June 30, 2009

Northland Rosarium Display Gardens

Last Saturday I left the kiddos with my husband and went on an outing to the Northland Rosarium, located just southwest of Spokane. It was fun to take a break from being Mommy and just be another rose-loving gardener.

The rosarium sells own-root, virus-free hybrid teas, floribundas, climbers, ground covers, rugosa, english and old garden roses. There is a lovely display garden surrounding the nursery.

It was the perfect time of year to visit, as most of the plants were in the midst of their first and finest flush of blooms. Can you tell that the climbers really caught my eye?

I was sad to miss meeting the owner, Carol Newcomb, as she was away for the day. But other knowledgeable employees patiently listened to me whine and rant about my thrips and rose curculios (both insects - much worse than aphids - who destroy rose flowers by sucking their juices). Unfortunately they couldn't recommend any easy or organic solutions. Nasty sprays might be in my garden's future. Yuck.

Other than the climbers, my favorite parts of the garden featured roses mixed with perennials. Personally, I think roses planted together without other plants tend to look blobby. But salvia and sedum are the perfect foil for this peachy-pink Chicago Peace rose.

Rozanne geranium (cranesbill) was obviously a favorite plant, as it grew happily all over in sun and shade. Of course the name makes it a perfect fit for a rosarium.

Would a rose garden be complete without a gazebo? This white one added nicely to the ambiance.

The formal lavender circle hummed merrily as bees went about their work.

It was a treat to see some of the old-fashioned roses in person, instead of in a catalog picture. No wonder so many people swoon over Reine des Violettes, pictured above.

Shaded benches were strategically placed around the garden, perfect for affectionate but bored husbands to rest upon while their wives exclaimed over this rose and that. I smiled sympathetically at one such man and was glad I'd left my hubby at home.

Of course fragrant Abraham Darby was there, and the employees informed me that he doesn't have a rust problem here in Spokane. Hmmm. I spent the entire ride home dreaming about where I could place a shrub or three of good ole Abe.

Or maybe I'll go with the low-care OSO Easy Paprika rose, pictured above. It would certainly leave fewer petals to clean up. But if I'm going to battle thrips and curculios, I might as well get some fabulously fragrant flowers in the end. I'll probably be back to pick up a few Abe Darby plants.

My eyes seem to appreciate the single-flowered roses more lately than in the past. Does that mean my taste is becoming more refined than the stereotypical 'bigger is better' American? Probably not, as I still love the full roses, too.

And finally, here is a parting shot of another spectacular pink climber. More information about Northland Rosarium, including their catalog, can be found at www.northlandrosarium.com. Best wishes to Carol and the employees of this charming local nursery.

June 22, 2009

The Tree at My Window, A Dogwood

Perhaps you’ve notice the words of Robert Frost in the upper right corner of my blog. While I love all my trees, the three dogwoods are my favorite. In the front yard we inherited a vivid reddish-pink flowering dogwood, pictured above. On the east side of my home, I planted a small white-flowering tree, pictured below.

The newest addition counted as my Mother’s Day present this year and shows off its soft pink blooms right outside the windows of my living room (see the photo below). Silly me, I was only thinking of the backyard layout when I placed it there. As soon as I walked inside, I realized that it would be the most-viewed tree in our landscape, thanks to the positioning of the couches in the living room. I am so pleased that it has become The Tree at My Window.

Unlike my reddish-pink and white dogwoods, which are Cornus florida hybrids, the new light pink dogwood is Cornus rutgersensis 'Stellar Pink.' Plant breeders at Rutger's University developed the C. rutgersensis hybrids by crossing C. florida with C. kousa (Korean dogwood). The resulting plants are highly resistant to the diseases which trouble so many C. florida types.

Besides my 'Stellar Pink' (flowers shown above), the Rutger's hybrids include 'Aurora', 'Celestial', 'Constellation' and 'Ruth Ellen'. All of these other hybrids are white, though the form of their crowns and flowers differs. They bloom later than C. florida and earlier than C. kousa.

