Friday, October 13, 2017

Persimmon Dreams

2017 has been the year of getting everything I always wanted. Well, not everything...But plant-wise, I did really good.

There were a few plants I had on my mental list of "Plants I Have to Have".

When out and about, I would always look for them and then not buy them if I saw them. I was pretty good about talking myself out of them for whatever reason. 

I finally bought Cypripediums at the HPSO sale in the spring. I always thought these hardy orchids were too expensive and that I might kill them. This year I bought two varieties at the Spring HPSO sale (now dubbed The James Lee Hubbard Memorial Plant Buying Spree) and they grew well this summer and bloomed beautifully. The real test will be next spring when I will wait with baited breath to see if they come back.

Midsummer, I finally brought home Genista aetnensis (Mount Etna Broom). It's a tiny little fluffy thing at the moment. Hopefully one day it will be a tree. Even in it's tiny form, it still was a check mark off my have to have plant list. I look forward to helping it grow into tree-dom.

The last plant I have always wanted was a Fuyu Persimmon tree.

At the apartment complex kitty-corner from my office, there are several very nice Persimmon trees. I always thought they were not only beautiful trees, but I looked forward to late fall when our gardener would pop over there and pilfer a few before the apartment maintenance crew would hack them all off.

Fuyu fruit are crisp, delicious and not astringent. I prefer to eat them when they are firm but they can also be left to soften and get sweeter. To me, they taste a bit like a cross between an apple and a squash. Perfectly yummy to just slice and eat.

On a recent outing with Mardigras Gardener Alan and Assistant Yvette, we were at the Stark Street Portland Nursery. They were having a sale on trees, including fruit trees. I happened to see a small table with baby Persimmon trees. There were several varieties to choose from. With the sale, the tree was around $20. How could I say no?!? So, I came home with Diospyros kaki 'Early Fuyu'.

And more importantly, Alan would have beaten me over the head had I not bought it. He's heard me talk about getting one now for at least 3 years.

The thing about buying a tree, was that now that I had it, and could cross it off my plant list, where the hell was it going to go in the yard? 

My two mantras are "At least its not snowing!" during Portland winter and "No more trees!" for plant shopping.

I wondered around the garden holding my baby tree for a bit. I didn't want to "cramscape" it into the garden.

I finally decided to do the unspeakable. I dug up a peony on a corner of the back patio! (clutch pearls!). Those that know me and my peony addiction, would know this was a difficult decision. 

It was an unnamed herbaceous peony that has been given to me, so I felt I could let it go.  In this spot a new tree would have the ability to spread out a little.

Cute baby Diospyros kaki 'Early Fuyu'
In a moment of brilliance, I gave the peony to a neighbor for his front yard. So although I gave it away, it didn't go far and I can still visit it and take care of it for him. Such a good compromise! 

It will be several years before I have my own Persimmons to eat.

Until then, persimmon dreams!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Summer Recap

Summer sort of flew by in a blur this year.

I was hoping summer would take my mind off my father's passing in April. At least I would have gardening, fish and flowers to occupy my brain for a while.

I hosted the Portland Blogger's spring plant exchange May 7th. It was a good excuse to get the garden looking good. One of the best parts of gardening is sharing your garden with others. But having 22 plant aficionados in your garden is still a little intimidating.

In June, I took my work pal Anita to the open house of Sarracenia Northwest and bought way too many carnivorous plants. I do love my bogs now and can see how this could evolve into "a thing". My Venus Flytraps, Darlingtonia, Sarracenia and Sundews all bloomed and were adorable all summer. I worried about killing the Darlingtonia constantly, but it put out a lot of new runners, so I think I made it happy.

Open House at Sarracenia NW
New plants!

Most of June and July went by like a breeze. I swear I only remember preparing for the unusual amount of hot weather we had this summer. There were several episodes of really hot weather too.

The first hot spell was several days of 105 degrees. This takes a toll on plants, the lawn, the fish and my water bill. Seems like I spent the last few months watering constantly and not doing much else. Thankfully, I have a routine for placing out my sprinklers and following up with hand watering here and there.

Gah!  Too Hot!
While I appreciate the convenience of the sprinklers, I really feel like I lose touch with the plants when I'm not really spending time in the garden fussing.

With the heat, I also had to worry about the ponds and fish. Four of my fishy babies didn't make it through the first round of hot weather. But considering there are probably 100 fish in total, my losses were very minimal. For the second hot spell, I spent a lot of time out in the heat trying to keep fish cool with a combination of shade cloth and daily water changes.

Eclipse shade

This summer was the first that the ponds were not repeatedly ransacked by raccoons, so the water lilies looked amazing all summer. My ugly surrounds of chicken wire finally kept the raccoons at bay. With the exception of one hot tubing lily leaf pooping opossum, the ponds were pest free all summer.

Assistant Yvette and I watched the August eclipse from the garden. While we could have gone south to see it in totality, I was really content to just be at home with her. I watered flowers out front while wearing my glasses, occasionally looking up at the sky to see what was happening. Miss Yvee camped out on the back porch with not a care in the world.

