All Shades of Green—-A Plant Perspective



This year nasturtiums have been a bright spot in my garden.  I brought some seedlings home from school in the spring and stuffed a bunch of them into two hanging baskets.  They are so cheery and a hummingbird favorite.  Even though they began well, I won’t grow nasturtiums in hanging pots again.  There doesn’t seem to be enough room for them.  They keep reaching and grabbing and look like they really have places to go.  But there is only so far they can go in a hanging pot.  And after two weeks of over 80  degrees F they have almost collapsed.  They seem to prefer more moisture than can be sucked out of a pot and they were difficult to keep hydrated in the heat.   Next year I’ll plant this happy annual in the ground, perhaps growing up a trellis.  Where do you grow nasturtiums?






Elaine’s Rose Tour 2015

It’s July and I’m surrounded by roses!  What could be better than to wake up in the morning with sunny yellow Julia Child or see the soft glow of Gourmet Popcorn in the evening?   Buds are opening, foliage is still fresh and it’s turning out to be a summer for roses!  I sprayed in early spring with a copper soap fungicide to keep black spot at bay, and it seems to be helping, along with our lack of rain and sunny days.  Usually by now black spot is creeping up the plants, starting with the lower and interior leaves.  This year I’m having just as much fun looking at the beautiful glossy green leaves as at the radiant blooms, they’re so healthy!  Here’s a look at some of my roses…

Julia Child Floribunda is the best!  I love her butter yellow blooms and all of the flowers that cover this shrub.  One year she was blooming into November and I have pictures of her dusted with snow. This rose seems to resist disease well and has a beautiful flower, starting deep rich yellow and fading to a lighter creamy yellow. Although only lightly scented, it’s delicious!

Julia Child RoseJulia Child Rose

Chicago Peace is another one of my favorites.  This hybrid tea rose is multi-colored in yellows and pinks, with a light rose scent.  It also changes, fading to lighter colors as the blossoms age.  I planted this rose in the spring and it started growing and by May there was lots of foliage, but no buds!  I kept waiting and none appeared, so I gave it a heavy pruning. cutting all the stems down by a third.  I also re-fertilized with an organic fertilizer.  And now, about six weeks later it’s covered in buds, happy day!  One of them is just opening today and I think I’ll set up some chairs next to it, invite some friends and celebrate this gorgeous rose.  Seriously, I just want to hang out with this rose, I like it so much.  I need to get my computer outside, because that’s really where I should be blogging….with the roses!

Chicago Peace Rose

Gourmet Popcorn Shrub rose has small leaves and flowers, but they open up in big clusters, covering the ends of the stems in a soft white.  The yellow centers give it the appearance of buttered popcorn, this is a fun rose, although it has little to no scent.  I like the difference in size from the other roses, small little ruffled flowers, upright and bright, make a nice contrast to some of the big heavy blooms of some nearby.

Gourmet Popcorn Rose

Sheer Magic Hybrid Tea rose is enchanting as it opens, revealing a delicate pink and white flower. My shrub has never had many blooms at once, usually just a handful at a time, then I deadhead and wait for new growth.  I”m hoping that now it’s in a new spot it will respond better and produce more flowers.  It doesn’t even have much of a scent, but as the bloom opens you’ll forget all about fragrance, because just looking at this flower is enough to fill up all your senses. Like a night in the forest, like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain, like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean!  Have you ever had something that you just want to stare at for a long time?  This rose is delicate and pure, the colors creamy and smooth, it’s enticing.


Twilight Zone grandiflora rose is a fairly new introduction.  I love the big ruffled flowers, borne in clusters.  The color is a dark purple, described by Weeks Roses as ‘a deep velvet purple overlaid with a wisp of smoke’. I’m not sure that I’ve seen the smoke, but the velvety purple definitely!  Like the memorable television show, this rose gives you an unexpected twist with its ruffled deep purple flowers.

Twilight Zone Rose

Coretta Scott King grandiflora is another new rose, a cross between Moonstone and Hot Cocoa.  This is my first year with this beauty, so I haven’t spent as much time with her yet as the others.  I love the light colors that fade to dark as the flower opens.  Have you guessed that I’m addicted to multi-colored roses?  I can’t seem to get enough!

Coretta Scott King Rose

Coretta Scott King Rose

Tangerine Streams floribunda rose is another multi-colored beauty.  I’ve only had this one a year, but it seems to be blooming more abundantly this second year.  It has those delicious colors of apricot, salmon, pink and yellow that I love.

