Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Many Faces of Portland--Part I

Summer is definitely winding down, despite the blast of heat and humidity a week ago and again today.  Students are back into the routine of getting up early to board the school bus and spending the day in the classroom. It's safe once again to walk into a discount or big-box store where they have finally finished re-stocking their shelves after the onslaught of college students stocking up for a semester of dorm or apartment living.  Summer vacation is quickly becoming a faded memory.

My own mini-vacation to Oregon and the Portland Fling in July is still vivid in my mind, but the details are getting fuzzy.  Even though I semi-organized photos when I returned home, I look at some photos and can't remember, was this in the Ernst Garden or the Fuller garden?  Joy Creek Nursery or Cistus?  Before my memory gets any hazier, I want to share some of the highlights of this memorable trip and my apologies to our hosts for any mis-labeled captions.

Like any big city, Portland has many sides to its character, and the gardens we visited during the Fling represented the different faces it presents.

It is a Vibrant city:

Hydrangeas at either the Fuller or Ernst garden

What I will remember most about the gardens in Portland are the lush plants and huge blooms.  One of the local bloggers told me they have a saying that if a plant usually grows to 3 feet tall, it will grow to 6 feet in Portland.  After seeing so many gardens in Portland, I believe it!

Hydrangea at Cistus Nursery
Not only were hydrangeas covered in blooms, but those blooms were huge.

Bloom at Joy Creek Nursery--I wish I could get my hydrangeas to turn blue instead of pink.

And Blue!

Crocosmia at Cistus Nursery
Crocosmia has to be a signature plant of Oregon as I also saw them in many home gardens when my daughter and I visited some coastal towns in Oregon.  I've never seen any this big before.

Begonias in a container planting at the Fuller garden.
Look at the size of these begonias compared to my hand!

Portland also has its Serene and Tranquil side:

We visited one of my favorite places in the whole city on Day 2 of the Fling--the Portland Japanese Garden.

Despite the heat, shady areas, shimmering pools and waterfalls, and mossy stones helped to make us feel cool.

I've visited this garden on previous visits to Portland--you can learn more about it here, if you wish.

More Asian inspiration at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, one of our first stops on Day 1.

I had also visited this garden once before--more on the differences between a Japanese garden and a Chinese garden can be found in an earlier post here.
Serenity could be found in smaller spaces as well--here a scene from the Fuller garden.
The Playful side of Portland:
Orange Buddha at JJ De Sousa's garden

Entrance gate to JJ's garden--hmm, I wonder if she has trouble with rabbits:)
 Blogger Gerhard demonstrates the size of JJ's hostas.
I missed taking a photo of one of the best examples of playfulness--a scantily clad mannequin at Floramagoria.  Check out other Flingers' posts or the Facebook page for this one.
Portland is also a Colorful city:

Garden shed at Chickadee Gardens.

Koi at Japanese Garden

 Octopus? planter at JJ's--can you tell orange is her favorite color?
A colorful nook in the garden of artist Linda Ernst--
I love the way the art echoes the colors of the plants.
 Masses of blooms, foliage, and art create a beautiful display at Floramagoria.  
The Creative side of Portland:
Glass art in the garden of Joanne Fuller
 really stand out in all the green foliage.
Sculpture at the entrance to Westwind

A screen of metal spirals in either the Ernst or Fuller gardens serves as both trellis and eye-catching art.  I should explain these two gardeners were next door neighbors, and one garden led into the other, which is why I can't remember the exact location of couple of these photos.

Even the gravel path leading from the front to the back garden of Joanne Fuller held some interesting objets d'art. 
Next door, the creations of glass artist Linda Ernst blended in with the colorful blooms of the garden.
If you look closely, you'll see these glass blocks were made with leaf impressions.
At Floramagoria unusual pieces of garden art strategically placed here and there catch the eye amidst the interesting plant combinations.
I fell in love with Portland the first time I visited it five years ago, and I was thrilled to have the chance to visit it once again during this year's Fling.  Many thanks to our hard-working and super-organized hosts who gave us the opportunity to visit such a variety of gardens.  There are so many faces of Portland that I can't cover it all in one post, so stay tuned for Part II--which, at the rate I'm going, may not get posted for another month:)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August Wildflower Wednesday--Weed or Wildflower?

Most gardeners are familiar with the old saying "A weed is just a flower in the wrong place." 
And I daresay most of us would nod our heads in agreement but have to add "Some plants really are just weeds!"   I know that I will never have anything nice to say about the weedy grasses and Creeping Charlie that I am constantly pulling out of my garden.  Every gardener has her own weedy nemesis.  But there are some plants that really could be called a weed in one garden and a wildflower in another, depending on the situation and the personal preference of the gardener.  Let's look at a few that have appeared in my garden this summer.

