Humboldt’s Gothic Princess: Giant Purple Wakerobin

Trillium-kurabayashii-photo-by-Janette-Heartwood.jpgWho says native plants aren’t lovely? Giant purple wakerobin, or Trillium kurabayashii, is just one of the uncommon beauties found in our local forests. I love the mottled leaves, which rival those of Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ for interest in the shade garden, but the blackish-burgundy blooms seal the deal for me and make this a must-have plant in any forested garden in Humboldt. While they’re not super-difficult to grow, they do need rich, composty soil that is well-drained, as well as partial shade to establish. They’re not for the impatient gardener, but if you’re living in your dream home among the redwoods, this plant is well worth taking the time to establish as once it’s going strong, it’s relatively care-free and easy to grow. Trillium kurabayashii photo by Janette Heartwood (3) Trillium kurabayashii photo by Janette Heartwood (2) Giant purple wakerobin is just starting to bloom in Humboldt, so head on out for a forest walk if you’d like to see these beauties in the wild! Photos and inspiration courtesy Janette Heartwood. You can buy Trillium kurabayashii here at Dancing Oaks Nursery Photographer Mark Turner talks about this plant on his site about Pacific Northwest Wildflowers

The Envelope Please! The Winner is-

Plants on the runway.jpgGuest post from Stephanie Cohen, plant maven and co-author of the deliciously readable The Nonstop Garden: Every year new perennials tempt us to buy them. Some become instant successes, others never achieve notoriety, and some really bad plants hang around forever. It gets more and more difficult to pick the winners and losers. I am either brave or foolhardy for attempting to do this. Let’s have a drum roll. We are putting down the green carpet. Each plant vying for contention will strut its stuff before entering the garden arena. They have been primped, the PR is out, but can they perform as well in the garden? pink frost from skagitFirst coming down is Helleborus ‘Pink Frost’. It reminds us of another top seller ‘Ivory Prince’ because its buds face outward. The official name is Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection ‘Pink Frost’. She is showing off her buds that appear burgundy and white and open a soft light pink, and maturing to a burgundy red. Her skirt of foliage is a delicious shade of silver green. The delicious attribute of this plant, depending where you live, is the long bloom time from Jan. to April. This dazzling hellebore is very comfortable performing in part to dense shade. Gardeners will be using in shady nooks or in containers. The deer seldom eat, but occasionally browse. The competition is very heavy this year with so many entries. The other contender is ‘Ruby Racer’ and it is exactly as it says, it’s a dynamite ‘Ruby Red’. The flowers have been fed an excellent regime of vitamins because each bloom is 3″ wide. monrovia kopper kettle peonyPeonies are always showy. However, the new Itoh hybrids are demanding center stage. They produce buds over a longer period of time and extend the blooming season. Their increased vigor helps the foliage stay greener longer. ‘Bartzella’ was a big yellow double introduced a few years ago. Big and bodacious would be my description. The newer ones like ‘Kopper Kettle’ are divine! How often do you see semi-double flowers in shades of red, yellow, and orange that look copper from a distance. The cross between herbaceous and tree peonies  makes them easy to grow as new shoots emerge after the dormancy of winter. Many have extremely strong stems so you avoid staking. You have to admit this plant has real sex appeal. A rather diminutive beauty has just come into sight. The small shade emperor takes center stage. You can hear the buzz. Yes, it’s the trend setter and jet setter-Hosta ‘Cherry Tomato’. New this year, but it is working its way to being a top selling hosta. It flaunts long lance shaped leaves that are creamy yellow to white with wide dark green margins. Attractive red petioles and purple flowers make you want to take a second look. Besides there is a cuteness factor. It is a miniature sport of ‘Cherry Berry’, who looks upset by our choice. [Read more...]

