Tuesday 12 September 2017

Mcmenamins Kennedy School

There are some places that you hear of over the years and you always tell yours, "one day I'll have to check that out." I was lucky to visit one of those places this summer. It was on my wee trip down to Portland that I decided to meet with "planty person" and friend, Loree (aka danger garden) at Mcmenamins Kennedy School before a garden visit.

I had the location in my GPS, but if you read my last post, or if you are a plant nerd like me, you know when you are approaching garden greatness well before your GPS can indicate your arrival.

Upon arriving, I was greeted by the beautiful glow of a Crepe Myrtle, a new obsession of mine.

What struck me as I walked around the garden was how healthy everything looked. After last winters ice storms, I had become accustomed to holes in the garden. Here, that was not the case.

Though my loquat was fine through last winter, it has never had a lush look like this. Garden envy was rising and I hadn't seen the half of it.

The afternoon was a bit smoky, but it provided tantalizing light that filtered through the lush foliage.

Kennedy School garden had quite a few anchor plants that set of the landscape around it. In my experience, this helps with some of the smaller tender plants that can benefit from the shelter or thirst habits of larger plants and trees. I don't know if they planned it this way, but it surely helps with their excellent collection of tender plants.

Another feature of the garden was excellent vignettes. I could have stopped to stare for hours, but there was so much more garden to see.

That bark!

As I approached the Nolina 'la siberica' in the corner of the parking lot, I knew I was in trouble. Not only had I come across drool worthy garden excellence, but the realization of how big a nolina can get freaked me right out (I will be moving plants... soon). Why are these not for sale at every nursery?!

It was easy to get taken away with the landscape and not pay attention to the smaller details. I really liked how they have mounded this desert bed with rock in order to provide superior drainage and added heat. Smart!

It was clearly paying off when examining the health of their plants. This drool worthy agave montana will be tried in my home garden.

This beautiful agave (parryi var. parryi?) stole my heart. *sigh*

As did this combination of yucca schottii and dasylirion wheeleri. Stunning.

I really appreciated how the Kennedy School garden was utilizing climate adapted plants that handle a cool wet PNW winter and thrive in our hot dry summers. Yes, I said, hot dry summers in the PNW. I think of plantings like this as forward thinking.

As I walked the grounds, I saw countless examples of  plants that deserve a greater presence in PNW gardens. Plants like this stunning yucca 'margaritaville' and manzanita. Not only were they thriving in the garden, but they acted as garden showstoppers!

This yucca looked more like the PNW version of Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta'

On the subject of showstoppers, the tetrapanax throughout the garden were quite impressive. This plant carries a bad rep, but from reliable sources, they are easily tamed in the Portland area.

Another successful feature of the Kennedy School garden was the use of colour and texture. The ghostly appearance of this agave ovatifolia 'frosty blue' was set off by the deep purples and greens surrounding it. Similarly, the pink blooms on this delicious Crepe Myrtle looks almost playful with this great plant combination.

Truly, everywhere I looked in the garden I was taken away. Be it from the soft blues of yucca schottii, to the olive greens of this stunning grevillea, the garden is a true gem and must see in the Portland area.

Looking down the sidewalk on my way out of the garden, I was left with this beautiful vignette. Positioned just perfectly to mesmerize garden goers such as myself, this perfect drimys lanceolata asks to stop and be appreciated. What plants have stopped you in your path recently?

Thursday 31 August 2017

I'm Back. Thanks, Portland!

If you have followed this blog in the past, you'd know that I took a hiatus. If you had asked me, I would have told you it was a year - try 3. I don't know what did it. Maybe it was all the PKWs, maybe it was the lack exciting nursery stock, or maybe it was just a funk? My passion for plants and gardening certainly didn't change in that time. Over those years I settled into a new career and poured much of my time and attention into that. But something was nagging on me to return to something for me; to return to something that provides a source of passion and joy in ways that I can't effectively put to words.

