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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Plant Sales This Weekend

Tulip 'Lilac Wonder'
We kick-off the plant sale season at two area plant sales this weekend.

On Saturday, you can find us at Gardenpalooza, a large carnival style event at Fir Point Farms in Aurora, located mid-way between Portland and Salem.  There are dozens of vendors at this sale, all under the cover of big tents.  We will be easy to find since our display is located at the front of the very first tent.

On both Saturday and Sunday, we will be at The Trillium Festival located at Tryon Creek State Park on SW Terwilliger Blvd in Portland.  The native and hardy plant sale features vendors tucked in a picnic shelter among the trees.  This annual event also includes Garden Art and The Trillium Market as well as family oriented activities in the Park. 
Fritillaria meleagris
For those of you who prefer a more leisurely shopping experience, the nursery will be open on Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.  A nursery visit gives you the opportunity to browse a much wider selection of plants than we can take to plant sales.

Kalmiopsis fragrans
Two spring flowering plants we will offer at both sales are Kalmiopsis fragrans and Trillium recurvatum. 

Kalmiopsis fragrans is a newly described species formerly known as Kalmiopsis leachiana Umpqua form.  It is a small scale shrub with bright pink flowers and is perfect for a rock garden or trailing over a rock wall.   As the name implies, the flower is scented to attract pollinators.  Kalmiopsis fragrans is the most cold hardy and easiest to grow Kalmiopsis.

Trillium recurvatum

Trillium recurvatum is called The Prairie Trillium but it is actually a woodland species from the Eastern U.S.  This attractive and easy to grow Trillium features dark reddish-brown flowers and mottled foliage.  A great addition to the woodland garden, it will thrive in moist, humus rich soil in full to partial shade.

We hope to see you this weekend.  Bring a warm jacket, you will no doubt leave with garden treasures.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Propagating Hardy Perennials from Seed

Ascelpias tuberosa seed capsule
Arisaema flavum berries

Sooner or later most serious gardeners dabble in plant propagation and we receive frequent requests for tips on how to grow hardy perennials from seed. While we grow hundreds of perennials from seed every season, it is important to understand that our protocol is based on our Western Oregon Zone 7b-8a climate.  In warmer climates, there may not be sufficient chill for plants that require a cold cycle to germinate and the seed may need cold stratification in the refrigerator. In colder climates than ours, seed pots and seedlings may need more protection during the most severe winter weather and some far northern gardeners have perfected the art of propagation in basements and window sills.

Succesful seed germination is a bit like finding the right key for a lock and our protocol is designed to meet the requirements of the largest range of seeds. We simply don't have the time or facilities for complicated methods so we keep it as simple as possible.

There are generally three categories of seeds; those that need a prolonged winter chill to germinate (cold germinators), those that require a period of warm temperatures to germinate (warm germinators) and those that require a bit of each to germinate (erratic germinators). To complicate matters, some seeds require multiple cycles of warm and cold while other seeds are warm germinators when the seed is fresh but become cold germinators or erratic germinators as the seed ages. The beauty of our method is that you don't have to worry about what treatment the seed requires.  This method works for nearly every species of seed we try.

Clematis integrifolia seedhead
We store seed in breathable manila envelopes in the refrigerator until the Winter Solstice or later and then sow the seed in seedpots filled with potting soil and topped with a of layer of grit or crushed rock on top. The grit protects the seeds from predation while still allowing air and light to penetrate. We have learned the hard way not to sow seed in fall because some seedlings may emerge right away and will have to be held over all winter when they are subject to die off from cold temperatures, low light, excessive moisture or dreaded damping off disease.

Seedpots in snow
Once the seeds are sown, the seedpots are put out on tables in the open air and are subjected to cold, rain, snow, sleet, hail, basically whatever mother Nature has to offer.  After a couple of months, usually by the first week of March, we begin to see tiny seedlings in some pots and we immediately move these pots to a covered area to protect the seedlings from excessive cold and moisture while providing natural light and good ventilation.  Seedlings should not be allowed to dry out and can receive a light spray of water occaisionally when needed.
Agave seedlings

Lewisia cotyledon seedlings
Over the course of the next 8 to 12 weeks, germination continues to occur in the remaining seedpots. By being left out in fluctuating spring temperatures, seeds that needs repeated cycles of warmth and cool, as well as the agitation from showers, will begin to germinate. Eventually, the weather is too warm to leave the empty seedpots exposed to strong Spring sun and we move all pots under shelter. In this location, remaining seeds that need a certain amount of sustained warmth will eventually get that and germinate, too.

There are always a few pots that do not germinate in a given season. Sometimes it is just bad seed but it may also be seed that requires multiple warm cold cycles. We set these pots aside and can see germination in them after one, two or even three more winters. Persistance and patience pays off when growing perennials from seed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dwarf Irises

Iris chamaeiris

Many of you know about our interest in Pacific Coast irises but we also have a growing selection of species iris of other types.  The earliest flowering group is the Dwarf Bearded Irises and we have several already in bloom at the nursery.

