July 2010 Plant Profile: Cornus elliptica

July 8th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Taxonomically confusing and undecisive, but I am so enamored by this small tree from China.

We have this stunning specimen growing here at CUH (within the Fragrance Garden, though it’s not fragrant at all) and, each June-July, I stare in amazement at the glossy evergreen foliage blushed in deep red and bronze with a smattering of star-like bracts that cover almost the entire tree from top to bottom.

Cornus elliptica habit

Cornus elliptica in flower

Cornus elliptica

This tree has been referred to as:

Cornus angustata
Cornus capitata
C. capitata ssp. angustata
C. capitata var. angustata
Cornus kousa v. angustata (this is how we currently have it labeled)
C. kousa v. angustifolia
Cornus elliptica
Dendrobenthamia angustata

Potential graduate work to sort all this out? Oh you betcha!

Now, there’s a plant in commerce called ‘Elsbry’ trademarked EMPRESS OF CHINA. that was selected by John Elsley. While available at a few nurseries here in Seattle, he’s worried that we might not have the heat in the summer to get this plant blooming here in the Puget Sound area, but with our evergreen dogwood at UWBG, perhaps that’s the one that we should be propagating and distributing to gardeners here.

Come see this gorgeous tree in person soon as the bracts could fall in a matter of days with the heat wave we’re experiencing!


June 2010 Plant Profile: Rosa ‘AUSboard’ [Gertrude Jekyll]

June 15th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

One of David Austin’s timeless tributes to the famous garden designer. In bloom since mid-May, this English Rose is one of the most captivating and richly scented of all his hybrids and does reasonably well for us in the Puget Sound region.

Common Name: Gertrude Jekyll Rose
Location: Soest Garden Bed 5
Family: Rosaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 4-6ft.
Spread: 5-6ft.
Bloom Time: May into early July. Mostly once blooming, but may repeat.
Bloom Type/Color: Deep rose/pink. Fully doubled, somewhat quartered when first opening
Exposure: Full Sun
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.


May 2010 Plant Profile: Lupinus ‘The Governor’

May 12th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Lupines have long been staples in the perennial border. With their elegant line, exquisite colors and fine-textured foliage, they create accents, punctuation, and almost a wave of movement when used as a group in both the garden and in cut flower arrangements. We have just one lupine in the Soest Garden and it is a seedling strain known as ‘The Governor’. It is one of many Russell Hybrid lupines developed by George Russell in Yorkshire, England and one of the most striking perennials in the late spring garden. Interplanted with geraniums, catmint, and English roses, it’s the iconic cottage garden look that’s just so classic, it never goes out of style.

Lupinus 'The Governor' in full bloom in Bed 5 at the Soest Perennial Display Garden (Bed 5)

Common Name: The Governor Lupine
Location: Soest Garden Bed 5
Family: Fabaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 2-2.5ft.
Spread: Clumps to about 2ft.
Bloom Time: May and sometimes into June.
Bloom Type/Color: Dense open whorls of Pea-like blue and white flowers on erect spikes.
Exposure: Full Sun
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.


April 2010 Plant Profile: Epimedium

April 1st, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

It has taken me almost three years to get the chance to feature one of my most favorite of all blooming shade perennials and with a wide assortment of them beginning to hit their peak, I will discuss the entire genus. Known as” Barrenwort” to some, “Fairy Wings” to others and “Horny Goat Weed” to herbalist, I am talking about the enchanting Epimedium.

“Eppies”, as I often call them amongst fellow plant geeks, have long been known as a tried-and-true perennial for dry shade. Typically planted under trees in a woodland setting, we have a wide assortment of various species and selected cultivars that thrive in various conditions just to demonstrate how adaptive they can really be in many landscape settings here in the Pacific Northwest. With many recent introductions from China finding their way into the market, many unusual forms and hybrids are beginning to turn up.

Within the Soest Garden, we have about 10 different species and named cultivars on display. Most of them are evergreen and reside underneath a large red oak tree and a handful are deciduous that have evident buds ready to spring into full bloom in the month of April.

Every landscape deserves an Epimedium. You really can’t ask for a more elegant, tough and reliable perennial.

  • Common Name: Barrenwort, Fairy Wings
  • Location: Soest Garden Beds 2, 6, 7 and the dry shade bed under the large red oak. Two species in the Fragrance Garden (thought no Epimedium is fragrant, unfortunately)
  • Family: Berberidaceae
  • Origin: Asian and Eastern European species and some of garden origin
  • Height: 6-12″
  • Spread: Can form tight clumps after several years
  • Bloom Time: Usually mid-late March onto April and sometimes into May.
  • Bloom Type/Color: Various
  • Exposure: Part-Full Shade
  • Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist. Asian species and their hybrids tend to prefer more water.

March 2010 Plant Profile: Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘Ancilla’

March 5th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Very VERY early this season, but the weather has been outstanding for this little gem. Having lasted a decade in these beds, ‘Anclla’ still keeps coming strong each spring with these outstanding blooms.
They are reliably perennial and stunningly beautiful as a mass or group planting.

Common Name: Ancilla Tulip
Location: Soest Garden Bed 6
Family: Liliacea
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 6-8″
Spread: Can form tight clumps after several years
Bloom Time: Usually mid-late March onto April
Bloom Type/Color: Cream colored tepals with bright orange red centers. Reverse has a light red/blue blush..
Exposure: Full Sun
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.


