All Shades of Green—-A Plant Perspective


Surprising Pines

There comes a time in our lives when we come face to face with an extraordinary plant and it brings tears to our eyes.  That’s how I felt when I stood beside Pinus strobus ‘Mini Twists’….so beautiful!  Here are some of the outstanding pines that I discovered at Iseli Nursery in Oregon last week.  This genus of plants has so much texture.  Some are soft and supple, others sharp and pokey.  Colors range from all shades of green to yellow, gold and blue.  Captivating conifers!


Iseli Nursery

I had the long awaited opportunity to visit Iseli Nursery in Oregon this week.  It was incredible!  The attention to detail and design of the display garden was impressive with its collection of rare and beautiful conifers.  The texture, color and movement created with these wonderful plants will turn you into a conifer lover quickly, without one look back at those broadleaf angiosperms.  I was so excited to see many of the plants that I know, only in their mature state.  I have been wanting to see how they fill out and how they grow up.  I was attracted to some of the conifers instantly.  It was love at first sight when I laid my eyes on Pinus strobus ‘mini twists’.  Those tangled locks, I just wanted to throw my arms around it!  I’ll be taking a closer look at some of these amazing conifers in future posts, which ones are your favorites?


Swimming With the Squid at VanDusen Gardens

Any garden with a large wooden squid swimming through a field of grass is my kind of place.  I’ve always had a fascination for these slippery cephalopods.  It began with those stories of the giant squid that lurked in the depths of the oceans.  As a kid I imagined huge monsters, as big as my bedroom with large glowing eyes and night black ink.  I pictured oversize mollusks with their tentacles wrapped around a sperm whale, tooth versus beak.  Later as a young adult I encountered them while snorkeling in Bermuda.  It was just me, floating lazily through that bright blue water when in front of me, suspended in the sea, was an eye.  Clear and knowing, just floating in the water.  Upon closer inspection I noticed more eyes, and then slowly the squid bodies came into focus,they seemed to materialize out of nowhere, their camouflage was perfect with their counter shading and chromatophores matching them exactly to their liquid surroundings.  I’ll never forget those eyes in that blue Bermuda water.  And then later, after marriage and a couple of kids came along it seemed only natural to call them squids.  Especially when they were perhaps getting into deep water I would yell “you squids, get out of the garden, your’re stepping on the beets!”  or after a long day with the little ones I would sigh in exasperation “those squids, they’re exhausting!”  but sometimes before an adventurous hike I would rally the troops with a call of “okay squids, let’s go!”  It only worked when they were little and slippery, as they grew older the squids made a less frequent appearance and their kid camouflage disappeared. Nowadays my encounters with squid are usually in front of a crispy hot plate of calamari, but I’ll always be on the lookout for the legendary giant squid.


VanDusen Botanical Gardens

Today I had the privilege of visiting the beautiful VanDusen Botanical gardens in Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s only a few hours north of my home in Washington and what a great collection of plants! Here are a few preliminary pictures from this wonderful garden, including our botanical hero, Carl Linneaus, Calamagrostis and flying squid, and something I’ve wanted to see for a long time, the variegated kiwi vine! What’s your favorite botanical garden? So many plants, so little time!









Ukigumo Year Five

Here is my Ukigumo Japanese Maple as it travels through time.  This beautiful Acer palmatum has been with me for five years and it’s grown a lot.  This years photo shows it weighted down with raindrops and with partial variegation.  I recently read that variegation is influenced by cultural conditions and that the leaves will revert to plain green with too much fertilizer or too much sun.  I love all the colors on my Ukigumo, which receives full afternoon sun.  Sometimes it gets a little burned on hot summer days, but I like it where it is, welcoming me home.

