Friday, December 7, 2012

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

Since it's cold and rainy today (like everyday), it seems appropriate to look back on my trip to Hawaii this past spring. We spent 2 weeks in Maui and the Big Island.  One of the highlights was going to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens in Papaikou, HI.

I went into picture overload with all the amazing flowers in bloom. 

Alpinia zerumbet - Shell Ginger

Zingiber spectabile - Beehive Ginger
Etlingera venusta - Malay Rose Ginger
Orthosiphon stamineus - Cat's Whiskers
Trimezia steyermarkii - Yellow Walking Iris

Heliconia longissima

Etlingera elatior - Torch Ginger

Calathea burle-marxii - Ice Blue Ginger
Not sure if this is really Mucuna bennettii - Red Jade Vine?

Thunbergia mysorensis - Indian Clock Vine
These weasels are adorable but not native.
Justicia aurea - Golden Shrimp Plant
Dendrobuim spectabile - I grew one of these for many years in Portland in my greenhouse - it got to be quite a large plant.  if there ever was a flower that looked like it could eat you - this would be it.
Dietes bicolor - Fortnight Lily

Strongylodon macrobotrys - Blue Jade Vine
Norantea guianensis - Red Hot Poker Vine

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Another love of mine are cactus and for ease of growing and breathtaking beauty, you can't beat Epiphyllums. They grow like a Christmas Cactus on crack.  The only downside is that the flowers only last for about 2 days, but even then, an electric pink flower as big as your head is hard to beat.

Best if grown in a basket so that they can hang, but I have recently seen them grown in pots with tomato cages to hold them up. I hang mine outside in the shade for the summer and hit them with the hose when I am watering the shade perennials.  They winter in the garage under grow lights, because there is no room for them elsewhere. 

Just be careful not to give them too much cold or too much water over winter - you don't want them to rot. They also seem to flower better with a little neglect, which I am happy to accommodate.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Walnut Trees :( Gawd I Hate Them...

My side yard is blessed/cursed with two humongous walnut trees, one Black, one English.

Some genius that owned my property formerly decided planting them both on the lot corner edges was a good idea.

Now don't get me wrong, I love them in summer and enjoy the shade they bring to the yard. I just wish they didn't have to make such a mess the rest of the year.

In spring, I get to pick up the catkins that fall and turn black along with the leaf stems from the previous year from the Black walnut.

Late summer involves the daily picking up of nuts, nut shells and husks that turn the concrete black.

I was lucky this year to escape the plague of tent caterpillars that often take up residence in late summer. One evening, I saw a flock of starlings invade the tree and thoroughly pick it over - thank you! The caterpillars enjoy making their way into the house on occasion. Although the tents are ugly, I do appreciate their eating efforts thus reducing the leaves I have to pick up and adding a little fertilizer to the yard..

Then fall comes and it seems that my trees have to be the last in the hood to turn color and lose their leaves, which means cold, rainy December clean up days for me.

And just to make things even worse, I cannot compost the leaves due to the poison (juglone) in the walnut leaves, so I try to get everything out of the flower beds.  I can't say that I have noticed any of the perennials not thriving under the trees, which is good.

To end my rant about walnut trees, in their defense, I would probably complain about any tree being messy.  The new evergreen southern Magnolia, seems to be catching up in the messy department. So I guess I'll just smile and clean up my leaves in the rain.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Favorite Tomatoes

Here is my list of favorites:

Ananas Noir —The name of this Belgian tomato, introduced by Pascal Moreau in 2005, is French for black pineapple. Produces a large, sprawling, regular leaf plant that yields heavy crop of 1-1½ pounds, round, dark-purple, fruit with green shoulders. Interior color is a tie-dye like mix of pink, red, green yellow colors.  Loaded with an abundance of rich and delicious, full-bodied, sweet and smoky flavors with a whollop of acidity. A great new addition to the list of splendid black tomatoes. Try this tomato in a salad with other colors. Makes a delicious rich tomato sauce. 

