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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday, March 2013

Welcome to my Wildflower Wednesday post.  To view other wildflowers check out Gail's Clay and Limestone blog, where she is featuring lots of good information on toothwort.  Very cute.

One small tree is blooming now, Oemleria cerasiformis, Indian Plum.  I only discovered it a couple of years ago, the flowers are not very big, and though I tried to look at all the bushes in my yard I have yet to find any plums.  Surely they cannot all be male plants?   Disappointing.

The most colorful wildflowers at present are on another small tree, the Red-flowering Currants, Ribes sanguinem.

The deer started paying attention to my big clumps of Trilliums last year and now I can't seem to find them coming up, but I did find some blooming hidden in a patch of Salal-

There are some flower buds coming on the Oregon Holly Grape, formerly Mahonia nervosa.  I'm with you Gail, on those pesky Taxonomists who are wreaking havoc on many of my plant names.
Love those leaves.

Enjoy those spring blooms and plant some natives this year!


Enduring Evergreen Ground Covers

Some plants I find essential for a low maintenance landscape are evergreen ground covers.  I use quite a few since I have 2 acres, with a lot of large Western Red Cedars, fruit orchards, vegetable and flower beds, and lawn, so lots of opportunities for weeds.   The Cedar trees create a condition of dry shade with a lot of root competition underneath extending a long way out from the tree itself.  We used to fight weeds in these places, but ground covers have been excellent, one of the strongest is Vinca major.   Don't plant Vinca if you might want to remove it eventually, though, or some of these other ground covers.  (Two chicken tractors are in the background.)

Vinca minor is a much lower grower but will not keep other weeds out as well.  The glossy deep green leaves always look perfect.

Here is a variegated variety now blooming, it is neat and brightens gloomy shade-

Another variegated ground cover with glossy leathery leaves is Euonymus fortune 'Emerald Gaiety', a tough and slow-growing plant that trails and can slowly become a low shrub.  This is on a slight slope and allows some Brunswick Blueberries to grow up through it.

A ground cover that does well under cedars is hardy Geranium macrorrhizum, which blooms in the early summer and spreads well.  It doesn't have as much presence in winter but is still green.

A truly great ground cover under trees is Symphytum grandiflorum, dwarf Comfrey.  Amazingly all these plants came from a single 4" pot.   It will grow under the Cedars, but where it really shines is in a fruit orchard, where it seems able to suppress weeds, even the bad grasses I fight, eliminating mowing and weed whacking.   It is not so dense I can't find fallen fruit in it either.  Notice the lack of weeds.

In the center of the orchard where the Comfrey has not filled in I will be planting some native wildflowers this year, so I'm using newspaper to kill off grass and moss.  The Comfrey is just beginning to bloom, with little tubular flowers characteristic of the Borage family, there is a strain with deeper blue flowers, Hidcote Blue, but I don't have it.

Another choice ground cover for shade, but slow-growing compared to the others, is Epimedium, here sulphureum.  They have leathery leaves, and small "bishop's hat" flowers in spring, many flower colors and leaf shapes have been developed, notably by Collector's Nursery.  Epimedium also has a reputation as a medicinal herbal.

A native plant that could be considered a ground cover in sufficient number is the Sword Fern, which gets quite large and can spread by spores.  There is some Salal, Vinca major and minor in the photo-

Another PNW native ground cover is Salal, with leathery leaves, tubular flowers in spring, and edible berries excellent for antioxidants.  I have found it easy to transplant.  It can be used in flower arrangements.  Here is some with Oregon Holly Grape- Mahonia nervosa, and a Sword fern.

Oregon Holly Grape also makes a good ground cover but doesn't fill in well enough to keep out weeds and blackberry vines, so I have been working on weeding this patch and mulching with leaves, it is a wonderful plant with yellow flowers in spring and edible blue-black healthful berries, and attractive leaves, very drought tolerant.   I have not had success with transplanting it or growing it from seed.

A ground cover for sun is Rubus calycinoides, creeping Raspberry.  It flowers and I've seen one in a strip mall parking strip that fruits amazingly, but mine does not.  Perhaps that one is on a sprinkler system while mine gets almost no water in summer.   The berries are insipid, yellow. It is reputed to suppress grass but mine does not, as you can see from the grass stubble left, and Canadian thistle also comes up in mine.  It has cute rounded leathery leaves which look great cascading down a wall, and is very drought tolerant, as are all these.  The plant stubs on the left are the native Fireweed.

A closer look at the leaves-

Another ground cover that spreads well in sun is a dwarf form of Lamb's Ear, Stachys byzantina 'Silky Fleece'.  This has been growing from divisions from a single pot for 2 years.  It has very short bloom stalks, and in summer a more silvery look.

Another tough plant for sun, that gets wider but doesn't seem to self-sow for me, is Heather.  There is a wide range of leaf color and shape, bloom season, and flower color, so heathers can be arranged like a patchwork quilt for year-round interest.  They can be maintained by shearing them once a year if desired, I haven't. This one blooms in winter-

A choice ground cover with deep green glossy leaves that needs very little summer water and spreads well is Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Massachusetts', which has little tubular flowers in spring and red berries, but doesn't shut out grass enough for me, so every spring I have to weed it out.

