Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A banner year for lilies!!

The genus Lilium is very near and dear to my heart. Ever since I bought a package of clearance bulbs when I was about 11 or 12 years old and flowered a potful of fragrant 'Stargazer' lilies, I was compelled and hooked. It was a plant that simply had it all!  Easy, hardy, colorful, fragrant; it was easy to impress people with them!

Years later, I've acquired quite a collection of lilies and have learned so much about them. I often tell people that you're obsessed with a particular plant when you're breeding them and rescuing embryos in a laboratory to create complex hybrids. This was totally the case with me and lilies.

Our summer here in the Pacific Northwest truly was outstanding for lilies. Some are continuing to put on a show, but my goodness, the middle of July was absolute heaven!! Stems towered just a little higher with more vigor and bloom after fragrant bloom that was simply mesmerizing.

Here are some highlights from earliest to the ones currently still in bloom:

ASIATICS:  Generally, the first of the lilies to flower each summer starting in late May into early July.

Lilium Dimension
The almost black 'Dimesions'

Lilium Ariadne bloom detail
The dainty, but tough 'Ariadne'

Lilium Ariadne Group
and prolific too!

Lilium 'Brushstokes'
I adore these in arrangements! 'Brushstrokes'

A most unusual cross with an Easter Lily:  Lilium 'Lankon' is a hybrid between the dainty Lilium lankongense from China with Lilium longiflorum, the popular and well known Easter Lily. The Easter Lily is often grown and forced it bloom in April for the holiday, but its normal bloom time in the garden is about July.  These two species are very distantly related and would never cross naturally with one another so through some elaborate laboratory techniques, the union was recognized and a strikingly spotted and unique hybrid was unveiled.


Lilium Lankon beginning to open buds

Lilium Lankon swan


OT's = Orienpets = Oriental x Trumpet Hybrids

More and more people are getting accustomed to seeing these remarkable hybrids nowadays. I can still remember when one bulb would cost about $60.00 and it seemed like the holy grail of lily breeding. Now the market is absolutely FLOODED with these hybrids.

An unintended plant combination with Monarda is 'Shocking'

Lilium Orienpet Hybrids
The most voluptuous stems of 'Anastasia' in a private garden in Bellevue, WA

The stunning 'Conca d'Or' growing very well in a private garden in Bellevue, WA

Lilium Contrast with companions 1
'Contrast' absolutely vigorous in a private garden in Seattle growing with Thalictrums, Alliums and Hydrangea aspera.

Lilium Kushi Maya group 1
The unique coloration and stunning fragrance of the rare 'Kushi Maya'

Lilium 'Silk Road' with Sidalcea
'Silk Road' in the background with Sidalcea in front

Lilium 'Miss Libby'
'Miss Libby'

Lilium Blueberry Crush with Phlox Blue Paradise
'Blueberry Crush' absolutely stunning with Phlox 'Blue Paradise'

Lilium 'Nymph' in Landwave Gardens
'Nymph' with a glimpse of Landwave Gardens

Double Freaks of Nature:

Boy, was I excited when the first double-flowered Oriental was introduced into the market just a few days ago. Now there are several out on the market, I still think they're just okay; they're more for the collector, I feel. Requiring heat and regular moisture to make sure the buds open properly, the double Orientals open slowly revealing no sexual parts as they've been morphed into extra tepals. So, there's no messy pollen and the fragrance is still very much that of all other Orientals.

Lilium Magic Star
The bizarrely different 'Magic Star'

'Miss Lucy' in an arrangement I assembled with a striking rex begonia leaf.

This truly has been a superb summer in the garden and to have some of my favorite plants perform so well is just icing on the cake. If you could only see these blooms in person and experience the fragrance on some of these, you'll absolutely be amazed as well.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Floral Masters: Reconnecting with the growers and meeting Francoise Weeks

Jello Mold Black Night profile

Re-igniting my fondness and passion for arranging flowers these last two years has been quite a ride. The many wonderful people I've met and the various events I've been able to do flowers for have been experiences I'll forever take with me and the season's not even over yet! I've got at least two more weddings this year and I've been seriously thinking about adding this work to my already jammed-packed repertoire of services offered. And I'm seriously careful. LOL!

