Archive for cutting flowers

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.

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.

3 Colorful Shrubs for Fall

Compact Burning Bush
The most popular variety of Euonymus alata ‘Compacta’ because people think it will be small, say 3′ x 3′.  It is not the least bit small and easily grows into a beautiful small tree.  The smallest variety on the market is called ‘Rudy Haag’ 5′ x 5′.   Even the variety called ‘Pip Squeak’  is 6′ x 5′.  If Burning Bush is not placed with room to grow, these shrubs get turned into ugly muffins by frustrated gardeners.  If it is sheared properly, thinner at the top and wider at the bottom, this can be a very attractive hedge but it will need to be sheared two or three times a year.  Ugh! Too much work for me.

pipsqeck burning bush monrovia 8959268-largeI love to use this shrub as a shree (part shrub, part small tree).  A client of mine, Ruth in Scappoose has hers planted in full sun and pruned into small multi-stem trees.  They are underplanted with a hot orange summer flowering Euphorbia which is a wow combination.  These “shrees” have been in their location for over ten years and they are not irrigated at all. Other than having a professional pruning every year or three, this privacy planting is very low maintenance and simply stunning. The ridged and winged bare stems of the Burning Bush are attractive and add winter interest.  To establish this plant, water it once a week, or twice in hot weather.  Once established, it will thrive with once a week watering.  As it ages in place it needs less and less water.  A plus … The deer don’t bother this plant in Ruth’s garden.

Fothergilla 'Mt Airy', (Bottlebrush) in full fall color.

Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’, (Bottlebrush) in full fall color.

Witch Alder (also called Bottlebrush)
This shrub has two seasons of wow, one is spring where the fragrance is heavenly, the bottle brush flowers are attractive in flower arrangements and if pruned properly, the shape of this “shree” will look good year round.  The 2nd wow is the fall color.

Fothergilla (Bottlebrush) fragrant flowers on naked stems delight in spring

Fothergilla (Bottlebrush) fragrant flowers on naked stems delight in spring

This plant, Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’ will need regular water until it has been in place for many years. Almost all plants, even those listed as drought tolerant, look better with some irrigation in our Pacific NW Mediterranean style summer. See fabulous colorful art made from these leaves!!!

Gatsbys Moon Hydrangea

Hydrangea Quercifolia Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Gatsby’s Moon’ is a new variety from Proven Winners.

Oakleaf Hydrangea 
I’ve written about this plant many times but that’s because it’s so great.  The full size plant may not fit in most landscapes but there are two semi dwarf plants that will.  These plants have huge white conical flowers in mid- summer that fade to a nice pink.  In fall the large and well textured leaf turn the most fabulous rich reds and stay on the plant well past Thanksgiving.  These leaves always go in my Thanksgiving table centerpiece.  Once the leaves fall, there is great rusty exfoliating bark on the stems that glow in the winter light.

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Sikes Dwarf’ and ‘Pee Wee’ are the two varieties I use the most. They are NOT tiny shrubs, still expect a 3′ to 4′ wide and tall plant.  My experience is that ‘Sikes Dwarf’ is taller than ‘Pee Wee’.  The leaves are smaller than the species, 4 to 5 inches instead of 8 to 10 inches and they still have the interesting grainy texture and great flowers. One drawback … deer seem to like the leaves.  It is native to the South Eastern United States.

It’s easier to prune than a traditional hydrangea AND it doesn’t need as much water.  If you want you can cut it off at the ground in late winter and start over.  Here is a video “How to Prune Oak Leaf Hydrangea”  by Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty.

Hot Summer Color Flowering Plants That Last

Carol with coneflower

Carol Lindsay of Landscape Design in a Day standing in a parking strip of Cutleaf Coneflower

Here are three great plants for summer color in the Northwest.  These vibrant flowering plants are very easy to care for and come back each year as long as they have good drainage.  These won’t survive our Northwest winters planted in a low place or puddle.  If the clay is hard and dry as pottery in the summer we do have plants that will live in these conditions, but very few and not these.

Hardy Fuchsia
Flowers all summer and into late fall. I had mine inside a courtyard and used flowers for my Thanksgiving table every year. Hummingbirds love this plant.  It’s old fashioned but my 30 something clients love it too.

Fuchsia 'Chickadee'

Photo of Fuchsia magellanica ‘Chickadee’ courtesy of Jockey Hill Nursery

There is quite a variety of shrub sizes, foliage colors, and variable sizes of flowers.  Look for hot pinks, hot reds, deep purples, orchid and pinks.  Some sun is needed to get  flowers.  All day dappled sun coming through tree leaves is perfect!  Morning sun and afternoon shade also works well. Deep shade works for annual Fuchsia baskets – don’t be confused.  The plants I’m talking about are shrubs Fuchsia magellanica  that come back every year and will not flower with too little sun.

