Friday, November 28, 2014

Awesome Plants from Northern Vietnam

Two of the tallest mountains in Vietnam - Fansipan and Y Tý - host some of the most amazing plants capable of being grown in temperate zones.  Plant explorers Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones from Crûg Farm Plants in Wales, U.K. regularly visit these two mountains in order to hunt for seed and introduce them into cultivation.  The bad news is they cannot ship to the U.S. so some of these plants are several years away from being even remotely obtainable.

During their visit to Seattle last month, they shared with us some of their seed collections.  Each plant listed below is either linked to a post about it on their website or a Google search if no post exists.  Many of their collections are new to science which means they aren't going to have much of an Internet presence, but that is all the more reason to find them and grow them!

Dendropanax cf. trifidus
Chirita speciosa 'Crûg Cornetto'
Illicium merrillianum
Daphniphyllum longeracemosum
Schizophragma cf. intergrifolia
Magnolia crassifolia
Magnolia sapaensis
Arisaema petelotii
Aesculus wangii
Zanthoxylum planispinum
Clematis fasciculiflora
Hedychium aff. tengchongense
Hedychium urophyllum
Hedychium forrestii
Magnolia insignis
Exbucklandia tonkinensis
Edgeworthia gardneri
Betula insignis subsp. fansipanensis
Lindera angustifolia
Hydrangea davidii (Hydrangea indochinensis)
Holboellia brachyandra
Daphne bholua
Sarcococca bleddynii
Stauntonia aff. libera
Dichroa versicolor
Disporum trabeculatum
Schefflera brevipedicellata
Schefflera macrophylla
Caulokaempferia petelotii
Viburnum fansipanense
Viburnum hoanglienense
Polygonatum mengtzense f. fonkinensis
Ypsilandra yunnanensis var. fansipanensis
Disporopsis fansipanensis
Schefflera aff. pauciflora
Schefflera alpina
Rhodoleia championii

Y Tý
Acer heptaphlebium
Daphniphyllum aff. chartaceum
Shortia sinensis
Oreocharis atrocuneata (not on the Internet)
Magnolia foveolata
Amomum aromaticum
Illicium majus
Rehderodendron indochinensis
Lindera tonkinensis
Rhododendron aff. sinofalconeri
Rhodoleia parcipetala (not on the Internet)
Lilium primulinum
Lilium eupetes
Uocoderodendron whartonii (not on the Internet)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Far Reaches Farm...Finally!

Last week I finally made it to Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, WA for the very first time.  I was completely determined to go this year before they closed for the season.  Their selection of plants is mind-boggling.  Like Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina or Cistus Nursery in Oregon, this is a horticultural hotspot.  And being the horticultural hotspot that it is, I did manage to pick up a few plants:

Top row (from left):
Eucryphia moorei - It's only hardy to Zone 9 but that's why pots exist.  I couldn't resist the pinnate evergreen foliage.
Iris japonica CR038 - This iris gets tall and forms purple "trunks".  Supposedly evergreen.
Sarcococca hookeriana ex G-W&P# - Interested to see how this differs from S. confusa.
Magnolia macrophylla subsp. ashei - A dwarf version of the big leaf magnolia.

Middle row:
Eucomis 'Rhode Island Red' - This gets huge and completely exudes the tropical look.
Woodwardia unigemmata - Giant, evergeen fern with the new growth a brilliant coppery-bronze.
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Edge of Night' - Black mondo grass with a thin white strip along the edges.
Dryopteris championii - It was simply an evergreen fern that I didn't have.
Asarum maximum 'Shell Shocked' - Ridiculously huge leaves for a wild ginger.

Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver' - Another silver plant to add to the collection.
Eucomis pole-evansii 'Purpurea' - I'm hoping it will be darker than 'Sparkling Burgundy'.

Clematis finetiana CDHM 14683 - Rare, evergreen, hardy clematis.

Clematis finetiana CDHM 14683
Cautleya spicata 'Robusta'

Cautleya spicata 'Robusta'
This post exists solely to label plants that couldn't fit in this post.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Clone Me!

I admit and accept that I am addicted to plants.  No, not smoking them, just buying and growing them.  In order to not go bankrupt, I have resorted to propagation.  It's not a get-rich-quick scheme by any means (it's not even a get-rich-slow scheme) but I did manage to make a nice chunk of change this summer out of just a few plant sales.

