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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Red and Green

Those of you who live on the West Coast probably know that we are being urged not to grow the beautiful English Holly tree (Ilex aquifolium) because it has been identified as an invasive species in our area.  We’ve removed a big specimen that was growing in the center of our yard and continue to dig out its seedlings when they appear each year.

We still have one more English Holly tree growing along our driveway and we are going to have to take it down when we find the time.  It was not planted there but is part of a hedgerow of mostly native plants, no doubt the result of a bird enjoying a berry on a nearby tree.  Incidentally, it is the Holly’s ability to thrive in this situation that makes it an invasive species and not that it grows enthusiastically in our gardens.  Invasive plants are those that grow in untended areas and out-compete the native plants, gradually displacing them. 

Cedar waxwings in a nearby conifer
I have always enjoyed the sight of those dark green leaves accented by bright red berries and thought I would have to do without it.  However, a couple of times lately my eye has been drawn to a low growing groundcover with the same pleasing color combination.
Bright Red Wintergreen Berries

Gaultheria procumbens, Wintergreen, is an Eastern U.S. woodland native with dark green foliage, white urn-shaped flowers followed by bright red berries. Both the berries and foliage are pleasantly scented and contain methyl salicylate which is the source of wintergreen oil. This stoloniferous, creeping evergreen groundcover is extremely cold hardy and survives temperatures to -40 degrees F.  It prefers partial shade and humus rich soils and adapts to both dry and moist conditions, making it another great choice for the dry woodland garden.  Yea!
Gaultheria probumbens groundcover

If you love the holly leaf, try growing our NW native Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium).  The flowers are yellow and the berries are dark purple, but the leaves are shiny, spiny and dark green even in mid-winter.  Hmm, I wonder if I could tuck those leaves in my Christmas wreath?
Frosted Oregon Grape Foliage

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wild Ginger Farm on YouTube

The fall and winter months are when I have time to work on our website.  This year I wanted to add interest to the site by adding some slideshows and videos.  It turns out that the easiest way to do this is to create a YouTube Channel and then upload the videos onto our site.  The videos can then be viewed both on our site and on YouTube.

So far I have put up three videos, all of which are narrated slideshows.  I plan to post actual "how-to" videos at a later time.  And I hope to create better productions with practice, perhaps learning to inject some "Sham-wow!" into my voice.  Or maybe not :)

Take a look at our new YouTube Channel and see what you think.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 Mail Order Shipping Ends Nov. 16th

Our 2010 Mail Order Season ends Nov 16th and any orders placed online during the winter months will be shipped next Spring.  Please check our website to learn when the Spring Shipping Season begins in your region.  If want your order shipped earlier or later than our schedule indicates, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate you.
The Lewisia mound at Wild Ginger Farm

The 2011 Mail Order Catalog will be posted online in January.  Thank you to all our mail order customers for making 2010 another successful year and we look forward to hearing from you in 2011 !

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dry Shade: Hardy Cyclamen

Those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest often garden beneath large, thirsty trees where the soil remains relatively dry year-round.  This can make it difficult for plants to become established and is a source of frustration for many gardeners.  Fortunately certain plants such as hardy Cyclamen thrive in this situation.  Cyclamen grow during the fall and winter months and are a bright spot in the off-season garden.
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium 'Album'

Cyclamen hederifolium needs a dry summer dormancy and grows happily tucked in the dry soils at the base of trees and shrubs.  Pink or white flowers are produced in fall followed by interesting foliage in a range of colors from pewter to shades of green and in interesting and variable shapes and patterns.  Over time plants reseed and colonize an area, creating a charming woodland effect.
Cyclamen hederfolium foliage

Cyclamen coum is another hardy species that flowers in late winter to early spring.  Its rounded leaf can be solid green or heavily marked.  We grow a striking silver leaf form that produces dark pink flowers.  
Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum Silver Leaf form

Monday, October 25, 2010

Visiting the Nursery: Call Before You Come!

