January 2012 Plant Profile: Salix lasiandra

January 13th, 2012 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s been a very mild winter season so far and and we’ve been blessed with several cool and clear days that bring out the best in the winter landscape. Working out in the Union Bay Natural Area, I was drawn by the picturesque views of the bay and looking out into the restoration sites, I also couldn’t help but notice the glowing stems of vibrant willows. Naturally occurring in consistently wet areas, UBNA just seems to glow and you can’t help but stop and admire them especially on a sunny day. UBNA is home to several species of willow, but the Pacific Willow stands out the most.

In the managed landscape, there are several species and cultivated varieties of Salix that are highly attractive. Salix alba, a European species, comes to mind along with the cultivars ‘Golden Curls’ and ‘Scarlet Curls’ derived as hybrids from S. matsudama ‘Tortuosa’, the famous “corkscrew willow”. These plants are fast growing and are often best coppiced in the winter or late springtime to get the slimmest stems with the most intense color the following year. This is achieved by taking down the shrub to about 6-10 inches tall and allowing new growth to develop from the base.

Common Name: Pacific Willow
Family: Salicaceae
Location: Union Bay Natural Area
Origin: Pacific Northwest Native
Height and spread: 20-30ft. high and 10-15ft. wide.
Bloom Time: Late winter

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December 2011 Plant Profile: Ilex x koehneana

December 16th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

UWBG has the one of the largest Holly collections in North America and this particular hybrid tends to get by unnoticed until one actually gets up close to admire its bold presence as a broadleaf evergreen shrub. It almost looks like a magnolia or something from the tropics, but it’s perfectly hardly for us here in the Pacific Northwest.

This Ilex is a hybrid between the common I. aquifolium (English Holly) and I. latifolia (Lusterleaf Holly). It does not reseed itself prolifically like English Holly and makes a stately background plant that has endured poor soil, limited irrigation, and is likely to thrive in both sun and part shade.

Common Name: Koehne Holly
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Location: Soest Garden South Slope
Origin: Garden
Height and spread: 15-20ft. high and 10-15ft. wide. Various cultivars exist that are shorter or taller.
Bloom Time: Late spring
Bloom Type/Color/Fruit: Dioecious, white flowers followed by red drupes in autumn/winter on current year’s wood.

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November 2011 Plant Profile: Acer griseum

November 13th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Fall color this autumn has been truly exceptional and this wonderful maple is no exception. Though more well known for it’s papery bark, Acer griseum is one of the most beloved landscape trees here in the Pacific Northwest. You see it more frequently these days as street trees and main specimen subjects in small urban gardens because of it’s slow-moderate growth rate.


Here it is just a few months ago. What makes this maple so distinct and easy identifiable is the bark, of course, but the foliage isn’t palmately dissected like the Japanese maples, but instead it’s a compound leaf with several leaflets.

Acer griseum fall color
Come fall, the foliage takes on a spectacular orange/red color that’s more pronounced when planted in full sun, but since this adaptable plant also thrives in part sun, the fall color is more yellow.

My friend Sean Barton with one of the largest specimens of Acer griseum I've ever seen at Bodnant Gardens in Wales, UK during a visit earlier this spring.

Common Name: Paperbark Maple
Family: Sapindaceae
Location: North of Merrill and NHS Hall
Origin: SW China
Height and spread: 18-20ft. high and 15-18ft. wide. Older specimens will ultimately reach 40-50ft.
Bloom Time: Early June
Bloom Type/Color/Fruit: Almost inconspicuous flowers appear in spring followed by dull green samaras appear in mid-summer.

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October 2011 Plant Profile: Vitis coignetiae

October 4th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Vitis coignetiae

Another woody plant has captured our attention this month and is deserving of this autumn highlight and that’s the Crimson Glory Vine.

While most grapes are fruiting now and express some fall color, this outstandingly large and colorful vine is mesmerizing to see especially when back lit by the western exposure of the sun. A entire kaleidoscope of rich purples, bright crimsons, yellow, reds and oranges along with the aging green is a sight to see.

