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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CUH Update – March 2011: Ramping up

March 21st, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Narcissus in Soest Garden

We all await the arrival of the most promising time of year as the garden slowly wakes up and showcases it early season splendor. March is when bulbs burst into bloom, spring ephemerals shyly shine and the winter shrubs are putting forth yet another splendid show of unrivaled color and, in most cases, outstanding fragrance.

Trillium chloropetalum in Bed 7 of the Soest Garden

Azara microphylla in full bloom scenting the Fragrance Garden with its chocolate/vanilla perfume.

It’s all  such a great distraction from  the financial woes and the economic downturn we’re all facing. Recent news of budget cuts and even threats to potentially eliminate the Arboretum from the University have caused us to be a little more on edge. Here’s a link to an article written by Valerie Easton on her blog about this situation. It’s really quite unsettling and as a gardener here, while we’re suppose to worry about a very busy spring season ahead, we’re all wondering if we’ll even have jobs come July. We’ve basically been learning to work with what little resources we’ve got and simply trying to stay motivated to get as much work done as possible.

Edmonds Community College students enjoy the sunshine as they install container plantings in the Soest Garden

Stepping back from our multiple tasks and looking out into the landscape, we’re simply in awe. This time of year has the potential to bring out the joy of what makes our profession so wonderful and unique. Bring out the sun and spirits are high!

We had the pleasure of hosting a group from Edmonds Community College’s Horticulture Department who dressed up some containers here at the Center for Urban Horticulture. In collaboration with garden designer, Wendy Welch and her fabulous container gardening class, we were treated with sunshine and an opportunity to see these young garden artists at work as they implement one of their designs as a series for our containers in the Soest Garden.

Here’s a note from Wendy about her student’s work:

“For their final project of the winter quarter Horticulture students from EDCC’s Container Gardening class designed and planted three containers in the courtyard at CUH. The long list of requirements for their designs included, a strong “winter picture”, at least one main element that is attractive year round, and at least two years of viability as a combination. All 22 students presented designs and then voted on the one they felt was the strongest. Jill Nunemaker’s design with Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’, Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’, warm-colored cultivars of Heuchera and trailing Kininikinnick, won the vote by a landslide. Next years class will evaluated the success of these pots over time, as can all of you.”

Jill Nunemaker with her design, which includes a striking vine maple Acer circinatum 'Pacific Fire'

Seattle Garden Club also took part in a work party as members helped out in planting, transplanting and mulching within the Fragrance Garden. The site is now home to a few new plants with a few more still to come as we define the space a little more and more summer color will be more obvious with several perennials included this spring.

March is also the time we start to focus on WEEDS!!!! The gradual rise in temperatures and increased day length means the prolific germination of weed seeds that have been resting all winter. In a valiant effort in reducing our use and need for chemicals, we’ve been experimenting with various treatments such as torching (basically burning a plant with a flame) and a horticultural grade vinegar. We’ve seen signs of effectiveness, but we just need a few clearer and sunnier days to really see it take effect.

Anything we can do now to get on top of the big push of spring is crucial. With two gardeners left to oversee CUH grounds, it’ll be more challenging than ever, but everyone seems to be having patience and accepting the fact that some areas aren’t tended to right away, but for the most part, the gardens are looking great and visitors have been so pleased and enchanted by it all!

Chin up!

Riz

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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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February 2011 Plant Profile: The Genus Galanthus

February 4th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes
Galanthus nivalis by R. Reyes

Galanthus nivalis in the Fragrance Garden

We have several forms of the dainty and delicate snowdrop growing here at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Of all spring emphemeral bulbs, Galanthus have been revered and loved for many centuries and have always been the harbingers of spring as their noses poke up and their gentle blossoms push through the snow. It’s quite a dazzling image.

The popularity of Galanthus have suaded plant collectors, more specifically known as “Galanthophiles”, to seek out the rares forms and long lost hybrids that mostly exist amongst growers in the United Kingdom.

Supposedly, a single bulb of a exceedingly rare variant of Galathus was sold on eBay for well over $500 as stated in this article. The facts about the actual plant and terms of sale was somehow not clear.
The exceptionally large flower of Galanthus plicatus ‘EA Bowles’ that sold for £357 at auction

Not everyone need pay close to that amount to enjoy the sparkling beauty of snowdrops in the late winter. Often you can purchase a bag of bulbs (Most commonly available species G. nivalis and G. elwesii) in the fall or purchase potted plants blooming right about now at specialty nurseries. They naturalize and multiply when left undisturbed and they thrive in sun or shade in well drained soils.

An unusual double-flowered Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'

Come see them now in full bloom here at CUH!