Some other hardy geraniums can do very well in sun or part shade, like G. maculatum, which self-sows, and is covered in light purple flowers for months, and has successfully established itself as a ground cover in some beds, as this bed in summer-

G. sanguineum also self-seeds, and makes large low clumps covered like a bouquet in spring with pink or deep magenta flowers, but has not filled in to the extent of G. maculatum or macrorrhizum, pictured here blooming in early summer-

A delicate ground cover that is even edible, and can persist in winter in a sheltered location like a north-facing wall, is Campanula poscharskyana, which is covered in small magenta star flowers in spring.

Another plant for part shade to shade is Saxifraga x urbium Variegata 'London's Pride'.    It makes rosettes and blooms with sprays of tiny airy flowers on tall stalks in spring, very delightful.  It is a very tough plant and I can break off rosettes and plant them elsewhere successfully, where they will slowly spread.    I got a cute silvery Saxifrage last year but it didn't seem to want to grow as readily.:-(

A delicate deep green whorled evergreen that lives in shade but is not very competitive is Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum.  It can live on very little water, is fragrant when crushed, and has white flowers in spring.

A ground cover with potential for a lot of spreading but cute enough to be forgiven is Ajuga, it even looks great in a lawn.   Many have burgundy foliage, most with blue but some with pink flower spikes in spring.

I transplanted a variegated Ajuga last year to my new garden bed and it responded to more sun with a lot of runners.  It is looking rather geometric as it is sending up new bloom spikes-

As a warning, here is a ground cover thug, I got this in a trade long ago, and I love other Lamiums, but L. galeobdolon, Archangel, while a very lovely plant, is extremely invasive and hard to get rid of.  It tends to overrun other plants so unless extremely isolated it should be avoided.  Pretty though, huh?  There are a few plants of Herb Robert in the photo, it's another thug that will try to take over your yard, I don't know how they do it but the seeds really get around.  It is supposed to have medicinal value, though.  I work on trying to get rid of both when I can.

These are some of my major tools toward a more low maintenance garden.

Happy Spring, Hannah

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day March 2013

Welcome to my GBBD  post, join other gardeners around the world on gracious hostess Carol's May Dreams Gardens website to see what's blooming now.  Spring seems to be arriving here, probably about on schedule.  We have been having very warm temperatures though, usually it has to be raining constantly to get this warm.  The best winter bloomer would have to be Helleborus niger and orientalis.

I even went overboard adding to my Hellebores yesterday, from Fred Meyer and Shorty's Nursery, some that have more upfacing flowers and frosty leaves- no name-
Winter Moonbeam-
Pink Beauty-

Ivory Prince-
Winter Jewels Cherry Blossom-

White Marble-

And blooming in my yard, the first daffodils of the season-

Self-sown Pulmonaria-

A Muscari, one year I had some that started blooming in fall.

A winter-blooming Heather-

A bedding Primula, oddly all the ones that have returned and are blooming now are this rich blue-

And finally, some of those Pansies I couldn't resist at the nursery, these are double and ruffly, I will put them in my baskets-

Spring is only a week away, enjoy!


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday

I want to show off my latest acquisitions from Forest Farm.  They are mostly Goldenrods, which I became interested in from photographic enticements from Wildflower Wednesday posts hosted on Gail's Clay and Limestone blog, visit her for Wildflower Wednesday links to other gardens around the world.  So, here are 5 cultivated forms that should perform well without being too aggressive.  From the top clockwise are Solidago Golden Fleece, S. Laurin, S. Little Lemon (little leafy top cut out of photo),  S. Solar Cascade, oddball Persicaria affinis Dimity, and S. Fireworks.  Most are short, 1' to 2-3'.  I favored ones that don't need moist soil.

I find the Goldenrods interesting not only for their bright yellow blooms that appeal to pollinators, which flock to them, but also because they tend to spread well with rhizomes and I am looking for plants that can compete with the weedy grasses I battle every year.   I also like their medicinal qualities, they are native American plants and have been used by various native tribes for various ailments.  There seems to be a lot of variation among the different species and varieties, judging from the difference in leaves among the 5 plants I ordered.   In addition I have S. odora on order, which is the one with anise-scented leaves and flowers that makes good tea, and am attempting to grow S. nemoralis- Grey Field Goldenrod, and S. Golden Baby from seed, so far without success as they seem to need chilling and are in pots in the refrigerator.

Forest Farm uses lots of newspaper cleverly arranged and taped to keep the pots and soil from moving around, in the bottom of a tall box standing way above the little plants.  It will be interesting to see how they do, now I have to decide on where to site the different plants without really knowing where each will do best, though research helps a little.

The plants will hang out for a while on my east-facing concrete front porch, which acts like a heat sink to keep plants there warmer than the ambient air temperatures.   Some other plants I have been overwintering there are some mini roses that do better in pots since rabbits like to eat them in the wintertime.
To the right are a Sarracenia and a Venus flytrap overwintering, most are native in the southeast USA, though Sarracenia purpureum is native here, this will be their second winter and I should probably get the right soil and repot them to give them more room.  In front are some  Primulas grown from seed last fall that will be planted out later.

Things are moving on toward spring here too, Gail, can't wait!