Category Archives: Bulbs

Garlic from Father to Son

img_1384I just planted my garlic and I’m so happy to be part of its story.  I got it from a friend who had it from his father who kept it from the grandfather who came to our country from Czechoslovakia traveling through Ellis Island around the turn of the century.  This garlic has been around.  It started in central Europe, was carried to Michigan and now ended up in Duvall, Washington.  From all reports it’s an easy and fun crop to grow.  Resistant to pests and disease and useful medicinally and in the kitchen, I’m already a garlic fan. Just as I was planting it this November I still had a rose that was blooming, Zephirine Drouhin, a fragrant, thornless climber.  I don’t know why, but they seem to go well together, roses and garlic. One sweet, one savory. One colorful, one plain. Both full of layers. Garlic, the world’s healthiest food, roses the world’s best loved flower.  Good companions for the garden.

Winter Containers

The best thing about gardening in the Pacific Northwest is our year-round climate.  We don’t have to put our tools away for the winter, but instead can discover the many options available for color and texture during the cold season of the year. Here are a few of the containers I’ve put together for October through March.

This year my favorite plant for the cooler months are ferns.  I love the height they give to a ctontainer, as well as a beautiful vibrant green. I’m experimenting with the Himalayan Maidenhair fern, Adiantum venustum, to see how it takes the cold, I might have to do some clean-up or even swap it out with something else if it dies.  I’ve also used Sword Ferns, Polystichum munitum, Alaskan Ferns, Polystichum setiferum, and Tassel Ferns Polystichum polyblepharum for a variety of texture.  Pansies and violas add that bright pop of color and other plants I use are Heucheras, Hebes, Juncus, Grasses, Hellebores, Ivy and Vinca.

Something new for me this year is underplanting with bulbs.  I’ve added daffodils and tulip bulbs around the larger plants and grouped in the middle.  I’m hoping that in the early spring this will give the containers a new breath of life and hold them over until it’s time to plant summer annuals.  And then the planting begins again.

Fritillaria imperialis

Spring always brings surprises.  Leaves that are normally green unfurl red, tight buds open to a flurry of petals and leaves, that which was hidden suddenly smiles at the sun.  This is such a plant.  This fritillaria seems almost tropical and out of place in our Northern land of daffodils and tulips.  It reminds me of a pineapple or a palm tree.  A disturber of the peace.  A surprise!  I saw it growing at the nursery in a display garden and it was a beautiful spring surprise.  When I hear the word fritiallaria I usually think of the little checkered lily.  They are intriguing and cute, but not as striking as the Fritillaria imperialis which seems to be the queen of the garden.  I was curious as to where to buy this royal plant and found them at White Flower Farms, three bulbs for $33.95, shipped in the fall.  What a nice birthday surprise for someone born in the spring!



Crown Imperial Fritillaria

Just the Facts
Fritillaria imperialis    Crown Imperial
Family Liliaceae
Height 3-4 ft. (1m)
Blooms April-May, Orange, Red or Yellow
Unpleasant odor
Zones 5-8
Full Sun to Part Shade
Native to SW Asia

Spring Ephemerals

Spring ephemerals.  I love this name.  It makes me think of wildflowers and dragonflies.  Tissue paper and birthdays.  Raindrops and  moonlight.  The name refers to those short-lived spring flowers that make a momentary yet glorious appearance in the early spring and go dormant in the summer.  Trillium is a well-known spring ephemeral, but there are many others that I was recently introduced to at the 2014 Northwest Flower and Garden Show.  I went to a talk by Susie Egan of Cottage Lake Gardens and her enthusiasm is contagious.  I only bought one plant at the show and it was the erythronium pictured below.  My first spring ephemeral!

Just the Facts:

Erythronium revolutum      Fawn Lily, Trout Lily, Dog Tooth Violet
Zones 3-9
Natural Range: Pacific Northwest
Soil: Moist to summer dry, humus rich, well drained
Light: Part shade, sun
Height: 6-12 inches (15-30cm)
Attributes: Deciduous. Clumping. Showy white flowers with yellow and orange-red center. Shimmering silver mottled foliage.