January 2010 Plant Profile: Viola odorata ‘Lianne’

January 1st, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The charmingly dainty Sweet Violet seems to have disappeared off the list of garden perennial favorites over the years. Having garnered the reputation of seeding themselves aggressively and being difficult to eradicate from lawns, many gardeners have come to despise violets. But modern gardeners are missing out by overlooking violets long history, their early spring show, and of course, their richly scented blooms that are best admired by taking gentle whiffs like Victorian young ladies were taught to smell their nosegays.
When I started working in the Soest Garden, I was tempted to rip out a large patch of this Viola thinking that it was the straight species, V. odorata, but studying the brochure, I found that it was a named selection of the species that had intentionally been planted.
‘Lianne’ is an old cultivar dating back to the early 1900’s. It was selected for its compact habit, vivid violet/blue color, long bloom period and its delicious fragrance that permeate the path between Bed 2 and 3 where small clumps have established. On top of these tremendous qualities, I’ve also noticed that it hasn’t really seeded itself in any of the other beds in the Soest Garden.

Family: Violaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 4-6”
Spread: 1.5-2ft.
Bloom Time: Late January-Mid March
Bloom Color: Violet/Blue
Sun: Part Sun-Full Shade
Water/Soil: Moist with a lot of organic matter.


December 2009 Plant Profile: Garrya x issaquahensis ‘Pat Ballard’

December 1st, 2009 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Discovered in the garden of Pat Ballard in Issaquah as a cross between G. fremontii and the more common G. elliptica, this is one of the most spectacular broadleaf evergreen shrubs to have in the winter landscape. It is truly exquisite in January-February with its semi-glossy medium green leaves adorned with elegant 12-inch “silk tassels”. It is a very tough shrub that is relatively pest and disease free and it is remarkably drought tolerant once it has established. This selection is somewhat rare and not frequently propagated, but a more common selection called ‘James Roof’ is also an excellent variety.

Common Name: Pat Ballard Silk Tassel Tree
Location: Soest Garden – South Slope (against Isacsson Hall)
Family: Garryaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 8 – 10ft
Spread: 6 – 8ft
Bloom Time: Winter
Bloom Type/Color: Pendulous pinkish gray with a hint of yellow colored catkins
Exposure: Part Shade to Full Sun
Water/Soil: Well drained with moderate moisture.


November 2009 Plant Profile: Berberis (Mahonia) x ‘Charity’

November 1st, 2009 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

This month’s plant profile strays away from the usual herbaceous perennials featured here, but the plant looks so tremendous at this time of year, it is very deserving of a place in the perennial garden as a “backbone” plant. Its size, color, texture, and form make it an ideal backdrop for spring, summer and fall perennials plants, but as everything lays low for winter, this shrub takes center stage. A most appropriate variety names for this time of year, ‘Charity’ is the most common and readily available of the so called “Mahonia x media” cultivars.  It flowers as early as November (with some gardeners getting a few blooms starting in late October). Birds and bees flock to the golden yellow flowers that are gently scented and full of nectar. These incredible flowers open throughout the winter providing the sunshine of color we so desperately need at this time of year. The rugged foliage is also very textural and takes on red and purple hues as temperatures drop.

This plant currently resides in an evergreen container in the Soest Garden planted with Chamaecyparis ‘Fernspray Gold’, Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’, Carex ‘Evergold’ and Leucothoe axillaris .

Location: Container on the west side of the garden by the Osmanthus hedge

Family: Berberidaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 10-12ft
Spread: 6-8ft.
Bloom Time: November-March
Bloom Color: Bright yellow
Sun: Full shade to part sun.
Water: Medium moisture and average soil. Fairly drought tolerant once established.


October 2009 Plant Profile: Eryngium leavenworthii

October 1st, 2009 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Photo by Jennifer Youngman

Recommended by our own restoration ecologist, Kern Ewing, who saw this species at a restoration site in Texas, seed was obtained and sown as an experiment and transplanted into Bed 6 of the Soest Garden where it has thrived and looked absolutely spectacular as it began to do its thing. Considered an annual or short lived perennial; this striking sea holly flowers very late in the season producing a profusion of thistle-like silvery blooms that mature to a fluorescent violet pink. It is set off beautifully with the changing warm colors of autumn. It seems to have thrived in the heat of full sun, excellent drainage and minor competition amongst other perennials in the bed. Somewhat straggly in habit; this indicates that it’s growing in too rich of a soil.

Common Name: Leavenworth Eryngo
Location: Bed 6
Origin: South Central USA
Height: 15-30″
Spread: 15-20″
Bloom Time: Late Summer-Fall
Bloom Type/Color: Silver – violet/pink
Exposure: Full Sun
Water/Soil: Dryish soils , well drained in lean soil without too much organic matter.


September 2009 Plant Profile: Tricyrtis ‘Taipei Silk’

September 1st, 2009 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Probably because of the common name of “Toad Lily”, Tricyrtis is a genus that is still highly underutilized in the fall landscape. They are adaptable, easy to grow and just require moist shade and protection from slugs. While some selections tend to be somewhat floppy and unattractive, ‘Taipei Silk’ stays relatively tidy and in late summer into early fall, it is absolutely loaded with deep purple buds and lovely 1″ blooms that burst open to reveal a lovely blend of violet pink, blending to white in the center with a hint of blue at the tips. It is just an outstanding transitional summer-fall flowering perennial.

Common Name: Taipei Silk Toad Lily
Location: Bed 1 and the Miller Library Beds
Family: Liliaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 15-30″
Spread: 20-25″
Bloom Time: Late Summer-Fall
Bloom Type/Color: Violet pink with white
Exposure: Part – Full Shade
Water/Soil: Well drained, but consistently moist.