Category Archives: Conifers

Baby Monkey

Monkey Puzzle Tree Seedling

Monkey Puzzle Tree Seedling

Now that I’m working at the Horticultural Program at Lake Washington Institute of Technology I have access to a greenhouse.  The students grow all types of crops, from vegetables to fuchsia baskets to perennials.  The season is in full swing and I’ve been learning a lot about greenhouse growing.  Everything is different inside.  Watering and controlling pests and diseases takes on a new perspective from inside a 65F greenhouse.  Some of the students have been trying to germinate the seeds of Araucaria araucana, the Monkey Puzzle tree.  It took about two months, but just a few of them have begun to sprout, and they are so cute!  Tiny little baby monkeys coming from a surprising seed.  This tree is so pokey and sharp that it was said to  be a puzzle for a monkey to climb it.  I first met this tree in Spreckels Park in central California.  It grows directly over the childrens playground and not a good tree for tender little feet.  The branches dry up and fall off onto the sand and are as sharp as a knives.  A dangerous tree in that respect.  It’s also rather pokey in the nursery and best handled with care.  The monkey puzzle tree is dioecious and has separate male and female trees with the female producing edible nut-like seeds.  Unfortunately, this tree is listed as endangered in it’s native Chile due to fire, logging and grazing.

Just the Facts
Araucaria araucana    Monkey Puzzle Tree or Chilean Pine
Height 50-80 (15-24m)
Width 20-30 (6-9m)
Zones 7-10
Full sun
Native to Chile and Argentina

Bike in Tree

Click the link below to read the fascinating story of the bicycle in the woods! This is a good bit of sleuthing by author Eric Johnson from Komo News in Seattle.  Has anyone ever seen a tree grow around an object like this?

Bike in Tree on Vashon Island, Washington

Winter Interest Plants

On a recent early morning outing to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens I enjoyed seeing the winter garden.  The plants that really stood out for me were the grasses.  Most were drying and golden brown, but the texture and shape was outstanding.  While many plants drop their leaves and disappear below the frosty substrate, the grasses are standing tall.  They are moving and sparkling in the sunlight.  It seems as if the earth is inhaling and exhaling, like the air rushing out of the a whale’s blowhole.  The earth is spouting grasses!  They haven’t melted into the earth, but rather are upright and true, greeting the distant winter sun.

Other plants were noticeable for their berries, fruit or flowers. Camellias are a sure bet for the winter, but I was surprised to see this Daphne still in bloom.  The rose hips were shiny and bright and are a great point of winter interest.  These were from a white rugosa rose.

Finally, winter would not be complete without the beautiful and graceful silhouette of a Japanese Maple.  Normally hidden from view, winter is the time to admire the searching stems and breathless branches of Acer palmatum, one of my favorite trees.

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

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?

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!








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!