January 2011 Plant Profile: Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’

January 5th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The winter landscape is incomplete without the presence of twig-dogwoods. Their stately, yet elegant stems, vibrant color and imposing form in the garden is remarkable. What’s more impressive is their adaptability and ease of growth. They are tolerant of most soils, are drought tolerant once established and the ability to recover from almost being mowed down to the ground each spring and produce brightly colored stems the following winter is extraordinary. From a plant production point of view, they root easily from natural layers (when stems come into contact with the soil and begin forming roots) and a ecological restoration technique called “live-staking”, where sections of mature stems are simply plunged into a container or directly into the ground and root. These cut stems are also prized by florist and the slimmest stems are used for basket-weaving.

The one represented here is a striking stand of them at the Center for Urban Horticulture’s Soest Garden flanked my various ornamental grasses, heaths and heathers create an amazing, low-maintenance plant combination that anyone can replicate in their home gardens.

Even with our early snowfall last November, the imposing stems of yellow-twig dogwood stand out and dried flower heads capture a few flakes creating a glittering effect from a distance

Common Name: Yellow-twig dogwood
Location: CUH: Soest Garden South Slope, WPA: Witt Winter Garden Family: Cornaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 6-8ft.
Spread: 7-8ft.
Bloom Time: Early Summer
Bloom Type/Color: Umbels of white flowers on the tips of stems.
Water/Soil: Moist to moderately dry. Drought tolerant once established.

December 2010 Plant Profile: Prunus ‘Mount Vernon’

December 2nd, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Contrary to its original form (Prunus laurocerasus), this selection of the common, overused and potentially invasive Cherry Laurel is a welcomed addition to any landscape. ‘Mt. Vernon’ is beginning to appear in many urban plantings both as a hugging evegreen groundcover or as a prostrate specimen shrub in front of a border. It is truly versatile, hardy, and a very dependable plant with glossy, deep green foliage that looks fabulous all year around. It is also slow growing and doesn’t have the “seeding-around” problem associated with Cherry Laurel in our climate. The low, almost creeping habit is exquisite especially around hardscapes and any areas you need to “soften” in appearance.

Common Name: Mount Vernon cherry laurel
Location: Soest Garden Bed 6
Family: Rosaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 12-15″
Spread: 4-6′
Bloom Time: Early Summer
Bloom Type/Color: Insignificant spikes of cream white flowers.
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist. Can tolerate some drought once established

November 2010 Plant Profile: Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus

November 14th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

In the three years I’ve expected it bite the dust, this plant has survived our winters and we’ve enjoyed the fruity scent from this form of Sweet Olive every autumn. Osmanthus fragrans is a popular shrub/small tree in the warmer regions of the United states (USDA Zone 8 +) and in China, where it is highly revered and its scented autumn blossoms are used to scent and flavor tea. This orange flowered form aurantiacus is not as common in the United States and it’s also not known to be as hardy. So, it was surprising to me that our two large specimens in the Fragrance Garden are thriving. Perhaps the fact that we started with large specimens, are enclosed by other plantings and are against a southwest facing wall contributes to their success OR I’ve even began to wonder if this isn’t aurantiacus, but a selected named cultivar of O. fragrans that is truly hardy and well worth propagating to see if it’s something we can recommend to gardeners in the Puget Sound region. We can grow straight O. fragrans, but it really requires a protected location and benefits from the radiated heat from a nearby building or paved surfaces. Instead, I’ve recommended gardeners seek out a cross known as Osmanthus x fortunei to plant in their gardens. It is very much like O. fragrans, but with broader, darker green leaves and larger, more profuse flowers with the same apricot-like scent. You can read more about it here. For now, just follow your nose during your next visit to CUH and admire this plant in person.

Common Name: Sweet Olive
Location: Fragrance Garden
Family: Oleaceae
Origin: China
Height: 12-20ft.
Spread: 4-6ft.
Bloom Time: Late October throughout November.
Bloom Type/Color: Axillary flowers arranged fairly densely throughout plant.
Straight species is a creamy yellow, but this a rare orange form and supposedly not hardy selection of this species.
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.

October 2010 Plant Profile: Symphyotrichum (Aster) lateriflorum ‘Prince’

October 11th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Symphyotrichum (Aster) lateriflorum ‘Prince’


A regular visitor to the garden recommended that I make sure that I profile a plant that would stop people on their tracks when they walk by it and for October of this year, I’ve selected a dashingly handsome Aster, or now properly known as Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Prince’ thriving happily in Bed 8. After years of sulking in the same bed; but overtaken by other plants, I finally moved it where it would receive full sun and less competition and, oh boy, did it take off! It is a much revered plant in the fall landscape because of its compact habit, dark purple foliage and the masses of miniature daisy-like blooms that bloom for weeks until a very hard frost. Many who see it are surprised that such a small plant could produce so many flowers!

Common Name: Calico Aster
Family: Asteraceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Location: Soest Garden Bed 8
Height: 1.5ft. tall
Spread: 2ft. wide
Bloom Time: Late September to hard frost
Bloom Type/Color: Small composite, white with pink centers.
Exposure: Full Sun
Water/Soil: Average, well drained.

September 2010 Plant Profile: Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’

September 14th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Probably one of the most elegant of all late summer to fall blooming perennials, this hardy begonia has been loved and admired by many avid gardeners since plantsman, Dan Hinkley, brought it back from Japan in 1997. It is somewhat late to emerge in the spring and it grows from a hardy tuber. The large, almost succulent leaves and stems provide a backdrop to airy inflorescences that dance in the breeze and soft pink, bubble gum flowers have a very faint, but pleasing fragrance. They produce little baby bulbils on the nodes of the stems so there’s always volunteers to share with gardening friends!

Common Name: Hardy Begonia
Location: Soest Garden Bed 5 (with a few volunteers in Bed 7 where it used to be)
Family: Begoniaceae
Origin: Japan
Height: 15-24″
Spread: 1.5-2ft.
Bloom Time: August-October
Bloom Type/Color: Pendulous racemes of soft, shell-pink with bright yellow stamens.
Exposure: Part to Full Shade
Water/Soil: Well drained, but consistently moist.

August 2010 Plant Profile: Lilium ‘Scheherazade’

August 5th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

A most outstanding hybrid lily known worldwide for its hardiness, vigor, and overall dependability in the garden. ‘Scheherazade’ was one of the first interspecific hybrids introduced on the market and began a trend that would revolutionize the world of lily breeding. Bred by L. Freimann using tetraploid (double the number chromosomes a plant typically has) forms of a cultivar called ‘Thunderbolt’ and a tetraploid form of the famous ‘Black Beauty’, you get a most unusual mahogany crimson edged in gold and later fading to cream born in profusion over stalks that have often been referred to as “Lily Trees”.

Lilium hybrid 'Scheherazade'

I counted over 40 buds and blossoms on ONE STEM! These are gently scented and not overpowering in fragrance like the Orientals (‘Stargazer’ and ‘Casablanca’) or trumpet lilies (Easter Lily). These were a donation from the great lily breeder and grower, Judith Freeman from The Lily Garden 2 years ago and now they’ve hit their stride.

Common Name: Scheherazade Orientpet Lily
Location: Soest Garden Bed 8
Family: Liliaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 5-7ft.
Spread: 1.5-2ft.
Bloom Time: July into August
Bloom Type/Color: Recurved tepals of rich mahogany crimson edged in gold cream.
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.

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.