Anna Russian — An heirloom oxheart variety from Brenda Hillenius, of Oregon, who got from her grandfather, Kenneth Wilcox, who received seeds from a Russian immigrant. An excellent, gorgeous tomato. Early maturing for a heart-shaped tomato, the large, visually beautiful, pink-red fruit normally weighs about 1 pound. Superb rich old-fashioned, tomato flavors with lots of juice.

Azoyschka — A very productive Russian heirloom found at the Bird Market in Moscow. ("Azoychka" is a woman's name). An indeterminate, open-pollinated. regular-leaf tomato plant that produces an abundant crop (40-50 tomatoes per plant) of smooth, 3”, 10-16 ounce, slightly flattened oblate, meaty, yellow/orange tomatoes with a luscious sweet citrusy flavor. Dependably productive, delicious and deservedly in demand. Unlike most yellow tomatoes this variety has a good acidic balance to its fruity sweetness resulting in lots of robust, complex flavors. A great variety suited to coastal and both warm to cooler growing regions. Produces well into the season. Great for eating in salads, sliced into a sandwich, cooking in sauces or canning. 68-78 days to maturity.

Black from Tula — Russian heirloom from Tula. Largest of the black tomatoes with 3-4", slightly flattened, oblate, dark brown to purple fruit with deep green shoulders. Deliciously outstanding, rich, slightly salty, smoky-fruit flavor. 

Brandywine Red — Red Brandywine is an Old Amish heirloom dating back to 1885. Named after Brandywine Creek in Chester County, PA. Large, vigorous vines produce 8-12 ounce, deep-red fruits in clusters of 4 to 6. Excellent, robust, old-fashioned tomato flavors. 90 days, indeterminate. 2006-2012

Brandywine Yellow — An Amish heirloom variety.  A bright yellow fruit with a superb flavor similar to the other black and red varieties.

Caspian Pink — Originally grown in southern Russia between the Caspian and Black Seas. Thought by some to be "Queen of the Pinks," these prolific, 1-2 pound, globe-shaped, pink-red beefsteak tomatoes that rival Brandywine in popularity and flavor. One of the best known and best-tasting Russian tomatoes. This tomato is perfect for cooler climates. My FAVORITE tomato. OMG one of these on a BLT!  To die for!

Dr. Wyche's Yellow — Given to SSE by the late Dr. John Wyche. Heavy yields of one pound golden-yellow tomatoes. Meaty flesh and rich flavor. Indeterminate, 75-85 days from transplant.  

Japanese Black Trifele — Russian origin. In Russia the Trifele varieties of tomatoes (of which there are several colors) are highly prized and command big prices. This short potato leaf plant yields prolific quantities of 6 oz. fruit that looks like a beautiful mahogany-colored Bartlett pear with greenish shoulders. Very tasty flesh with a meaty core that produces luscious fruit all summer long. A work of art sliced out on a plate and a wonderful flavor that possesses extraordinary rich and complex flavors. Resistant to cracking. Indeterminate, 70-80 days from transplant.  Really super tomato! 

Jaune Flame — Beautiful heirloom that originated with Norbert Perreira of Helliner, France. Early crops of apricot-colored 4 ounce fruits borne on elongated trusses. Excellent fruity flavor with a perfect blend of sweet and tart. Great for drying or roasting, retains deep orange color. Indeterminate, 70-80 days from transplant.  Used these to make really good roasted salsa! 

Mortgage Lifter — A classic old-time, heirloom tomato. A red strain of the Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter that has almost become one of America's favorites. Large, indeterminate, regular-leaf, tomato plants produce good crops of 1-2 pound, slightly ribbed, meaty, red, beefsteak tomatoes with the perfectly rich, sweet, bold, old-fashioned tomato flavors in 85 days. An ideal sandwich tomato. Also a good market tomato due to its taste and beauty.  

Olirose de St. Domanique - 75 days, pink oval fruit, plum-like skin, excellent sweet flavor.  Plant hat many small fruits. Made great sauce.

Oregon Spring — Favorite variety for early silver-dollar sized, bright-red tomatoes. Earliest fruit have little or no seeds. This bush variety was developed at Oregon State University for gardeners with cool summer seasons. Slightly flattened, lusciously sweet and juicy. 60 days, indeterminate.  

Plate de Haiti - The fruits are small-medium and meaty. Made great sauce. 