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It is readily available and fairly easy to care for. It requires full sun, but can tolerate part shade, and moderate irrigation. It also requires quite a bit of space, but responds pretty well to pruning in mid-summer to control its size and habit on a trellis or similar structure.

Common Name: Crimson Glory Vine
Family: Vitaceae
Location: North of Merrill Hall and South of Issacson Hall on trellises
Origin: Russia, Korea, and Japan
Height and spread: 20-30ft. +
Bloom Time: Early June
Bloom Type/Color/Fruit: Almost inconspicuous racemes with small white lowers later forming into chalking purple blue fruit that are slightly bitter and tart with prominent seeds.

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September 2011 Plant Profile: Vitex agnus-castus

September 1st, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

I’ve decided to go with a woody species this month so I selected the fabulous Chaste Tree. Our specimen here at CUH is just coming into bloom and will absolutely peak in the next couple of weeks attracting bees, butterflies, and other wildlife while also attracting the attention of our frequent visitors who inquire as to “why do you grow butterfly bush? Don’t know you know it’s a noxious weed?!”


Vitex agnus-castus makes a wonderful substitute to the agressively self-seeding Buddleja davidii. It has a far more elegant appearance with it’s scented, silvery green, palmately compound leaflets and the conical, upright flowering stems that bear lavender flowers that really look like butterfly bush.

As a Mediterranean native, it prefers a warm environment in full sun and fairly well drained soil. It is readily available in most garden centers and while the most common form is the lilac color. Vitex also comes in white and pink. Though hardy and thrives in the Pacifc Northwest, it is VERY slow to leaf out and looks like a dead tree in early summer before it begins to leaf out. Vitex comes into its own in later summer entering fall, which makes it so ideal for later season interest.


Common Name: Chaste Tree
Family: Lamiaceae
Location: Douglas Conservatory Parking Lot
Origin: Mediterranean
Height: 5 meters
Spread: 5 meters
Bloom Time: Late August-September
Bloom Type/Color: Upright panicles of lavender, occasionally white and pink forms available.

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August 2011 Plant Profile: Eucomis bicolor

August 2nd, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Pineapple lilies are gaining popularity as gardeners are finally giving them a chance! Though somewhat marginally hardy and very tropical in appearance, a handful of species and hybrids do quite well here in the Pacific Northwest given that they receive excellent drainage (especially during the winter) and regular watering during the growing season. Eucomis bicolor is one of the more common and easily sought after species as it truly showcases why this genus is known as “pineapple lily”

Eucomis bicolor about to flower in late July

The strappy foliage, sometimes mottled in purple on the undersides, is attractive by itself, but emerging from the center is this alien-like creature about to invade.

Common Name: Pineapple Lily
Family: Asparagaceae
Location: Soest Garden Bed 8
Origin: South Africa
Height: 12-15″
Spread: Can form a clump 2-3 feet wide after many years
Bloom Time: Late July-August
Bloom Type/Color: Cylindrical raceme on stout stems with
cream white florets streaked in purple and unpleasantly
scented observed up close. Green bracts on top that create a “pineapple” look.
Exposure/Water/Soil:Full sun/part shade in well-drained soil. Regular irrigation.

An immature inflorescence of E. bicolor

A stem of E. bicolor in full bloom last summer in August.


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July 2011 Plant Profile: Triteleia (Brodiaea)

July 10th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Triteleia 'Rudy'

Triteleia in McVay Courtyard with Nolina nelsonii in the background.

Somewhat of a taxonomic nightmare, but truly a much overlooked summer flowering bulb! Planted as a group, these put on a colorful show in early summer as they first emerge as fleshy, grass-like plants, but then they’re soon followed by wiry stems hold up clusters of blue-violet blooms (also comes in white) that are eye-catchy and truly spectacular. The seed heads will also dry adding a little longer interest. This particular cultivar pictured is called ‘Rudy’ with a cool blue suffused in white. It thrives happily emerging from ornamental grasses and just popping up as a planned surprise. These are charming, so easy to grow and need to be used more often.

