absence the garden was watered really well for a change, and that might have kicked it off.
The sideritis was one of two self-sown seedlings I found this spring, so it was a gimme anyway.
I’ve already planted a couple Cirsium occidentale in its place.
(Seeing the cirsium almost in bloom in Scott’s garden in Portland was a nice moment too.)

 photo P1019557.jpg

The Berkheya purpurea I brought home from Cistus a few weeks ago can just be seen behind the leucadendron.
The oregano-like plant is Calamintha nepeta ‘Gottlieb Friedkund.’ Fabulous plant I’ve been spreading around the garden. From Digging Dog.

 photo P1019739.jpg photo P1019737.jpg

Another annual growing fast in the heat, Hibiscus trionum, seed also from Nan Ondra.

 photo P1019712.jpg

Rudbeckia triloba is everything I want in a summer daisy, except for its moderate thirst.
There’s a chance that if it self-sows, the progeny will be better situated for drier conditions. Slim chance, but you never know. And there’ll always be gaillardia.

 photo P1019555.jpg

Eryngium padanifolium in its second year, reliably blooming again, a great relief.

 photo P1019800.jpg

The ‘Limelight’ Miracle of Peru seed around, and a few are always welcome.

 photo P1019745-001.jpg

A potted Lotus jacobaeus has filled out well this year, much more so than when planted directly into the garden.

 photo P1019872.jpg

Aristolochia fimbriata scoffs at any neglect I throw its way. No surprise that it was included on the sales tables at a recent succulent show. It’s that tough.

 photo P1019871.jpg

 photo P1019492.jpg

Crassula pruinosa, also brought home from Cistus

 photo P1019507.jpg

The crassula was tucked in at the base of Euphorbia ammak. That golden-leaved shrub thrives in pot culture, even the careless kind I practice.

 photo P1019541-001.jpg

Really brightens things up. Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash’

 photo P1019647.jpg

Also doing really well in a container is the Shaving Brush Tree, Pseudobombax ellipticum

 photo P1019645.jpg

And that just about takes care of mid-summer 2014.


*I keep neglecting to mention that one of the best attributes of this excellent grass is that it is sterile and therefore noninvasive, unlike Pennisetum setaceum.

sunday clippings 6/22/14

Future shock for me has arrived in the guise of an orange wristband.

 photo P1016800.jpg

Congratulations! You moved 24,995 steps, 12.07 miles, 249% of goal!Jawbone’s UP pedometer calculates all that aimless garden puttering and tallies up some surprising stats. My orange UP came as a side benefit to Father’s Day, when Marty was presented with a twin set of wristbands, black for him, orange for me. As someone with zero interest in gizmos and in constant war with remote controls, someone who still hasn’t learned all the intricacies of a smart phone, the pedometer function of the wristband has already become addictive. Every day feels so much more productive, and there’s no more remorse for not “getting out and exercising.” It also knows how many times you woke up in the night (last night only once, but I don’t remember doing so), and it logged that near all-nighter I had at the computer last week when I clocked under 3 hours’ sleep on Tuesday. After wearing it only a few days and already finding its data stream astonishing, a real Star Trek moment come true, I checked out some Internet reviews. Quite a few claim it isn’t long-lived and breaks down after a few months. We’ll see if there’s some merit to these reviews or if it’s just trolling from competitors. By the way, those stats were yesterday’s, which included a 4-mile walk to dinner and a movie, but the bulk of those steps were logged at home, in the “compound.” I call that power puttering.

 photo P1016772.jpg

A lot of those steps were logged checking on the progress of Musschia wollastonii, which at last looks to be thinking about blooming. The perfect exposure in summer turned out to be on the north side of the house, under the triangle palm, morning dappled sun, afternoon shade. This spot was no good in winter, being in deep shade until spring. Speaking of the triangle palm, Dypsis decaryi, I’ve been thinking about attempting to climb a Philodendron melanochrysum up its trunk, image here, with that amazingly elongated “drip tip.” So far Logee’s is the only source, and shipping would be crazy expensive. Cissus discolor is another possibility, also only available via mail order.

