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,...
The Plants of Union Way

The Plants of Union Way

Have you noticed a trend of stylish shops with stylish plants on display? I’m seeing a lot of good plants in new places, and I like it. My stepfather was stationed in Germany when he was in the military, and always remembers coming across a sign which read “Grün ist Leben,” green is life. Indeed. We never really knew what the sign maker intended. I guess it could be interpreted as a drug reference, but we like to think it’s a gardening thing. Recent Design Within Reach catalogs showed off their fancy pants furniture alongside big agaves and cacti. I’ve noticed agaves and yuccas and opuntia, oh my… in all kinds of fashion photography. It makes perfect sense to me. Plants should be a part of our lives. Grün ist Leben. Birthday-season has kicked off in my world, and I have a gift giving occasion just about every weekend from now through the end of the year, making September-December one big holiday party blur. For reasons I can’t explain, not everyone wants plants as gifts, so I’m venturing outside of the nursery shopping I’d really rather be doing during this frickin’ perfect planting weather. Happily, plants are having a moment in stores of all kinds, so there’s still some garden-y inspiration to be found while wandering the aisles. Have you been to Union Way shopping arcade in Downtown Portland? It’s like a very tiny outdoor mini-mall, with shops built around an open air alley. Nice shops for presents, but what really caught my eye were the wall mounted succulent planters. I like that the planters are not cookie cutters,...
Is pruning the new planting?

Is pruning the new planting?

Just in from a day of working in the garden (you know: “working”) and I got to wondering, is pruning the new planting? Nothing will ever compare to the thrill of an open expanse of soil and corresponding trip to the nursery, but there’s a joy to be had in having planted something that’s grown up big and tall. Something that can benefit from a little helping hand to sculpt it into the best version of itself. Plus as my garden matures there will be less planting, more pruning – I might as well frame that positively… It has a long way to go before it’s a showpiece, but the bottom of this Feijoa sellowiana was looking a little frazzled. A few snips and it’s better. Although I’m now questioning that branch jutting out on the bottom right – I’ve discovered nothing highlights what you’ve missed quite like taking a picture and looking at it on your computer screen. 95% of why I grow Arctostaphylos is because of the shiny mahogany colored bark. Time spent pruning the Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Harmony’ to reveal more of that bark is a delight… This branch I removed from my Arctostaphylos x densiflora ‘Sentinel’ is twice the size of the plant itself when I brought it home just a few years ago! I hated to cut it,  but with its crazy curvy trunk that branch was adding weight on the side that doesn’t need it, bending it closer and closer to the ground… My Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths’ has a great growth habit, its upright stature makes seeing those sexy branches easier. Of course all the darn...