Paul Robeson — This "black" beefsteak tomato is slightly flattened, round, and grows to 4”. Its deep, rich colors stand it apart from others a dusky, dark-red, with dark-green shoulders, and red flesh in its center. Very flavorful fruits with luscious, earthy, exotic flavors and good acid/sweet balance.  As this tomato variety originates from Siberia and sets fruits at lower temps, it is an excellent choice for cooler growing regions. 

Pineapple — An heirloom garden favorite that grows to 2 pounds. This bi-colored, slightly flattened, yellow beefsteak has a red blushing and streaks on the outside. Its yellow interior contains few seeds and a red star-burst in the center. Taste is wonderfully mild with tropical fruity-sweet flavors. 

Pruden’s Purple — Many folks find this tomato variety comparable in every way to the favorite Brandywine. It has even ranked higher at times in taste trials. Great for hot day and cool night climate. Large potato leaf vine produces lots of 1 pound, slightly flattened, pretty, blemish-free, purple-pink fruits with few tomato seeds and excellent flavor.  

Stupice — One of four tomato varieties sent to the U.S. from the former Czechoslovakia by Milan Sodomka. Compact plants with potato leaf foliage loaded with clusters of 2” fruits. Quite early, great flavor. Heavy yields all season. Produces well in northern climates. Indeterminate, 55-70 days from transplant.

Striped German — Beautiful 1-2 pound fruit with red-yellow stripes and dense, juicy, red-yellow streaked flesh. Excellent sweet, complex flavors. Produces till frost. 78 days, indeterminate.

Taxi — The best tomato variety for an early, lemon-yellow tomato. Seeds produce compact, bushy, determinate, regular-leaf tomato plants that yield 4-6 ounce, meaty, uniformly-round, delicious, bright-yellow  tomatoes that are very sweet (almost seem acid-free). A wonderful choice to add a zesty spark to tomato salads or a splash of bright yellow color to your favorite salsas. Tomatoes hold up well to slicing and they are very suitable for sandwiches. Taxi can be grown well in most areas. They even hold up well in hot, humid growing regions. 

Tomatoes I won't grow again:  

Indigo Rose — Supposed to be a purple variety. Tomatoes themselves were very small and hard. Flavor was okay. The plant grew to 5' tall, but had very low yield.  

Moskovich — A wonderful, extra-early tomato. This heirloom yields an abundance of deep red, 4-6 ounce, smooth, cold-tolerant, round and slightly flattened fruits with a luscious, rich taste. Even earlier than Stupice.  Often gets blossom end rot :(

Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer Bounty

There is nothing I enjoy more than a good BLT!  Especially in late summer when tomatoes are delicious and abundant.

Here in Lents, I am able to grow killer heirloom tomatoes.  I buy plants at the PSU farmers market from my favorite vendor and generally get them into the ground late April or early May.  I know that is too early for some, but I plant them anyway and cross my fingers. Any of the plants I can't find at the farmer's market I get at Portland Nursery.

I till my garden each year in the spring and add a few bags of composted cow manure, mushroom compost, chicken manure and a bale or two of sphagnum peat moss.  There is no formula to what I buy, I just go to Freddies and buy some of each and then throw it all on top and till it into the soil.  I also empty my personal compost pile and till that in as well at the same time.

I channel plant my tomatoes.  Just make a long channel and plant the tomato on its side with just the top most part sticking out. All the planted stem will become roots.  I add a little blood meal to the hole and mix in before I plant the tomato plant.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to invest in good tomato cages.  I have galvanized steel square cages - they are $17-25 each but they can be used again year after year.  They keep the plants upright and can support the weight without falling over. I have had too many huge plants fall over after a big rain in the summer.

Before you place the cage around the tomato, make a ring by removing the dirt around the plant.  This makes it so that when you water you have a bit of a depression for the water to pool in instead of running all over the place.  It makes it so much easier to water and know that the roots are actually getting the water they need. 

I mulch around my plants with grass clippings from the yard. The grass eventually gets tilled in the next season.

I try not to water overhead during the summer and just water with the hose at the base of the plants.

