Saturday, July 14, 2012

Just Add Monkeys

After finding out that the plant below is a banana plant, the next question people usually ask is "Does it produce bananas?"  After hearing the affirmative, the next question is usually "Are they edible?"  Yes, they are edible seeing that I have eaten one and haven't died.  But if you want one that tastes good, that's a different story.  Even though they don't produce the kind of bananas you think of when you hear the word banana, the fact that we can even grow a real banana plant in this climate is incredible.  Now if only I could grow a durian...

Musa basjoo (Hardy banana) in flower

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Little Slice of Paradise

Some friends, Mark & Patricia, had asked me to re-landscape their courtyard adjacent to their condo in Des Moines.  It is a nice small space that was really fun to transform, only taking about 6 hours and $300 to go from overgrown ivy mess... an inviting courtyard garden, complete with a raised vegetable bed.

To make the raised vegetable bed, we got some 6-inch wide by 8-foot long cedar decking boards and stakes to hold them in place.  We cut one of the boards in 2-foot lengths for the shorter sides.  We put the boards into position and filled the space with eight bags of topsoil.  I gave them a few starts of eggplant, basil, Swiss chard, and a watermelon, and they also bought a small rosemary, cherry tomato, pepper and cucumber plant to add to the mix.

We planted the rest of the vegetable bed with some seeds: Beans, carrots, radishes, cilantro and basil.

Here is another "before" shot:


And this is the final product:

We also bought several bags of Cedar Grove Compost to cover the bare soil.  This provides slow-release fertilizer and microorganisms to keep the plants healthy.  It also helps minimize water loss and keeps the weeds out.

There were already some bricks outlining a pathway to the gate, so we got six bags of pea gravel and used the existing bricks to make a new, nicer pathway.

Here is a list of the ornamental plants we added:

Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly everlasting)
Brugmansia suaveolens (Angel trumpet)
Canna musifolia x 2
Canna 'Tropical Yellow'
Carex pendula x 2
Colocasia esculenta x 2
Fargesia rufa (Clumping bamboo) x 2
Hydraenga macrophylla
Lilium 'Stargazer (Stargazer lily) x 2
Musa basjoo (Hardy banana)
Ophiopogon japonicus 'Nana' (Dwarf mondo grass)
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (Black mondo grass)
Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge)
Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ x 2
Sarcococca humilis x 2
Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'
Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine)
Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill palm)
Weigela 'Pink Java'

And the finishing touch...a nice little water feature.  Ahhh...

Monday, July 9, 2012

The 2012 Normandy Park Garden Festival

It's not every day Dan Hinkley is in your front yard talking to 100 of your neighbors, but Saturday was one of those days.  The weather was gorgeous - wall to wall blue skies with a slight ocean breeze.  Dan Hinkley brought an incredible selection of rare plants from around the world as he usually does whenever he goes anywhere. 

We hope to do this event again next year, so clear off the first weekend of July 2013!  Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible too - Steve & Ann, Judy, Leola, Kim & Micah, Joyce & Amber, Cindy, Diane, and a big thank you to my parents for working several days straight helping to get everything ready.  Thank you also to Leola's friend who's name starts with an M.  And thank you to Furney's Nursery for loaning us the flowers for free to spruce up the stage.

And finally thank you to everyone who bought plants!  Take good care of them!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Around the Miller Garden, Part 3

The majority of the Miller Garden is shrouded in shade, but there is a small "sun area" filled with bromeliads, aloes, agaves, and other desert dwellers.

I should have asked what this one is.  It looks like it might be evergreen.  Maybe a contorted purple hopseed bush?

I don't think the bark on this manzanita would be any smoother if I were to sand and polish it myself.

Arctostaphylos manzanita
They could use a few more pots, right?

The very dead manzanita in the background of this photo sadly got bit by the despicable frost of November 2010.

