Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Happy MLK Jr. day from all of us at plant lust. Gardening may not solve the problems of the world, but spending time in beauty and tranquility surely doesn’t hurt. Here’s to dreamers. King Protea, aka Protea cynaroides “South Africa’s national flower, & the world’s best know Protea. This species has large upward facing blooms – up to 11” across, with pink outer bracts. Prized as a cut flower, & jaw dropping in person, it’s easy to understand why people will bend over backwards to grow this Protea outside its native range.” – Annies Annuals & Perennials Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ “Incredibly bright yellow-green foliage on a massive clump eventually reaching as high as 6 feet. If you need drama in your shade garden (and really, who doesn’t?), you need this plant.” – Arrowhead Alpines Cyperus papyrus ‘King Tut’ A must have plant we snatch up each and every year here in our Portland gardens where they are annuals. The summer wouldn’t be the same without these elegant umbrellas. Peace &...
Spring Fever is Contagious

Spring Fever is Contagious

It’s been a few years since I’ve felt like showing off my garden, after multiple forces converged and took it from a wild lush jungle, to a big sad mess, with the occasional interesting plant hinting that a gardener used to tend these parts. Not the way I like to think of my garden. Last year was a rebuilding year with some good progress, but it didn’t really reach my vision of a garden bursting at the seams with mature, happy healthy plants with fabulous foliage. Starting over was a bit daunting at first, but with spring erupting, things are starting to look up. For the first time in a long time, I look out there and see potential. It’s so hard to be patient. I was frankly feeling discouraged at the start of this spring, and was considering skipping spring plant sales, because my plants have such a low survival rate these days, what with a certain 2 year old puppy with a habit of stealing new plants in their pots and distributing them around the garden in pieces, or throughly trampling new plantings. It’s hard to build things up with something in your wake tearing things down. But once the fiddleheads started to unfurl, I was back in a gardening mood. Ferns are magic. While he’s not the only reason the garden has suffered in the last couple years, this beagle bull can do a real number on plants, with his habit of ripping through the garden like the Looney Toons Tasmanian devil. And with such joy. Here he is working on turning a big luscious Acanthus...
New Plant Obsession: Itea ilicifolia

New Plant Obsession: Itea ilicifolia

Somehow, this plant escaped my notice, and boy do I feel silly. It has everything I love in a plant. Dramatic, cascading, pendulous, prolific, foot-long green flowers! Which is quite enough for me. But it’s fragrant, bee-friendly, and evergreen to boot? I am dying. “Incredibly elegant,” and “the effect of a chandelier or waterfall,” says Xera Plants. Indeed. It’s hard to say what makes a plant elegant, but you know it when you see it. That gooseneck in the flower turning downward. Love. Photo courtesy of lmc How many times have I passed it by, thinking it was just some plain-old holly leaved shrub? (No offense to hollies.) Maybe I missed its charms in a small nursery pot, before the flowers get devastatingly, beautifully drape-y. Photo courtesy of themagnolias.co.uk It really shines when it gets big enough to hold flowers out and away from the foliage, allowing them to dangle and sway in the breeze. They’re like Alice and Wonderland style giant catkins. Photo courtesy of themagnolias.co.uk So you don’t make the mistake I made, passing it up when it was within reach, check out a young plant in a nursery, as captured by Patricia on a nursery visit where we both let it slip through our fingers. Next time you see its softly spiny foliage and pale green flowers, stop and take a closer look. Where would you put it? It’s surprisingly versatile as a 10′ screening shrub for the border, or espaliered, or even trained as a vine(?!). How to make Itea ilicofolia happy? Sun or Shade, if protected from the hottest rays of the day Rich...
A new chapter in plant lust. Now with plant shopping.

A new chapter in plant lust. Now with plant shopping.