The following list of spring ephemerals is from Susie Egan of Cottage Lake Gardens:

Western White Trillium, Trillium ovatum, Harbinger of spring and beloved native wildflower often brings back fond childhood memories of spring in the woods, fragrant white flowers that age to pink/purple.
Giant Trillium, Trillium chloropetalum var. giganteum, Stunning trillium native to California with flower most commonly in burgundy red colors, difficult to find but worth the search.

Fawn or Trout Lilies
Pink Fawn Lily, Erythronium revolutum, Elegant pink flowers with golden anthers and golden rings within, beautifully mottled strap leaves.
Pagoda Fawn Lily, Erythronium tuolumnense ‘Pagoda’, Popular hybrid (cross between E. Tuolumnense and E. californicum ‘White Beauty’) pale yellow flowers with highly visible reddish brown central ring with yellow anthers; glossy, deep green leaves, readily available, easily grown and very vigorous, taller than other Erythroniums.

Shooting Stars
Dark Throat Shooting Star, Dedecatheon pulchellum, Western native from the North Cascades, most floriferous, magenta flower with large white spot and dark ring at base, the tube is yellow here joined and has purple-black near tip, loves moisture.
White Shooting Star, Dedecatheon meadia forma album, Such a cute wildflower, this is the white flowered form of the eastern pink shooting star, flower looks like a shooting star, nose cone and all.

Wood Anemones
Robinsoniana Wood Anemone, Anemone nemerosa ‘Robinsoniana’, Popular cultivar with slate-blue buds that open to pale lavender blue with golden stamens.
Vestal Wood Anemone, Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’, White with double white pompom in center, the ‘Belle of the Ball’, very popular and always sells out at my plant sales.

Single Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, Called ‘bloodroot’ because its roots contain a red-orange sap used as a natural dye by native Americans, has fragile daisy-like flower with yellow center and distinctive deeply lobed leaves.
Double Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex (syn. S. canadensis ‘Flore Pleno’, Exquisite double white flower with waterlily-like appearance, worth seeking out.

Hacquetia epipactis, The cutest plant! Small, unique yellow flowr with chartreuse petal-like bracts that later turn green. A real charmer.
Hacquetia epipactis ‘Thor’, A variegated cultivar, a treasure if you can find one.

Pasque Flower
Pulsatilla vulgaris, Blue-purple, red or rarely white flowering perennial with hairy stems and foliage and dramatic fuzzy seedheads.
Pulsatilla vulgaris cultivars, P. vulgaris ‘Red Clock’-red flowers, ‘Alba’-white flowers, ‘Papageno’-frilly, feathery flowers.

Merrybells or Bellwort
Uvullaria grandiflora, Eastern wildflower that has yellow dangling twisted flowers about 2 ft. tall, looks nice massed in natural groupings with blue spring blooming perennials.

Vanilla Leaf
Achyls triphylla, Wonderful native deciduous groundcover with leaves that look like butterfly wings and white bottlebrush flowers, slow to get established but eventually forms a beautiful colony. Hard to find considering it is a native plant.



Erythronium ‘Pagoda’

A Pacific Northwest Beach Garden

This beach garden at the 2013 Flower and Garden Show was a delight.  It was created by Plantswoman Design Inc.  and I was attracted to it right away with it’s coastal theme and cool plants.  It featured drought tolerant coastal and unusual plants.  One of my favorites was Scilla peruviana.   This bold bulb was just beginning to bloom, shooting out little blue stars.  I loved it!  I also liked the moon snail shells around the plants and the brilliant blue pillar.  A perfect get away!

The Celebration Begins

As the heaviness of winter pulls us down, our heads drop and our shoulders sag.  We plop easily onto couches, feeling little energy or light.  But there are a few plants that remind us that change is in the air.  A few early signs of spring are lifting up through the earth.  Tentatively rising towards that seldom seen sun.  Like festive little balloons, they announce that life is still good, let’s start the party!  We may be down, but these clear flowers look upward and forward.  They know something we don’t know.  That sun is still shining!  The minutes of darkness diminish!  Spring is coming!

