On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, ten lords a leaping. Leaping plants remind me of tall grasses, especially those that shoot up between spring and summer. Grasses are so versatile. They provide contrast in both color and form in a garden. They provide movement when a breeze passes through. They have the most awesome names! (Calamagrostis? Helictotrichon? Schizachyrium??? JK Rowling couldn’t have done better! Bluestem Nursery has a fantastic website that I frequently use for reference. Here is one of my favorites, Calamagrostis x acutifolia ‘Karl Foerster’. Feather Reed Grass is a beauty. I love the tall columns it makes, especially when planted in clumps. It grows in zones 3-9 in full sun, moist to wet soil. It won the award for Perennial plant of the year in 2001. Definitely a plant that will leap into your heart!
On the Ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing. Just as people can dance and move, certain plants possess rhythm and music in their movements. When a breeze sweeps by they may swing and sway. Some have a pattern and repetition just like the steps in a dance. Other plants seem to be decked out in costume, lighting up the stage with their tulle and taffeta. I watched the Nutcracker Ballet this season and during the Waltz of the Flowers the costumes were so beautiful, light and shimmering in pastel colors that I was lost in field of flowers during the dance. They transformed the dancers into petals floating on the breeze. Twirling and whirling on a soft summer day. I think that plants enjoy this dance as well. The delicate petals falling on moss surprise me with their random design. The pattern of bark exposed on a bare winter tree reminds me of a belly dance. The Japanese Maples with their delicate and artistic structure, yet possessing great strength, could be the ballet dancers. Why not let the horsetail perform the riverdance? Growing in moist places, straight and true. The spirals of the wisteria vine and the topiary are doing the Twist. Curling their way upward. The witchhazel plants are reaching out to each other, like two partners in a waltz. Taking turns leading. One day yellow leads out with its sparkly flowers, the next red takes over. The blueberries are in the midst of a folkdance. Moving through the patterns of ripeness, from green to perfect blue. The beautiful trees, in fresh flower and leaf are definitely doing the swing, as they wave to me in the breeze. The tree with its roots exposed is a hip-hop dancer, showing off its flexibility and power. Just look around, you’ll see that plants are not frozen in place. They cavort, they jump and leap, they twist and twirl, they whirl, spin and prance. Yes, plants can dance! Do you have any dancing plants?
I planted these containers for a client last fall. The topiary arborvitae was in place, but she wanted color for the winter (we are so lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest where we can have color in the winter!). I added heuchera, a variegated carex sedge, a small heather, variegated lonicera (bush honeysuckle), pansies and chrysanthemums. The mums didn’t make it beyond a few weeks, but everything else sailed through the winter, passed merrily into spring and is overjoyed that summer is almost here! The pansies just won’t quit blooming, the heuchera has filled out, the lonicera continues to grow over the edge and I keep telling these two pots ‘you were supposed to be seasonal! I was going to add spring color, summer sun (we did put in a few dahlias and petunias) or perhaps more perennials. But instead of fading, you just kept getting better….more color, more texture, more flowers from those crazy pansies!’ I did fertilize with Alaska Fish Fertilizer once or twice a month and here are the results:
Pink forsythia, or Abeliophyllum distichum, grows 3-6 feet tall in full sun to part shade. It flowers in early spring and has a light, sweet fragrance.
Beautiful foliage on this shrubby pine. There was a little note by it that said ‘Harvest Moon’, but I can’t find it, still looking. It contrasts well with the PJM rhododendron on the right.
It was a nice surprise to see this summer bloomer in February. Itoh peony is has sturdy stems and really big blossoms. Happy day!
Flowering Quince was hard to photograph. My camera did not want to focus on the closer buds. The beautiful big, fat buds are almost just as good-looking as the flowers themselves. The plant itself has a pokey, crooked shape which looks great in a container.
Lightly scented, this lilac blooms in spring and again in late summer until frost. Fantastic! It grows 4-5 feet tall and I want one!
It’s hard to see in the photo, but the tall reddish plant in the background is Agonis flexuosa ‘After Dark’, the shrub is Coprosma ‘Caro Red’ and the Sedge is ‘Rekohu Sunrise’. I really like this combination, there were some new things for me. Agonis is a tree from Australia and Coprosma a shrub from New Zealand.
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!
I visited the Washington Park Arboretum this month and it’s so nice to go in the winter. No crowds like in April when the too beautiful flowering cherries are going crazy and photographers are everywhere. Now there are frosty surprises around each bend. Curious winter blossoms and giant conifers. It’s peaceful and pretty. I want to go back!
This tongue twister Calamagrostis x acutiflora is best referred to as Feather Reed Grass. On a recent trip to Utah I saw it planted in many landscape designs, in front of homes, schools and businesses. It’s striking. The shape is defined, a rectangle. The colors are divided, tan on top, green below. Movement is part of the package with ornamental grasses. Swaying, dipping, billowing, rocking and waving. You don’t get such action with a petunia or juniper. Okay, sometimes flowering cherry trees wave in the wind, but grasses add something extra to the perennial border. This grass is clump-forming and semi-evergreen. It grows in full sun to part shade and does well in many soil types, particularly clay soil. It prefers moist, fertile soil, but will even grow in dry, sandy areas (which is why it’s planted all over Utah). Cold isn’t a problem, it grows in Canada, zones 2 and 3. Cut it all the way down in early spring, just before the new growth begins. The variety ‘Karl Foerster’ is popular for it’s early bloom in June and green leaves. It can reach over six feet in height when in bloom. ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Overdam’ are varieties with variegated green and white foliage. This website bluestem.ca/ornamental-grass from Bluestem Nursery has lots of great reasons to grow ornamental grasses. Some of the reasons I like are: makes a nice rustling sound in the wind, looks good in the fall, and provides a habitat for birds and other wildlife. Check out their site for some great information!
This new Japanese Forest Grass might cause a ‘snowstorm’ sensation in your garden. ’Fubuki’ means snowstorm in Japanese. The leaves contrast white and green, with pink appearing in the fall. Propagated at Briggs Nursery, this clumping grass is more compact than ‘Aureola’ from which it is a sport. Hakonechloa is a slow growing deciduous grass with graceful arching leaves. Native to Japan it grows on the mountainside of Mt. Hakone. Being a woodland species we like it here in the Northwest for its tolerance to shade.
Briggs Nursery is located west of Olympia in Washington State. As plant propagators they specialize in rhododendrons, woody ornamentals, perennials, blueberries, raspberries, forestry products and wine grape starter plants. I like their tagline: Enhancing the quality of life through plants! http://www.briggsnursery.com/