Archive for Shade Plants

Tempting Red Hellebore Flowers for Winter Cheer

Popular Double Hellebore From Englands Ashwood Ashwood Garden Hybrids

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Ashwood Double BiColor Shades’ grown here in the NW by Monrovia.

Tempting Red Hellebore Flowers for Winter Cheer

Red flowered Hellebores are still the holy grail for plant geeks but they are so tough that anyone can covet these and grow them.

‘Peppermint Ice’, ‘Amethyst Gem’ and ‘Ashwood Double Bi Color Shades’ are Hellebore cultivated varieties with red to eggplant hued double flowers.  They wow us in late winter with a long vibrant flower display.

As a Portland landscape designer I like to use Hellebore in my designs.  The Helleborus x hybridus plants (which is what we are focusing on today)  can live for a hundred years, deer don’t like them, they are low water and except for a typically minor problem with aphids, and a little slug activity they are pretty pest free.  The leaves are leathery, attractive and provide interesting contrast with a range of plant material to include feathery fern fronds, ornamental grass or tiny leafed boxwood.

Helleborus x Hybridus 'Peppermint Ice'

Peppermint Ice has a darker outline around each of the petals. Its adds a lighter touch with pink red flowers.

They are shade tolerant although I  tend to use these three in strong morning sun with dappled or full afternoon shade.

Terra Nova Photo of Hellebore Amethyst Gem

Amythest Gem comes from the famous NW Garden Nursery. Double petals with a light edge gives us drama and the constrast needed to appreciate the mass of petals.

Double flowers give us more color than the singles but the singles, with only 5 to 7 petals, are also stunning and low maintenance.  ‘Ashwood Double BiColor Shades’ have a wine red petal with a darker edge which is opposite of ‘Amethyst Gem’.

Using Hellebore as a cut flower

The flowers last a long time in the landscape but not long as a cut flower because the stems wither quickly.  Most people cut the stems off and float them in a bowl.  I’ve picked them from my NW Portland garden, knowing they would only look good for a few days.  There are techniques for making them last which involve picking them at the right time based on the age of the flower and using an alcohol solution in the vase.  Follow this link  to NW Garden Nursery and read the bottom of their culture sheet.   Now that you are bringing the flowers inside please be aware that all parts of the plant are toxic.

All Hellebore flowers tend to nod down rather than face up.  This protects the flowers from cold damage (disfigurement/freezer burn) because water drips off the flower and  is not trapped inside. Nature designed this plant to flower in winter.

What about aphids?

What about aphids?  My only problem with Hellebore is aphids. Some years I don’t have any noticeable aphid activity. When I do it’s so early in the year that handy predators like lacewing and lady bug are still in sleep mode or haven’t hatched yet so I’m  on my own. Dealing with them is easy.  Use a spray bottle filled with water or 1 tsp of dish soap to 1 gallon of water and spray down your plant.  Use your hose or this great gadget called the bug blaster  which you can buy at Portland Nursery. (I’ve got to get one this year to use in my veggie garden too.) Don’t use a pesticide because most of them will harm bees even if they are not present when you spray. Aphids have soft bodies and will be damaged by the force of the water or the soapy solution will invade their bodies and disable them. You will have to knock them down with water or soapy water once or twice a week to prevent the temporary cosmetic damage.   I’ve never lost a hellebore plant to anything let alone a virus but in recent years virus has spread from plant to plant by aphids.  It is only an issue for professional growers or collectors.

Check out this bowlful of hellebore beauties

Check out this bowlful of hellebore beauties

How to care for your Hellebore

How to care for your Hellebore:  I water once or twice a week its first summer and then once a week after that.  Drip irrigation would be best rather than overhead sprinklers because drip can water deep into the soil.  Established Hellebore become quite a low water needs plant and might be content with every ten days or less.  An application of mulch around the plant once or twice a year is a good practice.  If your soil is so good that they make seedlings, be aware they won’t have the same flower as your hybridized plant. I cut the old leaves off the plant in late winter so that the flowers are not visually diminished by the previous years worn foliage.

How to kill a Hellebore

Plant it in a low spot where winter rain will rot the roots. Over water it and fertilize it heavily.