What brought me back to arranging flowers intensely was the simply fact that playing with flowers, local flowers from my own gardens, was becoming more recognized and the stories of small farmers/growers was something I related to and found inspiring. Thanks to Debra Prinzing and David Perry's fantastic book, "The 50-Mile Bouquet" followed up by Debra's "Slow Flowers", the arrangements I did for events at work or for my own enjoyment at home suddenly had value and meaning.

One grower I met and instantly clicked with was Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm. You might remember I paid her a visit in Spring of 2012 with some friends and learned about the basics of sustainable cut flower production. This mighty power-house of energy, knowledge and business sense is at it full speed with her partner Denis, who helps in every aspect of their remarkable operation.

It was definitely a treat to visit again during the peak of bloom and harvest:

Jello Mold Terry and Eric with Scabiosa
Scoping out a remarkable crop of Scabiosa atropurpurea  'Black Knight'/'Ace of Hearts'

Jello Mold Bouquet Composition in field
Walking down the rows with stunning roses underplanted with Nigella or Love-In-The-Mist. Looks stunning together

A personal favorite both in the garden and vase, Echinops ritro or the Blue Globe Thistle

Jello Mold Cafe Au Lait
Their most precious and lucrative crop (when earwigs haven't eaten the petals) is this elegant Dahlia called 'Cafe Au Lait'. It's said to be the most asked for flower by brides who see it in all the magazines.

Jello Mold Farm View
A view of the Cascade Range in the background as Jello Mold Farms erupts into bloom!

So if you take these flowers and have them assembled by artists, you instantly have an endeavor that's so rewarding and absolutely state-of-the-art. One such floral artist is the very well known, Francoise Weeks, who I had the GREAT pleasure of meeting during a recent trip down to Portland.

Visit Francoise's website and blog. It truly is remarkable what she's been able to create, but what's most inspiring is Francoise herself. From the moment she walked down her driveway to greet me, she was all smiles and warmly welcomed me to her studio.

And what a studio:

Weeks Workshop table
I was actually kind of surprised that she even had time to meet with me since it is wedding season and all. I was simply in awe just walking into this room and seeing for myself the exquisite work that she does.

Francoise had just completed a project and a collaboration with a professional photographer who captured these most unusual headpieces worn by models for a photo shoot worthy of a fashion magazine cover! Check out her blog about these pieces and, of course, the resulting photographs!

Gloriosa Head Piece
An elaborate headpiece composed of Abutilon, Gloriosa lilies, and a few begonia leaves in the rear

Garden Mix Head Piece
The best thing about her designs are the sheer number of botanical wonders she integrates into her work. Talk about detail, color, form and textures!!

Begonia Mask
A truly captivating mask using the absolute perfect variety of Rex Begonia!

Succulent Mask
Another mask, this time with a wide assortment of succulents all carefully glued on.

IMG_1890I would love to take part in one of her workshops and learn techniques to improve my own work. As brilliant as she is, she is also very kind, informative, and very generous woman. Scoffing at trends, making time to explore and share her knowledge and creativity, and having a love and respect for the medium she uses to create, Francoise is definitely someone the next generation can look up to.


Growing Steady: A young plantsman's garden open

It's pretty amazing to know that I'm truly not alone in my quest for new, rare and unusual plants. A few weeks back, a fellow "Next Generation Gardener" opened his garden for his neighborhood to see and I was fortunate to have been able to help out and attend.


If people were worried about the future of ornamental home gardening, they should meet and see the garden of Justin Galicic in Normandy Park, just south of Seattle and west of SeaTac Airport. This guy's plant collection is absolutely superb and what's most remarkable about his space is he's pretty much designed and built most of the paths and structures that hold the landscape together and selected plants that represent the wide palette that we're capable of growing here.

