December 29, 2014
Plants with bold leaves make a valuable contribution to the texture of a garden, but choices are limited for sunny spots (hostas need shade) in cold climates (tender Gunnera is out). The huge leaves of 'Victoria' rhubarb have proven to be surprisingly pretty and sturdy in my garden.
Another great advantage of rhubarb is its early start in spring. The photo above was taken March 12, while most perennials in my garden were still fast asleep.
By April 8, this plant was making a much appreciated splash of green in the still sparse landscape.
Above you can see just how small everything else is, while the rhubarb has pretty ruffles and flowers ready to bloom.
Here rhubarb makes a nice backdrop for the reddish new leaves of a tree peony. My rhubarb plants have grown quickly in rich soil with water from the drip system, while I have been waiting and waiting for my large-leaved Darmera and Astilboides to take off in shady spots.
If you are growing rhubarb to harvest the stalks, I have heard that you should cut off the buds so they don't use up all the plant's sugar energy and make the stalks bitter. Since I'm just growing them to be ornamental, I let the flowers bloom.
The white rhubarb flowers bloomed at the same time as the magenta 'Royal Raindrops' crabapples nearby, which made a nice contrast.
I used the flowers in arrangements with tulips and hellebores. Plenty of bees made use of the flowers as well. I removed the flower stalks before they dropped thousands of seeds.
Here is a shot of my rhubarb plants from the end of the season. After an especially hot stretch in midsummer, some of the rhubarb leaves at the base died and needed to be removed to keep the clumps looking tidy.
In fall the rhubarb leaves turned red around the edges and then yellow all over. They survived light frosts, then turned to stinky mush when it got really cold.
'Victoria' rhubarb is a beautiful, useful, sturdy plant that deserves consideration for a spot outside of the vegetable garden, especially for those of us in cold climates.
December 15, 2014
This vase was created in September during the second flush of bloom for my delphiniums and daisies. The delphs, unhappy in part shade, flopped over and were begging to be cut instead of being left to drag their flowers through the dirt.
Last summer I grew annual laceflower, Ammi visnaga 'Green Mist' (above), with the hope of using it in lots of flower arrangements. I ended up not using it much at all, because the early inflorescences were too large for the tight bouquets I usually make, and then I forgot about it by the time the smaller side shoots were ready. Oh well. At least I used it in this one arrangement.
The young Ammi flowers are white like this . . .
A vase full of nothing but delphiniums is lovely, or they blend well with other long stemmed flowers.
In the photo above you can see the hint of green that gives these 'Green Twist' delphiniums their name.
'Esther Reed' double daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) are preferable to single daisies, in my opinion, because they don't have an unpleasant scent. Young ER daisies have a hint of yellow in the center, then they mature to completely white. In the background you can see leaves of Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'), which is easy to grow in partial shade and an excellent filler plant for arrangements.
Twists of corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa') add to the slightly wild look of this arrangement. Willow roots are so invasive that I'm experimenting with growing the corkscrew type in pots. We'll see how well it works over the next few years. In the meantime, the stems are a great addition to vases.
December 8, 2014
This has been the year for planting large globe alliums in my garden with sixty-one new bulbs planted this fall, thanks in large measure to my husband's help. Globe alliums are useful for filling the gap between the last of the tulips in May and June-flowering perennials, so I planted a few from Costco last fall in the East garden. Above is 'Globemaster,' which is one of the most expensive but most sturdy of the large alliums.
You have to look closely to see all the alliums in this photo, but next spring there will be more of them since they return and multiply over the years. The tallest ones are 'Gladiator,' some of which reached nearly five feet. This area gets about half a day of sun, so things tend to stretch taller than they would in full sun.
Here is another view of the East garden in late May. You can see that tall 'Gladiator' is in full bloom, while shorter 'Globemaster' is just starting to open. There are also some 'Purple Sensation' alliums blooming, which are less expensive but have smaller heads than the others.
Here is a shot of two 'Purple Sensation' alliums. This type is supposed to multiply quickly to form large clumps, and the seeds are viable as well, so this type is a good choice for a gardener with a limited budget. Chartreuse lady's mantle (Alchimella mollis) blooms in the background. I especially love mauve with chartreuse, and there is a lot of each color in this part of the yard.
Above is Allium christophii, which is the last globe allium to bloom in June. It is quite a bit shorter than the others, and the inflorescence is very large and silvery-mauve in color. This one is only halfway open. Like most bulbs, alliums prefer full sun and well drained soil. Most are hardy in zones 5-7.
Most of the newly planted alliums were placed in this northwest corner of the backyard. We also planted several hundred perennial tulips ('Don Quichotte', 'Negrita' and 'Renown') across the front of this mound. Ten purple-blooming 'Ambassador' bulbs were planted among 'Caradonna' salvia at the back of this photo. I'm hoping they bloom together, as they'd make a great show, but I'll have to wait and see. The salvia might be too late. We also planted sixteen 'Globemaster' bulbs in groups across the top of the mounded bed, and twenty 'Purple Caila' along the path running behind the mound. 'Purple Caila' is somewhat rare, and I am excited to see its blue-violet coloring. In the northeast corner of the backyard, I planted ten 'Early Emperor' alliums, which are supposed to bloom a couple of weeks earlier than the others. Five 'White Empress' alliums were planted in the white garden.
