Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden - for the love of botany

Young, juicy needles of Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides from China. They are so soft when they emerge after winter, I think they look completely edible...

As I wrote in my previous post, the Pacific Northwest coast of North America is a real plantsmen's paradise. The botanical and horticultural interest and knowledge here are amazing, and I've often called this area for a "horticultural hotbed". I guarantee that I don't exaggerate one single bit. The propitious growing conditions here allow an extremely wide range of plants to thrive, so many gardeners embrace the possibilities with open arms and minds (to a degree that I sometimes quite miss a good garden design focused discussion...).

A soft green carpet of Oxalis oregana, the Oregon oxalis or sorrel. It is native to the Pacific Northwest.

The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is a iconic testimonial for the botanically oriented spirit of the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1958 by Dr. Arthur Kruckeberg and his late wife Mareen Schultz Kruckeberg, who both were botanists and horticulturalists (Dr, Kruckeberg retired from the University of Washington as Professor Emeritus of Botany in 1989), it became the showcase for their love for plants in general and for the Pacific Northwest species in special. In a now mature, naturalistic woodland setting, over 2000 species of plants (many of which are rare) from all over the world grow in complete harmony with natives from the area. Without being design oriented, the garden offers many pleasing views and vistas along its winding paths, but clearly its soul is its exquisite inhabitants and the excellent planting combinations they form with each other.

Parrotiopsis jaquemontiana from the Western Himalayas; it belongs to the witch-hazel family, Hamamelidaceae. One of the "I've never seen this before"-plants for me...

A bit more common... Anemone 'Robinsoniana'. I couldn't resist buying one for my garden, their soft lavender flowers are so lovely.

The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is also home for MsK Rare Plants Nursery that Mareen started in 1969 and named after her initials; it still operates on the site. Her aim was to provide Northwest gardeners with interesting plant material. Most of the plants she sold were grown from seeds and cuttings from the garden; a combination of natives and carefully selected exotics, many of them from China and Japan. I was surprised to see the range of its offerings; many tables were filled with healthy plants not often seen in commercial nurseries, and large "flats" with groundcovers as rare Smilacinas, Anemones and many rare other species stood in the shade of huge conifers, waiting for the appreciating gardener to take them home.

Abundant offerings from the MsK Rare Plants Nursery.

Besides their garden and the nursery, the Kruckebergs worked to form and were active in several horticultural societies and interest groups in the Northwest, like the Washington Native Plant Society, the Hardy Fern Foundation and the Northwest Horticultural Society. Also, Dr. Kruckeberg published several botanical and horticultural books. The most well-known of them is Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, which he wrote together with Mareen; it became a classic and one of the 50 top American gardening books chosen by the American Horticultural Society.

Alert, young shoots of an unidentified member of the Acer family. 
Today, the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is owned by the City of Shoreline and the non-profit Kruckeberg Garden Foundation is committed to maintaining the garden. Mrs. Kruckeberg passed away in 2003, but Dr. Kruckeberg still lives as the property; he recently celebrated his 90th birthday and still works often in the garden. Unfortunately, I didn't have the honor to meet him, but just visiting his and Mareen's garden made me feel completely connected with the gardening roots of the area; this very place was and still is one of the "horticultural hotbeds" from where botanical and horticultural excellence spread to the rest of the Pacific Northwest. Luckily it is now well protected for the coming generations of gardeners.

A double white Trillium grandiflorum, probably one of the more common plants in the Kruckeberg garden....

(I am completely exhausted by my blogging program - I don't know what is happening, but it throws many of my pictures horizontally and makes them look like they are not in focus, plus editing has become really hard.. I'm exploring for alternatives...) 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Defying the chill

  Thrillium cuneatum; cuneatum means wedge-like, referring to the shape of the basal half of its petal. Their blood-red flowers last for a long time, and they are on my must-have list for my garden in Sweden... 

It is officially cold: today the Seattle Times reported that this April has been the coldest on record. So I was quite right yesterday when I wrote that the weather was chilly while we were visiting the plant sale at the Bloedel Reserve. All this means that the mosses are thriving luxuriously, but many others are completely out of their ordinary calendar. In my own backyard a neon-yellow Forsythia is blooming side by side with a fire-engine red Rhododendron, so I need sunglasses when looking at that direction despite the overcast skies. Usually, I only have to suffer one of these "lovelies" at a time.
Instead of making the big eye-sore in my backyard public, I opted for showing some more sophisticated choices from the Bloedel, that I saw during our walk there after the plant sale last Sunday (maybe I just should rename my blog "The Bloedel Observer"...). As I wrote earlier, the Pacific Northwest is a plantsman's paradise, especially if you are into shade-loving spring ephemerals. Here are some of the lovelies that were out despite the great chill...

Trillium grandiflorums dancing in a ring - this is one of the most loved Trilliums and they deserve that position with their showy flowers and generous flowering habit. I also grow them in my garden in Seattle.

 Hacquetia epipactis is one of my springtime favorites. It comes from Middle and Southern Europe and is a tiny member of the Apiaceae (commonly called umbellifers) family, related to parsley, carrots and celery amongst many others. It is fully hardy and thrives in part or full shade, and lightens up early spring with its green flowers with sunny buttons. 

Western skunk-cabbages or swamp lanterns, Lysichiton americanus, are members of the Arum family and native to the Pacific Northwest. Their smell is impossible to forget, but I don't find it unpleasant, just unusual...

Erythronium revolutum, pink or coast fawn lilies, are also native to this area. Once established, they increase freely from seeds. I wouldn't necessarily grow then with yellow Primulas as here (even if it is also was Christopher Lloyd's favorite color combination...), but they are still completely irresistible in shady woodland gardens.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Checking out the Bloedel Reserve spring plant sale

Searching for treasures at the Bloedel Reserve Spring plant sale...

Everything about Bloedel Reserve is first class - the site, the vast gardens, the house... and so even their annual plant sale that took place last weekend. Due to other commitments, I unfortunately missed world-famous explorer and plantsman Dan Hinckley's lecture, but I did manage to get there on Sunday to browse the offered goodies. And what an amazing choice of plants there were; in true Pacific Northwest style, a great variety of rare perennials and shrubs were available from the well-stocked growers.

Sometimes I've thought that if I was to choose the main characteristic of the Northwest horticultural scene, it would be excellent plantmanship. Collecting, growing and planting unusual plants is almost a sport here, the more rare genus and species, the better. It has been amazing (and instructive - I've learned so much during my almost 3 years here) to follow the extraordinarily knowledgeable local gardening community both in horticultural and botanical terms. This time, despite all the temptations, the only goodies I carried home were the pictures on my camera. I wonder if I should be worried...?

A deep red Trillium cuneatum - any takers...?

An erect Arisaema sikokianum - a quite streamlined, architectural little plant.

A masuri berry, Coriaria nepalensis, is a rare, deciduous shrub with arching stems. It bears red, hanging flowers during the summer. Something for my all too sunny backyard?

The large entrance pond by the main house. The plant sale took place on the front lawn; a magnificent setting for a botanical event.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fully charged... soon?

Some unspecified Pulmonarias are in full bloom in my garden. Their flowers flicker, shimmer, beam into my winter-weary eyes, charging my depleted batteries with their electric blue current. Sustainable energy, I assume.

Mystery solved - and some other goodies from my garden

At last I found the name of my mystery Fritillaria with checkered racing stripes on its waxy, green petals, that I wrote about two posts ago. As I suspected, it is not a F. pontica at all, but Fritillaria hermonis ssp. amana, native to Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. It is a vigorous bulb, and there is a small forest of tiny shoots on its feet, all coming up from bulbils that emerge from the mother bulbs.

Another slender-stemmed Fritillaria species is also in full bloom in my garden for the moment. Fritillaria latakiensis has green-striped, almost black flowers with a brush-stroke of yellow on the petal tips. It comes from the hills of Southern Turkey and Syria. Just like F. hermonis above, it also loves well-drained soil in a sunny spot and increases obligingly if left undisturbed.

I don't think Anemone nemorosa 'Monstrosa' is monstrous at all; I rather find its frilly flowers a fun, extravagant contrast to the common, modest A. nemorosa flowers. It is a bit like a tiny drag queen, wanting to put up a show instead of being proper. Still, with its small stature and the freshest of spring colours, white and green, it never goes over the top.

The lemony-white Erythronium citrinums, citrus or cream fawn lilies from Oregon and northern California, are also out; I have several tufts of them in the back of my garden now. I've written about them in a earlier post, and they really are one of my favorites (hmmm... do I use that word too much in connection to plants?). I've been planning to plant a part of my garden in Saltsjöbaden with native North American West Coast plants. Erythroniums will definitely be included in it, together with trilliums and other wonderful woodland goodies from these shores. Actually, I might start collecting them here on my blog first...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A touch of the tropics on a rainy day

Agapetes 'Ludgvan Cross' is an amazing member of the heather family; the form of its delicately striped flowers reminds me of glass vases of the Art Nouveau-period.

With so many plants already blooming in gardens, I shouldn't be complaining, but the tireless rain makes enjoying them challenging. So yesterday, we took ourselves to the Volunteer Park Conservatory. It is one of my favorite garden haunts in Seattle, an classic, old-fashioned greenhouse with great selection of ferns, palms, cacti och other exotics. As I've already written its story (we'll at least a short version of it...) earlier, I won't be repeating any of it here, I'll just show some of the treats we found yesterday. If only they would have turtles and butterflies, the whole family would be pretty well catered for...

The lush displays of the five rooms of the greenhouse are continuosly updated with seasonal displays of flowering plants with well-coordinated colours.*

Some kind of an Impatiens, I think; I couldn't find the name tag of this plant with delicate, pinkish white flowers.*

Even the fly-eating plants, Saracenia alata, were in full bloom; I've never seen them flowering before.*

An unspecified member of the Ficus-family, with bright, leathery, orange fruit growing along its erect stems.*

Tiny flowers of variegated Devil's backbone, Pedilanthus tithymaloides variegata (well, that's a mouthfull...), this amazingly sculptural plant in the cacti room comes from Mexico.*

And another beauty from the cacti room; Pachypodium succulentum from Africa; I think its flowers are amazingly similar to pelagoniums.

**And finally, another angle of the interior of the beautiful fern house.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A mysterious Fritillaria

A mysterious Fritillaria pontica, as you can see, its petals are clearly checkered...

I think some of my Fritillarias are behaving quite strangely, and I'm not trying to come with a late April Fools Day joke... I got these bulbs a year and a half ago from Marian, who always had the most amazing and rare plants in her garden. I had labeled them as Fritillaria pontica, the Balkan fritillary, and I swear they looked like the ones below last year, when they flowered for the first time in my garden. But yesterday, when I photographed them, I noticed that they are clearly checkered, which Balkan fritillarias are not supposed to be. Now I've been wondering if I've just lost my control and forgotten what I've planted. Or have they really changed? Maybe they were inspired by the more common Fritillaria meleagris nearby and wanted checkered skirts this spring, too? This is a bit of a mystery, I must follow closely as they keep opening their buds...

Fritillaria ponticas, when they still were at home in Marian's garden.

And here they are in my garden; I think they look so demure with their nodding bells and elegantly unfurling leaves... Must plant early perennials around them, they look so lonely peeking up from the naked soil.