Archive for dramatic winter 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.

Swim Spa Landscape Design

The Swim Spa That Took Over The Backyard

Swim spa in small backyard

Rachael and her family like to swim even in December when this photo was taken with the blooming Camellia Sasanqua ‘Yuletide’.

Rachael and her family like to swim. They have twin toddlers who have been swimming since they were three months old. Seeing them playing like baby otters is adorable, even cuter than puppies which is saying something!

Existing Conditions

Prior to the swim spa their backyard was a pleasant place with a tiny lawn, a covered patio, and some easy-care plantings.  They also had a beloved gorgeous 36-inch diameter trunk California myrtle tree that shaded half the yard.  The new swim spa dominated the back yard and the mud from the construction process made it a poor place for toddlers to play. This new situation was beyond heading to the plant nursery to select a few new plants.  They needed a designer to re-design the backyard, create solutions for privacy and manipulate the space to maximize every inch.

Landscape Design in a Day

Rachael and I talked on the phone and we were a great fit.  We scheduled a Landscape Design in a Day, my collaborative design process, and they started preparing their base drawing and working through my landscape survey questions.   I was really looking forward to this one but it was going to be so tricky!  We met at their home one cool spring day to create the design together.

Privacy

The new 10′ x 20′ swim spa sits four plus feet above the ground making the swimmers very visible to neighbors.  They wanted privacy for themselves and in case their neighbors didn’t really want to watch them swim, for the neighbors too.

Screening plants for swim spa

Camellia Sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ helps screen swim spa.

The privacy issues for small properties with close neighbors is often tricky.  On one side of the property it was easy.  The California myrtle and a couple of mature rhododendron would solve most of the problems on that side.  Three things would need to happen.   We needed to stop pruning back the tops of the old rhodies, they would need to be treated each year for lace bug and be irrigated.  For the last privacy hole on this side we would fill it with a New Zealand Box Tree.  I will prune it myself the first few times, Azara Microphylla to help it fit into the difficult spot that is right next to the gate.  It is needed to screen out a neighbor’s window that is on the first floor.  It’s important to use a small tree that won’t get too big for this spot and this tree was the perfect solution.

Bamboo Screen

The back-property line was difficult because the swim spa was right next to the fence.  We had only a few feet for a privacy planting and it needed to grow to 10 feet tall and very narrow in order to fit.   I used my faithful clumping bamboo up in planters. This variety of clumping bamboo, Fargesia Robusta ‘Campbell’, stands straight up so it will not weep over and interfere with the swimming. Most varieties of clumping bamboo have too much weeping and arching shape to them and don’t work well for tiny landscapes.  The planters were advantageous for many reasons.  1st we would not need to dig deep and disturb the root system of the beloved California Myrtle tree.  2nd we could use an ideal soil mixture in the planters so the bamboo would thrive.  They will grow in our local clay top soil but will do much better in a soil mix that drains well.  3rd by putting them in planters they would be taller from the beginning.

Newly installed landscape

We utilized the existing walkway which fit the client’s cottage garden style and her budget.

The privacy for the driveway side was the hardest.  We needed to screen out a second story window at the neighbors and had no planting area to do it with.  We decided to use an arbor.  It fit beautifully and we were all enthusiastic about it.  However, when all the numbers came in, the arbor wasn’t a practical choice.  When I visited recently to see how things were growing along we talked about a more affordable solution.

Before swim spa

Before – The new swim spa dominated the back yard.

Two small trees in very large pots placed strategically will be part of a future phase.  In a small yard situation like this tiny backyard we can’t afford to leave the driveway to the garage read as a driveway.   They didn’t use the small garage for parking a car.  Using furniture and pots we made this area a sunny sitting area.

Rachael says

“Hi Carol,  Nice to hear from you.  Yes we would love for you to come by and take a look.  All the Camellia Sasanqua  are blooming and they are beautiful!  The bamboo is already growing and we love our little backyard oasis.  Thank you for referring us to Scott Schultze, Tellurian Gardens.  He and his crew did a great job installing the new landscape.”

Entry Presence with Winter Red Foliage for Portland Landcapes

Winter Color Sizzle Plant

‘Sizzling Pink’ Chinese Loropetalum is the focal point plant for a Willamette Heights  Landscape Design in a Day client’s entry.

Entry Presence with Winter Red Foliage for Portland Landscapes

Exciting Winter Color Shrub

As a Portland landscape designer I have many clients who want exciting winter color in their landscapes.  When new clients fill in their landscape preference survey they often circle the option for burgundy foliage and add little hearts!   Sadly most burgundy leafed plants are not cold hardy enough here in the Pacific Northwest to look picture perfect in winter.

My Favorite

My favorite choice for dark red or eggplant purple foliage is called Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum or Red Chinese Loropetalum.  Plain Chinese Loropetalum has green foliage and white flowers.   I love the Red Chinese Loropetalum.  It  has amazing thick hot pink fringe flowers in early spring.  The spring foliage emerges burgundy red or dark to medium red pink depending on the variety.   Other varieties are dark red to an eggplant purple through the year.

