All Shades of Green—-A Plant Perspective


Swainson’s Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush

It was summertime, deep into July.  I heard this haunting melody and was captivated.  I wondered if we had a visitor from another world.  With some help from a good friend I discovered it was the Swainson’s Thrush, a visitor in our woods for only a few months.  The call is heard in the early morning and late evening, just when the sun in making it’s entrance and exit to the day.  This bird is rarely seen, but the the song is not soon forgotten.  It has an upward, spiraling melody that is haunting and beautiful.  It’s a happy reflection on a cold and dark winter day.  To learn more, visit All About Birds, from Cornell as we wait for the days filled with light and the Swainson’s Thrush to return again.


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3 Trees—New Varieties for 2015

Variegated Stellar Pink Dogwood (Cornus kousa x Cornus florida)  I’ve seen trees like this before.  On the Monrovia site you can find three variegated Cornus kousa; Samaritan, Wolf Eyes and Summer Fun, but they all have white flowers.  As the human race is constantly searching for the next new thing, now arrives the variegated dogwood with a Pink flower.  Dogwoods always look so spindly and minimal when they are young, but a mature dogwood can take your breath away.  It has to be in the top three for spring flowering trees.  Flowering cherries, Magnolias and Dogwoods.  Three reasons why spring is the best.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this one grows.  It has green leaves with white margins and mottled hues of green and white in several shades turn multi-colored in the fall — pink, yellow, purple and green simultaneously. Flowers are profuse, large and pink, covering the small tree in spring for several weeks. It is said to be highly pest and disease resistant. Grow in full sun in northern climates and part shade in warmer areas. Grows 10–15 tall and wide.

Marley’s Pink Snowbell (Styrax japonicus ‘JL Weeping’)  The world will never have enough snowbell trees, so I welcome any new varieties.  You may know that I have a thing for this tree.  I love a mature spreading canopy of a traditional Snowbell, but I”m intrigued with this new little one. Marley’s Pink Snowbell has a weeping habit, pink flowers and leaves that are significantly larger, glossier and less pubescent than other known cultivars. June flowers are vibrant pink and bell-shaped.  It grows up to 8 feet tall and 4–5 feet wide at maturity.  Out of these three new trees, this is the one I want!

Winchester Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo)  Another lovely little thing that I’m curious to see in its mature state.  There are an amazing variety of Pines and I think they provide an essential element to the garden. Green in winter, structural and a contrasting texture to broad leaf plants. This petite mugo seems to be bursting with life. ‘Winchester’ is a dwarf mugo pine chosen for its tidy, semi-upright form, which differs from other dwarf mugo cultivars. It maintains its dense body, making it suitable for small spaces. Tiny, short needles add year-round color and texture to the garden or container. Grows 3–4 inches annually, reaching a mature height of 2–3 feet in 10 years. Tolerates poor soils and dry conditions, as well as full or part sun.


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Pink Blueberries, Velvet Leaves and Hot Petals—New Varieties

Mighty Velvet Stachys (Lamb’s Ears):  Some plants have incredible color, others have unforgettable fragrance but this one has neither.  The Mighty Velvet Stachys has a magnetic quality that magically brings hand to leaf.  It’s irresistibly soft, begging you to touch it.  It’s soft and nice and feels like you’re petting a puppy.  Lance-like, silver-colored wooly leaves are deer resistant. Foliage holds up well in rain and weather, either in the landscape or in a container mix. Grows 18–24 inches tall and wide. Does well in sun or shade and is heat and drought tolerant. Zones 7-9

Li’l Bang Enchanted Eve Coreopsis: Aren’t these names getting a little long? How about Eve Coreopsis?  Or Li’l Coreopsis? Why do we have to deal with FIVE names?  I’m glad there are rules around the botanical terms, one genus, one species. Nice and neat.  This plant has large, single dark yellow flowers with a vibrant red-orange center. The compact, mounding, dwarf form grows to 9 inches tall with a 20-inch spread. Little or no seed is set, which extends the bloom season from Summer through Fall. Grows in full sun and is disease and mildew resistant.  Zone 5.

Pink Icing Blueberry: This one is all about foliage.  There is something wrong about making a blueberry pink, but luckily we get to keep the blue in blueberry in this case. Pink Icing™ is a compact, ornamental blueberry plant with colorful spring foliage colors ranging from hues of pink to blues and greens. In winter, the foliage turns an iridescent turquoise blue. The large, sweet and robust-flavored fruit ripens mid-summer. Use in the landscape mixed in with other ornamentals, or it can be used as a hedge or in decorative containers on the patio. Grows in a spreading, upright mound and will reach 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Plant in full sun in moist, acidic soil.

Sombrero Adobe Orange Coneflower: This echinacea is sunny and warm. Bright orange flowers bloom late spring to late summer on sturdy, compact stems. It has an upright habit growing to 24–26 inches tall and 16–18 inches wide. Plant in mixed perennial gardens in full sun and well drained soil. Drought resistant once established.


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At the Nursery in October


Color! Contrast! Life! October is such a great time to visit the nursery.  Fall is ripe and seasoned.  The plants are mature, having reached a level of sophistication unknown in spring. Spring is a baby.  Wet and new, simple and filled with potential.  Summer is a carefree youth, mellow.  The bright sun covering every living thing with a joyful facade. Just hinting at the complexity to come.  Then autumn arrives with a push and a thrill. It wakes us up from our summer nap with a zap.  Something is going on here. Why do so many people love the fall?  Why is it a favorite season? We love the sweet baby tunes of spring, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. But then Autumn arrives as a complex symphony.  The colors blow in like a strong gust of wind and create a lasting impression.  Summer has a lovely apple red, but fall has a screaming crimson red.  Flames, fire, it’s almost painful.  The leaves mature and change, and just before they drop to the ground they show us what’s really inside.  All of their potential.  The culmination of all seasons. The piece de resistance.  The last lecture. The final symphony.  In autumn there is a depth to the landscape.  A thoughtfulness.  A consideration.  Spring is looking ahead, but Fall is looking back.  This is where I’ve been and what I’ve done.  My pollen has traveled the world, my roots have pushed deep into the soil, I have figured out how to take sunlight and change it into food!  Fall has wisdom.  Autumn has earned my respect. I enjoy this time for I know that within every leaf and inside each bud there is a story.

Here is the story this October at my favorite nursery, the Gray Barn Nursery in Redmond,WA:

Burning Bush (Euonymous alata ‘Compactus’)  A plain green deciduous shrub all year turns into an electric red that pops in the landscape in October.  Looks really good contrasted against the various greens of dwarf conifers, like the beautiful curls of Mini Twists Pine. This smaller variety gets 6-8 feet tall.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) Leaves transform through yellow, orange and red for a spectacular show. The laceleaf variety ‘Laciniata’ has soft fern-like foliage and Tiger Eyes has chartreuse new foliage.

Sourwood Tree (Oxydendron arboreum) The white summer flowers form capsules that are persistent through the winter, turning from yellow to brown.  The leaves change from yellow red to purple and are often described as ‘brilliant’.

Maple (Acer)  What can I say about this group?  Most have excellent color in the fall. Everyone should have at  least five Japanese Maples in their yard for year round interest.  Coral Bark Japanese Maples are one of my favorites for fall color.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’)  Hands down the best color purple in the entire universe is on this berry. Buy it just for this color, number across the Milky Way.  This rather unremarkable shrub otherwise produces clumps of berries in the Fall, a great contrast to an orange pumpkin in your Autumn display.

Smokebush (Cotinus coggrygria)  There are lots of varieties, but my favorite is ‘Grace’ which shimmers irridescent in the spring and goes red/orange/yellow in the Fall.  ‘Royal Purple’ has a rich red/purple foliage in the Fall, another great plant to contrast with conifers.

Witchhazel (Hamamelis mollis) I love this plant for it’s unbelievable fragrance in February, but the leaves are fantastic. Beautifully shaped and rich with colors of yellow/orange/red in Fall.

Annuals and Perennials such as the ever-lovable pansy, winter-long ornamental cabbage, colorful Heuchera and Carex are indispensable in the Fall/Winter garden.

What’s appearing in your local nursery this Fall? It’s time to go out and see!









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New Variety—Shasta Daisy


Real Charmer


Real Galaxy


Real Glory










A daisy is a daisy is a daisy.  But now we have three plain ‘ole daisies that have been dressed up to become fancy plants.  The ‘Real’ collection has three different cultivars.  ‘Real Charmer’ has fringed central petals, ‘Real Galaxy’ has many layers of fine fringed pure white petals and ‘Real Glory’ has a reflexing anemone flower form.  All have sturdy upright habits producing a full canopy of blossoms.  They have improved disease resistance and bloom early in mid-summer, with a second flush in fall with dead-heading.  These lovely daisies can go in containers or the border and make long-lasting cut flowers.  Plant where they receive full sun down to zone 5.

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New Variety—Scarlet Torch Bottlebrush




I love the foliage on this bottlebrush shrub.  It’s almost between a conifer and a deciduous plant, smooth and shiny green. And evergreen.  I like it and I didn’t even get to see the beautiful flowers, which are crimson red and larger than other varieties. This plant is sold by Monrovia and grows in zones 8-11. It’s compact and grows eight feet high and 10 feet wide.  Also, it is said to be non-drooping.  I don’t know what’s wrong with a little droop now and then, but I guess too much droop is a sign of weakness.  ‘Stand up straight young plant and we’ll sell 5000 of you this spring, become droopy and it’s off to the half price lot for you!’  Little pruning is required to keep it’s dense form and it is tolerant of poor and rocky soils.  This genus is native to Australia.

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New Variety—Avantgarde Hydrangea


Hydangea macrophylla 'Avantgarde'

Pruned to create one 7-9 inch bloom


Hydrangea macrophylla 'Avantgarde'

One plant with several blooms.



When this hydrangea is pruned to just one blossom it looks like a miniature tree covered in a thousand flowers.  Like a big poofy fluff ball, it almost seems fake, not like a real plant.  It is hard to imagine this puffy little thing out in the landscaping.  I think a wind would lift it up like a hot air balloon and it might sail across the Atlantic Ocean and settle itself in front of a patisserie.  ‘Je voudrais un chocolat chaud et un croissant, s’il vous plait.   Je vais voir les beaux jardins a Versailles et les vivant fleurs en le campagne. La vie est belle’   Avantgarde is from a French word that means innovative, pushing the boundaries of what is accepted, and I think this hydrangea does just that.  Besides speaking French, it grows up to 24″ tall and 18″ wide.  The stems are strong enough to support those magnificent flowers and the bloom can last for up to three months, changing color from white to pink or blue to green.  Vive le France.



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