Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gardening 4 Me!!

Like I've said time and time again, it's always been somewhat of a challenge making a career out of something I love and enjoy doing. Work and personal life tend to collide and often conflict with one another; folks either think you're overworked or overly wasting time. Have I been thinking about this way too much? You betcha! hehe

Last Saturday was a pretty significant day as it truly felt like spring with the sun finally out and, with a friend, hit up Seattle's famous Kubota Garden in South Seattle for the first time EVER. When I tell people that it was my first time in the 21 years I've lived here in Seattle, their jaws drop!


This was the first garden in a really long time where my usual, hyperventilating enthusiasm and irrepressible giddiness was non-existent. Strolling through the manicured landscape and its simple plant palette was refreshingly calming. There was nothing pretentious about the plantings; nothing brand new or spectacularly rare nor exciting, it was just a nice space in which to stroll, chat, contemplate, and challenge my companion with some woody plant identification.


Yes, I've been teaching a Plant ID course through Edmonds Community College this quarter and the teaching thing seems to just come naturally: on the clock or not. I feel like I'm always compelled to share an interesting fact about plants with someone. So, I began to wonder if this was truly me or have I learned to "program" myself to always be alert, critical, and have something "smart" to say when it came to visiting gardens and looking at plants with others.


Truly, a farm or garden is a place where I feel comfortable. Being surround by "work" doesn't always mean it's a chore-I have to remind myself at times. The mentality, however, is the fact that because it's such a low-paying industry, one has to always feel like they're always working, or else, come to grips with the fact that every penny has to count and any time spent not actually making money is lost time, a potential bill not payed for, just paying the monthly minimum on my credit card balance, putting a set of new glasses or contacts on hold, therapy, etc. etc. hehe

Murky Pond Maple

That day, it really DID NOT feel like work! I felt like I actually savored the time and, later, was able to garden for myself!

After our visit to Kubota and a pretty intense one-on-one chat about love, life, and pruning lilacs, I went straight to a greenhouse where I've been overwintering my plants and began to clip, tidy and prepare a handful for re-introduction outdoors. While some plants were destined for clients, I grabbed the handful that were destined for my garden and decided to bring them with me to harden-off and eventually plant at Landwave.


Arriving at the garden a few minutes later, I was greeted by a stream of blue created by grape hyacinths that weaved through 'Blue Shades' of Anemone blanda combined with the deep pink flowers and bold foliage of Bergenia hybrids that have just started to bloom. This was my "WOW" that I never encountered at Kubota, but it was my own personal "WOW"; an impact I almost couldn't believe I helped create!!

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A hybrid Bergenia and a lovely spring blooming ephemeral in the pea-family called Lathyrus verna.

The garden is a mess and overtaken by weeds in the interior, but I was determined to work, plant and make the most of the most ideal weather condition anyone could ask for. I unloaded my plants and just began placing them where I felt I wanted to see them growing or mature without too much reservation about what visitors to the garden might think or what trendy new plant combination or planting scheme I might write about, photograph or apply to a project. I just played musical plants and relied on my experience and whatever felt good to me and just went with it.

I didn't worry so much about a more appropriate or "cooler" plant I needed to buy for a specific effect, I just stuck with my already diverse and eclectic array of plants ensuring each one would have a home besides its own pot. I constantly reminded myself, "Who the f* cares?! I can always edit". I weeded furiously, but without strain and pressure to tackle it all; I got bored with one area or another area calmly called for attention so I just moved around. Just weeding the areas where I intend to plant has been a pretty good strategy.


Yes, I'm always concerned about how it all looks, but today I didn't get so caught up about living up to others expectations of what my garden should be, what I should be growing and what it should look like. It's come such a long way and evolved each year and my current work schedule doesn't allow for a more manicured landscape and it actually felt okay to be reminded of that.

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The strikingly unusual flowers of Fritillaria meleagris and the new growth of Hydrangea aspera 'Macrophylla'


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A long sought after peony

As a kid, I had plant catalogs under my bed (vs. the usual dirty porn most boys had under their mattress) and one of them had this pink peony on the cover that I was so infatuated with called 'Vivid Rose'. It was a photo that was most likely staged to give it the appearance of abundant blooms, but it was it's description that made me want it so very badly. Fully double pink, voluptuous ( didn't know what that meant, but it sounded good!) petals with powerful and enchanting fragrance that one bloom can scent an entire room!!!!! What held me back was the near $30 per 3-5 eye division plus shipping it was supposedly worth. At that time, I couldn't justify why I'd spend my monthly allowance for a single plant.

Peony Vivid Rose

In an old episode of the Victory Garden on PBS that I rented from our library, I noticed one segment was a tour of the peony fields of the Klehm family (now called Klehm's Song Sparrow) in Illinois. There they discussed peony breeding and showcased several hybrids that just made my mouth water as I rewound it again and again to see flower after gorgeous flower on the television screen and one such flower happened to be 'Vivid Rose'. It was voluptuous and HUGE!

Years passed and I'd think about it each fall as peony catalogs came in the mail or appeared online and I always intended to get it because the sooner I have it in my possession, the sooner I can plant so the sooner I can experience their luscious blooms because peonies take a few years to really get established. But each year I flake and fail to place an order.

THIS SPRING IS THE YEAR it finally happened when I noticed the peony in a 2 gallon pot with 4 budded stems at a local garden center. I eventually caved and willingly paid $24.99 plus tax for the plant.

Now, to witness it in bloom....

Will I still be enchanted by what appears to be just another pink, double flowered herbaceous peony? Or, will I find it plain, ordinary, and "so over with.."??

I'll let you know in early June!


Monday, April 18, 2011

The allure of anemones

During a rare break this weekend, I swung by Wells Medina nursery to check out their nursery stock for a woody plant ID course I'm teaching this quarter and, as always, I'm always on the look out of rare and unusual stuff, particularly perennials.

Set on tables were flat after flat of unusual treasures such as Auricula primroses, alpine sedums, Lewisias, and several flats of blooming Anemones I just could not resist. Typically something this dainty and ephemeral is easy for me to pass up because it's a one-trick-plant that does its thing in the spring and then just disappears. HOWEVER, certain types, particularly the Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa) are simply charming, dainty, but oh so tough and adaptable, even in dry shade under trees.

The first ever spring Anemone I obtained, grew on and propagated is the lovely double flowered selection of A. nermorosa called 'Vestal'. Having received just these twig-like rhizomes around 5 years ago from a mail order company, they were very slow to start, but eventually formed nice clumps of these spectacular flowers. I potted them up and the following spring, they sold like hot cakes.

Now, I've read or seen only photos of more unusual varieties in catalogs or online, but when I went to Wells, I couldn'y help but make a few purchases.

Anemone apennina 'Alba'

Anemone apennina 'Alba' This one I actually passed on as it was "too simple", but it was such a prolific plant and each petal had a faint blue reverse which added to its appeal.

Then it's close, lavender color with double flowers, relative was looking smashing.
Anemone apennina 'Plena' 2

Then, there are snazzy cultivars such as this one called 'Green Fingers'


Then there's the angelic 'Blue Eyes', which starts out fully white double and then matures to reveal a bluish tint in the center that's very appealing.


Most likely grown and propagated by Edelweiss Perennials down in Oregon, these are exquisite plants I expect to last for many years and eventually share with others!

Back at home in Landwave, I've got these precious winter gems. This is Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades'

Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades'