Showing posts with label Washington State. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington State. Show all posts

Monday, April 16, 2012

Peeking through a knot-hole...

I know one is not supposed to peek through other people's fences - after all, that is why they are there, to give privacy from curious passers-by. But tempted by a gorgeous Magnolia in full bloom, I just had to see how the little back-yard completely engulfed by it looked like.

After a while I spotted a tiny knot-hole in the fence and peeked through it. And I wasn't disappointed; old, thick Magnolia trunks gnarled upwards forming a huge, blooming umbrella. In the soft shade under it, a carpet of lush Hellebores were just finishing their abundant show, pips of lily-of-the-valleys were eagerly pushing upwards accompanied by unfurling ferns and sky-blue Pulmonarias. How wonderful it must be to sit on the little wooden bench this time of the year and see the garden come alive under the canopy of soft pink Magnolia flowers. The present owners surely send some deeply thankful thoughts to the gardener who planted it what must have been over a century ago... 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Royal Azaleas from Korea are out...

I'm full of cold, and in no form of reporting anything more advanced - but the Royal Azaleas from Korea, Rhododendron Schlippenbachiis, are out and just amazingly delicate and exquisite.
Oh, was there ever a more radiant spring day as today; the sun is out together with the mountain (you need to be from Seattle to know that this means Mount Rainier being free and visible from the heavy clouds so common here) and it is warmer than it has ever been so far this all too soggy year. Just fantastic - now I just need to know why they are called the Royal Azaleas... need to clear my head from this cold before I'm up to any reseach. Sigh.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A borrowed soulangeana...

I've caught a huge cold and feel miserable, so this view from my kitchen windows is about as much I can manage to blog despite all spring ephemerals sprouting up in my backyard.

My next door neighbours' - a couple in their late 80s - amazing Magnolia soulangeana is just starting to open its shell-pink buds. This probably 50 years old tree reaches up to at least 8 meters into the sky and provides a breathtaking show every spring - we live uphill from them and get to admire its large goblet-formed blooms at "eye level", which is fantastic. 

Magnolias must have been the "it-plant" in the 60s when many of the older homes in this area were built; I think they would definitely be a good enough reason to buy any of the houses when they come to the market; you can always redo the house, but you can't buy 50 years of "Magnolia time" in any other way. Unfortunately, most house buyers of my generation don't share my opinion and rip them off from the way of their all too large, new mansions.

Another old house close-by that I could buy just for the sake of the huge Magnolia in front - my definition of 'curb-appeal' is a bit different from most real estate agents, I guess... I would put a wicker chair under it and sip some champagne under its amazing canopy of shell-pink blooms.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A drippingly delicious star magnolia...

A dripping Magnolia stellata in my backyard - she seems to take the weather better than I do...

If you can't beat them, join them - or maybe "if you can't change it, embrace it"? Yesterday, there was a sudden and unusual break in the continuous downpour, but I was too busy and missed documenting one of the most glorious days of this award-winningly wet spring (already over 17 inches of rain so far, compared to the average of 13...). Oh, well, at least now I know the sun still exists; today, it is as grey as ever again.
A bit irritated on myself for missing out a day of perfect photographing weather, I tried to "embrace what I got" and create some drippingly delicious Magnolia portraits with the help of a new little umbrella that attaches directly to my camera. Alas, it didn't save me from getting drenched, so I had to give up after a while. Here are some of the results, and I hope the rain will tire itself out soon again so that I can make a new try. The Magnolia soulangeanas are out and some of them are just stunning...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Start of the sakura season

I've been a bit unfair to the local weather; after all my whining about the perpetual rain, we actually had a couple of gloriously sunny spring days during the weekend. Unfortunately, I was all too busy either to take photographs or to blog about it, so you just have to take my word for it. For the moment it is pouring rain again, so I had to postpone my planned cherry photography session...

Flowering cherries are extremely popular in the Pacific Northwest gardens, which is one living proof of the tight east-west connections of the area. Many single-flowered species are out now, but their petals have unfortunately been ripped of by the winds and water all too soon after opening. I caught these white ones by a nearby roadside two days ago, and now they are already gone. Buds of the double-bloomed cherries are still swelling, wisely waiting for better weather before bursting out. I'm following them daily and hoping for a dry spell, if only for a couple of hours... I'm dreaming of a Hanami - a cherry blossom viewing party - under the big, double pink cherry tree in our backyard, but we'll see if the weather gods think it is a good idea or vote it down with their showers. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

No spring, just a season of "disappointment"

Rain, rain go away - come again another day...

Earlier this week, the Seattle Times ran an article that exactly expressed thoughts that I hadn't really formed into words during my almost four years in this wet, northwest part of the country. In it, Chris Burke, a long time meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle, talked about his definitions for the seasons, declaring the usual solstice- and equinox-relational connections completely obsolete in this area.

According to him, summer starts here first in July and lasts generously until August; then autumn spans over September and October, and winter lasts from November through February. But the oddest thing is that there is no such thing as spring, only a cold and wet, everlasting transitional period between February and July, which he generously dubs as the season of "disappointment".  

