Category Archives: Perennials

Germinating Meconopsis

img_8321Growing this blue poppy is joy. True blue happiness.  I was delighted when my first Meconopsis bloomed last May. The color is a shimmering radiant blue that reflects the heavenly color of the sky and sea. It’s such a contrast to all the others flowers around that one can’t help but fall in love with this flower. As soon as mine bloomed I was already planning to collect the seed and propagate this precious gem. I waited for May to turn to June.  It produced three or four flowers during this time.  Each one was cause for a celebration.

This plant was new to my yard and the flowers surprised me. Like an unexpected guest. A surprise visitor.  Who could knock at my front door and visit me and produce such delight?  A professional athlete? A movie star? A president of our country? No, these people would be interesting but they wouldn’t bring me as much joy as Meconopsis. So as my poppy grew throughout the summer I kept watching the flower head, waiting for it to dry out so I could collect the seeds. Finally in August I couldn’t wait any longer and I cut open the three pods and teased the seeds out.  I put them in a little plastic box and they sat in my house until December.  I had instructions from the Rhododendron Species Garden where I purchased the plants the previous year.  The instructions said specifically ‘after collecting the seed, place in a ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator until sowing in November or December’.  Well I kept thinking about my little tiny Meconopsis seeds during the Fall and I even thought about the refrigeration part, but I never actually put them in there.  To busy, too tired, life was running too fast.  It’s hard to garden when you’re moving too fast. Plants don’t move at that pace. They force us to slow down. They make us look up.  They help our fingers dig deep in the earth. Thank you plants.

So in December I took my little seeds to the greenhouse and sowed them onto a flat of soil, very lightly covered with soil, and put them on the heated and lighted propagation bench.  I remember the instructions said that they grow like weeds, so I had high expectations. One week went by and nothing. I was disappointed, but not worried. Two weeks went by and I began to panic slightly. Three weeks went by and I thought this project was doomed. No more Meconopsis for me. My dream of a yard filled with blue poppies was dead. I was almost positive that the seeds were dead and done.  I was so distressed that I called up the Rhodie Species Garden and spoke with someone. They again confirmed the process for storing seeds: collect late summer, place in ziploc bag and put IN THE REFRIGERATOR or they will dry out and die.  He told me my seeds probably died, all dried out.  Noooooo I thought.  I would have to wait until next year and try again.  Could I wait that long? One season of plant life is like a seven of my years!  I wanted more seeds now! UGGGHhh.  I almost tossed out my seeding flat, kicking myself for not following the formula exactly.  I have a hard time following instructions exactly.  Usually I prefer to make up my own instructions as I go. But sometimes that doesn’t work so well.

Fast forward to January 9, an ordinary day in the greenhouse.  I was zipping around, watering, scouting for insects, helping students, etc… when I stopped in front of my Meconopsis flat.  It looked the same, just soil. Nothing. I kept staring at it. Look closely I told myself, you never know. Maybe the Rhodie Species Garden Guy was wrong. Maybe those poppies were tougher than we all thought. Just maybe…wait!  Did I see GREEN?  WAS THAT A TEENY TINY LITTLE LOVELY STEM EMERGING? Yes! They germinated!!! I could hardly believe it.  On Monday 4-5 tiny little seeds opened, shoots up and roots down. Cotyledons showing promise of a beautiful perfect poppy.  I was so excited. I know some plants take a long time to germinate, but these guys really made me nervous. And now it’s Wednesday and I counted about 20 tiny little shoots shyly poking their heads out of the soil. I’m on my way to a poppy garden. Oh joy!

 

 

 

 

 

Poppy Love

 

I was thrilled when on the lovely day of May 3rd the first bud of my Himalayan Blue Poppy began to open.  I purchased two plants last year at the Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way, hoping against hope that I could grow them in my yard.  I knew that Meconopsis could be a difficult plant to grow and without a lot of options I planted them in an odd spot in between two planter boxes.  It tends to stay cool and moist in that location and perhaps the companion plant also in that bed influenced me.  It’s a Sunshine Blue blueberry bush…why not put blue with blue?  I wished them good luck and waited.

I thought the winter rains would be too much, maybe the soil wouldn’t drain enough, so when they popped out of the ground this spring I was happily surprised.  They were growing!  They both made it…I was so excited.  The fuzzy leaves shot up 12 to 14 inches high and slowly the first plant formed a flower bud.  The flower that appeared on May 4th (yes, the force is strong in this one) sparkled. The blue of this poppy is incredible.  There aren’t many things like it in the natural world which makes it stand out even more against the many shades of green all around.  The color is so intense that it seems to glow a bright beautiful blue.  The first flower lasted just under a week and after a few days the second bud opened and I see a third one farther down the stalk.  That probably means almost a month of blue from this one little poppy.  And the second plant hasn’t formed it’s flower stalk yet, so I’m hoping for a blue June as well.  I read that they like cool and moist growing conditions and that the seeds are easily collected and will germinate readily.  I’m really excited to gather the seeds up and start growing Meconopsis.  Maybe someday I’ll have my very own Blue Poppy Meadow like at the Rhododendron Garden.  It’s true Poppy Love.

