Sunday, October 30, 2011

Annual Container's last hurrah!!

Annual containers last hurrah
So this was the result of trying to spruce up our surroundings over the summer and now they're as full as can be as the autumn color from the Oregon ash trees in the background set it off well.

As extravagant as this looks, it's actually really easy to put together and maintain. Think of this idea in a tough spot underneath a tree for next season. Rely on foliage and texture: flowers are just icing on the cake.


Autumn at the Arboretum

Fall color in its full splendor. It was just a few weeks ago that I wrote about the lack of color up in the mountains, but with snow expected up there soon, I'm sure things colored up well, but here in the lowlands, the show has been quite spectacular.

Check out a recent visit to Washington Park Arboretum and the wonderful display we were treated to.

After a staff meeting, our hort supervisor, David Zuckerman, lead us on a tour of the Woodland Garden.

Fothergilla fall color B
The absolute standout was the intense coloration of Fothergilla major. All throughout the plant was this kaleidoscope of warm colors at different intensities. Each year, it's always this brilliantly colored and can be seen from quite a distance! Next to the Fothergilla is another one of my favorite landscape plants that will exhibit its autumn colors in just a few days. This is Hydgrangea quercifolia, the Oak Leaf Hydrangea! Below

Fothergilla and oakleaf hydrangea 1

Further down the path, we encountered the stunning fine texture of this Acer dissectum cultivar that lit up the woodland garden as the sun that day made an attempt to show itself that afternoon.


Close by in the winter garden, the Hamamelis, or Chinese witch hazels, were coloring up quite well also:

Hamamelis fall color Hamamelis yellow fall color close up

Can't share fall color with some bark action and these Chinese Paper Birches (Betula albo-sinensis var. septentrionalis) were simply outstanding!


Then, we looped around and captured a view that I've never seen before in all the years of visiting the Arboretum. It was such a treat to witness this with my co-horts and appreciate one of the reasons why we love what we do!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In honor of "hua jiao" - The Sichuan Pepper Corn

Must first get your attention with this...

Sichuan Cuisine

If there was one plant that would remind me fondly of my experiences in studying abroad in China, it would be the genus Zanthoxylum. :"Huājiāo" (花椒; literally "flower pepper") in Chinese or "sanshō" (山椒) in Japanese has thrived in my garden since I secured plants of two species shortly after I returned from China. They are now growing close to one another and producing an abundant crop of peppercorn husks and pungent foliage when crushed.

As a member of the citrus family (Rutaceae), all parts of the plant are scented when crushed, but it's the bright red peppercorns that pack the punch when it comes to tongue-numbing sensations that allow the spiciness of Sichuan/Szechuan cuisine to really come through.

There are several species that have earned the common name of "Sichuan Pepper Corn". Perhaps the most common in production is Z. piperitum, but I've also secured a seedling of Z. simulans from the University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden.

At first, I thought I had two different forms of Z. piperitum, but the foliage and habit are very different.

On top of the photo is Z. simulans with larger, dark green leaves with fewer leaflets compared to Z. piperitum which has smaller leaves and more leaflets. It is also lighter in color and when you crush the leaves and smell both species, the Z. piperitum has a "sweeter" smell, while. Z. simulans is stronger and kind of harsh.

What I remember in Sichuan is actually Z. simulans. A classmate of mine was studying them as a commercial crop in a small village in the Liangshan Prefecture in SW Sichuan called Yangjuan. He tried to determine if the peppercorns would be a viable crop for the village as it thrived in the high elevation and somewhat arid conditions.

Here at Landwave, I actually grow the two species close together in the hopes that I'd get increased fruit production. It's been two years since I planted them together and this year, I'm having quite a crop! Z. piperitum has denser foliage ( I think in Japan it's the new growth and foliage they consume) and not as much fruit, but Z. simulans, though lanky and somewhat awkward in habit (due to my not so great pruning as it has gotten a bit large) is fruiting very well.

So, what you consume are the pinkish red husks. The black seeds are removed and it's these husks that are allowed to dry and used for cooking to create dishes like the ones above!

A winning fall combination! A toad lily in forest grass

I remember seeing this combination in a shade gardening book and have wanted so badly to recreate it. This is Tricyrtis 'Taipei Silk' USPP#18727 in bloom with the foliage of Hackonechloa macroa 'Aureola'.

Both plants enjoy part shade, adequate moisture throughout the growing season here in the Pacific Northwest!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In search of fall color: A weekend getaway

This past weekend, a friend and I headed up to a friend's cabin just past Snoqualmie Pass along the I-90 corridor in the hopes that we'd get away; have some one-on-one time to catch up and talk, hike, cook, listen to some classic 80's and 90's pop, and sit in the cabin with a fire going in the fireplace as we watched a lame action movie.

Vine maples pass Snoqualmie

I kind of treated our weekend getaway as an opportunity to also scout out plants and views of the Pacific Northwest landscape; studying my natives, taking photographs, and, hopefully, being treated to a spectacular fall foliage show was on my agenda.

DSC03931Driving through, there wasn't all that much, unfortunately. Along the side of the road as we took exit 62 on Lake Kachess, we noticed a few vine maples that were showing some color. On a morning stroll by myself, I noticed a few interesting groundcover plants alongside the road that I never really get tired of seeing. Our native coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus v. palmatus) and the lovely heart-shared leaves of Asarum caudatum, the Western Wild woodland ginger. These are garden worthy plants (in fact, I grow a gold leaf form of out native coltsfoot that I seriously need to thin out, btw) and to see them in their natural setting is kind of cool.

Petasites along the roadside

In a roadside ditch, the Asarum and its humble hearts.

But what I was really hoping to see were the views from the lakeside with the water and the distant hills spotted in bright yellows, oranges and glaring reds. While the views were still captivating, there wasn't really any color yet.


It was peaceful, tranquil and a much needed break to just regroup and be reminded of what was an awesome summer. The lack of color almost seemed to symbolize a slow transition; almost as if to say that parts of the summer still exist, but nature has to take its course so you just have to trust it and, in time, it will all fall into place.