Little Known Edible and Useful Plants for the Northwest

This week I attended the Focus on Farming Conference in Snohomish County as a volunteer with the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association.  I was lucky enough to hear a talk by Dave Boehnlein of Terra Phoenix Design.  His concept of permaculture was easy to understand.  To create systems and landscapes that provide things other than aesthetics.  He suggested some new plants  for this permaculture approach.  His idea is to to help people meet their own needs and create an integrated garden design.  Dave is a great speaker and shared his enthusiasm and new ideas with us.  Here is his list of Functional Plants for the Pacific Northwest. You might find a new favorite on his list!

1.  Cork Oak (Quercus suber)  From Portugal, Mediterranean.  Used for cork production.  Tough plant, can take poor soils and dry conditions.  Evergreen.

2. White Mulberry (Morus alba)  A permaculture all-star plant.  Produces fruit July through September.   Chickens can forage underneath.  Leaves are high in protein and a fodder crop for sheep and cattle.  When leaves are young and tender they are edible to humans as well.  Silk worms only eat mulberry leaves.

3. Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativas)  Can take poor soils.  Is the most expensive spice on earth.  It takes 30,000 plants to make one pound of spice.  Beautiful and useful.

4. White Currant (Ribes glandulosum) Birds will eat the red and black currants, but don’t see or eat the white.  This plant can grow and produce in the understory, in part shade.

5. Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) From Chile, well-adapted to the Northwest.  Spectacular nut tree as well as timber tree. The nuts were the staff of life for the indigenous people.  Need male and female trees to produce nuts.  Nuts sell for $60/lb.

6. Fuki (Petasites japonicus) From Japan, shade tolerant and likes wet soil.  Huge leaves make a big statement in the landscape.  Can harvest stalks when tender for a food crop.

7.  Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea) This is the pine that produces pine nuts.  It needs good drainage and is a tough plant.

8. Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) A hardy palm for the Northwest.  Because of the dissimilarity to our native plants it is a dynamic nutrient accumulator, drawing up micronutrients from the soil.  Used for fiber, building (roofs) and the flower stalks are edible.

9. Bladder Senna (Colutea arborescens) A nitrogen fixing shrub.  Reaches 9-10 ft. tall.  Orange/yellow flowers with pink seed pods.  Easy to manage, doesn’t spread prolifically.  No thorns.

10. Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) From the East Coast of the United States, aesthetic value, up to 6 ft. tall.  Fiddlehead fronds are edible.

11. Amole or Soap root  (Chlorogalum pomeridianum)  From California, tubers used for soap. Perennial, flower, resilient.

12. Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) Tuber forming, like potato.  A lost crop of the Incas.  Also a weed barrier.

13. Goumi (Eleagnus multiflora) From Japan7-8 ft. Beautiful bronzy new growth and stems.  Little berries high in lycopene.  Thorny, self-fertile.

14. Pineapple Broom (Cytisus battandieri) Nitrogen fixer, up to 12 ft. tall, clusters of yellow flowers with a pineapple scent.

15. Yuzu Citrus (Citrus ichangensis) From Japan, the most hardy of the citrus.  Like lime or lemon.  Needs good drainage, protection.

16. New Zealand Flax (Phormium) Fiber plant of the Maori people, use for plant ties.

17. Ground Nut (Apios americana) Nitrogen fixing vine, produces edible tubers, has nice flowers.

18. Sweet Birch (Betula lenta) Has a high sugar content, tastes like wintergreen.  Can be used for birch syrup or drinks.

19. Udo (Aralia cordata) From Japan.  Perennial to 6 ft. tall.  Harvest shoots when they are 6-8 inches,  like asparagus. An understory plant.

20. Azarole (Crataegus azarolus) As well as other Crataegus.  Drought tolerant, can take winter wet.  Has juicy, sweet fruit.  Ornamental and production!

For further information he listed a few resources:

Plants for a Future (

Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier

Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier

Creating a Forest Garden by Martin Crawford

Dave Boehnlein