 

 

 

 

 

Germinating Lewisia

This is a difficult plaLewisiant to grow. It tempts you with its beauty, it tricks you with its size. And then when you plant a seed….nothing may happen.  And then nothing may continue to happen.  And then one tiny little plant will emerge.  Then nothing. Then 5 or six plants will show up.  And then nothing. A few months later you might get one or two more. And then you give up, repot the seedlings and dump the rest. Lewisia is one of those plants that have to do things their own way.  They insist on a winter before germinating.  It’s called seed stratification, which is defined as “the process of treating stored or collected seed prior to sowing to simulate natural winter conditions that a seed must endure before germination” (Thank you Wikipedia).  Last year we had some success.  After sowing we put the seeds in the fridge for 4-6 weeks.  This year I tried a new strategy, sowing and then putting the seed tray outside to brave the oncoming winter. The results are in the photo.  Six little Lewisia, growing valiantly.  Not very successful considering over 30 seeds were sown. But we’ll see what happens come spring. The next experiment is underway.  The Lewisia seeds are in the freezer for about a month and then I will sow them.  Then we will see if this plant can be tricked.  But it’s definitely worth the wait for the beautiful little blossom.  More updates in the future on Lewisia.Lewisia

Pink Blueberries, Velvet Leaves and Hot Petals—New Varieties

Mighty Velvet Stachys (Lamb’s Ears):  Some plants have incredible color, others have unforgettable fragrance but this one has neither.  The Mighty Velvet Stachys has a magnetic quality that magically brings hand to leaf.  It’s irresistibly soft, begging you to touch it.  It’s soft and nice and feels like you’re petting a puppy.  Lance-like, silver-colored wooly leaves are deer resistant. Foliage holds up well in rain and weather, either in the landscape or in a container mix. Grows 18–24 inches tall and wide. Does well in sun or shade and is heat and drought tolerant. Zones 7-9

Li’l Bang Enchanted Eve Coreopsis: Aren’t these names getting a little long? How about Eve Coreopsis?  Or Li’l Coreopsis? Why do we have to deal with FIVE names?  I’m glad there are rules around the botanical terms, one genus, one species. Nice and neat.  This plant has large, single dark yellow flowers with a vibrant red-orange center. The compact, mounding, dwarf form grows to 9 inches tall with a 20-inch spread. Little or no seed is set, which extends the bloom season from Summer through Fall. Grows in full sun and is disease and mildew resistant.  Zone 5.

Pink Icing Blueberry: This one is all about foliage.  There is something wrong about making a blueberry pink, but luckily we get to keep the blue in blueberry in this case. Pink Icing™ is a compact, ornamental blueberry plant with colorful spring foliage colors ranging from hues of pink to blues and greens. In winter, the foliage turns an iridescent turquoise blue. The large, sweet and robust-flavored fruit ripens mid-summer. Use in the landscape mixed in with other ornamentals, or it can be used as a hedge or in decorative containers on the patio. Grows in a spreading, upright mound and will reach 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Plant in full sun in moist, acidic soil.

Sombrero Adobe Orange Coneflower: This echinacea is sunny and warm. Bright orange flowers bloom late spring to late summer on sturdy, compact stems. It has an upright habit growing to 24–26 inches tall and 16–18 inches wide. Plant in mixed perennial gardens in full sun and well drained soil. Drought resistant once established.

 

New Variety—Shasta Daisy

 

Real Charmer

 

Real Galaxy

 

Real Glory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A daisy is a daisy is a daisy.  But now we have three plain ‘ole daisies that have been dressed up to become fancy plants.  The ‘Real’ collection has three different cultivars.  ‘Real Charmer’ has fringed central petals, ‘Real Galaxy’ has many layers of fine fringed pure white petals and ‘Real Glory’ has a reflexing anemone flower form.  All have sturdy upright habits producing a full canopy of blossoms.  They have improved disease resistance and bloom early in mid-summer, with a second flush in fall with dead-heading.  These lovely daisies can go in containers or the border and make long-lasting cut flowers.  Plant where they receive full sun down to zone 5.

New Variety—Echibeckia

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I recently attended the Farwest Show in Portland, Oregon, which is one of the leading nursery and greenhouse industry trade shows in the United States.  I really enjoyed the informational seminars on plants diseases, pests in the greenhouse and the great debate over neonicotinoids.  Another one of my favorite stops wqs the New Varieties Showcase which featured the the latest and greatest plants arriving at the nurseries this year and next.  My next few posts will present these new introductions, with photos that I took at the show.

