Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer's in full swing...don't blink!

Looking at the picture above, I see nasturtiums taking over the world, bamboo flopping over trying to shade out the pumpkins, diseased apples on a puny apple tree, and lima beans that are never going to ripen. Yet in a few months, when solar days are shorter than work days and the high temperature outside is roughly the same as the temperature in my refrigerator, I will probably look back on this picture and think "those were the good old days". So it is...never satisfied.

Most non-horticultural people will probably look at this plant and think "what kind of weed is that?" Well, it's the kind of weed where Tequila comes from - a blue agave or Agave tequilana. It stays outside for the summer, and I keep it bone-dry inside for the winter (Nov-April).

Speaking of blue plants, my Melianthus major (honey bush) is in bloom right now. It definitely helps contribute to the subtropical aura of this area of the garden. You can see the blue agave on the right.

Any beginning gardener interested in growing spiky plants in the Pacific Northwest can't go wrong by planting Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle). It doesn't die - regardless of how cold, wet, dark, windy or miserable it gets. As you can see in the picture, its inflorescence is very attractive. Note: This is not the same yucca that they make yuca chips out of (yuca with one c = yum; yucca with two c's = yuck!). giant pumpkin in the making. I've clipped off all the other pumpkins and feed it lots 'o Miracle-Gro whenever I get the chance. We'll see how it does.....

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Almost a Tropical Paradise

The above picture was taken at eye-level -- and the photographer (me) is 6' tall! These Oriental lilies grow to 8' and taller with the help of a few bamboo poles as support. I use black horticultural cloth to tie the stems of the lilies to the bamboo poles. They are also intensely fragrant and make the entire backyard smell like a slice of heaven. Incidentally, they were supposed to be "Stargazer" lilies, but although I'm glad they are not, I have no idea what kind they are other than some type of Oriental lily! Here's another shot:

The back-lighting is incredible, isn't it?

The very wacky leaves of Manihot grahamii (Hardy tapioca) reach toward the light in this intentionally crowded part of the garden. It adds an artistic touch to an otherwise out of control jungle.

The plant below is Abutilon 'Tiger Eye'. At the time of the picture, there were only about 20 blossoms on it. Now (in late-September), it is absolutely covered in blossoms! This has been one of the most commented-on plants this season. I bought it in February 2010 at the NW Flower & Garden Show as a 1-gallon seedling. It's now taller than me! I kept it in a pot last winter and planted it out in the garden in March. It takes cool weather really well but not subfreezing weather. I'll be digging it out again and storing it in the garage should there be the threat of a hard freeze. It is semi-evergreen to evergreen.

I have to admit I was never impressed with any form of Coleus until this year. Maybe I just never grew them in the right spot before. I picked up two in the spring just to see how they would do and they have gone above and beyond my expectations. I hear they are easy to propagate from more thing for the fall gardening to-do list.

It's nice to see my Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta) starting to put on a bit of bulk. This palm will thrive in the Pacific Northwest climate if given some protection from severe frost. Here's a secret: When cutting off the dead fronds, I cut right below the leaf, leaving the spiky petioles on, because that's what will eventually form the thatched trunk (something you see all over in California).

Although I am not completely sure of the species, I believe this is a Beschorneria yuccoides. It suffered some bud damage during the previous two winters, but always comes back strong. I planted it right up against the south side of the house, so it is in a very protected micro-climate. It is about as hardy as New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax).

More to come soon!!!!