November 25, 2013

Fall Floral Centerpieces

Last weekend I made several centerpieces for a dinner at our church.  Unfortunately there were no flowers left in my garden to contribute, so I bought orange roses at the grocery store instead.  Though similar in color and shading, these roses weren't as pretty as the orange blooms on my 'Lady Emma Hamilton' English rose bush, and they didn't smell nearly as good.  But we do what we must in winter.

I put together the first arrangement the day before the dinner, and it turned out awful.  The colors just didn't work together.  After panicking a bit then thinking for a while longer, I realized that the orange roses would look best with darker foliage to set them off.  Amazingly, my 'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle vine offered fresh stems of greenery despite the 20 degree F temperatures.  You can see some of the stems arching over the flowers above.  I also used larger leaves from lower on the vine to add purple foliage to the base of the arrangement.  And then the colors worked.  Phew.

I foraged in the gardens of several friends to find interesting fall additions.  My favorites were the seed pods from my friend Alvina's ancient tree peony.  Note to self - don't deadhead my tree peonies (once they ever start blooming) so they'll create these wonderful seed pods by fall.

I also included brown spore-bearing Ostrich fern fronds like the one above.  I secured the flowers and foliage in floral foam to allow more control over their placement.

The 'Blue Boy' holly shrubs at the temple had a few untidy-looking stems that needed to be pruned off anyway, so I did the job and saved the holly to put in the arrangements.  The dark, shiny holly leaves contrasted well with the pale seeded eucalyptus that I purchased along with the roses.  I also made use of greenery from my evergreen 'Otto Luyken' laurel shrubs.

A few protected leaves from my 'Big Blue' lilyturf (Liriope) were still vibrant green, so I used floral tape to secure them into loops and tucked them into the arrangements.  I'm wondering if I could do something similar with the wiry maroon stems of my dwarf Arctic willow.  I'm filing that idea away for future use.

The photo above shows one of the honeysuckle stems next to a seed head from black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).  These unusual additions added some wildness to the otherwise staid arrangements. 

And here is a final shot of one of the centerpieces.  It was fun to rack my brain for creative fall textures to go with the roses.  I gathered birch catkins, Miscanthus seedheads, brown hydrangea clusters, and a few other fallish ingredients that didn't make it into these arrangements, but I'll look for an opportunity to use them some other time.

November 19, 2013

Companion Plants for Roses

Many of us gardeners plan our gardens around our roses. I grow nearly thirty roses, mostly David Austin's English roses, so I thought I'd share some of the companion plants that grow well with them. Above is a picture of 'Eglantyne' (this large bush is actually three plants growing closely together, as Austin recommends), surrounded by various perennials, shrubs and trees. This vignette will look better as the plants continue to mature and fill in the bare ground. You can see 'Walker's Low' catmint (Nepeta) and 'Heartthrob' Korean dogwood tree are blooming in the background.   Evergreen 'Blue Star' Junipers, 'Otto Luyken' laurels, 'Emerald Blue' creeping phlox, 'Big Blue' lilyturf (Liriope), a 'Unicorn' corkscrew rush (Juncus) and boulders provide winter interest. 'Frances Joiner' daylilies (Hemerocallis) will flower while 'Eglantyne' is taking a break from blooming after the first heavy flush.   

Here you can see more 'Walker's Low' catmint along with dark 'May Night' salvia.  During some years the salvia is done blooming before the roses start.  I cut it back to a few inches tall and then it blooms again mid-summer while the roses are resting.  Some roses bloom continuously through summer, but most of the English roses have their heaviest bloom in late June/early July, then take a break before blooming sporadically through the last part of summer.  Usually I get a good fall flush of roses just before frost hits and they shut down for winter.

A very traditional companion plant for roses is lavender, like the shrub above growing at Temple Square in SLC. I have a few lavender plants, but I use a lot of other lavender-colored plants around my roses.

'Rozanne' hardy geranium is an excellent companion for roses. Its fluffy, mounding form fills around the base of roses without overpowering them. It starts blooming about the same time as my roses and continues without deadheading until frost. Fabulous plant. Other blue-violet choices include Baptista australis, 'Blue Chip' butterfly bush (Buddleia) and catmint. Russian sage (Peroskvia), 'Big Blue' lilyturf and asters bloom lavender with the heavy fall flush of roses.

Other mounding perennials blend well at the foot of rose bushes, including chartreuse lady's mantle (Alchimella). Hardy geraniums of many different colors that have long been popular in English gardens are becoming more popular and more available here in the USA. Some types of heuchera are large enough to blend well with roses. Evergreen wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) and 'Moonbeam' coreopsis also fill in well around roses.

It's fun to tuck some spring-blooming bulbs into rose gardens, though I lean toward smaller, earlier bulbs so their foliage won't be as distracting while dying back after bloom. It's just sad to see a rose in peak bloom with clumps of large, half-dead tulip leaves nearby.

Adding different forms to rose gardens add interest, even when the roses aren't at their peak. Here you see a rose in front of very upright 'Karl Foerster' grass at Temple Square. Grasses make me sneeze and give me a rash when I touch them, so I use other spiky plants in my garden.