Since starting plant lust six years ago, it has been our dream to help independent nurseries sell their plants online. While most nurseries have their own websites, many don’t have online shopping carts. Even fewer work just as well on a smartphone, even as we see more and more online shopping happening on small screens. Building these things can take resources small nurseries don’t always have. Time, money, the desire to spend hours in front of a computer. We hoped to give small nurseries a hand with a mobile friendly shop, sparing them the time and expense that usually comes along with building such things. Garden nuts that we are, we also wanted a nice place to ogle all of the plants, and place our catalog orders all in one spot, without filling out a dozen different order forms. We wanted an online marketplace for plants that’s just as easy as shopping on Amazon. Until today, the plant lust site was window shopping only. To buy plants, you had to do the leg work to order from multiple nurseries to get all the plants on your wish list. Today is different. Today is big. Today we are finally opening the plant lust store and shipping our first plants! We are starting small, partnering with three of our longtime trusted nurseries, as we all learn the ropes of this new way of ordering plants. You’ll see a Buy Now button on available plants. Plants that aren’t yet for sale will continue to offer notification once available. If you requested notification for a plant that we now have available, an email...
Close Encounters of the Edgeworthia Kind

Close Encounters of the Edgeworthia Kind

One of the lovely things about the Lan Su Chinese Garden is the space outside the walls for passers by to enjoy. Like the garden inside, the mini-gardens bordering the block are full of plants that remind us that the garden is always changing. At the garden now, blooming Edgeworthias herald the approach of spring. Driving by, the fragrant blooms called out to be appreciated up close, and I obliged. What a nice diversion from errands. Across the street in a raised planter, an Edgeworthia is elevated to nose level. You could not miss the sweet fragrance. I like to catch the Edgworthia while they’re half bloom, half bud. Those buds with the velvety sheen make me swoon. So fuzzy! Next weekend, Valentine’s Day and all, would make an excellent time to pay a visit inside those walls, and get a look at the Akebono in bloom, which Loree captured so beautifully in a previous year. May as well spend the holiday with plants you love,...
We Interrupt this Winter for a Sun Break

We Interrupt this Winter for a Sun Break

Could you use a little break from cold wet winter weather where you are? We’re approaching what I consider the “power through” part of winter in Portland. I get the winter doldrums later than some people, because I love it up through December, and clouds and rain feel right to this native Portlander. But I feel a twinge of impatience coming on. I want to clean up the messy plant skeletons and fallen leaves they tell us we should leave in the beds until spring, and get planting. It’s plenty warm right now. Tomorrow’s forecast is 62°F. We’re headed into February, where we always seem to get a false-spring where you see people standing motionless on sidewalks soaking up the sun. It’s hard to believe that we’re still in for the late frosts that always hit. But be patient, we must. This is the time of year I’d borrow a little sunshine and visit the non-dormant plants with a quick sunny vacation down south, if I had the opportunity. But it’s not in the cards this year, so I’m going to revisit some old photos I didn’t share from the desert garden outside of Las Vegas a couple years ago. Think warm thoughts. Most of the desert garden looks sparse, which I enjoy, but certain groupings, like this one, look rather lush and dense. My old notes said something about a “Mexican Olive” on this photo, but what did that mean? Got me. But it’s a pretty collection, no? A trunked yucca always reminds me of Joshua Trees in the desert. Labeled beaked yucca, I’m guessing this is Yucca...
A windowsill bark tray for little garden treasures

A windowsill bark tray for little garden treasures

I love giving gifts to gardeners. They can be so easy to please, as long as you know a little about their style. Miniature roses for the cactus lover would be a miss (but the cactus called miniature desert rose could do the trick). But when you’re talking about people who are happy playing in the dirt, you get to skip the mall, and never even change out of your muck boots if you don’t want. One of my favorite presents I ever received was a piece of bark. Let me explain. When the 18″ strip of curved bark first arrived (5?) years ago, it was a miniature succulent garden, with 2″ nursery pots of Haworthia, Stapelia, and Lithops. The orange plastic pots were completely disguised, nestled in among Spanish moss, topped with twigs, Tillandsias and sparkly baubles. You’ll have to use your imagination, because the originals have moved on to the compost bin, thanks to my limited houseplant nurturing qualities. Fortunately the structure lends itself to swapping out and rearranging. Picture little succulent gems like these: Clockwise from top left above 1. Stapelia scitula from Kara Cactus 2. Haworthia atenuata by Ryan Somma 3. Lithops herrei by Stan Shebs 4. Haworthia truncata by The Ruth Bancroft Garden 5. Huernia insigniflora by Almost Eden 6. Haworthia attenuata by Claire H. Many Tillandsias have come and gone as well, but I enjoy shopping for new ones when I lose one. There always seems to be some new (to me) variety to love. We had an embarrassment of Tillandsia riches on our Little Prince of Oregon field trip in the spring,...
Big, Bold, Statement Plants

