Of all the gardens at the 2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show, A Hobbit’s New Zealand Garden was my favorite. No fancy paths, patios, staircases or dining sets, it was all about plants. Finally, order in the universe! There was one cute little hobbit house, but even it’s roof was made of plants. I like how everything was tied together with moss and ferns and diminutive plants. This garden was created by the Washington Park Arboretum to celebrate the New Zealand forest which will be opening in the fall. I wasn’t the only one who was wowed by this garden. It won six top awards, including the People’s Choice, an award voted by the public. From the garden description: A spectacular tree fern stands sentry nearby. Next to the house is a bog exuberant with colorful New Zealand flax (Phormium). Low-lying fog over the wetland creates drama and mystery. The foliage of variegated Coprosma, Corokia, and Veronica (Hebe) add color to the display. Clematis ‘Avalanche’ drapes from the top of the house. The garden features drought-tolerant plants, most of which are suitable for growing in the Pacific Northwest gardens. The use of foliage to create a rich color palette is a key design element. A new plant for me was Coprosma or mirror bush. The glossy leaves were rich with color and I admired this evergreen shrub, although it appears to more comfortable in zone 9 rather than our zone 8. Another plant that caught my attention was the celery pine, or Phyllocladus alpinus, such a cute little coniferous shrub. Alas, not hardy in the PNW, but they suggest use as an indoor plant. It was fun to see this collection of New Zealand plants and I look forward to the new display at the arboretum!
Today was the first day of the Flower and Garden Show in Seattle and there were beautiful plants (I loved the Itoh Peony in full bloom!) creative displays (Hobbit house!) and informative seminars (Thomas Hobbs has an amazing garden!). Here is a teaser of the Washington Park Arboretum’s A Hobbit’s New Zealand Garden.
The latest picture from my New Zealand connection is this lovely tree. It has a smooth and supple trunk topped with a spiky pop of leaves. If I am correct, it’s Cordyline australis, or the cabbage tree, native to New Zealand. How cool to see a monocot plant in a tree form. Most of the monocot plants around here are the diminutive grasses, with leaf veins parallel (as opposed to dicotyledons with reticulated leaf veins). We sell cordylines at the nursery, but usually for a summer tropical look (most don’t last through our winters). If they did last, they could grow into an amazing tree like this one. The Cabbage tree is a familiar part of the New Zealand landscape and can grow up to 60 feet tall. I’m trying to use my imagination, but I just don’t see a cabbage in this tree, do you?
My brother is a really good photographer. I love this picture he took in New Zealand! It’s one of those photos that draws you in. Grassy field and blue, blue sky. Very simple, yet so engaging. I long to walk on that smooth green grass. No, not walk…run really, really fast. I want to fly over the hill and see what’s on the other side (after I stop at the tree for a quick ID). The two girls in purple hats. One is just returning from adventure, one waits. They are separate, yet together. The line between earth and sky creates such a definite boundary. We see that rarely where I live…too many trees! I believe he told me that the movie The Hobbit was being filmed in this area. The second photograph below is a shrubby plant, yellow flowers against another bright blue New Zealand sky. I’m still working on the identity of the plant, can anyone beat me to it?
This grass is clumpy cool. Cool because this picture was taken on a frosty, frozen morning. Clumpy because it’s not bumpy, just smooth and clumpy. Any plant that looks this good in December is on my list. My good plant list. The happy list. (Are you curious about my bad plant list? Here’s a teaser….Photinia…I scowl at you every time we meet!) Carex comans or Frosted Curls or New Zealand Hair Sedge is another story. Walking by this small group of Carex I felt like I was at an art exhibit. Considering light and line. Pondering form and function. Wondering how this grass suggests movement even as it’s frozen in place. It has a rhythm and flow and appears to grow. How does it do that? A little bit of pixie dust? Shimmering, it looks like a refreshing water fountain, tumbling over itself. This planting is an example of repetition. Repetition of the same plant creating a pleasing effect. Repetition showing off the beauty more than a single specimen. Repetition moving us along a flowing river. Repetition is good with Carex comans, but it also looks great in a container. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil, sun to partial shade. This fine-textured dwarf evergreen sedge grows 12-18 inches high and will reseed, but not profusely. An exciting addition to your very-pretty-plant gallery.
This plant is tempting me. It’s a photo from Mike in New Zealand and it looks awfully familiar. I can’t quite place it, although Gaura comes to mind. It’s hard to be sure without a close-up. Who knows? Can anyone name this plant or make a guess?
Same plant, different season. These photos were both taken this week. The New Zealand photo simmers of summer. I start to sweat just looking at it. I can feel the waves of heat coming off the plumes, hitting me in the face. The azure blue sky is brilliant and the plumes look like a soft, warm golden sweater. I sure it’s just my size. I’d like to try it on. Right now! On the other side of the world the Pampas grass in Sammamish has a graceful curve. Like a frozen water fountain, it forms a pleasing line as it falls like frozen flakes of snow. I’m actually quite impressed at how good this grass looks in January. It doesn’t have a lot of dead leaves like many I’ve seen. Cortaderia selloana (Pampas grass) can be invasive and difficult to remove in California and the South, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem in Washington. It grows best in full sun in either dry or moist soil and is very fast growing. One characteristic about this plant that sets it apart from most ornamental plants is the sharp edges on the leaves. I’ve simply brushed up against it and started bleeding after the razor-like edge sliced open my skin. A good adaptation if you don’t want to be eaten or moved!
In Wellington, New Zealand it’s summer in January. My brother Mike has just moved there and is going to be sending me plant pictures to share, as well as all kinds of stories about life in another part of the world. Gas costs $8.00 per gallon, aren’t we lucky? It appears that Wellington is in zone 9, just a bit warmer than my Seattle area zone 8. Mike’s first discovery is a huge clump of Agapanthus, or Lily of the Nile. It looks like it’s ready for some dividing, as it’s moving up the hill and into the house! I’m guessing that with less competition from itself, it would be happier and bloom more. It grows in zones 8-11 and blooms from mid-summer into the fall, with either white or blue flowers. It forms an evergreen clump and is native to South Africa. This plant is quite distinctive, once you learn it, it’s hard to miss. It’s really popular in central California, where I lived before the Northwest.