Some of my favorite upright plants for rose gardens are delphiniums like 'Pagan Purples' above. The delphs in my garden usually peak with the first flush of roses, then I cut them down to the ground and they send up another round of flowers in late summer or early fall - often right in time for the fall flush of roses. This photo also shows 'Tanz Nochmal' Siberian irises whose spiky leaves contrast nicely with rounded rose bushes. I'm very excited to see deep pink spikes of 'Polkadot Princess' foxgloves blooming next year. I grew a few from seed but didn't get them planted in time for blooms this year. I did see 'Polkadot Pippa' foxgloves bloom and was underwhelmed with their pale color. The Polkadot series is sterile, which means the plants have more energy to spend making flowers because they're not trying to produce seeds. They are true perennials and may bloom for up to four months.

Creating a beautiful backdrop for a rose bush is possible with large shrubs like 'Black Lace' elderberry (Sambucus), above. I planted a chartreuse 'Ogon' spirea nearby a mauve rose last summer and look forward to taking photos of that combo when they both mature. Other good options for backdrops could come from viburnums or panicle hydrangeas.

Thinking of hydrangeas leads me to my next point of planting flowers that look good with roses in vases. The 'Little Lime' hydrangeas above work very well with English roses in fall, though usually I have to pull off some lower flower clusters to fit the branch into an arrangement (see examples here). I also appreciate snowberries (Symphoricarpos), asters, Japanese anemones and Veronica with fall roses.

There are too many options to count for flowers that work well in rose arrangements during the first flush, but my recent favorite is Astrantia, or masterwort.  The intricate flowers are best appreciated up close in an arrangement, and the leaves are just the right shape to form into a ruff around the base of a posy. 

I try to include a few plants near my roses that will bloom mid-summer when the roses are resting. I already mentioned daylilies for this purpose. It's easy to make room for a few oriental lilies, like the one in bud behind 'Lady Emma Hamilton' above (actually, it's an orienpet, but close enough).  I grow both 'Stargazer' and later-blooming Lilium speciosum var. rubrum.

Other good rose garden plants that bloom when roses are resting include coneflowers (like 'Milkshake' above - soon I'll transplant a 'Harlow Carr' rose to this area), as well as yarrow, Agastache, Campanula, upright Phlox, some Veronicas and 'Dazzleberry' sedum (another of my recent favorites).
Roses look so much better when grown with other plants instead of being segregated in a rose garden with only bare soil for company.  No doubt I've forgotten many good rose companion plants, but this will give a start.  Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite companion plants.       

November 13, 2013

Green Haven in Downtown SLC

While visiting Salt Lake City to study the Temple Square gardens, I also spent some time across the street at the new City Creek Mall.  I didn't shop.  I just enjoyed the landscaping around the creek that runs through the middle of the mall.

Can you believe that this scene is found in the middle of downtown SLC?  After training my eyes on all the flowers at Temple Square, it was refreshing to survey the green. 

Downtown was a mess from construction the last time I visited SLC, so it was especially nice to see the finished product.

There are fish living in the creek, though I didn't catch any photos of them.

Quaking aspen trees are lovely even in winter.  I wonder how well the rest of the landscape holds up during the cold months.

This part of the creek runs between closely spaced lines of shops and is much prettier than the landscaping at the local mall here in Spokane.

The fountains in this pool were running in the evening, though I didn't catch a shot then.  I was told there is another fountain in the plaza that shoots flames. 

Cheers to whoever came up with this plan.  Though I love flowers in many gardens, the simple palette of green leaves, pale boulders and flowing water is perfect here.

November 5, 2013

Snowy Shots From The Garden

We woke up to snow this morning, much to the excitement of the children.  I immediately thought of the hundreds of bulbs still waiting for me to plant.  Hopefully the snow will be gone by Friday, when my husband generously offered to help me get them into the ground.

You can see the roses still have leaves and mounds of catmint still need to be cut back.  I need more fall weather before winter arrives to stay.

Here is the view from just inside the back gate.  We have been enjoying watching the cute little birds that flock to the crabapple trees to eat the fruit.

The contorted filbert is lovely with branches stripped almost clean of leaves and catkins dangling like Christmas ornaments.  It actually produced a couple of nuts this year.

A clump of Siberian iris in front of 'Green Mountain' boxwoods forms an interesting contrast of textures. 

For now there is plenty of texture in the garden, though soon the last of the deciduous leaves will fall from shrubs and perennials will collapse into piles of mush.

The dwarf Arctic willow still has leaves, pretty fluffy thing.  I'll cut it back to the ground in spring to keep it from getting too large.

This is the main sunny garden.  I'm still scratching my head about what changes to make next spring, because it's not quite right yet.  Maybe I can fit a few more English roses here, but do I really need more roses? 

Straw-colored hydrangea clusters hold mounds of snow.  Just looking at that chilly metal bench makes me shiver.

