January 2016 Plant Profile: a Study on Sticks in the Witt Winter Garden

December 31st, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

Bare Naked in a Public Garden (a Study on Sticks in the Witt Winter Garden)

By Roy Farrow

photoI love January. The dark, wet, oppressive weather of December is past as the temperature finally drops consistently below freezing. Underfoot mud disappears overnight and we awake to glorious sunshine again. Our world seems expansive and encouraging.

I’ve come to understand that an important part of this feeling is due to the presence of “dormant” plants in the landscape. Dormant, or deciduous, plants allow the light from our very-low-on-the-horizon sun to penetrate our gardens and thus our inner beings. I qualify the word dormant because a walk through the Witt Winter Garden demonstrates that indeed it can be the leafless that are having the most fun this time of year.

As I walked through the garden this morning, my attention was torn between the just-beginning-to-crawl-out-of-their-buds witch hazels (Hamamelis sp.) and the pair of ruby-crowned kinglets gleaning from the mosaic of moss and lichen on the stems. As the birds flitted, about my eye was stolen by the multitude of buds of the winter hazel (Corylopsis sp.) and catkins of the giant filbert (Corylus maxima ‘Atropurpurea Superba’).

Magnolia stellata with frost

Quickly demanding my attention was the early winter diva Viburnum x bodnantense, of which there are three cultivars in the Witt Winter Garden: V. x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, ‘Deben’ and ‘Charles Lamont’. Other Viburnum such as V. farreri ‘Candidissimum’ and V. grandiflorum forma foetens (synonym V. foetens) will soon be following with their own fragrant display of naked gaiety. All other fragrances will eventually be forced aside by the aromatically dominant winter sweet (Chimonanthus praecox), now just a bird’s nest of sticks.

Corylus maxima 'Atropurpurea Superba'

Speaking of sticks, I often thank Miss Nature for populating our world with the many plants, particularly willows and dogwoods which are simply decorous without any adornment beyond their own skin. No one can enter the garden without their eye being caught by the midwinter fire dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’). Once there, your eye may also appreciate the elegance of the bluestem willow, Salix irrorata with its white bloom and the bright golden-yellow of Salix alba ‘Vitellina’ behind it. Two newcomer willows to the Witt Winter Garden are Salix fargesii and Salix ‘Swizzle Stick’. The sleek, naked stems and large, red buds of Salix fargesii are difficult to describe without using the word “gorgeous” and the swizzle stick willow has an upright, contorted form which is colorfully impressive.

Salix 'Swizle Stick'

There are plenty more examples of naked fun to be enjoyed over the next few months, including the berries of Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, the playfully fuzzy buds of Magnolia stellata and the brief, but powerfully fragrant flowers of Abeliophyllum distichum. Last, but not least is the royal trifecta of stunning mature bark: Stewartia monadelpha, Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis and Acer griseum. Please visit repeatedly as the Witt Winter Garden is quite dynamic and no two weeks will display the same show. Enjoy the cold!

Betula albosinensis var septentrionalis

Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'

February 2014 Plant Profile: Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Merlin

February 4th, 2014 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Helleborus x MerlinHellebores are very popular winter-blooming perennials, and plant breeders are responding to the high demand for easy maintenance and colorful blooms during the gloomiest time of the year. The Gold Collection® is an assortment of species and modern hybrids selected for vigorous growth and prolific blossoms year after year. ‘Merlin,’ a Ballardiae hybrids (H. niger x H. lividus), is simply magical: it opens as a soft pink with a deeper pink reverse and a hint of lime green. As the flower ages, the blooms age to a richer deep pink and hold on for many weeks. The foliage on ‘Merlin’ is exquisite, with a hint of marbled variegation on tough, clean leaves.

 

Skagit Gardens in Mt. Vernon, WA kindly donated a batch of Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® ‘Merlin’ to UW Botanic Gardens,  and the plants have done well for us. They’re exceptional in the garden, but also in containers for those who don’t have much space. Helleborus x Merlin 2

 

 

 

 

 

Common Name: Hellebore hybrid
Location: Entry Triangle Bed Entry along NE 41st St.
Origin: Garden Origin.
Height and Spread: 10-12″ high x 18″ wide
Bloom/Fruit Time: December-March

 

Helleborus x Merlin Habit

 

 

 

 

 

November 2013 Plant Profile: Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’

November 4th, 2013 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Camellia 2After a tremendous autumn display, the show continues in the landscape with wonderful fall and winter blooming plants that take center stage. This lovely selection of the fall/winter blooming Camellia sasanqua is highly coveted by garden designers for its glossy, dark green, evergreen foliage and simple flowers that do not leave a horrible mess once they’re through flowering.

‘Setsugekka’ has lovely pure white flowers with stunning yellow stamens that begin blooming in late October. It has a soft, earthy scent to its flowers and it has somewhat of a free and open habit that lends itself to being trained up against a wall as an espalier that provides a dark green background to others plants during the spring and summer months when its not blooming.

Camellia 1

Common Name: Fall-Blooming Camellia
Location: Fragrance Garden/NHS Hall Bed
Origin: Garden Origin
Height and Spread: 10-15′ high x 7′ wide
Bloom Time: October-February

February 2012 Plant Profile: Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

February 14th, 2012 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' in the Fragrance Garden at CUH

This month’s plant profile showcases one of the showiest and most reliably fragrant, winter blooming shrubs. According to Great Plant Picks, it is a “tough shrub grows best in full sun to light or open shade. It prefers well-drained soil, but will tolerate sandy sites or clay if the drainage is adequate. It is drought tolerant once established, but flowering will be more profuse if it receives occasional water during dry weather. Little pruning is needed to maintain an attractive plant.”

A close up of the fragrant winter flowers of Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'

Common Name: Bodnant Viburnum/Dawn Viburnum
Family: Adoxaceae
Location: CUH-Fragrance Garden
Origin: Garden Origin: Bodnant Gardens in Wales, UK.
Height and spread: 8ft. high and 10ft. wide.
Bloom Time: Winter

This is a lovely shrub for the urban garden as it works wonderfully as a background plant during the growing season with its dark green, bronze foliage that have a rugged texture. It simply lights up in the winter time as it flowers and on a warm day, the delicious scent of warm sugary vanilla and lilac wafts in the air. Truly exquisite and, as mentioned, a reliable shrub for the Pacific Northwest.