Assistant Yvette was not impressed by the Eclipse

Side yard view corridor
My only real complaint this season, was that in late August/early September something happened that has never happened before! FLEAS! OMG FLEAS!

I have never even seen a flea in 11 years of gardening at The Lents Farmer and they popped up suddenly and in huge numbers. I could walk barefoot in the grass and 10 fleas would jump on my feet. I could not even walk to the back to feed the fish before work without having to pick fleas off my pants. So gross! My "flea paranoia" got pretty bad as did the bites on my ankles.

I sent Assistant Yvette to live with her other parent, so that I could try to get a handle on the yard fleas. I didn't want her to suffer and I didn't want fleas in the house too.

Other then watering the lawn and mulching the grass most of summer, no other changes happened to the garden. So I'm not sure why the fleas popped up so suddenly?

I am still battling the fleas.

I started out with biological treatments and as they invaded my garden, then progressively began using harsher solutions to try to combat them. They will die soon when the weather gets colder thankfully. I will try Nematodes (Steinerma carpocapsae) in the spring that specifically enjoy killing fleas. I would try applying them now, but I'm afraid some of the harsher flea treatments, might kill them too.

So here's to looking forward to Fall. Autumn begins today!

Below is a potpourri of random pictures from this summer:

Nymphaea 'Mayla'
Dionaea muscipula 'King Henry'

Seemannia nematanthodes 'Evita' (Gloxinia) was a surprise in a pot
Callistemon pallidus (Lemon Bottlebrush)

Nymphaea 'Wanvisa'
Clematis viorna
"Angel" the fish
One of the bogs with last year's plants
Darlingtonia californica (Cobra Pitcher Plant)

Nymphaea 'Perry's Orange Sunset'
'Neil Bell' decided to die suddenly after a hot spell :(
Garden bounty

Lobelia tupa in full bloom

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bad Water Lily Daddy

It all started a year or two ago.

You notice something that needs to be done, but you just decide it can be put off longer. Then a lot LONGER goes by, much longer than you thought.

Eventually you just decide "F-it", whatever happens, happens. The lazy man's justification.

Thus the following story of  'Perry's Almost Black'.

'Perry's Almost Black'

I've had this water lily for ten years. I'm pretty confident that I have repotted it a few times since then, except, for the past few years. After the upgrade to a 300 gallon trough a couple years ago, I think I let it slip.

I knew there were three lilies in the trough and over time I thought they'd probably grow together out of their pots and across the bottom and all would be right with the world. Last year, I had more flowers than ever out of these three.

It never occurred to me that one day, a giant mass of water lily would begin floating to the surface and no amount of large rocks on top of the mass would keep it down. I can only surmise that the crowns must have a certain amount of air in them and they finally got to the point where their mass floated the entire pot to the surface. Who knew?!?

Well, poop!

I guess now I finally had to do something about it. I couldn't have exposed growing lily crowns bobbing in and out of the water in the hot 80 degree sun.

So, off to my big box store for supplies: new pots, soil and decorator rock.

In the past, I used my vegetable garden soil for repotting water lilies. This year, just looking at the project at hand, made my back ache, so I opted for a bagged "soil" that was a mix of compost and sand. I read all the labels on the various bags and this seemed like it could work. It will be an experiment to see how the plants do in this soil.

My friend James, offered to help with the hefting out of the water lily and the other menial tasks, so I could concentrate on the lily.

I plunged my arms into the pool and started feeling around. I quickly determined that the other two water lilies (Nigel & Sioux) were only slightly entangled in the mix. My floating problem was entirely a very overgrown 'Perry's Almost Black'. It had grown out of its pot considerably.

We hoisted the pot and trailing roots and leaves out of the pool and took to the shady side lawn.

Wad of 'Perry's Almost Black'
What a mess!
Removing sections of tuber carefully with shears.

James had pre-washed the gravel and laid out the pots partially filled with dirt and three PondTabs.  The pots I chose were a little more than I wanted to spend for something I will never see submerged in the water, but I liked that they were wider on top, giving lots of space for growing crowns.

Note: Remember to fertilize lilies monthly as they are exceptionally heavy feeders!  They should be fertilized monthly during spring and summer. Yellow leaves, infrequent blooms or slow growth usually indicate that the plants are not getting enough food. That being said, I usually only fertilize two or three times a season, because I forget. So do as I say, not as I do.

I got to work separating the plant into divisions, so that they could be replanted quickly and put back in the pond. You don't want them to dry out and it doesn't take long. 

I ended up with four new pots and saved what was left in the original pot.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson about neglecting my water lilies.

But I wouldn't hold my breath. I seem to recall similar blog posts in the past, so I'll probably be doing this again next year and cursing myself.

Some pics of the other water lilies this year below:

Funky Nymphaea 'Wanvisa' flower
Nymphaea 'Black Princess'
Nymphaea 'Perry's Orange Sunset'
Meal Time!
Nymphaea 'Burgundy Princess'
Nymphaea 'Mayla'
Nymphaea 'Gonnère'
Nymphaea 'Mayla' and fish in 300 gallon trough
Nymphaea 'Nigel'

Monday, June 26, 2017

Welcome Ginny Genista

Every year, on the way to work, I drive past a house on Belmont near Caesar Chavez.