The odd thing about alliums is that their leaves show up early and then start dying back by the time the flowers bloom. In the photo above from April, much of the green in the flower beds comes from rosettes of allium leaves. It's really nice to have more green early in the season, but alliums look best when they are planted among clusters of perennials so the perennial leaves form a base for the allium blooms after their own leaves have withered away.
Here is one final shot with alliums in the background. I am excited to take more photos next May and June and share how the alliums are doing in my garden.
December 1, 2014
It is especially nice to dig out summer photos in December when the temperature is down in the teens and the sky is grey. Here are some photos from July of the annual gardens near the front entrance of the Spokane Temple. Above on the left you can see 'King Tut' papyrus, which has been a great performer for us for several years.
Above you see the 'Bordeaux' supertunias are just getting started with their rambunctious growth. I can't remember the exact cultivar of coleus that we planted, but you can see how interesting it is with touches of maroon at the base of the lime leaves. Tall 'Senorita Rosalita' cleome is a sturdy performer and attracts butterflies. In summer we often had sulphurs and cabbage whites fluttering about.
We use a lot of mauve in the annual beds to tie in to the permanent Liatris plantings at the back of this shot. Clouds of 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia, purple alyssum and light blue lobelia add airiness to the annual design in contrast to the chunky petunias and lime green sweet potato vine.
Last week during a blessed thaw we planted the tulips and other bulbs in these beds, and we dug up several sweet potato tubers from these 'Marguerite' vines. My husband and another volunteer tried a slice. Hmmm . . . interesting, they said. We didn't take them home to add to the Thanksgiving table.
This area is becoming more lovely each year as the permanent shrubs and trees mature. In this shot the berries on the large 'Wentworth' cranberry bushes at right are just starting to turn cheery red. By December many of them have turned to brown mush after single digit temperatures, but they were pretty for several months.
This is a final shot of the area just outside the gates. Deer or rabbits munch on the petunias if we plant them farther away from the gate, but the lights deter them, so we have a few on each side. Silver dusty miller and plum '3D Purple' African daisies (Osteospermum) stretch out in front of the mauve daylilies. It's nice to look forward to the beauty awaiting next year while taking a break from gardening chores for a few months.
November 3, 2014
I managed to take photos of many of the floral arrangements I put together this fall, so here is another vase, very simple, of 'Eglantyne' English roses from a month ago.
'Eglantyne' is one of my first English roses to bloom, usually in mid to late June. After the first heavy flush, she sends out a few smaller blooms throughout the summer with another heavy flush of large flowers in the fall.
These blooms last well for several days in a vase, especially since the house is cooler now that it's fall.
The drawback to using 'Eglantyne' as a cut flower is the awful, awful prickly thorns. I should have worn gloves while arranging the stems in one hand before settling them into the vase. Instead I just gasped a little as the thorns dug into my skin. Again, and again. Ugh.
After the initial pain, I really enjoyed admiring these on my dining table while eating or walking by. After many years of looking forward to this, it is such a delight to be able to bring flowers inside from my own garden.
October 21, 2014
Even as the trees lose their leaves and other plants are turning brown, a few types of flowers are happily blooming. I'm so tickled to finally have a Japanese anemone that can handle our winters (A. robustissima, above). I was getting tired of murdering the poor things.
Several of the English roses are regularly producing buds and blooms, and each flower lasts a long time in the cool temperatures. 'Charles Rennie Mackintosh' looks nice next to the feathery chartreuse leaves of an 'Ogon' spirea.
'Abraham Darby' (above) and 'Eglantyne' are putting out a steady stream of large, luscious flowers in the front yard, plus a few here and there on 'Princess Alexandra of Kent', which is less established. I have several from AD in a vase on the kitchen table right now, and their fragrance can be enjoyed whenever I sit down.
Perky little 'Harlow Carr' is still blooming in front of violet asters and yellowing Siberian Iris foliage.
I have many 'Rozanne' geraniums scattered around the yard, and they are all covered with flowers. A few bees venture out when it warms up in the afternoon, but it seems many of them are already going to sleep for winter.
'Totally Tangerine' geum has become a much appreciated long bloomer in my garden. I am not a big orange lover, but these rosy-orange blooms on airy stems have made a place for themselves on my favorites list.
October 15, 2014
This morning I cut a few flowers for a vase just before the skies opened with welcome but rather gloomy rain. My Japanese anemone (Anemone robustissima) flowers are just the right shade to blend with mauve English roses. At center is pale 'Charles Rennie Mackintosh.'
I also included deeper pink 'Sister Elizabeth' roses, though they don't last as long in a vase.
Snowberries and sprigs of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) fill out the arrangement, and a few leaves of lady's mantle (Alchimella mollis) make a ruffle around the base.
Although they look sweet and delicate, Japanese anemones generally spread aggressively, so I have limited them to one corner of the garden.
Two types of white roses had a few blooms open, so I added 'Meidiland White' and tiny 'Francine Austin.'
Here is a full view of the arrangement, which makes a cheery contrast to the wet, grey, cool weather today.