Galicic Garden Tropical Pool

Justin is in his early 30's and actually made a sound decision of not taking on horticulture as a career. Hehehe

In a way, it's kind of nice to have a main profession (he's an elementary school music teacher) and garden as a pure hobby. In five short years, he's been able to create a garden so lush and complete with various rooms and features that avid gardeners all around simply marvel at.

Galicic Garden White Arbor
What's most remarkable about this garden is the fact that it's only 5 years old. It truly is amazing what he's done: From the sidewalk tropical garden filled with Dahlias, Cannas, various grasses and various other fine and bold textures, you can't help but stare in amazement and from a designer's perspective, it all flows and works very well together.  I'd say he's done a better job than some other well known designers out there!

Galicic Garden Shade Path

He's got just about every type of garden he's got room for. Full sun tropical borders, a shade woodland, a warm desert region with hardy palms and succulents, a most striking water feature, the elaborate and productive vegetable garden, and a very effective and carefully maintained lawn to rest the eye and be used by family and friends for recreation.

Galicic Garden setting up chairs
It's also a great space to have an audience and have speakers such as Dan Hinkley and Kelly Dodson present talks.

Justin writes a blog called "Growing Steady" and is truly a young gardener you want to follow as his projects seem endless and plant buying non-stop!! I look forward to seeing him and his garden develop.


Friday, July 5, 2013

A garden lives on for the next generation: Heronswood Open

This weekend marks the 2nd open house for the world-renowned Heronswood garden in Kingston, WA.

Once a famous nursery introducing some of the newest, most unusual garden plants from around the world, it is now in the hands of the native S'Klallam Tribe who are preserving the garden and its botanical treasures.

Created and planted by plantsman extraordinaire, Dan Hinkley, with his partner, Robert Jones in the 1980's, it brought it thousands of gardening enthusiasts world wide, the gardens are being restored with their guidance and input and we are fortunate to have an opportunity to visit a landscape that ignited many people's, including my own, passion for plants and gardens.

So, I got together a team of young friends and avid plant lovers who have never been to Heronswood and made a day of it.

Heronswood Sales and Parked Cars
We arrived to hoards of crowds ready to shop from top specialty vendors including Dan Hinkley's selections from his garden Windcliff.

Heronswood Garden Entry
Entering the woodland was absolutely a memorable experience as you noticed one exotic plant after another, left and right.

Walking to Woodland

Meghan in Woodland
Fellow garden professional, Meghan Fuller, was simply taken away by the incredible plant palette.

Justin observing beds
From shade to sun, it has got it all. The former residence had wonderful entry gardens and the rarest of the rare.

Tree Ferns near bog
With various microclimates that exist, even these luscious tree ferns absolutely thrive!

Entry into pottage
The formal layout of clipped box makes this edible garden absolutely gorgeous.

Meghan shows fern
Young friends learn about the details of a fern.

English Border 2
Being that it was only May, the gardens, especially these stunning mixed borders, were just starting to put on a show!

Carpinus hedge and arbor with container focal point
The famous Hornbeam hedges and archways were absolutely stunning and leafed out to perfection.

Admiring Tetracentron sinensis
Admiring the fine details of the rare Tetracentron sinensis.

Mixed beds with weeping birch in background
The garden is still chock full of lessons in design; composition, use of color and focal points, etc.

Ferns through hostas
It's all still a work in progress to get it back to its full glory, but there's still glimpses of brilliance and ingenuity.

So there's another open coming up this Saturday, July 6, 2013 and you can learn more about it on their website:

Bring your wallet for the most remarkable line-up of plant vendors and I'm sure the garden has gotten even more spectacular since this past trip!

Not only did I get to see Heronswood again, it meant so much to be joined by friends who are avid gardeners and share in the same line of work and are simply passionate about what they do. I'm glad I'm not alone in this endeavor!

Group Photo
Justin Galicic, Terry Huang, me, Meghan Fuller, & Dustin Schulte

Thanks for the group pic, Mary!  =)