Unique plant but tricky to site properly

My NW Portland landscape design clients, Dave and Rhonda loved this plant.  It provided a very attractive color echo of their eggplant front door and visually softened the adjacent concrete area. It looked good until January and then for several years the leaves burned and they didn’t grow back in until July!. The love was there but it took too long to recover for an entry focal point plant.   Their plant got sun from 6am in the winter until 1 pm.  They had good drainage and were careful and consistent with watering.  Perversely, I have seen other plants simply glowing in February in the same exact siting.  Can you tell I had a little trouble giving up on that one?  I avoid 6 am winter sun for best outcome.

lorepetalum-from-monrovia

Spring flowers (Photo courtesy of Monrovia)

So why bother with this plant?

It is the wonderful purple red foliage color, the soft arching shape of the branches and the hot colored fringe flowers in spring. Its well worth it if you love purple foliage.    If the plant gets cold east wind in winter, the leaves will burn (desiccate) and it may look terrible until May or June. Year round good looks is all about proper siting and a bit of luck.

Proven Winners variety called Loropetalum 'Jazz Hands'

Proven Winners variety called Loropetalum ‘Jazz Hands’

Twp good choices

These two old  varieties are still easy to find and are what I’m most familiar with:   ‘Sizzling Pink’, which is also called ‘Burgundy’ (cold tolerant to 15 degrees), and   ‘Pippa’s Red’ (hardy to 10 degrees).  ‘Pippa’s Red’ is not as dark a red leaf as ‘Sizzling Pink’. I’m interested in ‘Hines Purpleleaf’, ‘Zhuzhou Fuchsia’ and ‘Jazz Hands’ but wasn’t able to find them to purchase.

There are many new varieties but most were hybridized (designed) for the southern states and are not tested here in the Pacific NW.

I love to drive around Portland and see them thriving.   They saw it, bought it, and just happened to plant it in the right spot!! Whoever they are, they don’t even know its supposed to be a little tricky.  I would be willing to try it in colder areas like Gresham but only where it is 100% protected from east wind.  Even then, I’d consider it an experiment. A whole landscape of plant experiments is called gambling and is not typically the result  we want in a landscape design.  Most of my clients want a sure bet.

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.

Planning for a Cheery Winter Landscape

Entry focal point at Hilton Residence Inn in Raleigh Hills, OregonLet’s start with art.  An art object does not need pruning, watering or fertilizing.  Art, particularly large art, is a way to get a powerful all season effect in the landscape.  Place it so you see it from the most used room of the house.  Add a little night lighting and really get your money’s worth.

Shapely trees and large shrubs with attractive branch structure will make 75% of your most dramatic winter picture.  Buy trees or shrubs already pruned and shaped beautifully. There are specialty growers who do this as part of their marketing niche, or hire a landscape gardener or an arborist to turn your trees and shrubs into winter beauties. Out here in the NW it’s Nancy Buley with Treephoria and while her plants are grown way out in east county she comes in to some of the farmers markets to make it easier for you to connect with her.

Red Camellia in L. Waldron Garden

Red Camellia in L. Waldron Garden

Here’s a series of shapely shrubs/small trees with cheerful bright winter flowers.  My favorite of the chinese camellias is still Camellia Sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ but the growers have created a whole line of plants similar to Yuletide but in different flowering colors and different flower timing.  Here are a couple of new ones I’m excited about.  ‘Springs Promise’ a chinese camellia from Monrovia has an unusual orange red flower, a color hard to find in winter.  The tree can be trained into a vase shape, an espalier or a thick shrub.  We will see if the hummingbirds like it as much as they do the true red of the Yuletide variety. ‘Pink a Boo’ also has the smaller dark green glossy leaves (like Yuletide) but is that perfect frosty intense but pale pink.  Camellia Sasanqua ‘Marge Miller’ is the only plant with a weeping shape.  I’ve only used it once and am eager to get photos this January when my client Karen’s plant starts to flower.

calluna-vulgaris-robert-chapman360 port nursery

Calluna Vulgaris ‘Robert Chapman’ lights up in winter cold.

To have a cheery winter landscape we need plant color low on the ground with a dark mulch or hemlock bark to dress the raw earth.  Too much mulch or raw muddy earth looks unfinished especially for a front yard.  In the back yard your dog will happily churn up that mud and bring it in so I like to see it covered.  Many people here in the Northwest like to have the soil covered with plants to conserve water, lessen the chore of weeding and for style.  Others find it too busy and want to see the space around the plants as part of the design.  No one wants mud so we all agree on that.  Plant selection:  Use plants that turn on the color in winter cold.  The foliage of heathers light up in reds, russets, ambers, and golds.

Calluna heather at Cooper garden

Calluna Vulgaris ‘Winter Chocolate’

Hot Winter Twigs

Cornus Sanguineum ‘Midwinter Fire’

For a January pick me up, we cannot beat a red twig dogwood or scarlet willow, although planning for space is an issue with these plants. The twig dogwood shrubs and small trees  light up in hot reds, burgandy and yellow.

Notice what is going on outside.  If you have become a person who never ventures out in the winter……give yourself a gentle little shake, put on some warm clothes and get out there and see what is going on.  Slow down enough to notice light on the tree stems, chilled dew on a leaf, and the leaf buds swelling on your Japanese maple in preparation for spring.  This is good for our spirits and our minds.