Herbstonne rudbeckia

Our client Mary loves her cutleaf coneflower!

Rudebeckia Lacinata ‘Autumn Sun
Common Name: Cutleaf coneflower
Syn: Herbstonne

Here’s an easy plant on the other end of the spectrum in every way. Oh how to tell you??? Initially I used this plant to fill in planting areas while my clients wait for their new slower long term plants to grow in.  After 3 years when it was time to remove the 5′ to 6′ tall Rudebeckia, my clients tended to say……….”noooooo,  I love it so, it just means summer to me!”

So we found ways to keep the plant in the garden and the client happy.  Rudebeckia Herbstonne  grows to 6′ tall and softens the view of a fence beautifully, it loves hot sun, but will cope with perhaps as little as 4 hours of sun.  The flowers are drop dead georgeus.  The plant is low water needs and you won’t need to stake it!  It stands on it’s own!

Kims knee high coneflower

Photo courtesy of Monrovia

Echinacea
Color! Color! Color! is what Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Knee High’ and E. p. ‘Kims Knee High Red’ are all about.  They start flowering in June and keep going through August.  In September, coneflowers turn cool burnt colors and if you are willing to leave the flower heads overwinter … the chickadees will make a nice meal of the seeds in late winter.

This plant is easy once you get the soil prepped for it.  The only way to lose it is have slugs eat it all the first year while it’s just shooting up out of the ground in spring. Many varieties of coneflower get too tall and floppy.  The Knee High varieties do not flop and is one of my personal favorites!

Satisfy Summer Color Cravings with Easy Care Crocosmia

Croscosmia Explosion flowers

A parking strip garden in SE Portland, OR across from Laurelhurst Park. The gardener used to work for a huge wholesale company that sold unusual bulbs.

Crocosmia flowers mean summer has arrived!

Having grown up in Oregon I can’t really trust summer is here until I see those intense red, orange or yellow trumpets!

In Portland,  they typically start to flower in late June into early July. The variety Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is the local favorite because of the intense crimson hummingbird attracting flower. Plus it’s one tough plant that comes back even in adverse situations.

The Good News
Crocosmia are perfect for color cravers. The long, strappy stems are great in a vase and beloved by hummingbirds. They are tough and clients think they are extremely low maintenance.

So What’s Not to Love?
Crocosmia as a group can be aggressive spreaders – especially for small urban gardens. Lucifer reaches 36″-42” tall and has a tendency to flop halfway through summer. The corms need to be divided frequently to keep these issues in line. To me, that is not low maintenance.  I have better, findable replacements to add to your summer garden before you give Lucifer the “Get thee behind me”! hiss.

Croscosmia Explosion flowers

This crocosmia mimics the color of a juicy tangerine.

Other Crocosmia Options
Better varieties are 10 to 15 inches shorter than Lucifer, don’t crowd out their own flowers and don’t flop to the ground.  Lucifer lovers will complain that none of the other red varieties spread as fast as Lucifer . . . but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Joy Creek NurseryJoy Creek Nursery in Scappoose, Oregon  grows many of the good varieties of crocosmia.  I talked with Maurice Horn, Co-owner and plantsman extraordinaire and all three Crocosmia listed below are currently available:

Hellfire’ available now (6/15/14) at Joy Creek Nursery is 24″-30” and is an intense orange red.

‘Walburton Red‘ is closer to the rich red of ‘Lucifer’ but will increase very slowly compared to ‘Lucifer’. This is where I compare cheap chocolate to real chocolate, by the way.

‘Golden Fleece’ is 24″-30″, an amazing color of deep clean yellow. It starts flowering late in the summer and will carry through to fall.

Croscosmia Explosion flowers

I love to see a mix of different varieties of crocosmia flowers together.

Other good varieties that are hard to find but worthy of your garden
These corms (bulbs) don’t overcrowd and therefore continue to flower freely:

  • Bright Eyes
  • Burnt Umber
  • Little Devil
  • Little Red Head
  • Miss Scarlet
  • Walburton Yellow

Please don’t feel you have to rip out your Lucifer even though I have compared it to bad chocolate! Feel free to try a few of these other varieties and then if you are tired of giving up space to “Mr. Spread and Flop”, you won’t have any problem giving him away to a friend or containing him. Perhaps ‘Lucifer’ is a really great first crocosmia, sort of like a first love James Dean bad boy that you can’t part with.