About a month ago, my friend and I were walking around the arbor bed when we noticed these small yellow blooms on a very tall plant.  Now you have to understand that the back of the arbor bed is where I often plant something until I can find a better place for it.  It's also the place where I scatter a lot of seeds in the spring, so when I see a mystery plant, I usually leave it alone until I can identify it.

Something about these blooms reminded me of evening primrose, though I was thinking of the small plants that grow under a foot tall.  Mine was huge!  But when I did a little research, sure enough, it was a primrose--Oenothera biennis, Common Evening Primrose, which can grow to 7 feet tall.

Yellow flowers, which are actually quite attractive though small, appear on the top of the plant and are open from evening till morning, though they may remain open on cloudy days.  The blooms have a mild lemony scent and are attractive to moths, especially sphinx moths;  hummingbirds; and various types of bees and beetles. The seeds are eaten by goldfinches. 

Despite the attraction to different insects and wildlife and the cute little flowers, Oenothera biennis still looks like a weed to me.  As I read on, I found that it has a "fleshy taproot" and its "seeds can remain viable in the soil after 70 years."  That clinched its fate--I promptly removed it from my garden!

Another mystery plant appeared in the Lily Bed early in the summer.  Usually any volunteer in this area that I don't recognize turns out to be a weed.  But the small pink blooms that eventually opened looked promising so that I hoped this might be some unusual wildflower that the birds had kindly planted for me, as they did a few years ago with some Rudbeckia. 

I had no luck in finding it in my wildflower book or searching blindly through websites.  But one day while visiting my parents, I spied the same plant growing near their house.  I was so excited to find it and asked my dad if he knew what it was.  Sure enough, Dad, a farmer for all of his 89 years, immediately dismissed it with, "That's a Wild Four O'clock; it's a weed and will take over if you let it!"

Like other Four O'Clocks, the blooms open in late afternoon and stay open in the evening, closing in the morning.  The blooms didn't seem to last long on my wild plant.

When I checked this one out, it was listed on my go-to-source,, but it was also listed on many other sites as an invasive weed.  According to Illinois Wildflowers, Mirabilis nyctaginea is visited by long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, moths, and possibly hummingbirds.  But again those warning phrases: "A long taproot" and "reseeds."  This time I decided Father knows best and ripped it out.

This weedy wildflower pops up in different places every year, but it's one I easily recognize now.   Ever since I found a huge specimen of  Phytolacca Americana, better known as Pokeweed, behind our barn several years ago, I have had a few volunteers in the garden every year.  I usually cut them down or try to dig them out (again that taproot, so it's not easy), but I left this one just for this post.  They're really rather attractive plants--if you have the right place for them--especially late in the season when the stems turn reddish-purple and dark purple berries appear.  I've written about Pokeweed before, so if you would like to see the mature berries, you can check them out here.  Despite the fact the berries are popular with songbirds, these are not going to have the chance to mature--I have enough thugs in my garden without encouraging any more.

Speaking of thugs, here is a plant I purposely planted--Physostegia virginiana.  Anyone who has ever planted Obedient Plant knows that it is anything but. Although I would never call this native a "weed,"  I have a love-hate relationship with it.
 I love the white or pink blooms in the fall when so much in my garden is fading away. But it is an aggressive re-seeder.  Fortunately, the seedlings are easily recognizable, and I usually pull out many of them in the spring before they crowd out other natives in my Butterfly Garden.  This one stays--but not all its progeny.

And finally, a new wildflower/native this year that I am truly excited about!  I noticed these yellow blooms from a distance last week and thought at first they were more yellow coneflowers.  But closer inspection revealed something different altogether.  The blooms looked so familiar to me, but I wasn't sure until I looked through my wildflower book.  These are Sneezeweed, possibly Helenium autumnale.

It looks like some critters are already enjoying these tasty blooms.
Like the yellow coneflowers I featured in my last Wildflower Wednesday post, these were purchased last year at a prairie plant sale, but didn't bloom until this year.  Either they needed two years of growth to bloom, or the wet conditions this summer were ideal for them.  The native Sneezeweeds are attractive to all kinds of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and beetles and provide nectar for them in the autumn. While they are not as showy as the Helenium hybrids I've always meant to plant, I do love these perky yellow blooms that fit in nicely with the yellow coneflowers and Rudbeckias. 
These are definitely a keeper!
Wildflower Wednesday is hosted the fourth Wednesday of every month by Gail of Clay and Limestone.  Thanks, Gail, for always helping me to learn something new about native plants!

