Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lilium lust

The lilies are on their final stretch and there have been many surprises in the last two months.

In our late late summer, the lily show began in July with the opening of one of the tried and true lilies out there. This is 'Tiger Babies' blooming with ornamental grasses in the Soest Perennial Display Garden at the UW Botanic Gardens - Center for Urban Horticulture where I work part time.

Lilum Tiger Babies in Briza media

Then comes two species from China I brought back a few years ago. The first is the elegant and rare Lilium majoense and then the tall, stately Lilium leucanthemum.

Lilium majoense reverse Lilium majoense

Lilium leucanthemum

Soon after, the "Orienpet" lilies put on a show. Here's the gold with crimson and richly scented 'Shocking' and the voluptuous 'Silk Road' at a client's garden.

Lilium Shocking composition

Lilium 'Silk Road'
'Silk Road'/'Northern Carillon'

The new mixed bed I'm developing has the spectacular 'Scheherazade' blooming with mixed perennials and glittery grasses in the background.


My clumps of 'Nymph' have slowly dwindled as I love using them profusely for arrangements just like this one at my sister's house for a little reunion with cousins from out of town a few weeks ago.

Lilium 'Nymph' in an arrangement

Orientals are just starting and my collection has dwindled a bit as I used to grow more. The standout right now is 'Tiger Woods' and the rare 'Midnight Star'.

WHOOPS....that's the REAL Tiger Woods.

Here's the lily:

Orienpets overlap with the Orientals and, man, were there surprises:

From top left clockwise: 'My Precious', a sister seedling to the cultivar 'Pizazz', and a rare double-flowered oriental 'Josef'.

So the double orientals are looking their best EVER and I'm wondering if it's been the mild and relatively cooler summer or my new and special friend who's been helping me water more diligently.

The "classic" variety 'Miss Lucy' is towering at 5 feet with long pedicles and flowers that haven't aborted, but are opening slowly and quite beautifully:

Lilium 'Miss Lucy'

Next to "Lucy" is 'Davyd'. Has done absolutely nothing but abort and look horrendous, but here this year, at least it looks like it's trying. LOL!


'Josef' is definitely a surprise as it has opened up pretty well despite still being in a container.

'Chrys' might be the same or similar to a new intro out right now called 'Polar Star'. It opened very nicely last year in a container, but the one in the ground is slowly doing its thing!

Then there's this HOT MESS of a lily. Interesting? Sure! Looks like throw-up? Uh huh. But fragrant? Of course! Why did you grow this? Shut up. Now, I can't even remember it's name. The interesting thing about this flower are the present anthers with pollen!!

One of my most highly anticipated purchases earlier this spring was a package of 'Magic Star'. It almost looks like a double-flowered 'Tiger Woods' or 'Dizzy' and when you've grown lilies for a long time and you see the photo, your jaws drop and you say, "WOW"! So I purchased two dessicated bulbs from a local nursery, potted them up so they can "recover" and root before planting them out in the garden.

Lilium Magic Star Lilium Magic Star closeup

So's interesting and all and kind of cool looking, but very inconsistent when opening. Could it get better as it matures much like 'Miss Lucy' did? We'll see.

All lily'd out??!! Hhahahahh



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If you love public gardens, you WILL go to this talk!

Public gardens are struggling to gain support nationwide and it's heartbreaking to see, especially our local parks and gardens being subject to severe cuts. Working for one, I understand the dilemma and its made more apparent when colleagues are laid off or cut back and when our duties as gardeners are stretched out beyond what we were originally hired to do. Some would jump ship and not tolerate the work load and not being allowed to work overtime, while others, like myself, are simply fortunate to just even have a permanent half time job where I have some benefits and make enough to just get by along with my own small business on the side. It's hard for a lot of people looking for work and I often wish that I could be of more help to those who have asked me about work opportunities.

Me at the UW Botanic Gardens in one of the gardens I help maintain, speaking with a group of garden writers. (Thanks for the pic, Kelly!)

If you look pass the economic troubles we're all facing and think of the positive things we still have in our lives like friends and family and the activities that we can all engage in that don't cost any money, there's a lot of opportunities to truly enjoy some of the simpler things in life that are incredibly fulfilling. To me, public gardens provide many of those opportunities. Bringing plants and people together in a serene setting such as a public park is a time-honored tradition that spans many different cultures and walks of life. Think of the families out on a Sunday afternoon, a young couple sharing quality time on a blanket with a simple picnic, heck, even the homeless woman finds refuge and an occasional gesture of generosity within a public park. Find all the problems that coincide with that last example, but it still proves a point: public parks and gardens are a part of our needs as human beings to reconnect with nature, to feel safe, and feel like we belong on this planet.

Next month, we have an opportunity to meet a well-known figure in public gardens.

Lynden B. Miller is a public garden designer in New York City and director of The Conservatory Garden in Central Park, which she rescued and restored beginning in 1982. Her work includes gardens for The Central Park Zoo, Bryant Park, The New York Botanical Garden, Madison Square Park, Hudson River Park and Wagner Park in Battery Park City as well as many smaller projects in all five boroughs and beyond as well as several university campuses.

For almost 30 years, Mrs. Miller has focused on her belief that public open spaces with good well-maintained plantings can change city life. She has taken an entirely new approach to public horticulture by creating rich plantings that provide four seasons of interest.

Her award-winning book, "Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape" is inspirational and instructive about all aspects of creating and supporting beautiful public space.

