When I see the word hibiscus I think of big, beautiful blooms. When I hear the words New Zealand I remember scenic flax covered coasts. But when I think of New Zealand hibiscus I feel troubled. I should have known when this hibiscus germinated so readily and grew so easily that there would be trouble. Trouble when it grew so fast and sparsely and discouraging when the flowers only lasted for one day. Twenty four hours to shine. The flowers are quite pretty, but after they disappear it’s back to the rangy looking plant. It’s not my favorite. I purchased seeds when I traveled to New Zealand last year. Out of all the plants I tried to grow from NZ, this one was the most vigorous. I’m not sure how it would fare if planted outside. I had mine in a greenhouse and after I cut them back I moved the pots outside and they didn’t make it through the winter. And now the seeds I collected are gathering dust, I don’t think this is a plant that I want to grow again. I’m waiting for seeds from my Meconopsis, that will be a good day!
Before cut back
After cut back
Just the Facts
New Zealand Hibiscus, Puarangi
Hibiscus richarsonsii (erroneously referred to as Hibiscus trionum)
Indigenous to New Zealand north island and Australia, New South Wales.
Coastal, growing in recently disturbed habitats.
Annual to short-lived perennial up to 3 feet tall (1m)
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.
Some plants need the slant of the morning sun to be appreciated, others possess an intoxicating fragrance. The Dove Tree, or Davidia involucrata, is at its best when the wind rushes through the leaves, lifting the white bracts so they twist and turn and dance. They flutter. It’s like watching music. The rhythm sweeps through the branches, breathing life and creating patterns. It seems to come alive with the wind. Like when I’m playing disc golf and I throw a disc, it comes alive in the air. The breeze can give it unintentional purpose. Disc golf, Dove trees, discovery. I started playing disc golf last year and it’s not easy for me, but I love it. Slowly, slowly I learn new skills and improve my game, but it’s always two steps forward and one step back. Just like watching the wind dance through the leaves of the Dove tree, there’s nothing better than watching a disc fly through the air and glide through the trees. The breath of life.
The double pure white blossoms of the Mount Fuji flowering cherry opened last month and I knew that was my favorite tree. It called to me on my walks and I kept getting drawn to it. My dog tried to get me over where the grass smelled like several shades of pee, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of this tree. Petals so white, so light, they seemed to be made of some other-worldly matter that drifted down from the stars. The buds, slightly pink, opened to a clear true indescribable white. Well, let me try to describe. It’s definitely not just plain old white. It’s not snow white, or paper white or milk white, but maybe moon or star white. At a glance it appears a light joyful, carefree white, but upon inspection, it’s alive with colors. So many colors of the rainbow are swirling around those blossoms that they all crash into each other and explode into white. Light, bright, shining spring white. When I stand under that tree, gazing up at thousands of soft petals, the future and the past become irrelevant. There is only the here and now. It’s as if that Mount Fuji flowering cherry has the power to pull me into the present like no other life form. I am here, surrounded by color, and all I see is white full of light. But then the dog insists on pulling me over to the next clump of sweet-smelling grass and it’s back to the future. Hey, is that a Kwanzan Flowering Cherry? Those petals are so pink, like nothing I’ve ever seen before…
Kwanzan Flowering Cherry
Entering the show there is excitement in the air. Air which is filled with light and fragrance and color. Soft colors, bright colors, spring colors and joyful colors. Leaving a cool and windy Seattle and walking into the show is like suddenly being in the southern hemisphere where seasons are turned around and it’s spring or summer. And then walking onto the main floor there is magic all around. When I stood in front of the Tetons garden I felt like I was in another place. Like I was very small and in front of me was a grand valley, with a meandering river, flowing down from a rugged mountain. It was an amazing feeling and I wasn’t the only one struck by this illusion, as there was a constant crowd gathered in front. Another favorite was the Hoh rainforest garden. Even though this garden reminded me of my own backyard here in Washington, it was so well put together. It had glistening wet moss and an enormous nurse log which appeared whole but was really cleverly disguised sections. There were so many other little pieces of wonder like Lewisia blooming in a desert and chocolate scented orchids. An octopus shower and a Japanese soaking tub. A new experience around every turn.
One of my favorite things at this show was the garden language spoken by so many. This is a language that is not written down or even acknowledged by those in attendance. But it’s expressed through a general glow on the face and with sparkling eyes, with pointing and exclamations of delight and smiles everywhere. This language isn’t sharp and fast, but rather fluid, following the natural lines of stone and wat. I didn’t notice it was going on all around until someone who didn’t speak this language entered the show. They moved quickly past the gardens and were more interested in sugar gliders and lunchtime than the green surrounding them. It was so fun for me to rub shoulders with others that speak my language. To be around all these garden lovers and plant geeks. There is always an abundance of conversation with fascinating topics to discuss and debate, such as how long bamboo lives before it blooms and dies and the epiphytic life of orchids with their tightly wrapped roots. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is a great place to immerse in all things green. It was another unforgettable year.
The Environmental Horticulture Program at LWTech has been involved in helping build the gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show for years now. It’s a mutually beneficial affair. The students get to rub shoulders with designers, learning about their design and helping in the creation, and the garden designers receive assistance during the 3 1/2 day build with the students and alumni putting in over 300 hours of volunteer service. Most of the students have never been on this end of the show, watching it grow from a bare concrete floor into artistic and beautifully crafted gardens. We could spend hours trimming dead and ugly leaves off of plants such as Carex grass or sweat a little as we spread sawdust and mulch. Some of us build structures, others paint or plant. It’s a miracle to see these beautiful gardens grow in such a short span of time. But with careful planning and hours of preparation, the garden designers help put on one of the best garden shows around. Here are a few pictures from the first day of the build.
Cleaning plants for the show garden
Flower Growers of Puget Sound
WSNLA Wine Garden
Lots of rock
A coastal garden
Lloyd the garden manager