Common Name: Triplet Lily, Brodiaea
Family: Asparagaceae
Location: Soest Garden Bed 6
Origin: Western USA
Height: 10-12″
Spread: Each inflorescence is about 6-8″ wide.
Bloom Time: Late June/July.
Bloom Type/Color: Terminal umbels on wiry stems with clusters of typically blue/violet flowers,
Exposure/Water/Soil: Full sun in well-drained soil.

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June 2011 Plant Profile: Glumicalyx goseloides

June 6th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Walking down the Soest Garden, it’s very easy to miss seeing this remarkable perennial plant all the way from South Africa. It’s a low growing evergreen perennial herb with foliage that has a pungent scent to your fingers if you touch it and if you kneel down and observe the unique tubular flowers, you’ll pick up on the “artificial chocolate” scent. What is really special about this delicate plant is its hardiness. It has survived temperatures in the lower teens (Fahrenheit) provided that it’s in a well drained spot in full sun.

Common Name: Nodding Chocolate Flower
Family: Scrophulariaceae
Location: Soest Garden Bed 8 (Southeast corner of bed)
Origin: South Africa
Height: 10-15″
Spread: 12-15″
Bloom Time: Late May and throughout the summer if deadheaded
Bloom Type/Color: Terminal racemes of nodding flowers of red/orange with a unique fragrance.
Exposure/Water/Soil: Sun-Part Shade. Moderately moist and well draining soil.

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May 2011 Plant Profile: Daphne x transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’

May 11th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Having the coldest spring on record, I figured it would be fitting to introduce this excellent garden plant that might describe what kind of summer we have.

Daphne x transatlantica 'Summer Ice'

Daphne ‘Summer Ice’ is becoming a widely recognized small shrub for the Pacific Northwest. It’s dependable, easy to care for, once established, and possesses fine qualities as such persistent leaves (for the most part) and wonderfully sweet fragrance that’s present almost year round. Gardeners have been impressed with its tidy habit often forming a compact mount with dense blooms from top to bottom.

Common Name: ‘Summer Ice’ Daphne
Family: Thymelaeaceae
Location: Fragrance Garden
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 2.5-3ft.
Spread: 3ft. wide
Bloom Time: Intermittently throughout the year.
Bloom Type/Color: Terminal clusters of white-pale pink,tubular flowers with exceptional fragrance.
Exposure/Water/Soil: Sun-Part Shade. Moderately moist and well draining soil.

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Perennial Plant Trials: Blooms of Bressingham Report 2009-2010

April 27th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

UPDATED FOR YOUR REFERENCE AS YOU SEEK OUT NEW PERENNIAL PLANTS FOR YOUR GARDEN!!

2009-2010 Blooms of Bressingham Plant Evaluation Profiles

A little introduction:

Since 1997, the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) has been the recipient of plants from one of the most prominent names in the perennial plant industry. Blooms of Bressingham (referred to simply as “BLOOMS”) has been a source of the world’s finest perennial plant introductions for many years. Based in the UK with headquarters in North America, they’ve partnered with gardens all around the United States to evaluate the performance of their plants. Each year at CUH, samples are acquired, grown on and planted out in three island beds just west of Merrill Hall and, in recent years, container displays at Washington Park Arboretum. What looks like an extravagant perennial border is actually a test plot where the performance of each variety is scrutinized. Then recommendations and feedback are given back to BLOOMS.

For the 2010, season, we’ve decided to bring back the evaluation program after a few years hiatus. With the assistance of knowledgeable volunteers, BLOOMS has been consistently getting us new plant material and we’ve become a showcase garden for both new and older varieties for people to see before they head out to a local nursery and find these varieties for their own landscapes.

With the gardens changing each growing season with new plants and deletion of older varieties that are no longer performing as well as they should (often times being surpassed by improved selections), our maps are updated regularly and copies can be found at the reception desk at Merrill Hall.

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