Friday, August 15, 2014

August Bloom Day

Mid-August.  The dog days of summer.  Usually about this time of year, I am whining about the heat and humidity and ready for the cooler days of autumn.  But not this year.  Sure, we've had some hot weather, but very few really miserable days and no long stretches of overbearing heat, as we have had the past few summers.  In fact, the last two weeks have felt more like fall, and I am loving it!  With such beautiful weather, you would think I would have my garden in top shipshape--I only wish.  I'm blaming it on all the rain we've had this summer (except for the past few weeks), which has been wonderful for the garden, but has also been a boon to the weeds.  That's my excuse anyway.

If you will overlook the weeds and the lack of deadheading, let's take a walk around and see what is blooming today.

My July Bloom Day post was one I started before I left for Portland, and since I didn't have much time to add much else when I returned, I focused on just the purple coneflowers in my garden.  But what I neglected for the very first time in all my summer blog posts over the years was a showcase of all the lily blooms.  Although there are a few stray blooms here and there, most of them have finished for the season, except for two latecomers.  'Andrea's Dragonfly,' above, was the last to start blooming.

'Dragonfly Corner' has been putting out even more numerous late blooms.  Both of these are unnamed hybrids that my friend Beckie named and shared with me in the last couple of years.  It's a good thing they are separated in the garden, or I'm sure I wouldn't remember which was which.

Not a true lily but a member of the amaryllis family, the Surprise Lilies were in full bloom a week ago, but have only a few straggling petals left today.  I'll probably forget by next summer where they are, but I'm pretty sure Frank marked the spot:)

The 'Vanilla Strawberry' Hydrangea has never looked as good as this year.  My only complaint is that all those blooms have made the branches bend over.

The bottom of the blooms gradually turn pink, but then they quickly turn brown, too--making the blooms look more like a vanilla-strawberry-chocolate ice cream cone.

Next to the shade garden in front of the house the 'Limelight' is blooming its head off, too.  I can never get a good photo of the whole plant, but this picture does show what I found out early this summer--my spring pruning was not nearly ruthless enough.  This is my favorite hydrangea, but it is sprawling out of control.

In the shade garden, the volunteer phlox has not only re-appeared, but a second stand of these has popped up this year.

The plainer hostas--Plantain lilies, I believe--are not my favorite, but they do have the most beautiful blooms, which are about to open up.

There are Black-eyed Susans and Brown-eyed Susans in different parts of my garden, but one of my favorite Rudbeckias is this 'Prairie Sun.'  Like other Rudbeckia hirtas, it is a short-lived perennial or biennial, but it can re-seed.  I planted a few seedlings that I started from seed, but for the first time, I had some come back from last year as well.

Elsewhere, the 'Becky' daisies in Roco's memorial garden are doing very well.  This is a new start I had to plant this spring, since last year's plant died.  The original mother plant in the arbor bed is probably five times this size.

The arbor bed is a jungle once again, mainly because I can't resist planting more annuals than I have room for each year.  Cosmos, all from direct-sown seed from Renee's Garden, are one of my old-fashioned favorites.

I'm not the only one who loves these blooms, as you can see.  The funny thing is, I was trying to get one good photo of this bumblebee, but it wasn't until I downloaded my pictures that I realized he had a friend!

Another favorite annual I've been planting from seed the past few years is this 'Zowie Yellow Flame' zinnia.  I'm sure you'll see these again in another Bloom Day post, because they look good all the way until frost.

Another two-fer shot. Ms. Ladybug also escaped my notice as I tried to focus on the butterfly.

A good example of the "jungle"--I planted the Agastache in the middle and a few of the 'Victoria Blue' salvia, but many of the salvia are volunteers, surprising after the winter we had.  The Nicotania are also volunteers--I planted seeds three years ago, and they keep coming back!  Except for the native blue Agastache, most of the cultivars do not like our winters, so they are more of an annual here.  I plant them every year, nevertheless, because the hummingbirds love them.  In fact, I took a dozen photos of a hummingbird enjoying the Agastache yesterday, but unfortunately was rewarded only with blurry images.

The bumblebees are more cooperative, thank goodness.  This one is enjoying the 'Victorias.'

A new bloom I'm excited to see in my garden this year is the new clematis I planted next to the arbor trellis.  I love these little bell-shaped blooms on 'Roguchi.'  I'm glad, too, it has survived some stiff competition from the volunteer hyacinth bean vine and the cardinal vine, which has spread everywhere.

Despite the jungle, my youngest grandson found the perfect seat one day--
yes, this is my favorite bloom of all!

And what about all those coneflowers I showed in July?  Well, some are looking a little tattered and faded, but they're still here.  I've deadheaded a few, but there are just far too many to keep up with.

I intend to thin them out eventually, but as long as others are enjoying them, I'm leaving them right where they are!

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is held the 15th of every month and is hosted by the always-entertaining Carol of May Dreams Gardens.  See what is blooming across the world this month and come join us!