Miniature Dwarf Bearded irises are the smallest of all irises, no taller than 8 inches, and are perfect for alpine and rock gardens as well as troughs and pot culture.  They are sun lovers that need well-drained soil and are quite drought tolerant.  Avoid overcrowding for healthy growth.
Iris suaveolens

Iris suaveolens is a striking miniature dwarf bearded iris with large yellow flowers and fans of mid green leaves.  A native of the Balkans to NW Turkey, it is quite cold hardy to -30 degrees. F. 
Iris suaveolens var rubrimarginata

The red margin

Iris suaveolens ssp rubrimarginata has red-margined foliage and large violet flowers.

Iris pumila
Iris pumila is a dainty miniature dwarf bearded iris with small, perfectly formed blue-purple, flowers with a contrasting beard.  From Eastern Europe, it is also hardy to -30 degrees.

Iris chamaeiris
Iris chamaeiris (syn. Iris lutescens) is a Dwarf Bearded Irises and grows to 12” tall.  It has very large, showy flowers.  This species has been used extensively in breeding and is a parent of many bearded iris cultivars.  It is a native of France and Italy and hardy to about 0 degrees F.

Iris cristata

Another small iris is Iris cristata.  It is an Eastern US native and extremely cold hardy to -40 degrees F.  This crested iris is a low growing spreader with large purple flowers and contrasting white and gold crests that run down the middle of the falls.  It can be grown in sun to partial shade and it flowers in spring

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March & April Nursery Hours

Iris chrysophylla
For those of you who enjoy visiting nurseries early in the season, we are going to be open during the next three weekends.  We will be open 10 – 4 this Saturday and Sunday and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the following two weekends. 

native Penstemons
In April, we will be open for a total of five days because of off-site plant sales.  Regular summer hours will resume in May when we are open on weekends and most Fridays.  We are also open other days by arrangement.

To view our nursery hours and also to see which plant sales you will find us at, please visit the Calendar Page of our website for all the details.  I also post the current nursery open hours on the Homepage.

The Giant Lily
With the weather finally beginning to trend toward normal temps, plants are starting to put on their spring growth spurt.  We are seeing early season woodland plants like Hepatica acutiloba, Sanguinaria canadensis, Trillium recurvatum and Erythronium budding up and beginning to flower.  The Giant Lily, Cardiocrium giganteum and a few Arisaema are also already “springing” into action.

Alpine enthusiasts will enjoy the early spring flowering of the cushion saxifrages and other alpines and everyone loves to see the early season flowering bulbs.  The species Tulips, Narcissus and Fritillaria are coming into flower and are such a cheerful sight.

Tulipa humilis 'Persian Pearl'

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris

Pulsatilla vulgaris

Pulsatilla vulgaris is one of our most reliable and striking early spring flowering perennials. The Pasque Flower is a native of Europe where it grows in meadows and grasslands.  It also thrives in many areas of North America.  As the common name implies, this member of the Buttercup family flowers in spring around Easter.
Mixed colors
The Pasque Flower is an attractive three-season perennial that emerges as fuzzy flower buds in early spring, followed by a spectacular bloom of nodding, large flowers with yellow centers.  The most common flower color is a deep, rich purple but it also occurs in dark red, white and many shades of pink.
Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Rote Glocke'
 After flowering, showy seed heads develop before the wind-dispersed seeds are finally borne off in the mid-summer breeze.  Meanwhile, a handsome clump of deeply dissected, fernlike foliage forms a low mound that will persist until late fall when the foliage dies back to the ground.  You can see barely visible buds through the winter months.
Tucked against a rock in the rock garden
 One of the surprises about the delicate appearing but very tough Pusatilla vulgaris is that it thrives in a sunny site.  It is also fairly drought tolerant, probably due to its large, thick root system.  Plants are difficult to transplant and are best left undisturbed where they will grow for many years.
Growing in our raised screed bed
 Another surprise is the Pasque Flower’s adaptability. Pulsatilla vulgaris is quite cold hardy and can also be grown in warmer climates although the flowers last longer where spring conditions are cool.  I have grown it successfully in the clay soil of our perennial garden and the gritty soil of the rock garden, but our biggest specimen grows in a raised, scree bed in a mixture of crushed rock, sand and compost.  That individual had over 50 flowers last season and is almost 2 ft across.
The fringed petals of Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Papageno'
 One of the reasons Pulsatilla vulgaris isn’t more widely available is that it isn’t amenable to vegetative propagation and is generally grown from seed.   As many of you know, we love growing from seed and we always try to have Pulsatilla vulgaris plants available.  Our love of this group is growing and there are a number of lesser known Pulsatillas and closely related Anenomes that we hope to offer later this season or next.  We are keeping a close eye on our seed pots for signs of seedlings.  I will keep you posted of our successes.