In the front yard, there is a beautiful small tree that I have always lusted after, but I never knew what it was. This year I had to swerve over to the parking lane to stop and take a picture. I wish I had run across the street for a better picture, but I was running late for work!

I've since discovered that it is Genista aetensis (Mount Etna Broom).

This time of year, it's a jaw dropper, basically a ball of canary yellow flowers. On closer inspection, the little yellow flowers are pea-like and smell of jasmine.

Out of flower, the tree is almost bare branches with an elegant weeping habit. There are actual leaves but they are very small and not noticeable. The bark is a lovely green. The tree can reach 12-15' tall and likes full sun and good drainage. And who doesn't really?!?

So, having lusted after this tree for awhile, I set out to find it and I did find it at Cistus a year or two ago, but I didn't buy it!

Not sure what I was thinking back then?!?

Perhaps I thought I had been buying too many trees and there was no way I needed another.

Finally this year, the Mardi Gras Gardener and I were back at Cistus and I finally picked one out and bought it. Alan was shocked I think, that after all this time of wanting it, I finally broke down.

I now had to figure out where it was going to go? I have gotten to the point where planing new plants gets harder and harder. Accommodating new shrubs or trees now involves digging up patches of grass.

I ended up moving a Lagerstroemia x 'Piilag-IV' (Moonlight Magic Crape Myrtle) I planted in 2016 in the center floating bed in the front of my house. It shares this bed with another small tree, an Azara microphylla I planted in 2014. The intent being that both these trees are fairly open and will still allow light in.

My little baby Genista (now named "Ginny") is going to take some time to grow, she was a tiny shrubby baby when bought, but my hope is to get her trained right to be a nice multi-trunk tree. She's now even putting on her own little flower show.

I can't wait to watch her grow! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Peonies 2017

To buy peonies, or not to buy peonies, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to just say no?!?  Can I even say no? 

I wasn't, I swear, going to buy any more peonies this year. 

I can debate WANT versus NEED in my head, until my head explodes, but when it comes to peonies, I clearly can't help myself, and why should I anyway?

But as far as addictions go, peonies are a pretty safe one. They don't lock you up for it at least.
Paeonia ostii 'Feng Dan Bai' (Phoenix White) from 2011
Paeonia 'Yachiyo Tsubaki 八千代椿' (Eternal Camellias Tree Peony) in bud from 2015
Paeonia 'Kokuryu Nishiki 黑竜錦' (Black Dragon Brocade Tree Peony) from 2015
Paeonia 'Black Panther 黑豹' (Black Panther Tree Peony) from 2011 with nearly 30 flowers
Much like "45", what comes out of my mouth, is clearly NOT what I will end up doing. So when I babble alternative facts about not getting any more peonies, just nod your head and say "Yeah, right", under your breath. You can't believe a word I say!

As is annually prescribed, Alan and Anita and I went to Adleman Peony Gardens opening weekend this year April 29th. It was interesting in that almost none of the plants were blooming, even in the display garden, so we had to pick plants in bud. Our cold, wet spring had all the plants on a delay. The bonus, however, was getting to see all the buds open at home and be able to enjoy the first year of flowers.

I said I wouldn't get any new babies. I came home with seven. Two or three might have been what a "normal" person would have come home with. Oops!

I've always wanted one of the really dark chocolate red peonies and finally came home with 'Buckeye Belle'.  Also coming home with me this year were more lactiflora type peonies: 'Belleville', 'Fairy Princess', 'Paula Fay', 'Pink Teacup', 'Salmon Dream', and 'Stellar Charm'. I tried to mix up the colors a bit.

In order to incorporate these new plants, and after some debate, an extension on an existing flower bed had to be made. The little flower bed with Cercis canadensis 'Merlot' was too small anyway, so the enlarged bed turned out great.

I was lucky enough to "persuade" (con) Alan of the Mardi Gras Gardener into grabbing a shovel and helping dig grass, while I bashed clumps of sod to get the dirt off. 

The new extension looks a much more appropriate size with the tree now as the focal point and it balances the yard out and gives that side of the garden more paths of grass. See how easily I can justify this in my brain?

Some of the existing plants that were cramscaped into the original bed got moved out into the new space. I did need to buy a few plants that bloom all summer to fill in the spaces after the peonies are no longer showy.

The before - The tiny bed with Cercis canadensis 'Merlot'
The "help" resting.
The after.

This post has pics of some new and some old peonies. There are still so many to open.

New for 2017 - 'Stellar Charm'
New for 2017 - 'Paula Fay'
New for 2017 - 'Salmon Dream' opening

'Rivida' from 2012
Noid peony - I call it 'Fried Eggs' from 2006
Itoh 'Lemon Dream' from 2016

Itoh 'First Arrival' from 2016
Paeonia 'Chojuraku 长寿乐' (Pleasure of Longevity Tree Peony) and Spider friend.

Happy peony-ing!