 photo P1016794.jpg


Lots of steps were logged to and from the watering basin, where I can quickly dip pitchers without having to wait for them to be filled up by the hose and there’s less waste. Containers are scattered throughout, with seedlings and cuttings way in the back. It’s basically a hand-watered operation here, with containers and plantings under a year old needing frequent attention. And since I change things up all the time, there’s lots in the year-old category. I’m hoping the seedlings of Hibiscus trionum for planting out late summer will survive the visit to Portland this coming July 11. Nothing makes me feel more like an obsessive lunatic than explaining how to care for the garden during a summer absence. This solar-powered soil sensor I read about in The New York Times (“Planting for Profit, and Greater Good,” June 7, 2014) would make things a lot easier on anyone volunteering for the thankless job of vacation garden duty.

Other plants I’ll be worried about while at the bloggers’ meetup are newly potted cuttings of Brillantaisia subulugurica, a plant I’d never heard of until a couple weeks ago. I was handing out fliers on Dustin’s plant sale at the local community college horticultural department, which was a debacle since it had already closed for summer. But heading back to the car, hoping the fruitless mission wouldn’t be further compounded by a parking ticket, I noticed a mass of blue climbing the chain link fence at the end of the parking lot. Too late for sweet peas, too early for late-season salvias, what could it be? In dusty dry soil, full sun, covered in enormous, comically exaggerated, salvia-esque blooms, with the distinctive lower lip pout, opposite leaves, square stems, but unlike any salvia I’d ever read about or seen. I grabbed some cuttings jutting through the fence and did some Internet research when I got home. Voila, Brillantaisia subulugurica. All the excitement of a plant hunting expedition without the bad food and sore feet. It rooted amazingly fast in water. I need to go back for photos.


 photo P1016684.jpg

Commelina coelestis

More new things to water. I took a flying leap at this little powerhouse factory of deepest blue, Commelina coelestis, hoping it makes a big clump here with the gold-leaved tansy ‘Isla Gold.’
Locally from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. And then I wonder why there’s so much blue in the garden this summer.

 photo la-lh-decorating-with-succulents-20140513-022.jpg

Jennifer van der Fluit waters the succulent fence in the front yard of her Long Beach home.”

An update on the “fedge,” a living fence I blogged about here in 2010, appeared recently in The Los Angeles Times in this click-through photo gallery “DIY succulents: Tips for decorating with drought-tolerant plants.” (I’d get current photos myself but I’ve lost the address.) I’ve found that articles from paywall-protected sites can be read if the title of the article is copy-and-pasted into a search engine.

 photo la-lh-decorating-with-succulents-20140513-024.jpg

Jennifer and Appie van der Fluit plant succulents in their 30-foot-long, 4-foot-tall chain-link fence, with a 1-foot-wide channel in between filled with soil.”

 photo P1016373.jpg

If you’re looking for some weekend reading, The New Yorker did some great reporting on the new direction The Nature Conservancy is taking, such as partnering with corporations like Dow Chemical in an “eco-pragmatic” spirit (“Green is Good” by D.T. Max, full article available to subscribers.) Featured in the piece was Mark Tercek, formerly of Goldman Sachs and now heading up TNC. He writes about the article in a blog post here, which I haven’t fully read yet but the comment section looks explosive. As long-time donors to the TNC, we’ve been arguing over discussing this article at home. Somehow a photo of Ein seems appropriate here, who does such a good job taking care of us.

And lastly, there’s a Cactus & Succulent Sale and Show at the Huntington beginning this coming weekend, June 28, 2014.

 photo P1016349.jpg

Such sales are where I pick up succulents like this one about to bloom. I lost the tag, but it’s possibly Senecio scaposus v. addoensis

 photo tumblr_mx6xz9pst21smkfz0o1_500.jpg

I’ll end with a photo of Ganna Walska in a Gatsby getup, cradling a crazed-looking cat. I bet she’d drive down from Lotusland for the Huntington’s upcoming plant sale this weekend.

(P.S. Timber Press is running a Hellstrip Contest to celebrate the release of “Hellstrip Gardening” by Evelyn Hadden. $250 is up for grabs. Contest ends July 6, 2014.)