Ukigumo 2013

Ukigumo 2013

Ukigumo 2012

Ukigumo 2011

Ukigumo 2010

Ukigumo 2009


Happy Birthday Dove Tree

Walking under the Dove tree in full bloom is my favorite birthday present.  On May 16th a trip to the arboretum was in order and I was not disappointed as in days past.  We hurried down the trail, glancing over the shrubs, admiring magnolias, lingering on the laburnum for moments, but not until we reached Davidia involucrata did we stop and sigh.  It was the middle of May and this incredible tree was in full bloom.  Showing off it’s waving white bracts.  They covered the ground, they danced around our faces and over our heads.  We paused and enjoyed.  It felt good to just stop and look around.  It seems I’m always rushing somewhere, always going.  But this day we stopped.  We looked up.  We smiled and gazed.  Why does staring at trees feel so good?  Just being near it made me happy.  Everyone should have a tree for their birthday, what’s yours?

I love the leaf of Davidia involucrata.  Michael Dirr says it best:  “alternate, simple, broad-ovate, acuminate, cordate, dentate-serrate with acuminate teeth, strongly veined, glabrous above, densely silky-pubescent beneath, vivid green’!  If you’re not into botanical babble, just believe me….it’s pretty.

Just the Facts
Davidia involucrata The Dove Tree
Size 20-40 ft. (6-12m) High and Wide
Hardy to zone 6
Slow to medium growth Rate
Deciduous, Blooms white bracts in May
Prefers light shade

Dove Tree in June


Desert Arboretum

Visiting my family this week in St. George, Utah has been a lot of fun.  The landscape is one hundred eighty degrees different than the Washington view.  Here it’s red and dust, there it’s green and moist.  Here it’s sparse and prickly, there it’s lush and mossy.  The hot sun blazes too brightly in Southern Utah and in the Pacific Northwest it’s a soft warm glow.  Here I turn away from the glare and there I raise my face to the sun, soaking it in.  I found a fascinating tree on a short walk through the local desert arboretum.  The Screwbean Mesquite Tree or Prosopis pubescens has a unique seed pod.  It looks like a fat screw, or a plump insect larvae. The Mesquite is the most common tree in the desert Southwest.  Like other members of the Legume Family, it’s a nitrogen fixer.  Finally I found out how these plants can survive in this dry, dry climate.  The Mesquite has a taproot that can be larger than the trunk.  Because it burns slowly and is smokeless, mesquite wood is one of the best in the desert.  The seed pods are eaten by wildlife and were used by Native Americans for tea, syrup and a ground meal called Pinole.


Star Magnolia

Star Magnolia

Star Magnolia

To me, the star magnolia doesn’t look like twinkling stars, but rather a sea full of dancing jellyfish, slowly opening their petals to the sun.  They appear static, yet they hint at movement.  This plant is spring itself, flying into the garden, rushing before the April showers and lightly drifting into May. The sweet blossom has a most delicious scent.  It does it’s job well as an attractor, pulling us busy-bees in close for a nose full of pollen.  I love the way this deciduous tree blooms before the leaves appear, making the flowers even more striking as they last for 10-20 days. Some varieties of Magnolia stellata are pure white, like Royal Star, while others have shades of pink, such as Waterlily, Centennial Blush and Chysanthemiflora.

Just The Facts
Magnolia stellata  or Star Magnolia
Height 15-20 feet (4.5-6m) Width 10-15′ (3-4.5m) Slow growing
Dense oval to rounded, large shrub or small tree
Grows best in full sun to light shade
Flowers in early spring, before Magnolia x soulangeana
Zones 4-8, extremely adaptable to temperature and soil type
Prune lightly or it will continually send up watersprouts

Star Magnolia

Star Magnolia


Scenes From Colombia, or, What Are These South American Plants???

My son is serving a two year mission in Colombia, South America,  and I have succeeded in having a few plant pictures sent my way. The first scene is a view of Bogota, maybe that’s a trumpet vine in the foreground?  A broadleaf  tree with big pendulous red flowers.  Any ideas?  The next is a view of Bucaramanga, I especially like the leaves framing the scene and that lovely cow waiting patiently beneath…good shot Zander!  Finally, the big mystery, and I’m dying to find out, what are these interesting conifers growing in front of the apartment building?  They have a distinctive appearance, with somewhat upturned needles near the top.  The reddish tree reminds me of a Hebe and the last shot is of leaf cutter ants carrying away those tasty little leaves.  Is anyone knowledgeable of the flora of South America?  I’m hoping to become better acquainted with this tropical botany, but until then, I need help!


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