Dogwood blossoms last a lot longer than the blooms of crabapples or flowering cherry trees. The leaves are lovely in summer even when the flowers disappear, and their reddish-burgundy fall color is gorgeous. In the photo above you can see that the new growth is touched with red.

Though my C. florida trees don't produce any fruit, you can see little ones developing on 'Stellar Pink'. I was told the birds love them, so they don't last long when ripe.

Above is another shot of my littlest white-flowering dogwood. The old-fashioned dogwoods are bothered by a number of serious diseases in humid, rainy climates. Thankfully we don't have many of those problems in Spokane. The limiting factors for dogwoods here are that they require plenty of moisture for their roots and do best with protection from afternoon sun. Otherwise I would have filled my yard with them. As it is, I'll enjoy the three I have from indoors and out. What a perfect window tree!

June 15, 2009

Peony Season at Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Last weekend my husband and I visited Seattle for a couple of days without the kiddos. Sunny weather, temperatures in the 70's and a gentle breeze made wandering around downtown Seattle feel rather like heaven. We stopped at Pike Place Market twice, and I was delighted to see thousands of locally grown peonies and other blooms lined up in long stalls.

These peonies reminded me of a giant, fragrant pillow. I have a few pink and crimson peonies blooming in my yard, but nothing like this display!

The cool violet and crisp white hues of dutch iris created a lovely contrast with the pink shades of the peonies. This picture almost makes me regret that I ripped out all my dutch iris last year when I got sick of the dying foliage that hung around all summer. How much nicer it is to let someone else deal with the foliage issues and just buy the flowers here.

We passed people - mostly women, of course - carrying armfuls of sweet peas and other flowers. I expect that putting one's nose into a bouquet of sweet peas was an effective way to block out the fishy smells from the fresh seafood stalls across the way.

Floral workers made breathtaking bouquets from stems of peonies, delphiniums, dutch iris, calla lilies, sweet peas and many other flowers.

My jaw dropped at the incredible prices - huge bouquets were only $15, and there were plenty of smaller choices for $5 or $10. Similar-sized bouquets at my local grocery store are three times as expensive, not as fresh, and not as pretty.

Seeing the different color combinations was inspirational. As usual, I was most struck by bouquets with vivid, cool hues like magenta, violet, and deep blue. Those were always my favorite crayon colors as a girl.
We chose a bouquet for my mother to thank her for watching our kids. Of course it had to include her favorite color, hot pink.

I especially enjoyed the dramatic delphiniums, like the deep blue ones above. My white delphs are just starting to bloom, and all the purples won't be far behind.

This blue and white combo is breathtaking. I love cobalt blue in arrangements, but it's hard to come by in flowers. Delphs and iris have some of the best deep blue flowers. I often 'cheat' when blue flowers are scarce and add the color to an arrangement by placing it into a blue vase.

This white bouquet reminded me of the white flowers I carried at my wedding. I did feel a bit like a bride as I carried the gorgeous bouquet for my mom back to our hotel. Our tenth wedding anniversary was the reason behind our trip to Seattle, and enjoying all these beautiful flowers seemed a fitting way to celebrate.

June 8, 2009

GGW Design Workshop: VW's Front Yard

Last week I wandered over to Gardening Gone Wild’s website and noticed their design workshop for June was on front yards. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time pondering over design solutions for my own moderately small front yard, some of which have been shared in a previous post. But I decided to revisit these ideas to participate in the GGW workshop. Here are some of my design constraints and current ideas on how to deal with them.

1. My garage is giant and dwarfs the non-garage side of the house. Almost everyone approaches our house from the garage side, which makes it even more obtrusive. Thankfully, blogger and designer Susan suggested a great plan: remove the railings from our cramped front porch and stretch the steps across the entire front of the porch. I also plan to widen the steps and pour a 3’ wide concrete path/strip along the front/bottom of the steps. This will pull the non-garage side forward to better balance the house. The photo below shows the porch as it was when we moved in. By now almost all the original plants have been transplanted or thrown out.