I'm more than ready to agree with him. As usual this time of the year, the heavens have been throwing on us hail, snow, rain mixed with hail and/or snow, or rain with drops so large that they could drown mice (unfortunately, they don't seem to have effect on the moles or voles that are messing up my lawn for the moment). I come from Finland with a climate so much colder than this, but I don't mind cold as long as it is dry, preferably with snow covering the ground. What I really dislike is this perpetual wetness; some days I'm sure I'm starting to grow gills, or at least small webs between my toes. 

When discreetly complain about the weather to the locals, they look at me as if I was mad, asking me what I did expect. I don't like them doing that. But then, by now I should have learned my lesson and not to expect a real spring, but a season of - disappointment. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

The cutest container garden at the show...

I feel like I need to rinse the palate after my last, slightly acerbic post... so here are pictures of the cutest display of the container garden section. Ravenna Gardens usually take the price in this area, and they didn't make an exception this year, tapping into the world-wide terrarium craze - just as many other things from the 70s, terrariums appear in gardening magazines from Australia to Finland, and in California, Flora Grubb is well-known for her magnificent arrangements.
Ravenna Gardens filled their tiny booth, called the 'Laboratory of the Terrarium Maker', with miniature landscapes in glass vessels from the brand-new minimalistic to the repurposed ornamental. This tiny show garden was trendy, humorous and well executed, and it definitely deserved its Gold Medal for the best container garden. I would love to have one of these!

The thing I really don't get at garden shows... all the tchotchkes, knickknacks, baubles and other trinkets available (and not just at the Northwest one; the Scandinavian shows and even Chelsea are equally quilty in this area...). Anyone willing to explain why we are supposed to neeed this "stuff"?  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gold medal for the 'Birdsong' at the 2012 NW Flower and Garden Show

Above, the lights are tested before the media and judges arrive; there are still some white buckets, brooms and watering cans in the display area.
Our efforts at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show were rewarded with one of the three Gold Medals given out this year - a great result. The concept of the Birdsong was to celebrate birdlife in the Washington Park Arboretum. Three different habitats for birds - marshland, woodland edge and deeper forest -  were planted with vegetation to provide them with food and nesting places. A bird blind was the only built structure in display. The design was by Bob Lilly, Phil Wood and Roger Williams, all three experienced renowned garden designers and plantsmen.

The bird blind was the only built element of the garden; it imitates the structures that bird watchers use to observe wildlife. I got to attach twigs from the arboretum to the outside of the structure... Most of the garden materials - twigs, whole trees and bags of collected leafs -  came from the arboretum.
Of course, a show garden rookie like me didn't have anything to do with the concept or design, but I was happy to shovel, cover, carry and plant things. Here are some of my 'achievements': a perfectly naturalistic flow of dry leaves cascading down the little hill at the back of the display (above), and a planting of ferns and small blueberry bushes by the pathway though the show garden. Maybe I can graduate to something a bit more advanced at the next show? Anyway, I loved being part of the show garden team, so I won't mind even if I just have to shovel sawdust again next year.

Below - kinnikinnick planting by me; well done, don't you think...? Birds love to eat the red berries of this native plant. Behind - humming birds love nectar and are especially drawn to red flowering plants, so red camellias were included in the display even if they are not native to the area. Witch-hazels are also an important source of nectar this time of the year.

And just one more of the building stage... just a couple of hours left, and the garden still looks like a mess. But Bob and Phil had full control over the process so we finished in good time, having over half an hour free time to enjoy the results before the judges arrived.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Building "the Birdsong", days 1 and 2

The Arboretum Foundation show garden on the first building day on Saturday. This year's garden is called 'Birdsong', displaying three different habitats for birds to nest, eat and live in - more about it in my next post. Pretty difficult to imagine this as a habitat for birds...

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show starts tomorrow, and I've been helping to build a show garden for the Arboretum Foundation for the last four days.  The process was immensely satisfying for my inner Bob-the-Builder; huge trucks and other power machines around, lots of hammering, sawing and shoveling; and then finally, planting and mulching. After just 4 to 5 hours on site, I came home happy and tired, ready for a warm shower and a glass of wine. Tonight, I'm attending the Opening Night party, so before revealing any of the completed show gardens, I just wanted to show some pictures of the building process. Tomorrow, I'll be back commenting the designs and plants of this year's show - after spending hours on the site watching them emerge from the plastic covered, grey concrete floor, I feel like I really know them in detail...

Sawdust arriving to our booth; tons and tons of it, all to be shoveled by hand to the right locations...

The sawdust, pathways and main trees are in place... way to go. 

Other guys built a small hut/green house; cute, still difficult to say where this is going...

These guys lifted some serious tree stumps into their show garden... wonder how it will come out?

Our natural stone bird bath arriving, it weighs about half a tonne...

Arranging the bird bath in right place is not the lightest task to do.

 Train of fresh, young bulbs and perennials, all to be "sacrificed" on the show garden altar... 

These guys decided to underplant their magnificent, 150-year old Japanese maple with tulips??

