Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winter in the Rhododendron Species Garden, Part 3

Here are the very cool plants I purchased from the garden:

Back row from left:
Galax aphylla - Evergreen groundcover
Rhododendron 'Doris Mossman' - A hybrid vireya with bright orange flowers
Speirantha convallarioides - Yet another evergreen groundcover (I'm a big fan)

Front row from left:
Rhododendron taxifolium - A vireya with white bell-shaped flowers
Rhododendron Section Choniastrum 164sd2010 - Large unknown species
Rhododendron keiskei 'Yaku Fairy' - A super dwarf mounding groundshrubber
Dimorphanthera alpina - A vine with large, blueberry like fruit (semi-tender)
Oreocharis auricula - Cousin of the common Africa violet houseplant

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter in the Rhododendron Species Garden, Part 2

The Rhododendron genus is incredibly diverse - as evidenced by the numerous specimens growing inside the three year-old conservatory at the Rhododendron Species Garden.  A meticulously controlled high-altitude tropical climate enables the cultivation of dozens of rhododendrons in the vireya subgenus that would not survive our Pacific Northwest winters.  Prayer flags stretch over the entrance making for an nice homage to the place where many of the plants growing inside were originally collected.

Entering the conservatory, I was fully captivated by hundreds of new species I had never seen before.  It also wasn't very warm either with the temperature set at perhaps 50 degrees F (10C).

The first thing to catch my eye (no surprise here) was a hardy-looking schefflera growing in a pot off to the right.  This could very well be Schefflera alpina but not entirely sure.

Schefflera alpina?
This next sight really blew me away.  Why do all the really cool plants have to be tropical?

Rhododendron tuba
On the other side of the path grow two very different rhododendrons side-by-side: one with golden metallic new growth (I'm not sure of the name of this one) and Rhododendron stenophyllum with glossy red-orange flowers that have a very appealing fake look.

Rhododendron stenophyllum on the left and a mystery rhododendron on the right

Up a little closer:

Rhododendron stenophyllum
Now this rhododenron is definitely good enough for me.  At least it would be if I could buy it.

Rhododendron goodenoughii
A nameless begonia.


I'm just throwing this in.  I have no idea what it is.

Schefflera macrophylla is unfortunately not quite hardy enough to grow outside reliably in the Pacific Northwest, but it is definitely on the borderline and when I eventually get my hands on I will most definitely be experimenting with it.

Schefflera macrophylla
  The conservatory comes complete with a river and a bridge over it.

 Try to guess which genus this plant is from: (hint: it's in the same family as rhododendron)

 (Scroll down for the answer)

(keep scrolling)

Answer: If you guessed the blueberry family (Vaccinium), you're right!  Vaccinium kachinense is its name.  I'll save you the effort of scrolling back up and post it one more time:

Vaccinium kachinense

And finally, Rhododendron himantodes really bears little resemblence to any other rhododendron I'm familiar with.  Its flower buds are like minature magnolia seed pods.  I actually wouldn't mind if it didn't bloom and just stayed like that the whole time!

Rhododendron himantodes
I will be doing one more installment on the Rhododendron Species Garden soon showing off a few great plants that got to come home with me.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter in the Rhododendron Species Garden, Part 1


Of the approximately 1,000 known species within the Rhododendron genus throughout the world, over 700 are represented in the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, WA.  While the garden displays some impressive rhodies, my mission was to find new plants that not only survived but still look great after last month's big arctic frost where we had temperatures dip down to 10 F/-12 C.

First, let's take a look at a few ferns - the garden is filled with them. Dryopteris wallichiana is large and makes a very architectural statement.  It would make a great landscape fern even if it went deciduous in the winter but look - it's completely evergreen!

Dryopteris wallichiana
The garden also had a large clump of Dryopteris sieboldii.  This is my favorite fern of all time and I really mean that.  I am lucky enough to have this one in my garden.  It has a very tropical appearance yet needs no protection in our climate.

Dryopteris sieboldii
This stand of Blechnum chilense definitely took a beating during the frost but should make a full recovery come spring.  In milder winters the fronds will stay upright at 2-3 feet high.

Blechnum chilense
This was an intriguing one.  Brilliant red-orange foliage in early January?  What is this?  I need one!

Not sure about this one - maybe some kind of mutant Vaccinium ovatum??
As overpopulation starts becoming a reality in my own garden, miniature plants are becoming an increasingly vital commodity.  Rhododendron keiskei pulls off the miniaturized/dwarf look very nicely.  

Rhododendron keiskei
Speirantha convallarioides makes a nice evergreen groundcover and looks like it handled the subfreezing weather beautifully.  It resembles a miniature, flattened cast iron plant which it is indeed closely related to.  On top of that, it's very rare which makes it all the more enticing.

Speirantha convallarioides
Hardy scheffleras continue their invasion of the Northwest.  This one is Schefflera alpina and was collected by the director of the Rhododendron Species Garden, Steve Hootman, in Northern Vietnam.

Schefflera alpina
Here we have three Schefflera fengii specimens which were collected by Steve Hootman in the Yunnan province of China.  From the looks of the ground around the base of the plants (having a nerd moment here) it looks like they might have been covered in leaves during the frost.  I did e-mail Steve about this.  I'll keep you posted if I hear back.

Schefflera fengii
Iris foetidissima has been, until now, in the subconscious part of the plant wish list in my brain.  After seeing this beautiful clump of green strappy leaves with a few bright orange seed capsules, it is now in the conscious part.

Iris foetidissima
I was a bit disappointed by the lack of winter-blooming rhodies, but alas there was one very dismal display.  I'm guessing the ones that are supposed to bloom in winter had their flower buds frozen off by the arctic frost.

Rhododendron moupinense
Stay tuned for Part 2 coming up tomorrow, where I will take you inside the greenhouse and show you some exceedingly cool plants they have growing inside!