While trying to figure out what kind of dyckia this is, I discovered a plant that is going immediately to the top of my plant wish list.  It's called Dyckia 'White Fang' and if it looks as cool in real life as it does in pictures, I'm in dyckia heaven.  You'll have to Google it.  This is not it: 

A white dyckia
Well, I know it was fast, but your virtual tour of the Miller Garden has come to an end.  If you have never visited in person, the best way to go is to sign up for a class at the Miller Garden through the Northwest Horticultural Society website.  Good luck!

Nolina nelsonii

Monday, July 2, 2012

Around the Miller Garden, Part 2

Mrs. Miller planted so many trees on her 7-acre estate overlooking Puget Sound that what could potentially be a panoramic view of the water framed by a few trees is more like a view of a lot of trees framed by a couple narrow views of the water.

One of the culprits is this live oak, Quercus chrysolepis, which happens to be a state champion.

Quercus chrysolepis (Canyon live oak)
It is practically begging to have a tree house build in it.

Quercus chrysolepis (Canyon live oak)
A giant Schefflera delavayi looking happy. Yes, it is evergreen and reliably hardy in the greater Seattle area (to around 5F/-15C).  It seemed a little out of place here because the tropical look is decidedly not a theme in the Miller Garden, but I'm glad to see them growing it anyway.  I also noticed a couple Schefflera taiwanianas growing in pots.

Schefflera delavayi
There is one big drawback to the Miller Garden: name tags are few and far between.  None of the groundcovers, perennials, or small shrubs had name tags and very few of the trees did.  So while I know this plant below is in the rhubarb family, I don't know much more about it.

Mystery Rhubarb
I think this is a Mahonia fortunei.

Mahonia fortunei?
Along with Rhododendrons & Japanese maples, their collection of ferns is very extensive.  This is a fern called Pyrrosia sheareri.  Most of the old fronds from last year still look great.

Pyrrosia sheareri
Adiantum pedatum (Northern Maidenhair fern)
I have no idea what this is:

Mystery fern
They also have one of the most incredible nurseries filled with thousands of rare plants, but nothing is for sale.  I find that a bit odd because they could raise a lot of money from people like me trying to spend their life savings on rare plants.

Tables filled with plants you've never seen before
Inside one of the greenhouses
I don't know what this is, but I want it!!
Extensive hepatica collection
Even though you can't buy a single plant, they are nice enough to give away a free one at the end of the tour.  I left with an Ercilla volubilis, which is an evergreen vine that Far Reaches Farm happens to be selling on their website.

Ercilla volubilis
Continue on to Part 3.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Around the Miller Garden, Part 1

View looking west toward Puget Sound
The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in North Seattle opened to the public in the mid-90's after the world-renowned horticulturist had passed away and willed her estate to become a botanical garden.  The gated community surrounding it was not too happy about the potential increase in vehicle traffic, so the garden is forced to limit the number of visitors per year to 500.  So it is a garden that is impossible to get into, filled with many plants that are impossible to find.

Here is an example of a plant you can't get, a ground-hugging fern in the Blechnum genus: 

Blechnum (species unknown)
Another hard-to-find plant, the Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis), was known only through fossil records until 1994 when a small population of about 100 trees were found growing in the Blue Mountains in Australia.  This incredible discovery led to a movement around Australia to cultivate the pine, even using it as a living Christmas tree, in order to help maintain its survival as a species.  It is still extremely difficult to find in the US (otherwise I would be growing one).

A small Wollemia nobilis
A larger Wollemia nobilis
Eventually, these plants will trickle down to the rest of us.  As an example, Japanese forest grass was once so rare that Mrs. Miller's garden was one of the only places in the Western hemisphere you could find it.  Now it is very common.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' (Japanese Forest Grass)
Plants from Japan are well-represented in the Miller Garden, with over 50 varieties of Japanese Maples alone.  Here are some outstanding specimens:

Acer palmatum 'Scolopendrifolium'
Acer palmatum 'Arakawa' (Rough bark maple)
Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira' (Lion's Head Maple)
Acer palmatum 'Villa Taranto'
Continue on to Part 2.