2. Blogger and designer Billy suggested adding a path from sidewalk to porch to honor guests instead of having them walk up the driveway. Although I love the idea, I’m deciding against it because: 1) we have a massive driveway already and I want more plants instead of more hardscaping, 2) we park in the garage, so guests almost always just park in the driveway, 3) I want what remains of the lawn to flow smoothly across the front. So I’ll add stepping stones through the flower beds instead.

3. Speaking of the beds – I’m expanding them all. I’ll have two beds stretched across the front – one along the porch, and another along the sidewalk. The porch bed, slightly bermed and filled with shrubs and perennials, will add a sense of enclosure to the porch area. The sidewalk bed, anchored by a new flowering cherry tree at the west end, will camouflage the neighborhood mailboxes. Someday neighbors will collect their mail under the shade of a lovely tree, surrounded by roses and other blooms, and I won’t notice the mailbox backsides as much from my front window (see above picture). As mentioned before, the lawn between the beds will flow across the front as a pathway to the side and backyard.

4. RE the lawn – I’ve read plenty of anti-lawn rants, and I would be less likely to keep my lawn if I lived in thirsty California or the Southwest. But we have enough water around here to irrigate, thanks to our dreadfully long and snowy winters. My house is part of a neighborhood. Landscape designers often ignore the rest of the neighborhood when designing a front yard, but unity IS a design principle. Having a bit of lawn helps my yard fit into the neighborhood, and I think my river of lawn will be pretty.

5. Invasive aspen trees on the east of our driveway were already sending up babies all around. They were removed this spring and a well-behaved flowering cherry tree planted instead, which balances the matching tree on the other end of the front yard. There isn’t much I can do about the utility boxes and poles clustered there, but plantings around them will help reduce their visual impact.

6. Also on the east side of the house, I plan to remove the rest of the grass, create a stone path for access to the utility meters, and plant the remaining area with shrubs and perennials that echo the rest of the front yard plantings. The 'Blue Angel' hosta above will be part of the design.

7. Nearly every house in our neighborhood has curbing around their beds. It’s less attractive than other edging, but it does make a clean line around the beds and slows the grass down. So I’ll probably have more curbing poured around the enlarged beds. It will match all the concrete in my driveway, LOL. In our harsh winter climate, affordable and durable hardscaping options are limited. Hopefully plain concrete in our driveway and in front of the porch will be OK as long as the plantings surrounding it are beautiful. Will you really notice the curbing much when you're busy looking at gorgeous plants like my 'Walker's Low' nepeta in the above picture?

8. Color is IMPORTANT to me. My design seems to be revolving around my beloved pink English roses (Eglantyne - see above photo), which are really hard to match and which change color from warmer to cooler pink throughout the season. I also decided that I don’t want drifts of white in my yard during the summer. Six months of winter snow are enough, thank you very much (bye-bye candytuft, hello creeping phlox). I’m currently thinking of a light pink-warm peach-cool lavender scheme. Think pink roses and ‘Visions Light Pink’ geranium, plus ‘Apricot Sparkles’ daylilies and peach ‘Scion’ dwarf iris, plus ‘Walker’s Low’ nepeta and ‘Just Because’ Siberian iris (among other plants). I also decided to add some steely-blue foliage in the form of ‘Blue Star’ juniper and blue hostas.

9. Evergreens are essential for the aforementioned six months of winter. I will keep the ‘Otto Luyken’ laurels for their dark glossy leaves (pictured above), though I decided that their flowers are ugly. I’ll also keep ‘Emerald Gaeity’ euonymus around. Though it looks tattered in winter - what doesn't around here? - it's really beautiful right now (see picture below). And I’m excited to add several steely-blue ‘Blue Star’ junipers for more winter interest. I've always loved that shrub and am glad to find a place for it in my design.

