March 2011 Plant Profile: The Genus Helleborus

March 9th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The popularity of this tough and resilient perennial has made it one of the most revered and sought after of all winter blooming plants in our climate. The range of varieties and different color forms now available is quite remarkable and being able to select just one for your garden is near impossible.

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Black Diamond

By far the most popular and well known are the diverse hybrids of Helleborus x hybridus (often incorrectly dubbed as Helleborus orientalis) or the Lenten Rose. These represent the wide range of colors and forms that currently exist and some of the finest examples come from a breeder who generously donated some of their previous breeding stock to UW Botanic Gardens, which are all now in full bloom at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Ernie and Marietta O’byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery developed the fabulous Winter Jewels Series. Thousands of crosses comprised of hybrids bred from at least 16 different species make up several color strains to showcase much improved flower forms, exquisite colors and unusual markings.

Here’s just an example of their work and what’s currently blooming now:

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Jade Star flower reverse

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Onyx Odyssey reverse

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ Painted

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Golden Lotus

When it comes to early bloom, prolific flowers and sturdy, disease-free foliage, the new hybrids coming out of Europe are tough to beat. The “Gold Collection”, again a complex series of hybrids are actually identical clones propagated vegetatively (via tissue culture) to ensure uniformity. In varying shades of pure white, cream, to deep saturated pinks, these have proven to be vigorous and excellent garden or container perennials. ‘Joseph Lemper’ our January 2010 Plant Profile) along with ‘Jacob’ are two selections of Helleborus niger that are a part of this Gold Collection. Then you have the exquisite quality of varieties such as ‘Ivory Prince’ and ‘Pink Frost’ that are flying off the nursery tables at nurseries in mid-winter.

Helleborus 'Josef Lemper'

A brand new hybrid that was new for us last year is getting established and looking quite lovely is Helleborus x ‘Rosemary’. An unusual cross between H x hybridus and H. niger bringout the fine qualities of both plants.

Then you have the sturdiness and dependability of species such as Helleborus argutifolius, the Corsican Hellebore, which opens later in the spring with pale green flowers. A selection called ‘Silver Lace’ is lovely with finer dissected foliage and a more compact habit. Helleborus foetidus you can find growing in the Fragrance Garden despite its unpleasant smell if admired up close, The foliage is exquisitely elegant, narrow and finely dissected.

Hellebores will be the highlight of an early spring plant sale taking place here at CUH being run by the Northwest Horticultural Society. Proceeds from the sales go to support the Miller Horticultural Library and there will be plant vendors from all around the Puget Sound region selling plants and, yes, they’ve been asked to also bring their blooming hellebores to entice you! There will be demonstrations, displays, and even a talk by renowned plantsman, Dan Hinkley.

For more information, please visit our page dedicated to this event!

This is the perfect month to see these wonderful jewels in person as the weather begins to warm, the earliest of bulbs begin to pop and the color heralding the arrival of spring.

Common Name: Lenten Rose, Christmas Rose
Family: Ranunculaceae
Location: Throughout CUH
Origin: Original species come from Eastern regions of Europe. Mostly hybrids.
Height: 10″-18″ tall
Spread: mature clumps can get 2.5ft. wide
Bloom Time: Mid-Winter-Early Spring
Bloom Type/Color: Flowers composed of persistent sepals often marked or fully double with central nectaries. Flowers are out to downfacing opening sequentially.
Water/Soil: Moist to moderately dry. Drought tolerant once established.

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CUH Update – January 2011: A frosty start to a new year

January 11th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The start of the new year brings with it a bit of sad news as one of our gardeners here at CUH has decided to take another position that’s full time, leaving just two half-time gardeners to oversee the grounds here. With our staff so limited as it is to oversee all aspects of the work we do and a budget that’s going to see more cuts, getting a new gardener sometime soon is highly unlikely. So, we certainly have challenges ahead of us, but we move forward.

January has traditionally been the coldest month of they year, but with our cold snap of November and drab December, I’m just praying that we don’t endure anymore severe fluctuations in temperature and prolonged subfreezing temperatures. So many plants have been hit and we’re all just waiting for signs of spring to distract us from our worries. Luckily, daffodils are showing signs of life as are the lovely Hellebores we are most excited about watching bloom in the next couple of weeks! You might remember ‘Josef Lemper’ from last year along with ‘Jacob’, ‘Pink Frost’ and the highly anticipated ‘Walburton’s Rosemary’. Then come the x hybridus selections that will be standouts in the Soest Garden for sure!!

We’ve also been trying to plant, if soil allows us so, and our focus has been getting our vine collection out of the nursery and into the grounds of CUH. Several grape species (Vitis) have been installed to clamber around the Southwest side of Merrill Hall and a few Clematis species climbing or carpeting the slopes of the Stormwater Garden. They’ve been mulched well in the hopes they survive the transplant well and establish as quickly as possible.

The McVay Courtyard will undergo a bit of a facelift to help spruce up the site with the addition of a new maple tree, flowering perennials and bulbs and the relocation of a large specimen of Edgeworthia chrysantha that will need to carefully be dug and transplanted to two possible locations. You might recall this plant suffering from the cold last month, so we will try and find a more sheltered location for it.