Top Landscape Plants (Excerpts from Experts)

Excerpts-from-Experts.jpgWhen the Garden Designers Roundtable chose Top Landscape Plants as this month’s topic, I thought to myself, “Hey, no problem, I can write that in my sleep.” I mean, enthusing about plants is kind of my thing, you know? But given that this is book excerpt week here at North Coast Gardening, I thought it’d be fun to hand over the stage to five favorite writers, and let them enthuse for me. While each writer comes to plants from a different perspective, they share a love of gardening and language that makes each a pleasure to read. Without further ado, here are five of my top landscape plants:

Borage (Borago officianalis)

BorageFrom The Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler:
“If, while strolling through a garden, you see little blue shooting stars exploding over a fountain of fuzzy leaves, you have stumbled upon borage. The luminous clusters of pinky-purple buds start off pendulous, then rear up and make themselves known with a burst of color. The edible grayish-green fuzzy leaves and stems of borage are a wonderful foil for darker foliage in the garden.”
While borage is a rampant self-sower in my climate, the cheerful blue blossoms attract honeybees and a number of other pollinators. This makes it a joy to photograph, since there’s always a bumbling somebody ambling along, ready for their close-up. [Read more...]

Color Echoes: Variegated Dwarf Weigela and Clifford Moor Red Catchfly

Variegated-Weigela-with-Silene-Clifford-Moor.jpgVariegated Weigela with Silene 'Clifford Moor' These two plants are easy to grow and take little care to look their best. Variegated Dwarf Weigela, Weigela florida ‘Variegata Nana’, is a sturdy shrub to about 4′ tall and wide. It loses its leaves in winter, but comes back with fresh growth and masses of flowers each spring. Clifford Moor Red Catchfly, Silene ‘Clifford Moor’, is a softly-textured perennial with a clump of foliage that reaches about 1 foot tall and 2 feet around. The airy flowering stems are held a foot above the foliage, and it blooms off and on spring through fall. The basal clump of foliage is evergreen in my Zone 9 climate. Both plants were photographed on the same day in early May, and they both share a lovely golden variegation, soft texture and similar shape to their leaves, and both flower pink in spring. Full sun to partial shade will make both plants happy. If you’re looking to add a feeling of continuity to your garden by using repetition, but don’t want to use too many of the exact same plant, consider using this concept of color echoes to find plant combinations that will give the feeling of repeated themes, without actual repetition.

Plants to Love: Spanish Shawl (Heterocentron elegans)

Heterocentron-elegans.jpgThis sweet little groundcover looks simple and refined when not in bloom, like a larger-leaved, deeper-green version of Baby’s Tears. But once it comes into bloom, it is a serious showstopper, with red hairy bracts holding disproportionately large fuchsia blooms. It flowers during the entire growing season, spring to fall, and the cheery red bracts persist even after the petals fall off. It makes a vigorous carpet wherever it gets water. Gardens that are watered by hand or by overhead sprinkler soon end up with Spanish Shawl filling every bit of available space, while in gardens where it is watered more sparingly with drip irrigation, it tends toward neat clumps. I find it easy to remove if it spreads beyond where I like it. They’re great for part or full shade, USDA Zones 9-11, and they’re a relative of the Princess Flower, Tibouchina urvilleana. They definitely aren’t a xeric plant, but if you live in a rainy climate like mine and pop it in the shade, it doesn’t need too much summer water to look good. I love it in gardens where my clients specify they don’t want to see bark, because the Spanish Shawl fills in the blank spaces of the garden so nicely. The flowers go beautifully with the flowers of Razzleberri Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense ‘Monraz’). The best part? After the first year or two you have a strong enough clump that it’s easy to give some to anyone who stops to admire it, which will be anybody either female or flamboyant enough to properly appreciate its vivid shade of fuchsia. Want to see some of my other favorite plants? Shamelessly Tropical: Hawt Plants for a Variety of Climates Plants to Love: All the Profiles

Plants to Love: Rainbow Drooping Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’)

LeocothoeRainbow.jpgI know you’re wondering, so let’s get this out of the way: it’s loo-kow-thow-ee. You only have to say the name once though, when you’re looking for it at the nursery, and then you can call it anything you like. “That gorgeous variegated thing” is what most people call it. Andrew of Garden Smackdown suggests “Lew”. Whatever. It’s low-maintenance, very deer-resistant, and seems to be happy in a wide range of light conditions from full sun to shade as long as it’s given regular water, acid soil, and a thick layer of mulch to keep its roots cool. [Read more...]

Plants to Love: Dwarf Fleeceflower (Persicaria affinis ‘Dimity’)

PersicariaDimity.jpgThis low-maintenance perennial forms a slowly spreading mat of thick green foliage, and at the end of summer bursts into bloom with a multi-colored show. The buds start out pale pink and fade to deep rose, eventually turning a rich rusty brown for fall. The foliage too gives a fall show, getting a bronzey-red tone as the weather cools. Persicaria ‘Dimity’ spreads persistently but not invasively in my coastal Pacific Northwest climate, and the foliage forms such a thick mat that even if dogs try to dig or kids tromp through it, ‘Dimity’ holds up fine and looks good. [Read more...]