Common Name: Snowdrops
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Location: CUH: Soest Garden, Fragrance Garden, McVay Courtyard (double flowered forms)
Origin: Original species come from Eastern regions of Europe.
Height: 3-6″ tall
Spread: mature colonies of bulbs can cover a square foot or more.
Bloom Time: Mid-Winter-Early Spring
Bloom Type/Color: Composed of tepals prodominantly white in color with various variations
Water/Soil: Moist to moderately dry. Drought tolerant once established.

Pure white


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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.

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CUH Update – December 2010: Overcoming November’s Cold Spell

December 15th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Several weeks after an unusual early snow and cold snap, the grounds at CUH have looked like a bomb was detonated and we’re just now cleaning up the aftermath. OK, it wasn’t that bad, but the clean-up continues as the holiday season is well underway and we’re doing our best to keep things clean and presentable to our many guest this time of year.

Having the snow was actually quite a sight as it emphasizes the strength of the structure, or so called “bones” of a landscape, so beautifully.


Here you can see some of the changes made to the Fragrance Garden this past year as we thinned out a few plants and transplanted several specimens to allow more room for certain species to really thrive.

Nolina nelsonii in the McVay Courtyard

Always the stand-out in every season is our stunning Nolina from Mexico. Dusted in pure white powder, it withstands the cold and remains such an iconic plant in a garden that will undergo a slight facelift as we reconfigure some of the plantings and add some for floral interests come spring.

Container composition up against Issacson Hall.

Even the effective composition of an evergreen container is emphasized by winter’s snow. During the growing season, this Osmanthus heterophyllus, flanked by a prostrate Podocarpus, Heuchera ‘Purple Petticoats’ and a maidenhair fern. In the shade for the majority of the day, it isn’t all that exciting. But as the snow arrives, it instantly becomes a sight to behold.

Helleborus argutifolius 'Silver Lace'

The same could be said of this fairly new selection of Helleborus argutifolius called ‘Silver Lace’. It’s been a plant that not many people really take note of unless it’s paired with a contrasting color or texture in the garden, but the added snow creates a most unusual and beautiful effect.

Phlomis ruselliana seedheads

With so much clean up, cutting back and dead-heading to do in the fall, you just can’t quite get to everything, but once the weather doesn’t cooperate to allow you to finish your work, the resulting image in the landscape can be quite enchanting. This Jerusalem Sage was never cut back after blooming, but capped in a light dusting of snow, it is truly elegant.

NOW, COMES THE HARSH REALITY OF IT ALL:

Persicaria in the Soest Garden

“Overcooked spinach” is what one visitor said to describe the mess a cold spell can bring. A task that I meant to do a few weeks back suddenly rises up on the priority to-do list.

Cold damaged Daphne bholua

For the third year in a row, our poor Daphne bholua has, once again, suffered from an early frost and cold damage. This species typically begins blooming around Christmas time for us, but the past few winters have been so unforgiving, we just pray that it recovers and is allowed to branch out and flower again next year.

Cold Damaged Edgeworthia chrysantha

A relative of the Daphne is the beloved Chinese Paper Bush or Edgeworthia. Each winter, since it was planted, the cold seems to damage the buds as they form so very few flowers are produced. Ideally, the plant would have formed its buds over the summer and into autumn, the foliage yellows and drops and by then, the plant is prepared for the onset of cold temperatures and the buds continue to develop and flower beginning in early February or so. The problem has been: the foliage never fully yellows so the plant isn’t allowed to go into a proper dormancy before the cold sets in; therefore, the buds are further damaged. Seeing these fuzzy undeveloped buds that still look plump and firm gives us hope that they’ll mature properly, but the fact that it isn’t even officially winter yet worries me.

There’s a lot to see and observe at CUH right now, but one of the highlights is a exciting brand new plant (you didn’t think I’d end this report on a sad note, did you?) we’ve acquired as a container specimen for Merrill Hall Commons. Though being advertised as hardy and suited for our mild Seattle climate, this relative of a fairly common houseplant has been the talk of plant aficionados around as the grower who was introducing it accidentally “leaked” a few specimens to local nurseries and we managed to secure one prior to its wide distribution. This is the stunning and elegant Taiwanese Umbrella Tree botanically known as Schefflera taiwaniana.

Schefflera taiwaniana

Like any new and exciting plant we acquire for our collections, I like to think of each one as a gift to the public: our visitors who come near and far to enjoy the surroundings and admire the work we do here at CUH.

I want to dedicate this Schefflera to you all and hope you have a chance to see it here or acquire it for your own garden in the near future.

On behalf of UWBG and the entire grounds staff here at CUH, I want to wish you all a warm and happy holidays and an exciting new year!

Cheers,

Riz Reyes
Soest Perennial Display Gardener
UW Botanic Gardens – Center for Urban Horticulture

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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

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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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