Other people’s plants

Other people’s plants

There is a folder on my computer, that holds my hopes and dreams. This folder is called Other People’s Plants.

Is there any plant you want more than the one you can’t have? There are far too many reasons you can’t have a plant, but my favorite is the I-don’t-even-know-what-it-is category, that’s the category where hope lives. In this category it’s Schrödinger’s plant, simultaneously alive and dead in your very own soil. Who knows, maybe it’s perfect for the weird spot by the driveway. Or it can quickly fill in the place where that inherited hedge came out. You just have to figure out the name.

Every couple months I peruse this folder and get to move something out of the what-the-heck-is-it folder and into the must-have folder, or on very lucky days, into the mine-mine-mine folder.

These are the plants currently on the list.

1. The most vivid Eryngium I’ve ever seen, spotted at an HPSO open garden. Anyone else see this one and catch the name?
eryngium on lances parking strip
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Looking closer at the plants that have kept me engaged in the winter garden…

Looking closer at the plants that have kept me engaged in the winter garden…

A couple weeks ago I wrote: “my garden is finally a place where I find myself winter engaged.” Today I thought I’d focus on a few of those plants, the ones that keep me sane through the winter. Key plants that look good, individual things that I can concentrate on. A garden with layers and layers of interest isn’t as needed in the wintertime, I don’t spend that much time outdoors. Something that grabs my attention and briefly pulls me into the garden is all I ask. An occasional unexpected surprise is nice too, a sort of reward for my time and investment.

There are three categories my winter-interest plants fall into. First are the evergreen stalwarts, the plants that just always look good (Old Man Winter permitting).

First off Agave weberi, because who doesn’t want a big bad agave right outside your door?
Agave weberi

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Unexpected groundcovers

Unexpected groundcovers

Groundcovers are…

The icing on the cake?

The bow on the present?

The cherry on the sundae?

Whatever cliche fits best, they deserve some special attention. Last week I realized how important groundcovers are to pulling together a garden, and I’ve been looking for some good contenders ever since.

I’m sure we’ve all seen certain plants get overused as carpets in parking lot beds and in front of new homes as builders’ favorites, and those plants get crossed right off our lists. Lucky for us there is no end to new and unusual plants, which is why we garden, isn’t it?

For groundcovers to make the cut on this particular list, they had to meet some basic criteria:

  • – Be super cool or weird
  • – Have a long season of interest
  • – Don’t rely on flowers as the main attraction
  • – Be reasonably easy to grow
  • – Be frost hardy
  • Don’t be something I’ve seen a million times

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saga of the apple tree

saga of the apple tree

Funny how once a decision has been made, it becomes so obvious. I’ve been struggling with the what-to-do-with-the-apple-tree question since we moved to Flamingo Park nine months ago.

 

DSCN3076

it’s dark under the tree, and it casts long shadow.

 

I wouldn’t have chosen this tree or sited it center view from the picture window, but the trunk is magnificent. I don’t know the variety—though one outfit thought Gravenstein. It was never a question of the tree itself so much, as it relationship to the rest of the garden.

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It’s showtime!

It’s showtime!

Showtime! Well, not quite yet, but it’s the time of the year I start thinking about them, the annual garden shows. How better to break the spell of winter?

NWFG 2013a

The 2013 Ravenna Gardens display at the NWFG Show. It was perfect and I wanted to take it home, all of it.

I’m lucky to live in region that really does garden shows, not some “home improvement” show where a couple of landscape companies are stuck in the corner and they promise to install the latest in hi-tech outdoor kitchens, fire bowls and water features (but nary a plant is mentioned). (more…)

Ode to groundcovers

Ode to groundcovers

I am a gardener on a mission. This year my garden is in rehab following some bad decisions and bad luck that left it roughed up last year, and I’m feeling like a gardener impostor, moving among all these great gardeners while my yard is a big ol’ weedy dust bowl. But planting season is coming up. I need to pull things together in a hurry, because I don’t plan on spending another year being bummed out at the lushness that seemed to vanish overnight. I’ve been studying inspiration photos, and I realize there’s totally a trick to looking more pulled together.

Try this at home. Look at a garden you like that looks polished. Then look at a garden that has some cool plants but looks nekkid. Now tell me, was the difference groundcover vs no groundcover?

Let me show you an example. Check this out. The Desert Garden at the Huntington Gardens is pretty much one of the most beautiful places on earth.

huntington with groundcovers

But, if we look at this stretch, we still have Joshua trees, yuccas, and aloes, but the ground along the path? Looks kinda nekkid, right?
huntington without groundcovers

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The award for most underused plant goes to…False Hemp

The award for most underused plant goes to…False Hemp

Here’s a plant we should see a lot more of: Datisca cannabina, or false hemp. What’s so great about it? For one thing, it quickly shoots up to 10 feet tall in spring, covered in soft, feathery serrated leaves. Then in summer it dangles its elegant chains of chartreuse flowers, which age gracefully and stick around for the rest of the year, transitioning through various stages of beautiful, until you cut the leafless stems back in winter when the new growth begins to emerge. For all that drama, you only need a small footprint, where it takes up about a foot of space on the garden floor, making it one of those great mingling plants that can slink right up against its neighbors.

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Finding that elusive “winter interest”…

Finding that elusive “winter interest”…

My garden is finally a place where I find myself winter engaged. I don’t advert my eyes but rather intentionally partake. Getting to this point involved a lot of visiting gardens and nurseries during the winter months. How better to see what looks good this time of the year?

Our local Chinese Garden, Lan Su, recently held a series of free open days. I decided to see how some of my favorites were doing, it’s always nice to catch up with old friends.
NOID rose

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my latest plant lust list

my latest plant lust list

There’s nothing like sorting through old garden photos to kickstart a lust list. I meant to be working on my get-it-all-organized project, but I got distracted with what I saw. This must help with my design plans, yes? to know what plants I want. Then I’ll have to figure out how to accommodate in that big open space. I know, it’s bourgeois suffering.

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