Tangerine Streams Rose

Oh My! floribunda is a classic deep red (although this picture looks pink…it’s not!).  It has clusters of flowers with very mild scent.  A rose with an exclamation point, wow! It must be something special! It must have static electricity! Oh My!

Oh My Rose

Easy Does It floribunda rose is exceptional.  I’ve had this one for years and it’s a non-stop bloomer as well as being covered in flowers.  It won the AARS award in 2010, well deserved!  I also like the disease resistance which is quite good.

Easy Does It Rose

Tess of the D’ Urbervilles English Rose is a David Austin climber.  This could be one of the best smelling roses in my garden, it’s heavenly.  The rich crimson flowers are lovely.  I bought it for the name alone, since I have a daughter named Tessa.  And since they are both so delightful I thought I would re-read the Thomas Hardy classic book this year, Tess of the D’ Urbervilles.  I’m telling you, stick with the rose, because I hate this book.  Except for the description of the dairy farm in the summer, it’s so dark and depressing and people die.  And Tess is such an idiot.  She needs to hang out with Oh My!

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Rose


And finally, Christopher Marlowe, my friend! This is another David Austin English rose with a dreamy tea rose fragrance.  This is a rescue rose from the nursery.  It was in the landscaping and was going to be dug out, so I decided to adopt it.  At the nursery it was largely ignored, never fertilized and rarely watered.  It put out one or two flowers a year and was quite unremarkable.  It’s new home is in a half barrel in potting soil and fertilizer and adequate water.  It’s going crazy!  I counted over 25 buds this month and I love it with the orange impatiens and pink begonias.  Christopher Marlowe, I’m glad we became acquainted!

Christopher Marlowe Rose
















Illumination Flame


I finally purchased my first Digiplexis Illumination Flame.  I have been wanting to try it out for myself since seeing it in the nursery last year.  At that time they were a rare new perennial.  This year they are showing up everywhere!  My friend just found one at Home Depot for $7.00!  Incredible, seeing as they are selling for over $20 for a gallon size at the nursery.  I am curious to see whether this plant can make it through our winters.  I also look forward to the re-bloom over the summer.  So, more info to follow, but it’s finally in the garden!  Who else is growing Digiplexis Illumination Flame and how is it doing?


The Moth Dance

Yesterday was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  It’s a bittersweet feeling for me, because for the last six months I’m longing for this day of light and for the next six months I’m reminiscing about this summer light.  Early morning light and late evening light.  Light that wakes me up with its bright intensity and light that puts me to bed with its soft glow.  It says, you don’t need the moon or the ‘faults in the stars’, because I’m still here, perfect sunlight, light unsurpassed. For a gardener it’s the best day of the year.  The plants have 16 hours of sunlight to work the wonders of photosynthesis.  We have 16 hours to pull weeds, plant and fertilize.  I rarely see moths feeding in my garden and this one didn’t seem to mind the sun shining radiantly still, at 7 pm, as it danced around my erysimum.  It’s collecting nectar, I”m gathering light.


My Top Fifty

Meconopsis 'Lingholm'Fifty is a big number for me this year. It all started in 1964 in New York.  Everyone was so excited for me, or maybe the World’s Fair?  But I arrived and now it’s fifty years later.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my new number. The number 50.  It’s kind of fun being around for 5 decades, watching the changes within and without.  Feeling the beat change as new music becomes old and then new again.  Listening to my parents play Downtown by Petula Clark.  Why do I love that music so? It moves me to a time and fills me with happiness.  It never seems to get old, just better.  Okay, that’s my goal.  I’m never going to get old, just better.  I feel like I’ve reached a significant dividing line in my life.  Like I”ve made it halfway.  Fifty down and fifty to go.  Now that I”m in the middle I want to pause.  Take a breath.  Reflect on the first half and consider the second.  I know what I can live with, I know what I can’t live without. For some reason I keep thinking about Japanese Maples. So I’m creating a list that represents me, or my favorite things.  Fifty things that make me Elaine. Who I am, who I was and who I want to be. They are not in any particular order, just stream of consciousness.  I recently read the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and that’s reflected in my top fifty.

