February 25, 2010

Evergreen in Zone 5? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In hopes of creating some winter interest, I have planted a number of shrubs and perennials that are touted as being evergreen in zone 5. I'm not a big fan of prickly spruces or highly allergenic junipers, but I have kept my eye out for some broad-leaved evergreens, which are few and far between for my climate. Here's a rundown one how some of my choices have fared this winter, starting with the good and moving on to the bad and ugly.

The only coniferous evergreens in my yard are baby 'Blue Star' junipers, which do not produce pollen (unlike the rest of their family). With a hardiness rating all the way down to zone 3, of course they're doing perfectly well. I am completely in love with this steely blue color. Winter has brought out some interesting pinkish highlights, which you won't see in this photo because it was taken last fall. All of these photos are from last summer or fall. I couldn't make myself venture out into the cold today to get fresh ones, sorry.

My favorite 'Otto Luyken' laurels are looking better than last winter, with very little windburn on the leaves. I think this is because their roots have had another year to grow, so they can find moisture more easily even when the top layer of ground is frozen. I know gardeners in warmer climates think laurels are boring, but I am SO HAPPY to have one good-looking, glossy, broad-leaved evergreen in the garden.

'Blue Emerald' creeping phlox still has some green in its leaves, but they're mostly an unattractive purplish-brown. There definitely aren't any flowers right now (this photo is from last fall, remember?). These plants aren't adding any beauty to the garden right now, but maybe they're better than bare earth?

My hellebores are causing a dilemma. The ones that are shaded by the house in winter have lovely green leaves, but they don't have any flowers buds yet. The ones that are getting some winter sun have flower buds but also have large brown areas on the leaves. The whole point of hellebores is to get early flowers, right? But I'd also like pretty green leaves in winter. Apparently the bad news is that you can't have both here in zone 5.

Some of my heucheras are more evergreen than others, but none of them look fabulous. 'Green Spice', shown above in summer, is now showing all shades of grey. 'Prince of Silver' is probably the best looking of the family, but it has a bunch of dead dogwood leaves caught between its mauvey-silver leaves, which kind of ruins its appearance. 'Palace Purple' melted after the first frost. 'Lime Rickey' and 'June Bride' are somewhere between bad and ugly.

Although evergreen 'Big Blue' liriope is hardy in zone 5, it is definitely not evergreen. Its leaves are currently grey and rotting, though I can see a bit of green at the base. I expect it will be lovely again in the summer, but right now it's definitly ugly.

My 'Elfin Pink' penstemon (leaves shown above in summer) are almost exactly the same color as the liriope right now - ugly rotten grey. Although they were touted as evergreen, I guess that only applies to warmer climates.
Other evergreens in my garden include candytuft/Iberis sempervirens (currently purple-brown and sagging), 'Emerald Gaeity' euonymus (only looking so-so, but with interesting pink tones in the leaves) and Vinca minor (looking pretty good). I plan to add a couple of 'Green Tower' boxwoods this spring, which supposedly keep their green color all winter - wait for an update in a year and I'll tell you how they do. And the very best, secret weapon, iron-tough 'evergreens' that I'm planning to add? Some big boulders! They'll add some structure and winter interest and look just as good in winter as in summer. I picked out some pretty ones a few weeks ago and will post pictures of them soon.

February 16, 2010

Do Projects Give You Panic Attacks?

You know that stage in a big project when you've torn everything apart and nothing is coming together yet? Do you ever get a sick feeling, deep in the pit of your stomach, thinking that maybe it never will come together? I've felt that occasionally in the past month as we've been working on our front yard. Here's a picture of what it looked like last weekend. We've got the sod out of the new and repositioned beds, so we're ready to have the concrete pad poured for the enlarged steps.

In addition to sod removal, last weekend my husband agreed to haul six cubic yards of premium garden soil that was dumped into our driveway. I took this picture after he was about halfway done with wheel-barrowing (I think I just made that verb up) the soil into beds around our yard.

Here you can see what remains of the lawn. The curves didn't come out exactly as I had imagined them, but the shapes remind me of a bend in a river. I like our little river of lawn. It occurs to me that lawn is rather unattractive during the six months that it's dormant each year in Spokane. That's yet another reason to have less of it, I guess.

Now I still have a long list of projects to coordinate before we're done, including:
removing the old concrete and pouring the enlarged concrete pad,
building the steps,
finishing the top part of the stone column,
removing the cream gingerbread siding and replacing it with siding to match the rest of the house,
getting the sprinklers adjusted to fit the new bed shapes,
having the boulders brought in and positioned,
making flagstone paths across the new beds/on the west side of the house/to the faucet/to the garbage can,
getting the rest of the old curbing out and the new curbing poured,
selecting and hanging shutters,
selecting and installing different exterior sconces,
possibly selecting and installing headers above the windows and garage,
selecting and installing a new front door,
transplanting a few trees,
buying and planting new shrubs, perennials and one new tree.