There are many ways to propagate plants.  One of the easiest and most rewarding methods is called air-layering.  Air-layering is simply getting a branch to grow roots from some place on the branch.  This is done by scraping off a section of the cambium layer (the green layer under the bark) all the way around the branch, brushing the exposed white sapwood with root tone, surrounding the entire scraped off part with a handful of moist peat moss (or other rooting medium) and then enclosing it in a waterproof barrier such as plastic wrap.  The bad news is it's likely too late in the season to try this outside now.  It will work on just about any woody houseplant any time of the year.

Here is a Lion's Head Maple (Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira') which was successfully rooted using the air-layering method.  I severed it from the mother plant and potted up into a one-gallon pot.  The roots are still young so I'm keeping it in a cool, shady spot until it's more established.

Here is another awesome plant, Crinodendron hookerianum, aka Chilean Lantern Tree, which was more than ready to be potted up.  Now the dilemma is to decide whether to sell it or to keep it and plant it somewhere else!

Finally, here is the first ever Schefflera taiwaniana that I've propagated.

Everything I needed to know about air-layering I learned online.  Here are two videos I'd recommend watching if you're interested in trying this out for yourself:

Dan Hinkley - Air Layering

Mikes Backyard - Air Layering

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Flower Power

As I was walking around the garden this week there were a few flowers that just struck me as ridiculously perfect.  Notice the structural similarities of the first three which are all more or less lilies (this family is always changing).

Hymenocallis 'Tropical Giant Sister' aka Spider Lily
Lilium duchartrei
Gloriosa vine is reportedly hard to grow here in Seattle because of its tropical origins, but for me it has been well worth the effort.  The flowers on this climbing lily are green when they open up, then slowly evolve to red and yellow before flattening out and becoming a deeper, richer red as the grand finale.  They are long-lasting and take about two weeks to complete their entire display. 

Gloriosa rothschildiana
I put some bromeliads & orchids from the clearance rack at Lowes in this hanging basket (No names unfortunately - I need to smack their garden supplier in the head and tell them "Assorted tropical foliage" is not good enough for me).  They have literally been blooming all summer and are still going strong.

Bromeliads & orchids in a basket
Abutilon or flowering maple is not completely hardy but here's what I do to keep it alive: I buy one in the spring and plant it in the ground, let it grow and flower like crazy, then in September or October, I take cuttings (5 or 6 inches long from the growing tip) and stick them in a glass of water with a clear plastic bag loosely covering it to help retain moisture.  They will be sprouting roots in no time, and then I can pot those up and place them next to a window for next year.  If we're lucky and get a mild winter, the one in the ground will survive.  'Tiger Eye' is my favorite cultivar.

Abutilon 'Tiger Eye'
Lobelia tupa is right in the middle of its almost endless stretch of flowering.

Lobelia tupa
Another plant that slowly changes the color of its flower is this Opuntia which I'm 99% sure is Opuntia engelmannii.  It starts out bright yellow, is orange by the next day, and then turns red on the third day.  A flower that lasts for three days isn't bad for a cactus!

Opuntia engelmannii
Same Opuntia engelmannii a day later
And finally, here's one of the Plumeria cuttings I "collected" from my trip to Hawaii this past winter.  This is the only one out of the four I brought back that has flowered so far:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Galloping Gourmet Is Only A Few Days Away!

Graham Kerr a.k.a. The Galloping Gourmet is our speaker at this year's Normandy Park Garden Festival & Plant Sale.  It will be held right here in the garden and will go from 11:00am-3:00pm on Saturday, July 12th.  Everyone is welcome - not just Normandy Park residents.  It's free (supported by donations & plant sales) and kid-friendly (we're bringing back the bouncy house).

Here's the schedule:

11:00am: Plant sale opens
High Noon: Lunch is served (Scrumptious delicacies from Asia, Hawaii & the Mediterranean)
1:30pm: Mr. Kerr speaks and does a cooking demo
3:00pm: Plant sale sell off - After 3:00pm all plants will be marked down 50%.  You'll find lots of good stuff!!  We're selling tetrapanax, red castor bean plants, hardy prickly pears, brugmansias, canna musifolia (one of the best cannas for Seattle), hardy papyrus, kangaroo apples, fountain grass, lobelia tupa, elephant ears, fragrant lilies and much, much more!!