Winter Color provided by Hellebore 'Peppermint Ice'

Helleborus x Hybridus ‘Peppermint Ice’ is another Winter Gem by NW Garden Nursery. It is grown by Terra Nova so is available at local garden nurseries. Photo by Terra Nova.

Helleborus x Hybridus 'Peppermint Ice' photo by Terra Nova

Helleborus x Hybridus ‘Peppermint Ice’ has double flowers that hang down but the overall effecting your winter landscape is very colorful. The flowers last a long time.

Portland Landscape Design Remodel

Echo Chamber water feature in NE Portland designed by Landscape Design in a Day and D and J Landscape Contracting

Freshly installed echo chamber water feature will reduce traffic sound from nearby NE 33rd. Jasmine, a fragrant evergreen vine will enhance the screen for the hot tub room.

Lynda and Michael live in a sweet old Northeast Portland Grant Neighborhood House.  It’s a classic with a big front porch and several mature large trees including an amazing 40′ tall Japanese Maple.   They raised their kids and more than one wonderful dog in this house. Their landscape adventure began with the loss of their old plum tree – okay kind of sad but it was so big it ate the backyard space.  It also blocked most of the morning light.  Their dining area was crammed up against the hot tub.   Once the plum was gone they realized a golden opportunity had landed in their laps. They wanted a good designer to look at the possibilities and create a landscape design that would utilize every square inch of their small backyard.

They didn’t want a “perfect” garden.  Lynda and Michael have some gardening chops so the plants didn’t need to be extreme low maintenance but it did need to be simple. The existing landscape was overgrown after 20 plus years.  They were happy to let a lot of the plantings go so they could have a new look. They selected NW Natural and low water landscapes from my list.  A touch of cottage style fit the old house nicely so that was included.

Their Wish List:

Before: Dining took place next to hot tub.

Before: Dining took place next to hot tub.

◊Privacy for dining

◊A separate room for the  hot tub, their current landscape had the dining table next to the hot tub.

◊Plenty of patio space for entertaining

◊ A bit of lawn for their sweet dog Mira.

◊Michael especially wanted a water feature for the sound. The traffic sounds from NE 33rd interrupted conversations and the ability to relax in the back yard.

Grant Park Portland Oregon Landscape Design in a Day

Sam of D & J Landscape Contractors installing the new plantings.

Water Features:  Over the years I’ve noticed people have  very different experiences with traffic noise and other urban background sounds.  My own family is a good example;  my husband can tune out background noise and carry on a conversation but I often can’t. Some people can have their TV or radio going on in the background and carry on with language based activities.   Some people have filters and some people don’t.

My favorite design element, a water feature solves this problem and adds an elegant visual focal point.  An echo chamber water feature triples the water noise but is safe for kids because there is no need for a pond,  not even a tiny one.   Standing water is dangerous for kids, birds and provides an environment for mosquitoes.  Birds can drown in ponds that they can’t get out of.  The echo chamber is a buried steel box, it is easy to clean and you can control the volume of water.   My sister turns her water volume up so the water leaps from the pot.   This is attractive but results in quite a bit of splash and the evaporation that results uses a lot of water.  Other clients keep the water volume  turned down so it slowly spills from the drilled rock or plumbed  pot.  It still makes that wonderful water sound because first the water noise is produced when water drops onto the rocks around the pot or rock.  Then the water goes through the surface rocks, through the steel grid and into the chamber.  As it hits the rocks that line the chamber the sound is amplified inside the box.  It is so simple.

Landscape Design in a Day

An 8′ wide and 16″ thick slab of rock was drilled for a dry return water feature.  Designed by Carol Lindsay, Landscape Design in a Day for a Raleigh Hills home.  It was safe for kids and gave a dramatic focal point to the entry landscape.

 

 

The echo chamber was designed by Lew Smith of Smith Rock on Johnson Creek Blvd.  It creates more sound out of the water available so it’s also environmental. For perfection itself another small plug-in water feature,  something you might pick up at Portland Nursery or Cornell Farms, as a second water sound creates the effect of a water based duet.  We typically locate the 2nd small water feature in another part of the landscape. The sound of water helps people attune to their immediate environment and filter out the background noise.  For the best sound I like to place the water feature near the side of the house or in this case we used the garage wall so it could be easily heard from the dining area and the hot tub room.  The wall  adds amplification, providing a place for the sound to spring from.