Our plants, most of the native to the Pacific Northwest, starting to arrive. Now just some black mulch on the sawdust, and then the planting starts. I'll be back tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scented spirit lifters for the chilly season

Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum - a bit worn down by the ice storm, but still spreading its sunny fragrance in the cold. 

Despite being lucky with not loosing power or having any other accidents due the snow and ice storms last week, I do feel a bit worn down by the weather... so to cheer me up, I decided to write a list of my favorite plants for the dark, chilly season.

I love scented plants, which shows in my list below. If choosing between two otherwise equally suited plants for a situation, I almost always pick the fragrant one of them. With their perfume, scented plants add dimension by offering pleasure for one more of our senses. Often, they conjure memories and feelings from days past. Sometimes, scents can be healing, like the heady, fresh smell of lavenders that has scientifically been proved to be calming (one of my favorites...). I mostly think of flowers when considering scented plants, but of course even whole plants can be aromatic, from the tiny herbs we use for cooking to the huge cedars and firs of the northern hemisphere and towering Eucalyptus trees of the southern.

Luckily, the gardening year of the Pacific Northwest is never without something fragrant in season, even if the leaden skies and slushy snow of mid winter can otherwise be quite oppressing to one's mood. As a remedy, here are some of my favorite, scented "spirit lifters" for the season, all amazing plants to be included in any garden at the colder latitudes. 

Winter honeysuckle, Lonicera standishii from China, has the same kind of fresh honey scent as its summer flowering relatives.
Have I worn down you with my witch-hazels yet? Hamamelis x intermedia 'Winter beauty' is gently lemon scented with deep apricot glow.
Sarcococcas have such modest, little flowers, but their perfume carries far with the winter winds. They flower from December to February, and are excellent near entrances with their fragrance and glossy evergreen leaves.

The delicate scent of snowdrops... do I need to say more?
Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'; I love it in theory, but in practice its pink flowers often become mottled with brown after the slightest touch of snow, which always looks dull. Their heady perfume lingers around from the darkest November to late February.

Many cyclamen are slightly scented, but you need to go down on your knees to detect it. Lovely combination here with the cinnamon bark of a Stewartia monadelpha.
The waxy flowers of Chimonanthus praecox have a strong, spicy scent that reminds me of some of the Actaeas. Describing scents is such an undeveloped area, the only tool available seems to be comparing them to something that is more well-known... 
Daphnes are well-known for their highly scented winter flowers, but they are sensitive to cold and snow. Mine have turned yellow after the ice storm and will probably loose their leaves in the coming weeks. Luckily, they usually recover, but look pretty shaggy until the new leaves develop.


Friday, January 20, 2012

An icy emergency

Everything over here is covered with a layer of ice, including these stunning beautyberries in my neighbour's garden...

Our Pacific Northwest corner of the world has been pretty much paralyzed by a snowstorm that started two days ago and transformed into an ice storm today. The situation is quite serious and the Governor of Washington State has actually declared emergency; hundreds of thousands are without power and the temperatures are freezing. The power line repairs are expected to take at least a couple of days, which makes things hard for many families. Our family has been very lucky, with no other damage than a couple of broken Magnolia branches in our front yard.

Schools have been closed for two days now, and we don't expect them to open tomorrow either, so we have spent our days sledding and building snowmen. Also, we've been shaking off the heavy snow from the branches of our marginally hardy Magnolia gradifloras. They can actually take the cold, but their branches are brittle and the first to break when snow gathers on their generously large, evergreen leaves. I don't think they are suited to this climate, but as there are five large young trees in our front yard, the only thing is to try to prevent this from happening. The snow is still falling, so their leaves become coated soon again after they are shaken free.

I feel guilty admitting that I love snow and that think it is very pretty out there, when I know so many are freezing in their homes that will get only colder and darker as the evening falls. I hope the repair crews get their work done fast so everybody will be warm and safe again soon... 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bewitched, once more...

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Winter beauty' glows in warm, tangerine tones...

I do realize that I use the word "favorite" all too often in connection to plants. I guess I just can't help it. So here I am again, telling you that witch-hazels are one of my absolute favorite shrubs. Not only do I find their delicate blooms that send out their spidery petals in the middle of the darkest winter completely enchanting, but I also love their lemony scent that fills the air and greets one long before the flowers can be seen. Unfortunately there is no way to convey their spicy fragrance to you, but at least I can provide some snapshots from my walk in the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle this morning. Absolutely spellbinding plants, if you ask me. Don't miss them, if you are anywhere nearby.

Hamamelis mollis, a wild witch-hazel species from China.

A scented canopy of starry flowers - Hamamelis mollis.

The lighter tones of Hamamelis mollis 'Pallida'.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Orange beauty', one of my favorites... oh, did I just say it again?

 Pathways of the Witt Winter Garden.

Hamamelia x intermedia 'Jelena' , with rusty red flowers hiding amidst last year's leaves.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Hiltingbury' can't decide if it should keep to orange or to pink tones...

Petals of Hamamelis x intermedia 'Ruby glow' are delicately edged with creamy white.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' has burgundy buds that get a apricot glow when they open up.

A pathway winding under a canopy of fragrant witch-hazel flowers.

My other posts about witch-hazels: