All Shades of Green—-A Plant Perspective

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Are there Hebes in the Shire?

I visited Palmer’s garden center in Miramar today and was overjoyed to see so many Hebes! Small leaf, large leaf, purple and green leaf, what a great variety. I wanted to pack them up and take them home with me and see what they think of Washington. My guess is they would love it in the Northwest.

 I did find something I could purchase…packets of New Zealand native plant seeds. I am so excited to try them and see how they grow. One of them is a hebe, along with the silver fern, a cabbage tree, the Mt Cook Lily and more. It will be a fun experiment. I was surprised today while driving along Scorching Bay, to see this curious sign:  

Little blue penguins live here on the North Island! I didn’t see any, but it was fun to come across that sign. Luckily we didn’t get lost today, even though I had to ‘drive on the left, look to the right’. It must have been that great road map we found at the Roxy Theater.  

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As I was exploring the Wellington Botanic Garden today I had a chance encounter with a very unusual tree.  Near the Lady Norwood Rose Garden I met a Banksia integrifolia or Banksia on a steeply sloped hillside. The first thing I noticed were the unusual seed pods, or woody cones that were persistent all over the tree. They have such an interesting shape and are covered with valves that are like little mouths that are open or closed.   The leaves were distinctive with their narrow elliptical shape and serrate margins.  And then I saw the bark which is full of texture and I knew I had to find a seed and try and grow this little beauty back home.  I was hesitant to pluck anything off a tree in a botanical garden, but luckily I found an old cone on the ground nearby.  Almost all of the valves were closed on the one I found, I might have to burn it to release the seeds.  A bit of research showed that this small tree is native to Australia and is named after the English botanist Sir Joseph Banks. The flowers form cylindrical cones in May, June and July (winter) and are pale green or yellow.  They appear to be an important nectar source for birds during this time of the year. There are several Banskia species in New Zealand, all from the family Protoaceae. It is supposed to be fairly hardy, growing in all soil types and can even tolerate a short amount of freezing weather.  I hope I can make it home with a seed!


At the Nursery in Wellington

We visited the local garden center today, Palmer’s,  and it was fun to see so many familiars mixed in with some strange new species.  They were selling winter flowers like pansies and cyclamen, ornamental cabbage and primroses.  I also recognized camellias, azaleas, roses and choisya in the nursery.  It was strange because almost everything was evergreen.  There were a few deciduous shrubs, I saw a viburnum, but not much else.  Leucadendron was new to me, as well as Metrosideros ‘Kawa Copper’ and many more which I can’t remember (I’m still feeling the jet lag). It was great to see so many varieties of Hebe and many of them were in bloom.  On our beach walk today I saw a three foot tall plant that was in flower, the leaf resembling a pelargonium.  I’m not sure what it is, but I was impressed with its size.  It was another beautiful winter day, with temps about 55 degrees F, the sun shining and a cool breeze blowing off the bay.  As soon as the clouds clear out we will be looking for the Southern Cross in the sky, then I’ll really know I”m not in Washington anymore.

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The Land of New Zealand Flax

Walking down the street, what do I see? New Zealand flax. Up on the ridge what do I find, swept over with wind? New Zealand flax. Yes, phormium really does grow here in New Zealand. I’ve also seen a lot of hebes on my first day down under.  When I got off the plane in Auckland I smelled fried donuts and the sea, a good combination.  A couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw aeonium growing as a perennial here! We grow it as an annual in the greenhouse, it’s a plant that looks like it’s from Jupiter, with all its strange shapes. 


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Traveling Shoes

As I left for this trip my son looked at my feet and said ‘you’re wearing those???’ He always has stylish shoes and very cool socks, but I decided to wear my hiking shoes. It’s winter, they are well-worn, so very comfortable and maybe some seeds will stick to them and travel home with me! What would you wear to New Zealand Zander? I’d like to know.  


Journey to New Zealand

Today I’m starting my adventure to New Zealand. I’m going to visit family primarily, and to see as many plants as possible. I think many will be familiar because we share similar climates, but there will be a whole new world to discover. I’ve been stuck in Seattle for a long time, not having traveled far, so I’m really looking forward to this trip. My first leg is a short flight to Vancouver, BC, then the lovely 14 hours to Auckland followed by another quick flight to Wellington, my final destination.  I’ll be posting pictures along the way. Since I’m going to the land of Lord of the Rings, I thought I’d bring along an old friend.  Falaroy the elf, plant explorer.


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Clarkia pulchella

This is the first year I’ve grown Clarkia and I’m a believer now.  We grew it from seed for our plant sale at school and I was not impressed with its beginnings.  It was floppy and rangy and never could decide whether to grow up or down.  I transplanted four starts to a nursery pot and there was trouble.  Over the following month, three of the four starts withered and died.  They appeared to be suffering from too much or too little water, the leaves just collapsed and the entire plant died.  After talking with a few others who brought this plant home from the sale, I found that their Clarkia suffered similar fates.  We came to the conclusion that the young, tender roots do not like being disturbed, as watering was consistent.   They just don’t like transplanting. One person who took the Clarkia home has left it in the tiny little four-pack and she says it’s doing great!  So why does this little native resent having it’s roots disturbed?  Discovered by Lewis and Clarke, the journal entry by Lewis states that Clarkia pulchella was found in Idaho ‘on the steep sides of the fertile hills’.  That clue leads me to believe that it requires excellent drainage and perhaps rich potting soil absorbs too much moisture?  Hard to say for sure, as this is my first season growing Clarkia. The seeds are reported to germinate extremely well for gardeners.  I really like the flower show as it spills out of the pot and it’s been blooming for over a month.  Clarkia blooms in early summer and is an annual.  It reaches 6-18 inches in height (or length) and is a native to the Western US. I’m looking forward to growing it again next year!


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