I enjoy buckets of heirlooms every year using this process.  I have more than I can ever use.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I had been lusting after this water lily (N. ‘Wanvisa’) at Hughes Water Gardens for a while.

I went earlier in the spring and first noticed it, but I didn't buy it at the time (what was I thinking?!?).

A few weeks passed and I was still lusting after it. I went back one day because I was depressed and needed some retail plant therapy. I was wondering through the hardy water lily house only to find that they were all gone!

I wandered around looking at other plants, kicking myself for not buying it earlier when I would have had pick of the litter.

I wasn't going to give up, so I asked a clerk if they had any others and fortunately for me, she knew there was one in an area away from the usual place.

N. ‘Wanvisa’

I scooped it up as fast as I could!  Boy am I glad! 

N. ‘Wanvisa’
N. ‘Wanvisa’

N. ‘Wanvisa’

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hummingbird Crack

I just can't say enough good things about Lobelia tupa (aka Tobacco del Diablo) or as I call it "Hummingbird Crack." 

Here in Portland, it emerges in spring and can be 7-8 feet tall by the end of summer. The plant itself stays only a few feet tall, but the flower spikes get quite tall over time.  It does have a nice coarse texture which is a nice contrast to other plants too and it enjoys its home in hot full sun.

In fall, I just let it die back and then cover the crown with bark for the winter. It does leave a big hole in the flowerbed when it is sleeping though as it takes up a lot of room when growing.

The Hummers are very territorial in my yard and fight over this plant constantly.  There is one that has a lookout in a neighboring Camellia and will fight off any other Hummer that comes near it.

I'm 6'2", the blooms get very tall by September.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This is Why I Hate The Oregonian

It is amazing how a little thing, going on from week to week, month to month, year to year, can slowly make you crazy.

Here in Portland, The Oregonian delivers a free Food Day newspaper to my neighborhood - it comes in a non-recyclable plastic bag.

For years, I have removed the paper from the plastic bag and put the paper in the recycling and put the plastic bag in the garbage can.  Week after week, the same thing...

Not infrequently, I have to crawl to the back of the flower bed to retrieve said paper, because the driveway is apparently too small a target for the paper delivery person to hit.

Personally, I don't believe in reading newspapers. I think it is a waste and it is not my lifestyle. Some people enjoy it but not me. I prefer to get my news off the internet, so no trees are harmed and there is nothing to recycle.

I've called The Oregonian MANY times to ask them to stop delivering this paper, but to no success.

While I'm sure some high school student is better off for having this paper delivery job - I'm sure they are also smart enough to not deliver a paper to someone that doesn't want one. 

Perhaps I should just be thankful I didn't have to crawl through the flower bed to get this one.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Oops I Did it Again!

It all began with a bouquet of flowers.  I was feeling down and out the last few months.  Seems like everyone I know has health problems or is on the verge of dying.

My darling partner sent me these flowers to cheer me up, little did he know that it was going to happen after.  I absolutely fell in love with the red peony as it opened into a huge red bomb.

After researching the interwebs, I deduced that it was mostly likely called 'Red Charm', which was later corroborated at the PSU Farmer's Market. All the flower vendor's had zillions of them. One of them being Adelman Peony Gardens in Salem, OR and they had a lovely catalog to take home.

So Sunday we took a drive down there to check it out.
Adelman Peony Gardens had a lovely display garden with peonies, iris and lupines blooming.  Some of the peonies were bloomed out already, but there was still a lot to see.

One of the best attractions was the short walk from the parking lot to the adjacent growing fields, where you could see rows and rows of still flowering plants and walk among them.  It gives a great opportunity to see the size of the plants, the foliage and the true color of the flowers. 

They had a nice plant sales area. I already had a catalog to drool over for several weeks, so I knew what I wanted and had the names, colors and prices sort of figured out in my brain beforehand.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Leslie Peck'
Adelman Peony Gardens is only open May 1-June 15, so in the future I will go earlier than later, as a couple of my desired plants were sold out already.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Sword Dance'
I kind of shot myself in the foot because when all was said and done I had eight new peonies. Which is great!  But now I need to dig out some lawn and make a new flowerbed for them...

But I guess I needed more room to plant anyway.