1. Daughters and Son: Tessa, Carolina, Ariana and Zander
2. Elephants
3. Obsession with Julia Child Rose
4. Cookies are my life
5. The Birthday Sassy Dance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5Bqkr-lydk)
6. The ocean
7. Water: salt water, fresh water, drinking water, river water, ice water, water
8. Change produces creativity
9. It’s okay to lose something
10. The summer solstice
11. Spring and May 16th
12. The Dove Tree, Davidia involucrata
13. Books! The scriptures, fantasy, fiction, poetry, song
14. Brandon Sanderson
15. Pasta, pizza, salad and butter
16. The color blue
17. Biking
18. Walking through the woods
19. Hiking in the mountains
20. Running down the beach
21. Tidepools
22. Zooxanthellae
23. Skaneateles, New York
24. Spreckels, California
25. The Pacific Northwest
26. The sound of rain
27. Molluscs —Olivella biplicata
29. Michael Jackson Music
30. Downtown by Petula Clark
31. Emmanuel–Toda la Vida
32. Coldplay–Viva la Vida
33. The sound of ice tinkling in a glass
34. James Taylor–Up on the Roof
35. Cats, dogs, Neon Tetras
36. Friends–Good friends, old friends, new friends, best friends
37. Act the way you want to feel
38. If you can’t get out, get in
39. Let it go
40. Do it now
41. Enjoy the day
42. Keep smiling
43. Sing in the shower, sing in the choir
44. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
45. Robert Frost–The Road Not Taken
46. Witchhazel
47. Daphne and lilac and roses and gardenia and hyacinth
48. Pinus strobus ‘Mini Twists’
49. Japanese Maples
50. Love


Hardy Ground Orchid


20140608-193933-70773061.jpgI like this plant, Bletilla striata.  When we moved into a new house this winter I saw a patch of dead leaves and wondered, what is that???  They were long with parallel veins and I thought, maybe Crocosmia? In the early spring some green started to peek out and flower buds formed.  It soon became apparent that the new growth was Lily of the Valley, you can see the remnants of their flowers in the pictures below.  But I knew that the dead leaves I had seen were much longer than Lily of the Valley, so I was quite puzzled until I saw another set of leaves poking up through the Lily of the Valley.  Here comes that mystery plant I said to myself.  It was such a delightful surprise to see the rich purple blossoms of the hardy ground orchid opening up.  I have an orchid in my garden!  Bletila striata is right outside my back door!   I feel like I’ve reached a new level. First I earned enough points to have a garden with just pansies and petunias.  Then after putting in the required time I reached the level of roses and Japanese Maples.  Now, after hours of searching and jumping and solving (yes, I’m thinking Mario World) I made it o the Orchid level!  Okay, I actually cheated at this game by taking a time warp tunnel to this level, because I didn’t plant it myself…it just appeared!  Regardless of how I arrived, I am really happy to be at this level and I wonder, what’s next???



Just the Facts
Bletilla striata      Hardy Ground Orchid
Spring flowering perennial, pink-purple
Flowers can number up to 10 per stalk with classic orchid shape that open sequentially
Said to be the easiest terrestrial orchid to grow!
Grows in zones 6-9
24 inches tall (.6 meter)
Sun to part shade
Will naturalize in good conditions
Other varieties feature white, lilac or pink flowers
Native to China and Japan


Snowbell Song


Last week the blossoms were just opening on the Snowbell tree, or Styrax japonica.  The bees were humming through the air, the sun was sparkling….it was a glorious day!  I was so excited to immerse myself in in the world of  the snowbell tree, so I tried to capture the moment with this video.  My novice video-taking skills leave much to be desired, but I think the tree still stands out during this perfect time.  It was the perfect time too, for the next day I walked by and many of the flowers had already faded and fallen to the earth.  One day they were fresh and creamy white and the next they were tired and finished.  I’ll never forget my first encounter with a snowbell tree when I moved to Washington State.  I had never had the opportunity to meet one before, because the timing has to be just right. On this day I was walking through my neighborhood taking my daughter to school.  We had just walked below the canopy of a leafy green deciduous tree and I happened to look up.  I was surrounded by bells!  By snowbells!  Thousands of beautiful bright blossoms were dancing all around me! It was a joyful experience and from then on I would say that one place I could always find happiness was under a snowbell tree in June.  And yet the moment is so fleeting and that’s the way it is with many plants, and sometimes people too.  The timing has to be just right to see them at their very best.  So pay attention!



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