Please e-mail me at to RSVP if you'd like to attend.  No tickets or anything - we just like to know how many people to expect.  I'll send you our address when you e-mail me!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why One Podophyllum Delavayi Just Isn't Enough

Podophyllum delavayi had been close to the top on my plant wish list for many years until I finally scored one from Dan Hinkley last summer.  Isn't it beautiful?

Podophyllum delavayi from Dan Hinkley
So you would think that when Far Reaches Farm sent out an e-mail a few months ago saying they had Podophyllum delavayi in stock, I wouldn't need to order one because I already had one.  You would be wrong.

Podophyllum delavayi from Far Reaches Farm
I was enamoured by the variation between the two - even though they are the same species.  Then, I saw another one at the Hortlandia plant sale last month in Portland.  Suddenly, I'm a Podophyllum delavayi connoisseur.

Podophyllum delavayi from Woodland Way/Hortlandia 2014
On a different note, this hummingbird was being extremely cooperative with me as I photographed his beautiful plumage.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Doing It Island Style, Part 4: A Taste of the Tropics

It was my mission to try as many edible plants as possible during our trip.  The house we stayed at had a mango tree:

A banana plant with frustratingly green bananas:

A super sweet and delicious orange tree:

A pomelo tree, which is sort of like a large grapefruit:

And a breadfruit tree.  Breadfruit is starchy like a potato and doesn't have a lot of flavor.  Hawaiian tradition is to plant a breadfruit tree in the backyard when you buy a house because it can sustain your family through a time of famine.

Artocarpus altilis aka Breadfruit tree 
Like potatoes, breadfruit can be eaten at any time during its development and the longer it stays on the tree, the bigger it gets.  Eventually, if left unpicked, the fruit will become sweeter as the starches convert to sugars.

One breadfruit is the equivalent of about eight medium potatoes.

After cutting three breadfruit off the tree, I noticed a white sap started gushing out all over the place.  I looked up on YouTube how to prepare breadfruit and opted to try frying them in coconut oil.  I peeled and sliced the fruit up into strips like fries and soaked them in cold salt water.

Once all sliced, they were dropped into the heated coconut oil.

After sprinkling on a little sea salt we had authentically tropical breadfruit fries:

They were pretty good and picked up the taste of coconut.  You don't see breadfruit in the grocery store here because it has about much flavor as tofu (don't ask me why we see tofu in the grocery store).

We also stopped by a fruit stand and picked up sugar cane and fresh coconut.

I cut the sugar cane into strips which can be chewed on.

Getting the coconut water out of the coconut was a bit more labor-intensive and turned into an hour-long project (I only had a paring knife). Eventually found success...

The coconut meat was very soft.  It was like eating coconut-flavored jello.

Alas, my series on Hawaii has come to an end.  If you've never been to Hawaii, I hope you will be able to visit some day.  There is no place quite like it.  Mahalo!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Doing It Island Style, Part 3: The Nā Pali Coast

The Nā Pali Coast is well known for its sheer cliffs rising high above the vast ocean below.  Incessant rain, wind, and pounding waves have sculpted the land into a ruggedly idealized tropical paradise.  The only way to explore it is on foot.  At the trailhead, we were warned of falling rocks, steep muddy cliffs, and flash floods.  At least there were no jaguars to worry about.

I was hoping to make it to Hanakapi`ai Falls but we ended up just going to Hanakapi`ai beach.

The mountains are very steep, yet still completely covered in vegetation.


The water was pristine blue.

Hey, look!  A rainbow!  

Some plants (such as the screw pines) were absolutely everywhere, and then there would be lone specimens - this was the only Furcraea foetida (Agave relative) I saw on the trail.

This is one of a small colony of orchids.


Parts of the trail were of stone laid back in the 1800s.

At Hanakapi`ai beach, I had a rock stacking contest with my brother-in-law's dad.  I'll let you decide who won.

Mine ↑                                                 His ↑        

 What started out as a beautiful day...

 ...turned stormier and stormier

So we headed back and dried off after getting a good soaking.  By the time we got back to the trailhead, it was sunny once again.

On another day we drove to Waimea Canyon which is only a couple miles away distance-wise from the Nā Pali Coast trail but the only way to get there is to drive all the way around to the other side of the island.

Waimea Canyon
The road kept going along a high ridge which eventually let to Hanakoa Valley.

Hanakoa Valley