10. Outdoor lighting is another project for down the road. Maybe we’ll uplight the trees, or go the easy route with solar-powered lights artfully placed around the beds. We also have plenty of ideas on how to beautify the exterior of the home itself (shutters, paint, etc), but I won’t detail those here.

I’d better stop this long post now. You can see that I’ve been greatly helped by other garden bloggers - thanks everyone! As I mentioned in my other front yard post, it will take many years and quite a budget to carry this all out. But I’m perfectly agreeable to the extended timeline, as it gives me time to continue to evaluate my plans and incorporate new ideas. Take joy in the journey, right?

Added May 28, 2014 - We landscaped the front yard in 2010 and by now it is starting to fill in well.  Below are some photos from today showing the progress.

The catmints are blooming profusely while most everything else is still green.  The rosebushes have buds ready to open soon.  Daylilies will provide color in midsummer after I cut the catmint back, and then in fall the catmint and roses will bloom again along with plenty of autumn crocus and colchicum.

This shot is the view looking northwest.  Unfortunately the homes in my neighborhood are very close together, and that is my neighbor's window.  As the trees mature I hope our homes will feel more separated.  The two 'Kwanzan' cherry trees we planted by the street died, though the one by the house (which wasn't grafted, unlike the dead ones) has survived.  It hasn't bloomed much though as our bottom-of-the-valley frosts zap the buds each spring.  I replaced the dead trees with 'Hearththrob' Korean dogwoods.  You can see one on the left.

This is the southeast corner of the garage, where a 'Green Tower' boxwood and a clematis on a trellis block the view of our garbage cans.  I had hoped by now to have a wisteria trained up this corner and growing over the garage, but I killed the 'Blue Moon' wisteria planted here.  I have now adjusted the sprinklers to make sure it gets plenty of water and need to buy another one.

Finally, this is the west side of the front yard.  It is my favorite part of the garden right now, as it has filled in very well and has a cheerful color scheme.  Now we're just waiting for the backyard, which was landscaped last year, to mature a bit more.

June 3, 2009

Annual Indulgence vs. Perennial Investment

Don't get me wrong, I really love annuals. Who wouldn't appreciate the season-long flower power of annuals like petunias (pictured above - sorry to the plant snobs), ivy geraniums and twinspur, to name a few in my yard. But I always feel a bit guilty buying annuals, since I can't use one of my favorite justifications for plant purchases.

It's an Investment, I told myself as I ordered yet more iris from Schreiner's and a couple more hellebores from Heronswood this week. The price I pay for these little plants now will bring a handsome return in future years in the form of ever-larger plant clumps that bloom annually. The 'Royal Amethyst' iris and 'May Night' salvia pictured above will cool down my west-side flower bed for years to come, and eventually give me divisions to spread around in other places or share with friends.

Trees, shrubs and vines like this 'Bonanza' clematis also feel like a great value, because they'll grow even larger next year when this season's annuals are long gone. We learned a bit about tree valuation in my college Urban Forestry class, and WOW! - a mature tree is worth a lot of money!

But shopping for annuals is really fun. I enjoy trying out new color combos, like the pure pink and coral pink in my hanging baskets above (the lavender vinca around the edges aren't blooming right now, too bad). I'll look at these pots all summer to try to decide if I approve of coral and pink together - what do you think?

Tender tuberous perennials like the dahlias above can be treated as perennials if you dig them up each year and store the tubers, or you can 'forget' to dig them up and let winter massacre the suckers if you get tired of them. I think I'll dig these dahlias up, as I'm really enjoying them.

OK, OK, I have ranted in the past about how I dislike orange in my garden, but these dahlias are kind of rosy-apricot-orange and look exciting with the blue-violet salvia. I'm excited to see how this bed looks when the rosy daylilies, golden coreopsis and lavender shrubs add their blooms to the mix. Watch for pictures later in the summer, as the color scheme should be dramatic.

In sum, I'll probably continue to spend most of my plant budget on perennials like the sea pink (aka thrift aka Armeria maritima) pictured above. So how do you rationalize your plant purchases?