Big, Bold, Statement Plants

I’m starting to think every front garden needs one. Mine sure does. A big old, stop-the-car, would-you-look-at-that, jaw dropping, statement plant. The kind you make sure to drive by when you’re in the neighborhood, like an old friend. Exhibit A The Agave salmiana that could. The biggest agave in Portland. That I know of. But please prove me wrong, I’ve never met a big agave I didn’t like. Even non-plant-lovers are amazed when they come across this giant. It’s near a ridge I’m starting to think of as Portland’s magic zone, near the Rose City Golf Course. Rocky gardens overlooking a south facing bluff. The monster, zone-defying plants along this stretch are a tempting reason to move, if ever there was one. It’s hard to capture the scale of this plant. The mini-me agave up front is probably 2-3 feet across, to give you a sense of size on the biggo. Standing underneath its undulating arms is practically a religious experience. In case you’re wondering how it fared in the recent snow and ice storm, it appears completely unscathed. No mushy heart, thank goodness. It’s been through far worse than this most recent quickie storm. Exhibit B Yucca rostrata forest. Well, maybe forest is overstating it. But pretty darn close. I’m so happy when I’m driving down a busy street with very little gardening eye candy, and come across these guys. Another post-ice storm wellness check. Everything looks good in there. Not that there was much danger, since they’re solidly in the hardy camp here, zone 7a. Sean Hogan of Cistus says as long as they have decent drainage,...
Snow Day

Snow Day

Controversy! Some of us at plant lust and friends love snow, and others hate it. I’m in the minority on the love-it side. Snow makes my heart happy. We only see it every few years in Portland, and it’s usually fleeting. I watch the winter weather forecast eagerly, looking for signs of hope. Most of the time, snowflake forecasts are fools gold. Even though I pray for snow, I understand the heartbreak when those of us pushing the limits of our planting zones have our hopes for mild winters dashed. I know a wintery day brings some people down the same way a 100 degree day sinks my heart. But the universe is indifferent to our suffering, all we get to do is watch. This weekend’s snow was followed by freezing rain. I know. Even less popular than snow. Some of the plants may not survive their ice bath. But boy was were they pretty. Opuntia NOID, shared by another Portland Gardener with a large mature plant. Hope that means it’s hardy. Opuntia humifusa should be just fine. Hardy to zone 4, and a real trooper, having survived a mad vandal ripping it to pieces one year in the heat of summer, and an over-crowded, over-shaded situation the next. This Agave NOID might be toast. It spent cold nights indoors in previous years. Such thick snow and ice for this poor thing. Maybe the squid agave will make it? Zone 8b. A girl can hope. Chief Joseph Pine shouldn’t be phased. The ice just magnified the gold needles. I really love this plant. The Fatshedera flowers looked like miniature...
Damn, I wish I’d planted that

Damn, I wish I’d planted that

To the best of my knowledge, there’s no rule against coveting thy neighbor’s plants. So I’ve been cruising this garden regularly ever since I spied pomegranates along the path last winter. I was kind of dying to know what was inside. The fruits are smaller than the ones you see at the grocery store. Are they ripe? Are they edible? I was soooo close to knowing the answer. I’m apparently fine with stalking someone else’s plants, but I drew the line at sampling the fruit uninvited…this time anyway. Can you see why this took some restraint? They certainly look delicious. Pomegranates are one of the reasons I look forward to winter. Call me crazy, but there’s something magical about sprinkling them on squash. Really. Try it. Not all the fruits were making an escape. Most of the fruits were intact and in it for the long haul, if the owners decide not to harvest, and let the orbs decorate the bare stems throughout the winter, like last year. If this were my plant, I’d be torn. So delicious. So pretty. What to do? I don’t know why I have always imagined Pomegranates as a Californian plant. They’re all allegedly hardy to zone 7 or 8. We can totally grow them in Portland. Why we don’t grow more, I can’t tell you. We should. While plant-stalking the pomegranate, guess what I saw lurking right behind? A heavily decorated persimmon! How great does it look with the pumpkin color echo in the background? How festive. Those fruits! I can’t get over the skin. Matte finish like a peach, but smooth, not...