Maybe by next winter the swing set will be mostly camouflaged by quick growing 'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle.  The leaves did turn deep purple last month, which made a Halloweeny scene with the deep maroon leaves of the 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum in the corner. 

The jagged boulders look interesting in the snow.  The little shrub on the bottom right is the Koreanspice viburnum that had such great fall color.

I can't count the number of time my toddler tipped this fountain over in the past year.  Maybe by next summer he'll have outgrown that urge.

Here is a final view looking east, with one of my favorite 'Green Tower' boxwoods taking center stage.  Glancing out the window, I see that the snow has melted from the street and from the edges of the garden beds.  Phew.  There is hope for bulb planting later this week.   

November 1, 2013

Planning for Spring Bulb Bloom Progression at Spokane Temple

Fall planting of pansies, kale and spring blooming bulbs is finally finished at the Spokane Temple.  Now if only I could convince a crew of volunteers to help me finish planting the hundreds of bulbs I have sitting in my garage for my own yard, ugh.  Anyway, we decided to do a few things differently at the Spokane Temple grounds after visiting Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, and talking with one of the head gardeners there about his spring plantings.

This year we planted ornamental kale and pansies in a few flower beds inside the temple gates, just as we did the previous fall.  Last winter was fairly mild for us, and the kale lasted several months before becoming so ratty that it needed to be pulled out.  The pansies hunkered down to make it through the winter and bloomed heavily in the spring before being removed to make room for the summer annuals.  A harsh winter this year might kill the pansies, but if that happens we'll plant more in the spring to serve as underplanting for the bulbs.

 After talking with the Temple Square designer/gardener (thanks Larry!), we decided to focus on the four flower beds right by the entrance doors so we can create an exuberant celebration of spring each year where all visitors can enjoy it.  We plan to pull out all the old bulbs and replant new ones in those four areas each year.  This will give us the ability to use fancy tulips that only bloom well for one year.  It will also make it much easier to plant the summer annuals, since we won't be trying to plant around bulb foliage.  Many areas outside the fence are planted with daffodils and grape hyacinths that come back well every year, so we'll let them continue to do their thing.      

I created collages to help me plan the bloom progression for these entrance gardens from February (or March, if the winter is very cold) through May.  We order bulbs from Zonneveld, a Dutch bulb exporter.  Their catalog gives helpful information about each type of bulb, including an estimated bloom time.  The cute little flower bulbs above should bloom in February and the first part of March.  Bloom times vary from year to year depending on the weather.  Sometimes a warm week will pull things into bloom early, then cool weather will keep the blooms fresh for a couple of weeks afterward.  Sometimes the heat strikes at the wrong time and the open blooms fry and die within a few days.   

There are limited choices for early spring bloomers, but the selection increases as spring progresses.  Around here the earliest tulips (like 'Showwinner', above) don't bloom until March.  We have red, orange and yellow perennial tulips planted nearby these entrance beds.  Therefore we're kind of tied to a similar color scheme each year (though I added some deep pink hyacinths into the mix).  That's fine because us cold climate folks are hungry for bold color after a long, grey winter.  The photo above doesn't do justice to 'Orange Princess,' which blooms with glorious shadings of color flaming up the petals. 

This last collage shows the big bang finish in April and May.  Last year double 'Miranda' tulips brought ohhhs and ahhhs from everyone who visited.  Somehow I didn't make it over to take photos, sigh.  Taller orange 'Ballerina' tulips should bloom with 'Miranda', while long-lasting grape hyacinths and the resurrected pansies will make a cool understory.  Topping out at two feet or more, giant 'Temple of Beauty' and 'Cashmir' tulips will be the last to bloom before we dig them all out and plant summer annuals.  Putting together the annual seed order for our grower is on my To Do list during the next few weeks. 

We planted in three stages.  Here the tulip, hyacinth and daffodil bulbs are laid out to be planted in the deepest layer (thanks Marilyn for letting me use these last two photos).  I tried to follow the Temple Square method of laying each type out in flowing curves.  We'll see how well it worked in spring.  My brain felt fried after dividing up and laying out hundreds of bulbs in symmetrical patterns in both of the spiral beds and the smaller front door beds.  Then I helped Marilyn and her volunteer crews (or just Marilyn if no one else came) spend hours planting.  Because we're only planning to keep these bulbs in the ground for one bloom season, we can plant very close together.  We just have to make sure the area gets watered regularly if we have a dry spring.       

Last year I mixed all the bulbs for each area together and had volunteers spread and plant them.  To our dismay, we figured out in spring that small bulbs (crocus, mini iris, chionodoxa, muscari) just don't make an impact unless they're planted in groups.  So this time I laid them all out in groups of five or seven to plant after the big bulbs, kale and pansies.  
It's amazing how much work was required to prepare and plant these four smallish areas.  Most of the people who enjoy the flowers in spring will have no idea of the hours spent planning and planting.  But us volunteers do this work to express our love for God through serving others, and I feel Him smiling down on our efforts.  Then in spring it's just icing on the cake to see delight on the faces of visitors when the flowers put on their show.