Plantings:  So much of the landscape was overgrown, after all it had served for over 20 years.  We kept the mature Japanese Snowbell Tree, a December blooming Chinese camellia which serves as Lynda’s view from her office.  The overwintering Anna hummingbirds  love this simple 7 petaled deep red camellia flower and they put on a show for 2 months.  We planted easy care Beesia Deltoides near the bird bath because it will appreciate the splashes of water and has glossy heart shaped leaves that will reflect the light.  Saxifraga ‘London Pride’,  Hosta Sum and Substance and a mass of Wood Fern will add year round color under the Snowbell Tree.  A sterile variety of Russian Olive, Eleagnus ‘Gilt Edge’ will be trained into a small evergreen tree, giving more  privacy to the hot tub room and fragrance in the fall.

We will show off this garden in a blog next year when the plantings have filled in.  The client, Michael Shay,  is a professional photographer and has promised photos for us.

Diversity of Dogwoods Part II

Venus dogwood from Heritage Seedlings

The flowers of  ‘Venus’  dogwood compared to a typical dogwood flower. See Diversity of Dogwoods Part I.  Photo courtesy of Heritage Seedlings

Continued from Diversity of Dogwoods Part I

The diversity of dogwoods is well illustrated by these two trees:  Cornus Kousa ‘Summer Gold’ and Cornus Controversa ‘June Snow’.

Summer Gold dogwood

Bright cream flowers are backed by colorful variegation of  ‘Summer Gold’ dogwood. Photo courtesy of Heritage Seedlings

I love ‘Summer Gold’ partially because it’s so different from other dogwoods.  Typical dogwoods have a wide oval green leaf and a round wide canopy.  ‘Summer Gold’ has narrow bright green and gold leaves and has an upright narrow shape.  This means it fits into urban settings much better than a typical dogwood.  It was created by  local grower Crispin Silva who is a delight.  His curiosity and enthusiasm about plants has certainly inspired me.  People in the industry refer to his plants as “Crispin’s Creations”.

‘June Snow’ dogwood is also different from most dogwoods.  She matures at 30′ tall and spreads to 40′ wide.  I use her for light shade for medium to smaller landscapes.  She is too big for your typical row house back yard that is only 20′ wide, but in landscapes with a little more room she can be the single tree.  This is because she has it all.  Her branch structure is incredibly graceful and open.  When she flowers in June these flat topped clusters (which often exceed 6 inches) seem to float above the foliage.

Cornus 'June Snow'

‘June Snow’ dogwood at Portland’s Legacy-Emanuel Hospital in The Children’s Garden.

 

 

The fall color can compete with any dogwood starting with orange yellows and moving into purple red and deep purple as fall deepens.  The fruit that develops from the flower clusters are tiny and not messy.  The local birds will eat them.

 

Diversity of Dogwoods Part I

Cornus Kousa 'Satomi' at Joy Creek Nursery.

Cornus Kousa ‘Satomi‘ at Joy Creek Nursery.

Diversity of Dogwoods – Part I

Dogwoods are a very large family.  There are twiggy shrub dogwoods whose hot colored stems light up the winter landscape.  There is a dogwood who blooms in March with yellow flowers and makes an edible fruit.  There are semi evergreen dogwoods we are experimenting with here in Portland.  This is the kind of knowledge homeowners need their designers to be up to date on.  When a client asks me for a dogwood I know its the visual and emotional impact of the flowers they are thinking of.  Designers think through the details to find the right variety for the clients size of yard and environment so our clients don’t have to.  Landscapes come in all different sizes and environments and now so do Dogwoods.

Plant designers have been busy improving our old-fashioned dogwood tree into a garden designers dream tree. Our old dogwood varieties have problems that plant designers have been working on for 40 years.

Cornus-Kousa 'Satomi' Intense pink flowers. Photo by Randall C. Smith, courtesy of Great Plant Picks

Cornus Kousa ‘Satomi’  Intense pink flowers.  New on the scene, ‘Little Ruby’  is a deeper pink. Photo by Randall C. Smith, courtesy of Great Plant Picks

They are improving drought tolerance, disease resistance (okay not sexy but important!)  and cold hardiness.  They’ve created new shapes that fit better into the urban environment.