I had been talking for years about taking a trip down to Portland to visit some gardens and nurseries that have long been on my radar. It was the Danger Garden that started my blogging aspirations in the first place. So I made a few texts and calls, and before I knew it, I was heading South on Interstate 5 for two days that would renew a spark that was missing in my life.

I set an address to my Airbnb in the GPS, and when arriving in Portland, Siri directed me to a detour that would save 5 minutes. Little did I know, this detour added 20 minutes of garden stalking goodness! I turned off of the I5 into a residential neighbourhood and my spiky plant radar went into hyperdrive. If you're a spiky plant nerd, you'll understand how and why you mysteriously slam on your breaks and make hard unannounced turns in traffic. It's real. Trust me.

Silly me didn't note what road this was (or the exit I took). All of my attention was on this! Eucalyptus, Crepe Myrtle, and Opuntia ... oh my!

I don't know about you, but Eucalyptus have a way of transporting me to Southern California. Add Crepe Myrtles which equal heat, and opuntia spikes which equal love and I was in a full on garden euphoria. And what's this? One of the nicest agaves I have seen in the Northwest - Agave montana (thanks, Danger).

But the awesomeness didn't stop there. Check out this increidble opuntia. I love the pale blue and olive green tones. An ID would be appreciated because I simply MUST have this plant. It is complimented beautifully by a pristine chamaerops humilis 'cerifera' in the background. Mine lost its main trunk after the winterzilla of 16/17. I wonder if this one is newly planted?

This garden so much evoked the Southwest. I loved it! Unfortunately no one was home to answer questions to the stranger lurking around their garden. Usually "planty" people are quite happy to answer questions. I'm sure the neighbours thought I was crazy what with the spastic driving, shrieks, mutterings ... again if you like spiky plants you understand.

Within minutes of arriving in Portland my heart was fluttering. My camera was officially dusted off, and my mind was going a mile a minute thinking about future plantings. I knew it was going to be a good trip. And if you've made it this far, yay, it was excatly what I needed to get my blog on (like "get ur freak on" ... but blog. No? Missy Elliott?)

 If you recognize this house or garden, please share, spiky planty people need to visit this place!

Tuesday 13 May 2014

State of the agave

State of the agave: Spring 2014

I'll still never forget several years ago when I bought my first agave. The nursery worker felt the need to give me the disclaimer: "You know you can't grow that here, right?" It was probably the worst words you could say to a zonal denial gardener. In fact, if my wallet could have allowed I would have asked her to ring through another one. But over the years of agave growing the collection has grown. At times there have been some losses, but my agave obsession continues. This winter was relatively kind on the agave I must say. All but one of the in ground agave came through just fine.

I thought I'd start with my agave ovatifolia 'frosty blue.' In the picture you can see how I have planted several agave around my beloved butia capitata. On a sunny day I love going outside and setting up a lawn share right next to this part of the garden. Things went well this winter for these agave. You can see some spotting on the lower arms of the most exposed of the two agave ovatifolia.
 This is a new to me agave awaiting the final decision on where it should live in the garden. It didn't have a tag but it very much resembles my agave parryi JC Raulston and I do believe that is what it is.
 Moving back into the garden agave bracteosa 'calamar' went through winter like a champ. It did get some spots on the lower arms. Considering the late winter snow and ice events that this thing endured I'd say that it has done great!
Onto the agave parryi... all of my agave parryi did great this winter. The worst (not shown here) was agave parryi 'truncata.' I had to remove a few arms along the bottom but otherwise it looks great. Lower right is my agave parryi 'JC Raulston, this one never receives any love and always looks great. Again if you look close there are the odd spots along the lowest arms but nothing significant. And the agave parryi huachucensis in the lower left hand corner seems to handle winter with ease. I removed several arms from this guy and it already looks to have outgrown that awkward freshly cleaned up agave look.
 Finally agave parryi var. parryi has done exceedingly well this winter. It is planted on the steepest angle of all my agave and it seems to be happy to have all water drain away from it.  In fact, the only agave surgery I ever perform with this guy is the lowest arms along the bottom of the slope. Our soil is really sandy and most plants suffer in this spot over the years. But the agaves seem to flourish.
As an aside: I have a small agave farm starting. Not a real agave farm. But a funny backyard pup separating, agave starting, 4 inch container farm of baby agaves. Last count there were 18. That didn't take into account the other long term potted agaves kicking around. It's becoming a problem... a good problem!