The nursery will remain open by appointment through the winter months.  We welcome visitors during this time and simply ask that you call or email us before you come.  Regular weekend hours will resume early next March when visitors can see many alpine plants in full flower.
Saxifraga 'Walter Irving'  in mid-February, 2010
You will see some changes at the nursery during your next visit.  We have built two new hoophouses to better protect our plants during the increasingly harsh winter weather.  While most of our plants are fully cold hardy when planted in the ground, those in pots benefit from this added protection.  Another big plus will be our improved ability to protect early season flowers from spring hailstorms, a frequent occurrence at our location in the foothills of the Cascades.
One of two new hoophouses
Mail order shipments will continue through the end of November as weather conditions permit.  The 2011 mail order catalog will be online in January and shipments will resume based on customer’s locations beginning in February of 2011.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hardy Primroses

I have been planting an assortment of Primroses in the garden this fall and look forward to a colorful display next season. 

After being inspired by the gardens at the now closed Berry Botanic Garden, I have planted groupings of Candelabra Primroses in an area with heavy soil in part day sun. These deciduous primroses originate in meadows and wet areas of Asia and are best grown in moist, acidic soils in partial shade.  Many can also be grown in full sun if soil is kept moist or in a bog.  

Primula aurantiaca
Primula burmanica
Primula anisodora

Primula japonica 'Apple Blossom'
I’ve included a number of different species with an assortment of flower colors.  Primula aurantiaca has flowers in golden tone while Primula burmanica’s flowers are bright red-purple.  Primula japonica ‘Apple Blossom’ is an easily grown primula with pale pink flowers with a dark eye.  Another intriguing addition is Primula anisodora, Anise Primrose.  It has bold dark red, anise-scented flowers.

Primula kisoana
Primula kisoana foliage
I’ve also tucked some Primula kisoana into the moist woodland garden.  This creeping Japanese species has interesting fuzzy foliage and produces pink clusters of flowers in spring.  There is also a stand of Primula viallii, the Poker Primula, with its unique crimson and pink flower spikes.  They both should contrast nicely with the Himalayan Blue Poppies growing nearby.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn Reflections

The nursery will be open a few more weeks before we revert to our appointment-only winter hours.  Fall has brought a flurry of activity as we propagate plants, create new covered spaces and refresh gardens.

As the sun dips lower on the horizon, the light changes and creates a dreamy garden atmosphere.  On a recent day, I noticed the dappled light hitting the evergreen foliage of this group of Hebes.

We had a glimpse of what is in store for next spring when a few young Lewisia seedlings unexpectedly put on a late season flower display.  We are trying to breed them for double flowers and Lewisia are notoriously difficult to isolate a specific trait. It is too early to tell if we will achieve our goal with the entire group but if we did…. ooh, la, la!

We still have some fall flowering perennials in bloom in the nursery such as our introduction, Gentiana sino-ornata ‘Moonlight’, a white flowering version of the normally blue Autumn Gentian.

Aren’t we plant lovers lucky?  Every day of the year brings a new marvel!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sept 18th & 19th: HPSO Plant Sale/Nursery Closed

Alpine Skullcap 'Arcobaleno'  (Scutellaria alpina)  
Wild Ginger Farm nursery will be closed next weekend, September 18th & 19th.  You can find us at the HPSO Plant Sale where we will have five tables filled to the brim with a wide variety of plants.  The sale is at The Portland Expo Center and there will be dozens of plant vendors and garden artists.   It is always a fun and exciting event.  Check the HPSO Website for details. Be sure to stop by our booth and say hello!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Salem Hardy Plant Society Plant Sale

We are busy this week getting ready for the Salem Hardy Plant Society Plant Sale being held next Saturday, September 11th from 9 to 3 at the Polk County Fairgrounds in Rickreall.  Visit the SHPS website for details.  To help get the word out, Truls will be interviewed by Mike Darcy on Saturday morning just after 9 am during his radio program In the Garden with Mike Darcy.

We will bring a large selection of plants to the sale including tiny cushion Saxifrages, perfect for the trough garden, and drought tolerant native Penstemons and Lewisias.  Be sure to stop by to check out our Hardy Gingers such as Hedychium greenii and Primulas, including the Poker Primrose, Primula viallii.

For those of you who can't make it to the sale, the nursery will be open 10 to 4 on both Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fall Planting

Our Garden Helpers

It seems like every year about this time we get involved in a big garden project.  Last year we created a new moist woodland garden that I am still in the process of planting.  It hasn’t been easy with two young dogs who consider the area their personal romping ground.  It is an ongoing battle of wills but l have high hopes that the garden will prevail.