Plants to Love: Snowmound Spirea (Spirea x nipponica ‘Snowmound’)

SpireaSnowmound.jpg‘Snowmound’ Spirea (USDA Zones 4-9) is a lovely thing, with deep green leaves, reddish stems, a graceful arching habit and rounded form. It loses its leaves, but doesn’t make a mess about it, and the white flowers in spring make you forget that you missed it all winter. ‘ Snowmound’ needs full sun to do its best, but is otherwise fairly unfussy, getting to 5’ or more in time without pruning (I usually keep mine pruned to about 4.5’ with great results). The deer seem to leave it alone, but deer vary everywhere, so plant with caution. After it blooms, it shoots out with a lot of new foliage growth that doesn’t really do much for me (it’s kind of a messy shape), so I cut the biggest stems out in June or so to keep the plant from getting to an unruly size. If the plant’s still larger than I’d like, I selectively prune out a few older branches throughout the shrub, taking the stems down beneath the rest of the foliage so you can’t see any cut stems. Those cut stems will often regenerate with fresh new growth. I like ‘Snowmound’ with Hebe ‘Wiri Blush’, Loropetalum ‘Razzleberri’, and other dignified plants that have a neat habit and some showy color. Spirea ‘Snowmound’ has a very similar tone of foliage to Chondropetalum tectorum, the evergreen Cape Rush, so they look good within the same garden areas to repeat the color but bring a different shape to things. [print_link]

Plants to Love: New Zealand Wind Grass (Stipa arundinacea/ Anemanthele lessoniana)

Anemanthele-lessoniana.jpgAnemanthele lessoniana New Zealand Wind Grass is a stunning low-maintenance grass that keeps its glowing orange foliage all winter long. I occasionally have to prune out some dead bits here or there, which I do by grasping a small clump of dead foliage and cutting it out at the base so you don’t notice it’s been pruned. Anemanthele lessoniana gets to 4’ around and 3’ tall, and will take even the worst seacoast wind. It’s also deer-resistant. It colors up all bronzey-orange in full sun, but is an attractive green grass in part shade as well. They’re gorgeous for highlighting any kind of green foliage, and I think they look great with plants that have purple flowers like Tibouchina/ Princess Flower or Salvia leucantha/ Mexican Bush Sage. [print_link]

Plants to Love: Rozanne Hardy Cranesbill (Geranium ‘Rozanne’)

GeraniumRozanne.jpgGeranium ‘Rozanne’ (USDA Zones 4/5-9) is a lovely tumbling plant that gets between 4 and 5’ around, and about 2’ tall. She’s been the darling of the landscape designer crowd since being introduced a few years back, and even though we all plant her all the time, we’re sticking our fingers in our ears and going “LA-LA-LA” whenever a whisper of her being over-used comes up. She’s only over-used once we’re tired of her, and we are not. She loves full sun and is somewhat deer-resistant, though not reliably so. ‘Rozanne’ even tolerates strong seacoast wind without looking shabby. If you put ‘Rozanne’ in a part shade spot, she’ll still grow and bloom nicely, but she may get a bit leggy and sprawl out more. She does go dormant, so I often plant her with evergreen plants so she doesn’t leave too big of a hole in the winter garden. I like her with ornamental grasses like the Acorus ‘Ogon’/ Golden Sweet Flag grass above. She also harmonizes nicely with Roses, Rhododendrons, and Heathers. Learn how to prune Geranium ‘Rozanne’ here (link to video). I gently lift one side of the plant up and trim out some of the longest stems that are flopping on the ground either back to a side shoot or all the way back, making sure my pruning cuts are hidden by the rest of the foliage, and work my way around the base of the plant to even it up. This helps to reduce size or get the plant out of a pathway if needed, because usually the longest stems are the ones sitting on the ground. After you prune, the goal is to have the plant smaller, but not see any visible sign that you pruned it – no cut stems or bare patches. Want to join in the Rozanne lovefest? Check out Susan Morrison’s post about her here. [print_link]