Now with more snow in the forecast, we have to pace ourselves and pray we get everything we want to get done, accomplished. It’s mother nature; you always have to try and work with it, never against it!

I’m sure it’ll be forgiving, it always seems to be.

Think spring….and tell it to hurry!!

Riz

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CUH Update – November 2010: Color and Winter

November 12th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

It’s been a cold nippy November and we’re taking a little extra time to put on a few extra layers before heading outside to work. Temperatures are dropping and it’s really time to start thinking about winter. The plants are on their last legs and the last of the tremendous fall foliage we’ve been blessed with this autumn are carpeting our grounds and exposing an occasional clear blue sky above. Indian summer has been frequent and we’ve all been soaking it all in.

The Lagerstroemias this year have had wonderful fall color to make up for its lack of prolific flowers this summer and the Parrotia persica in the Soest Garden have exhibited the best color yet in the three years I’ve overseen them. All of the fall blooming stars never fail to hit their queue and some of the regular summer bloomers have hung around for a little encore. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ continues to churn out blooms along with salvias, chrysanthemums, and various asters. Of course, the grasses are hitting their stride and are looking spectacular and I’m finding that more and more people are catching on and are willing to try them out in their gardens because they are so eye-catching and easy to maintain.

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind' illuminated by an autumn sunset

November is also a time when we prepare the nursery for the winter and our cohorts over at Washington Park Arboretum have helped us put up the plastic covering on our hoophouses and brought our container stock into a bed of sawdust where they overwinter.


The key is to prevent the rootballs of these otherwise hardy plants from freezing and thawing and by having them in sawdust, it’s almost like having them directly in the ground where the soil temperatures stay relatively even so the top few inches of sawdust can freeze, but the whole rootball itself is perfectly fine underneath.

October and November are very busy planting times for us and rather than overwintering the whole inventory, we’ve been working on finding permanent homes for some of the plants in stock. We are looking forward to the bloom of a generous donation of Hellebores from Ernie and Marrieta O’Byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery who have bred the fabulous “Winter Jewels” series. Paying them a visit last summer to pick up these plants was such a treat. Their gardens are some of the best I’ve ever visited and their breeding program was so fascinating to learn about.

So, look for these Hellebores peppered throughout CUH in the winter time and look for “Winter Jewels” at your local nursery!!

T & L Nursery also came through with another donation to us this year with a nice assortment of new ornamental grasses and some classic perennials such as Siberian Iris and herbaceous peonies that we’ve never had in the garden before. They will be a fabulous addition to the wonderful assortment of perennials we have.

McVay Courtyard after later leaf drop

If you ever have any questions about the grounds and landscapes here at CUH, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We aren’t always out in the garden to greet you, but we hope you’ll enjoy your visit.

Cheers,

Riz
Soest Perennial Display Garden
rhr2382@uw.edu
206-897-1434 (voicemail)

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CUH Update March 2010: “Wow! Things are early!”

March 5th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

“It’s crazy!”, a visitor commented as I carefully weeded around emerging tulips and blooming lungworts busting out blooms and color we didn’t come to expect until later this month. It kind of has been crazy, but I told her to just enjoy and soak it all in.

I’m a bit irritated that I’m in the office writing this update when it’s bright and remarkably warm outside. haha. But it’s important that I get the word out to encourage EVERYONE to visit the Center for Urban Horticulture this month. So many of our winter blooming treasures are still present while a surge of spring bloomers are coming up WEEKS ahead of their usual bloom times.

The Magnolias (M. ‘Leonard Messel’) are in full peak bloom as are the daffodils in the Soest Garden. Our plant pick-of-the-month is a gorgeous kaufmanniana species tulip called ‘Ancilla’, also in the Soest (Bed 6). Of course, we have to keep in eye out for those plants just coming up that present themselves as a buffet to pesky snails and slugs that can dessimate a stand of plants. We use the safe and environmentally friendly slug bait called “Sluggo” to keep them at bay.

The Fragrance Garden is getting a bit of a makeover as we play “musical plants” and redesign the beds for a more cohesive appearance and to ensure that plants are appropriately placed for best growth. Come see the changes and watch this garden continue to evolve as you savor the wonderful aromas this landscape exudes. Right now, the daphnes take center stage and the vanilla/white chocolate scent of Azara microphylla is absolutely mouth-watering as it drifts in the warm spring air.

We have a new large specimen that has just recently been installed in the west entry of CUH. A mature Carpenteria californica was transplanted from the Aboretum and founds its new home here at CUH. It is somewhat gangly in appearance, but we hope it establishes well for us to prune it later on so it can continue to thrive. Carpenteria californica is a native of California, obviously, and it is an evergreen shrub with clouds of single white flowers that almost resemble species roses that bloom in early summer. It also has exquisite exfoliating bark and it is quite drought tolerant once established.

Our famous grove of Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) is in full, bright-yellow bloom and seems to slow traffic along NE 41st. Street! Soon these will leaf out and charge the whole character of the landscape!

Please drop by soon as the spring show is well underway. I’d hate for you all to miss it!

Riz

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