Our native wild iris, Iris tenax
This fall we wanted to find a place to feature our growing collection of Pacific Coast Iris Hybrids and species.  I was considering creating another new garden space but that is so much work!  I finally realized that I already had a great spot - the dry woodland garden under a large and thirsty pine tree.  The area has become overgrown over the past few years and it is a prime candidate for cleaning out unwanted plants, amending the soil and replanting with native irises and other drought and shade tolerant perennials.

Pacific Coast Iris 'Rincon'

While many gardeners prefer to do their planting in the spring, I would rather plant in the fall.  The weather is mild and the rainy season has not yet begun in earnest.  The soil is easier to work because it is not sodden as it is in the spring.  Some gardeners worry about the cold hardiness of newly planted hardy perennials but we find that they generally do very well when planted in the fall.


Drought tolerant plants in woodland garden
Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana
Another advantage of fall planting is that the soil temperature is still warm and this encourages plants to develop good root systems.  Fall plantings that have a chance to sink their roots deeply into the ground will need less water next summer.  We regularly add plants to our rock gardens and dryland gardens each fall.  These areas receive minimal summer water and we find that fall plantings need no extra care the following summer.  In contrast, spring plantings must be regularly monitored throughout their first season in order to survive in low water areas.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hardy Gingers: Late Risers of the Plant World

Who would have thought that it would take until August for the last of the hardy gingers to emerge from dormancy?  Cold hardy gingers are members of the true ginger family, Zingerberaceae, and overwinter as dormant rhizomes when grown in temperate climates like ours.  They can have a very long dormant period.  What follows is the timeline we have experienced this year in our Portland, Oregon area garden.

Dormant rhizome of Hedychium gardnerianum
Roscoeas were the first gingers to emerge.  I count on them to appear from mid-May to early June each year.  I wrote about these tough and reliable perennials and their orchid-like flowers in an earlier blog post.  The several species we grow will continue to flower in our garden until fall. 

Hardy Shade Ginger, Cautleya species
The Hardy Shade Ginger, Cautleya, emerged next, in June and July. We have been impressed with the striking green and red foliage and golden flowers with red bracts.  Our plants don’t seem to be one of the three known species and we suspect they could be of hybrid origin.  Whatever their identity, Cautleya want a cool, moist spot in the woodland garden and are winter hardy in well-drained soil.

Red Butterfly Ginger, Hedychium greenii
Hedychium species including Red Butterfly Ginger, H. greenii and Garland Flower, H. coronarium, began emerging in late July.  They are growing very fast and have beautiful foliage but have yet to flower.  So far we have seen only a few growth tips of the Garland Flower, Hedychium gardnerianum.  We think it is only a matter of time before they emerge because the rhizomes remain firm and have good growth tips.  All of these Hedychiums grow rapidly to several feet in height in a single season and are lovers of bright, dappled light and moist, rich soil. 

Curcuma 'White Wonder'
And finally in mid-August, the Curcuma ‘White Wonder’ and Globba schombergkii, Golden Dancing Girls, have emerged.  Who knew dancing girls could be so shy?

It remains to be seen if these later emerging gingers will flower this season.  If fall arrives too soon, the cold weather can cause the blooms to fail.  Even without their spectacular flowers, the vertical pseudostems rising out of the ground and large linear leaves create an interesting tropical look in containers or the open garden.

Hardy Gingers with Elephant Ears
Gardeners in temperate climates must practice patience to grow hardy gingers, the late risers of the plant world.  If you grow them in garden beds, be sure to clearly mark their location so you don’t dig them up earlier in the season, as I have, trying to find an empty spot for a new plant.   The good news is that the dormant rhizome is easy to replant if you do!

Hardy ginger plants are available now at the nursery.  They will be available in our mail order catalog when dormant.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

More About Public Gardens

Kalmiopsis leachiana

I recently wrote about the closing of the Berry Botanic Garden but there are many other public gardens in our area that you can visit.  The Leach Botanical Garden has partnered with Portland Parks & Recreation and is supported by Leach Garden Friends who put on the annual spring plant sale where we participate as vendors.  Plantswoman Lila Leach created this garden and left another lasting legacy, a plant she discovered in the Siskiyou Mountains and that was named after her, Kalmiopsis leachiana.