She will speak at the 16th annual Miller Memorial Lecture at the University of Washington campus on September 15th at 7PM and I encourage people to come as it is free (please RSVP and learn more about the lecture here) and sure to be inspiring and beautiful.

Just learning more about her and the work that she does reminds me of why I pursued public horticulture as an undergrad. Cut the politics and bullcrap involved in working in one, you have to think of the big picture. Her motto is: "Make it gorgeous and they will come. Keep it that way and they will help"


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Volunteer Park Conservatory: Behind the scenes

Visiting the conservatory recently for Sara Chapman's book signing was an incredible treat as not only did I get to meet Sara in person and got her fabulous book, I also had the honor of being shown "behind-the-scenes" by Jeanne Schollmeyer, their production manager and seasonal display specialist.

It was such a treat to see the entire collection and the whole production process and THE WORK it takes to produce the amazing displays in the conservatory.

Here's Jeanne letting us have a peak inside the mist-bench where she propagates most of the plants for the conservatory.

It was also a treat to see not just the more common and flashy displays of potted plants and flowers, but a few rare oddities like the highly unusual and richly scented snail vine, Vigna caracalla.

They have a large selection or orchids they're growing on such as a spectacular purple Cattleya relative (below). Another interesting fact she shared was the connection with USDA plant protection and customs and how Volunteer Park is often the recipient of plants, mostly orchids, illegally smuggled into the United States. These are then cared for, grown on and propagated, and depending on what it is exactly, often they're kept in the collection or shared with other botanical institutions for display and research.

I hope to come back and do a more thorough tour and, perhaps, an interview with Jeanne.

It truly is heart-breaking to hear that a place like Volunteer Park Conservatory could lose its funding. State officials kind of treat it as an "unnecessary, expensive and frivolous item" on their agenda. Much like the arboretum and other major parks in Seattle, it has a very limited staff and state budget cuts are getting more and more severe and places like this are often the first to get canned.

Everyone is "trying to be important" these days in the eyes of legislature and also private donors and such, but it's an ongoing struggle as if citizens don't care about such places. They're not aware of the meticulous work it takes to grow these plants for their enjoyment, which is usually free for the public to see.

They can look at a plant and say, "oh how pretty" and not realize just what it took to get it to look that pretty. They just assume that the staff just makes it happen and it will always be there for them, but I wish they could see what goes on behind the scenes and learn about the difficulties they face trying to do what they do, but then you learn about how many of their positions could be on the line.

Many people in this position often lose the motivation to give it their all with the attitude "what's the point of working to the fullest with limited resources and potentially being laid off soon". There's a chance that Seattle Parks and Recreation could shut down the conservatory, but with diligent and passionate people like Jeanne and the conservatory staff and volunteers, they go AND GROW full force to continue to enlighten and inspire visitors even with the slim hope that support and funding improves. For more information about what you could do to help, please visit the Friends of the Conservatory and read about the petition and how you could contact officials.

Here we all are at the end of the evening. Inspired and hopefully for a brighter future for the conservatory! From the left: Giselle Blythe, Sara Chapman, me and Jeanne.

Volunteer Park book event

Jeanne shared a pretty awesome video y'all should take a look at!



"The Simpsons" meets horticulture

At a recent visit to Volunteer Park, my friend Aaron noticed a stalk of blue delphiniums that reminded us of a character from the popular animated series, "The Simpsons".

Aaron and Marge

Marge Simpson is quite a character and her bee-hive of a up-do is so iconic.

Bart, the trouble-making, attention seeking 4th grader, closely resembles the yellow lily-flowered tulip along with his sister, Lisa, the over-achieving, saxophone playing honor student.

Lisa Bart Tulip

There have been many references to plants, flowers, and gardens in this show. I can think of one episode which started out with everyone in Springfield (the fictional town where the family lives) at a local botanical garden witnessing the opening of a rare flower (the animated equivalent of Amorphophallus titanum, the giant corpse flower)

Then there's Homer Simpson who attempts to recreate the company of his wife after he's banished from the house and forced to stay in his son's treehouse for his wrong-doing.

Little Maggie is adorable, but also quite inquisitive and sometimes mischievous. Accused of shooting Mr. Burns, the town's greedy and wealthy owner of the nuclear power plant, she also has a sweet side to her depicted by this artist rendition of her:

maggi simpson

Moe, the bartender, appears in a hallucination of Homer's and is embedded in a field of daisies!

Then there's the quirky, overly conservative neighbor, Ned Flanders who doesn't have much luck with houseplants:


Monday, August 1, 2011

Seattle's Volunteer Park: Flowers in a Conservatory

Photographer Sara Chapman, of, attempted to contact me through my other blog for the Seattle P-I in the hopes of getting the word out about her book launch/signing at Volunteer Park this Thursday, August 4th, 6-8PM. Not knowing who she is, I almost deleted the email as I'm constantly bombarded with similar requests that often have nothing to do with plants or flowers. I read the email, checked out her site and was reminded of just how nice Volunteer Park Conservatory was and when I read that a portion of the sale of the book will go towards the Friends of the Conservatory group that support operations, I decided to post this plug for her event.

Heck, it's free, you get to go and enjoy the park and the conservatory (directions), check out what looks to be an awesome book (based on the photos I've seen on her blog and website).

So if you're free Thursday evening, visit this website site for more information and maybe we'll cross paths.