Friday 9 May 2014

Weekly Fav: Butia Capitata

My Favourite plant in the garden this week is Butia Capitata or sometimes referred to as the jelly palm (because jelly is often made from its fruit) or the pindo palm. It just so happens to also coincide with a recent palm acquisition. My good friend Becca recently moved into a downtown apartment and so she gave me her potted pindo palm. This is my second pindo palm. I love how tropical they look in the garden. Being one of the hardiest of the pinnate palms (having feather-like leaves instead of a fan), they are particularly nice for providing a more tropical looking palm for the garden.

I should note that pindo palms are generally not considered longterm hardy in most of the Pacific Northwest. If you live in a sheltered coastal area or USDA zone 8b-9a region, then this palm will do fine without protection. I protect mine when temperatures fall into the mid teens. It has experienced temperatures down to near 18F unprotected with no damage when it was still potted.

I mean really, what's not to love!? I will admit that my largest pindo palm looks a tad bit ratty after this last winter, but it will grow out of it really quick.

Here's what San Marcos Growers has to say:

Butia Capitata
Height: 15-20 feet
Width: 10-15 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Winter Hardiness: 15-20° F

*In my experience the more sun the better for the PNW. These palms really like heat and are slow unless they get a good amount of sunlight. For the PNW we are better to grow butia eriospatha - if you can find them available.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Garden Stalking in West Vancouver

I've been to this garden once before and when I was passing it the other day I had to stop and do some garden stalking. It's really that good. First off, when you pull up to the house it looks like something out of somewhere much much warmer. These towering palms greet passers by.

Look at all the ripe palm seed!

It looks as though they have recently planted these nice yuccas. When this one fills out and starts growing it will look really great!

From another angle you can see just how beautiful this garden is.

But here's where things get really exciting. There's a young tree fern looking beautiful, and can you spot the coziers opening up in the far left hand side of this photo behind the wall?

My visit was unannounced so I didn't get right into their driveway to take the pictures. But here you can see the new growth of those tree ferns poking up behind that wall.

And here I was exercising my best iPhone paparazzi zoom into the driveway area! Check out the size of that dicksonia antarctica!

This was right on the road and easier to get a nice shot!

Have you done any garden stalking lately? I simply must work up the courage to ask for a full fledged tour. This garden is too spectacular!

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Northwest Flower and Garden Show ... better late than never

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show might have been a couple of months ago, but it's still fresh in my memory. This was my first year making it down to the show. I didn't really know what to expect other than potentially high amounts of plant lust.

Knowing that Pot Inc. was doing a feature for the small space showcase, I knew there would at least be something cool to see. I was really taken away by all the great displays. But truth be told (and I might be a bit biased), the Pot Inc. display stole the show! 

Check out this beautiful fire bowl planter. How's that for a conversation piece?

I love the leptospermum and agave combination in this container. It's another plant I've added to my must have when I visit cistus nursery.

 One of the main features of the booth were these great hover planters that I shared about just the other day. From the bottom you can see the drainage holes! When you love succulents, that is something to get excited over!

The wood backdrop fits perfectly. Speaking of perfect, check out those yucca rostrata!

This is such a great composition. The geometric containers and colours suit the plants perfectly.

I'm seriously in love with these things!

And if you're lucky enough to be in the Vancouver area this weekend, Pot Inc. is having a sale of some of their containers and plants. Check out their facebook page for information.