Rock Garden At Pittock Mansion
Photo courtesy of S. Frankwick
The Pittock Mansion is another public garden run by Portland Parks & Recreation and supported by an intrepid group of Multnomah Master Gardeners.  Situated on a hilltop above Portland, visitors can tour the century old home and enjoy breathtaking views.  Like many older gardens, it includes a rock garden that is being painstakingly replanted and rejuvenated.

Elk Rock Garden is a privately owned garden that is open to the public.  It, too, has a lovely rock garden as well as native plant trails in a mature setting near the Willamette River.  The Clackamas County Gardeners recently planted a native garden at another privately owned location, Hopkins Demonstration Forest, located in rural Clackamas County near our nursery.  In Salem, The Friends of Deepwood are enhancing the native plant area at Deepwood Estate with a large collection of NW Penstemons. 
Penstemon cardwellii
 In addition to these more intimate gardens, Portland boasts world-class public gardens including the International Rose Test Garden, The Portland Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden. The Oregon Zoo has also recently renovated some of its native plant areas.

There are many more public gardens in our region and throughout the country that are worth the visit.  I invite you to take a moment and share a comment about your favorites!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Support Your Local Botanical Garden

Plant lovers from around the Pacific Northwest are making their last visits to the Berry Botanic Garden, a public garden in SW Portland.  A casualty of tough economic times, the garden will close permanently on October 1st and the property will be sold.  The garden’s mission will live on with a conservation and seedbank endowment to Portland State University.  Read more on the Berry Botanic Garden Website.

On a recent visit, we strolled the lovely woodland trails viewing plants from around the world collected by Mrs. Berry.  Mature trees form a lofty canopy and understory plantings of Himalayan Maidenhair Fern and a sea of brightly colored Primroses left lasting impressions.  Of particular interest to us were the extensive rock gardens and the large trough collection.

Many communities have gardens and plant collections open to the public.  We receive emails from gardeners throughout the country asking which plants will grow best in their garden and I suggest they visit their local botanical garden.  This is an excellent way to learn what thrives in their area, to get planting ideas and to see the eventual size of plants.

The missions of most botanical gardens are conservation, research and education, making them wonderful community resources.  I can trace my interest in gardening with native plants to the many visits I made as a child to our local public garden, The Santa Barbara Botanical Garden.  I always make a point to visit gardens wherever we travel, both in the US and abroad.  As a mail order specialty nursery, we send plants we have grown to botanical gardens throughout the country, from New York and Ohio to Alaska.

There are a number of ways to support your local botanical garden including being a frequent visitor, volunteering your time, and attending benefit plant sales and other events. If you are in the Portland Metro Area in the coming weeks, make an appointment to visit the Berry Botanic Garden.  We might see you there!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Succulents in the Garden

Succulents are one of the highlights in our mid-summer garden.  We feature sedum species at dry garden edges where they thrive and put on a pretty flowering display. Pollinators such as honey bees and tiny native bees are attracted to the flowers and growing succulents helps maintain this important group. 
Sedum ellacombianum is a particular favorite.  It is extremely cold hardy as well as being heat and drought tolerant.  The bright green foliage and yellow flowers are bright spots in the summer garden and an added plus is the golden tones of the fall foliage as it dies back for its winter dormancy.

For evergreen succulents, it is hard to beat Hens and Chicks.  Sempervivums are very cold hardy and look their best during the cold winter months, many taking on red winter blush.  Our mass planting is one of our best looking winter and early season garden areas.  Their unusual flower stalks in summer are also great for attracting pollinators. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Nepal Lily

One of the new plants we are growing this year is the rare and spectacular Nepal Lily, Lilium nepalense.  I recently had to leave the nursery for several days and was reluctant to go because the lilies were budding up and almost in bloom.

The Nepal Lily has large funnel shaped flowers that are lime green with a prominent burgundy center.  The petals (technically tepals) are reflexed and form a charming curl when viewed from the side.  
Each day I was away, I asked Truls for a status report. The answer was always the same: Not open yet. The first flower opened on the day I returned home. How cool was that!

Read more about the Nepal Lily and how to grow it on our website.