You see why I'm having little panic attacks? Hopefully we'll be mostly finished by the time the iris start blooming.

And by the time the roses bloom, things should look really nice. Either that or it will be a Big Mess Forever, but I'm trying not to think like that. Deep breaths. I'm completely sure I can do this . . . well, at least mostly sure.

February 10, 2010

Mugshots: 4 Peach Daylilies, Part II

When I mentioned peach daylilies in my last post, it reminded me that I had never finished posting my mugshots of the last 4 peachy daylilies in my garden. So here goes.

1. Apricot Sparkles - 12-18 inch tall scapes, 4 in flowers, very early to late season, from my local nursery, Gibson's

The buzz about this new daylily is its long blooming season - comparable to Stella d'Oro, according to the descriptions I've read. It's also similarly sized to Stella, so I think they'll make a good match. I bought this one in mid-summer, and the nursery had been keeping it in a shaded location, so I didn't see a whole lot of blooms from the baby plant last season. But I've got it planted near Stella and am looking forward to lots of pure peach blooms next year.

The sparkles in its name refer to the diamond dusting on the petals. If you look closely, you'll see the sparkles in the picture above.

2. Elizabeth Salter - 22 in tall scapes, 5.5 in flowers, mid-season, from Oakes Daylilies

This flower shows a hint of rose with the peach. I think it looks very similar to Autumn Wood (another of my peachy daylilies, described here).

I love the pretty ruffles, and it is reported to rebloom. I can't remember if it did for me or not. In short season climates like Spokane, rebloom is never guaranteed.

3. Jean Swann - 32 in tall scapes, 6 in flowers, mid-late season, from Bloomin Designs nursery

The double, pale peach flowers on this plant are lovely. Bloomin Designs' website says the flowers are ivory to yellow, but in my cool climate the color is light peach. Maybe it's ivory in areas with high nighttime temperatures. Not all of the flowers end up double, as you see below.

I have a problem with the height of this daylily - its scapes are almost 3 feet (1 meter) tall. Plants like that need plenty of room to form a proportionate clump, and they need a deep flower bed to look balanced. I don't have any deep flower beds in my front yard, and peach doesn't work with the colors schemes in my backyard. So I'm not sure quite what to do with this plant.

You can see how awkward the tall scape looks in its current position. Maybe one of my gardener friends would like this plant?

4. Spanish Glow - 26 in tall scapes, 5 in flowers, mid-late season, from Gibson's

When I bought this plant, I had no good spot for it. But it was a Designer Daylily, selected for its outstanding performance in the garden (Apricot Sparkles also made the list). So I really needed it, right? In fact, when I just went to the Designer Daylily website to add the link above, 'South Seas' caught my eye and now I'm thinking of where I could put that fabulous coral color. Maybe in the West garden with all the other vivid colors . . .

No wonder there are so many daylily collectors in the gardening world. I think I'm addicted. Anyway, here is my new stone facing again. We'll just have to wait and see how these peachy flowers look against this backdrop. I'll be sure to post pictures this summer.

February 1, 2010

Front Yard Mess Picture and Color Dilemma

All right, you wanted to see the mess. Here it is! In this photo you can't tell that the sod is cut up and messy, but it is. You can see the frame for the new stone-based column (the top of the column will be wider when finished) at the left corner of the porch and a bit of the new stone on the middle of the house.

And here is the finished stone facing on the east side of the house. I like it. The colors of this stone blend much better with our siding than the old orange stone, shown below.

The cool tones of this new stone have caused me reconsider the color scheme of my front gardens. The lavender and pure pink flowers will be fine, I think. But will peachy-pink flowers look all right with this stone as a backdrop? I cut apart my catalogs to make a collage of the front color scheme as it is currently planned. It feels cheerful and welcoming, but will it go with the stone? What do you think?

Perhaps I should replace the peachy-pink elements with more off white, as shown below. But how did I get so many peachy-pink plants? All those daylilies, the three Abraham Darby roses I purchased last year, the Princess Caroline delphiniums, and the coral peonies I'm pining for this year. They definitely don't go with the color scheme for the backyard. Do I really have to give those up so my flowers will look good with the house?

Wouldn't it be sophisticated to have a color scheme of burgundy and plum and grey to completely blend the house colors into the garden? Leaves and flowers could supply these colors - heucheras, oriental poppies, grey-leaved plants. Plus some pale pink or white to lighten things up. Green too, of course. But I've gone in a different direction over the past couple of years while buying plants. That would mean really starting over, and I don't want to do that.
I'm open for suggestions. What is your opinion on my color dilemma?