Echibeckia has a progression of shimmering summer colors that is warm and inviting.  A cross between Echinacea and Rudbeckia, this flower has the appearance of both.  It was introduced by Pacific Plug & Liner and is offered by T & L Nursery (my neighbor!)  It’s said to have the appearance and fast growth of Rudbeckia with the hardiness and disease tolerance of Echinacea.  Only time will tell.  Some of the flashy new varieties of echinacea don’t seem to be very hardy in our area.  The flowers are three inches in diameter and can last for 2-3 months.  Wow—I would really like to see that.  Three months is a long time for a sunny summer flower.  They are also said to be self-cleaning, meaning they don’t leave behind an ugly dead flower for months.  What happens to it, I wonder? Does it just whirl away into the stardust? At night when the moon’s gravity pulls it off of the stems, drawing its summer warmth into the cosmos?  Another test for next year.  Bloom season goes from early summer to fall and the plant can grow 2-3 feet tall, making a large clump.  Like its parents, Echibeckia grows best in full sun and is hardy to zone 6 (I find that hard to believe, someone else will have to test that one).  With all the new varieties constantly coming out, what should we do with the old ones?  Throw them in the compost and forget them?  Goodbye purple coneflower?  I think we need to remember our roots, our stems and our familiar flowers.  Let’s keep some of the oldies and goodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Perennials for 2015

I came across these new perennials in an online publication this week.  I’m really interested in the new digiplexis which is supposed to be more winter hardy than the first flashy one, Illumination Flame.  Echibeckia is quite stunning, and who doesn’t like a name like that?  It just rolls off the tongue and is fun to say.  It’s a cross between two daisy-like flowers, echinacea and rudbeckia.  The cone flower and a black-eyed susan.  The colors are terrific, it will be fun to watch it grow.  Another cross is between Stachys and Lamium.  I wonder how this one will grow, as lamium can tend to be invasive.  Lots of fun and adventure in the garden for 2015!

Coreopsis ‘Firefly’

 

Echibeckia Summerina

Lavender ‘Laveanna Pink Lollipop’

Lavender Madrid Series

Lobelia ‘Vulcan Red’

Penstemon ‘Purple Perfectionist’

Salvia Color Spires Series

Salvia ‘Embers Wish’

Stachys/Lamium ‘Lilac Falls’

Digitalis Foxlight Series

Digiplexis ‘Berry Canary’

 

 

 

Digiplexis ‘Berry Canary’ This stocky, brand new digitalis hybrid is hardier than ‘Illumination Flame,’ to Zone 7. ‘Berry Canary’ has a dense, compact habit, stout spikes and soft-frosted pink flowers all season long.

Digitalis ‘Foxlight Series‘ The new Foxlight digitalis hybrid series offers three bold flower colors (Plum Gold, Rose Ivory and Ruby Glow) with lower input costs. It blooms all summer with flowers that face out for better show, offering a great focal point in gardens and containers.

Echibeckia Summerina A brand new series from an intergeneric cross, Summerina has the appearance of rudbeckia with the hardiness of echinacea. The extra-large, sterile flowers last two months on the plant before dropping and are self-cleaning.

Lavender ‘Laveanna Pink Lollipop‘ These pretty pink flowers are supported by a well-branched plant with leaves and flowers that spread a delicate lavender fragrance. They thrive in full sun and well-drained soil.
Lavender Madrid Series (GreenFuse Botanicals)
Lavender Madrid Series The new Madrid series offers the same early flowering as the original Madrid lavender, but with larger florets and bracts and an excellent mounded habit. Three colors — Blue, Purple and the unique Rose — reach 10 to 14 inches in height.

Lobelia ‘Vulcan Red’ This professional-quality cardinal flower makes full, strong-stemmed plants with a controlled habit. Deep red flowers bloom atop striking bronze foliage on this first year flowering perennial.

Penstemon ‘Purple Perfectionist‘ Part of the new Essential Perennials line from HGTV HOME, this purple people-pleaser offers a compact form and longer bloom period, attracting pollinators. It’s deer-resistant and blooms in full sun.

Salvia Color Spires Series The new Color Spires series with three colors blooms from late spring into early summer and forms a dense, rounded clump of aromatic, grey-green foliage. Deer and rabbit resistant, it’s a full sun variety for Zones 3 to 8. Crystal Blue is a unique, light sky blue that’s a Garden Writers favorite.
Salvia ‘Ember’s Wish’ (Sunset Western Garden/Southern Living Collection)
Salvia ‘Embers Wish’ Glowing, bright coral flowers cover these tough plants from spring to frost. This salvia shakes off heat and humidity and attracts pollinators. Root hardy to 25°F, it reaches 3 by 3 feet and is long-blooming for easy care. A portion of the proceeds from this plant will support the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Stachys/Lamium ‘Lilac Falls’ An interspecific cross between stachys and lamium gives ‘Lilac Falls’ a great branching habit. It flowers continuously with beautiful lavender blooms, looks great in a container or hanging basket and could be an interesting component in containers with annuals or perennials.

Coreopsis ‘Firefly’ Well-formed, compact mounds of dense, thread-like foliage are blanketed with bright yellow and red bicolor flowers. Hardy to Zone 5 and easy to grow with powdery mildew resistance, ‘Firefly’ is a plant for borders or mixed containers.

Information and Photos Courtesy of Greenhouse Growers e-newsletter www.greenhousegrower.com/varieties/california-spring-trials-13-new-perennials-for-2015-slideshow/