What is sexy or desirable are the improvements made to the flowers.  Let’s admit it, where dogwoods are concerned,  we want even pinker flowers.   Everyone wants more color than nature supplies on her own. There are darker shades of more intense pink red.

Cornus Kousa 'Venus' has large dogwood flowers

Cornus Kousa ‘Venus’ has large white flowers which are 6 to 7 inches across.

Varieties such as ‘Little Ruby’  showcase the new strong colors.   ‘Little Ruby’ is wider than tall.  She is  plump and round headed and can be used in the landscape as a shrub or small tree.

Another new variety is called ‘Starlight’.  This cross is from our own native Pacific Northwest Dogwood;  the shape is upright and more narrow.  It works for your small yard or as a street tree. There’s a beautiful ‘Starlight’ in the courtyard of the Edith Green federal building in downtown Portland as an example of a tree perfect for urban life.

Cornus Kousa 'Starlight' dogwood

‘Starlight’ dogwood is a cross from our Pacific Northwest native dogwood. The narrow shape is perfect for urban life. http://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/cornus-starlight

 

‘Venus’ features ginormus white flowers which are 6″-7″ across.  Like ‘Starlight’ they produce little to no  fruit unlike the many Korean dogwoods hybridized and sold in the last 15 years.  In fact even Friends of Trees offer messy Korean dogwoods.  I confess I make a TSKK TSKK when I see the huge mess they make on the sidewalks. In the fall they drop a large raspberry colored fruit.  Friends of Trees is a fabulous organization and many clients have been happy to purchase an inexpensive tree and learn how to care for their tree.  I would use the fruitless varieties near walkways and for small yards and save the old fashioned fruiting types for large properties.

 

Hellebore Heaven

Hellebore 9

A sample of the many varieties of Hellebore in bloom at the open garden.

If you love Hellebores don’t miss this open garden.  The O’Byrne family designs Hellebores and have an international following.  My design world has its’ rock stars and Marietta and Ernie are famous and appreciated by plant lovers and garden designers.  Their Hellebores will dazzle you with color and form, plus they are sturdy plants, bred in Eugene Oregon at the Northwest Garden Nursery.

Why go?  First, you’ll have a chance to buy these unusual and fantastically beautiful plants (most are not available locally).  Second, you can buy them in a large 2 gallon size, not in tiny sizes.

Hellebore in woodland setting.

Hellebore in woodland setting.

Hellebore 2

Here are Hellebores with drought tolerant Yucca in full sun.

Walk through a 1.5 acre garden with many different micro climates.  See Hellebores planted en masse in an open woodland with companion plantings of shrubs and spring bulbs.

Also see the large sun garden where you will find Hellebores in combination with interesting rock garden plants, succulents and more.  Most people think Hellebores are for shade only.

The garden art is unique, interesting and never overwhelms the garden, something I appreciate in a design.

My sister's feet on a Jeffrey Bale stone mosiac landing.

My sister’s feet on a Jeffrey Bale stone mosiac landing.

 

Call a friend and save the date: February 20 and 27.  I’d suggest February 20 for purchasing plants, the 27th may result in a “sold out” and while it’s worth it just to see the garden, you will want plants.  Last year I took my sister Donna and her friend (and my client) Sherry.  They are plant fiends and appreciated seeing such a large display of Hellebores.  Alas, the plants were sold out so if we can go this year, we will try for the first open garden day.  We also visited Greer Gardens and I got to say good bye to Harold Greer who is beyond the rock star status.  His lifetime of work with Rhododendrons and other plants has enriched my designs and my life, so it was poignant to go and purchase a few last plants from him.  I purchased a rock garden plant, Rhododendron Kiusianum White Form.  It was exquisite. He has closed his mail order company.  Bloom River Gardens will be trying to fill Harold’s shoes.

 

 

 

 

Hellebore 7 Hellebore 6 Hellebore 4

Pictures left to right:  Double Hellebore covers my fingers.  Amazing foliage.  Dark edge contrasts with sunlit pale petals.