While the gardener is away, the plants will… grow

While I have been busy back at work and entertaining guests at home, my garden has suffered a bit of neglect.  This time of year it probably doesn’t matter much.  The nights are still chilly and the ground is always moist.  It is easy to get distracted by other things, but it is also an exciting time of year.  I always wait semi-patiently for each marginally hardy plant to show some sign of life, and enjoy the hardier plants as they start showing their vigor.

This year is going to be a good one for the garden.  Things are going well thanks in part to a lot of chicken manure compost and an unusually warm February.  The yard smelled like a poultry farm for a day or two, but I think it was worth it.  A lot of plants tend to look sickly and yellow about this time of year, but the massive nitrogen dump I’ve created has helped a significant amount.  Case in point; the brugmansias are coming out of the ground in a very nice shade of emerald.  I would have been happy just having them survive.  This spring, they are more than just surviving.

Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ has never had a problem overwintering here.
Yes, this brugmansia is alive and well. If I can keep the slugs away, of course.

Last year at about this time my little Agapanthus africanus was just barely clinging to life.  It still managed to bloom last year, thankfully.  Looking this good already, I wonder what it’ll do for me this year?

Agapanthus africanus

While I do enjoy my nearly tropical plants, I also have natives.  I just can’t go without appreciating what we’ve already got.  This is the first spring I’ve had Aquilegia formosa (Western Columbine) and I have to say that I’m impressed.  It looks even better than it did in the field.  These are all seed started, of course.

Western Columbine. Native plants do so well with so little effort, it’s a shame to exclude them.

The same goes for my Echinopanax horridus (Devil’s Club).  The latin name is incredibly descriptive… don’t mess with it!  If I wasn’t so afraid of it sending out vicious runners into my lawn, I would have it in the ground instead of a pot.  As it is, I think it’s very impressive at the height of the growing season.

Another native, the Devil’s Club. This one is just starting to turn into it’s namesake.

The Billardiera longiflora (Purple Appleberry) is showing flower buds now.  This year, I will try to get a few berries picked and eaten before they ripen fully.  Supposedly they taste good until they ripen, when they dry out and lose all their flavor.

Purple Appleberry. Another great plant from down under.

The cannas have been popping out of the ground like gangbusters.  The Canna musifolia (Banana Canna) already has big leaves! My favorite!

Banana cannas will probably cover this end of the house. Bottom left is Scabiosa ‘Ace of Spades’ (not quite in bloom yet).

One of the Canna indica has sprouted a white leaf.  I’ve never seen it before, and I will wait anxiously for the next few leaves.  Will they be white as well? Just a few feet away I have a day lily that has come up all white this year.  Maybe there is something in the ground…

A white canna. Only time will tell if it is just a fluke.

Finally, the last dahlias to emerge this year are the Dahlia imperialis (Tree Dahlia).  Not to be outdone by everyone else, they have grown several inches in the past 24 hours.  By this time next week they’ll be twice the size of the regular dahlias.  You can never have too many tree dahlias.  That might be an exaggeration, given the mature size of tree dahlias.  But I’ll be willing to test that theory.

A tree dahlia!
Another tree dahlia. I’ve got a bunch of them coming up. Maybe a forests worth.
This one is just a few days old.
My oldest tree dahlia. This tuber is three year old, started from a cutting. Amazing how fast they grow, isn’t it?

Speaking of being late to the party, Fargesia nitida (Fountain Bamboo) has finally decided to send up a few shoots.  While not the last bamboo to shoot, they certainly aren’t early risers.

I never realized how bright red the new shoots of F nitida are!

The Philodendron ‘Hope’ has been happy with our spring weather.  It is looking alive and well, and has put fears of death behind it for this year.  I am leaning towards potting it up for next winter.

Philodendron ‘Hope’. Amazingly hardy, even here in the Pacific Northwest.

Melianthus major (Honeybush) has surprised me.  Both of my plants have survived the winter, unlike a year ago.  I think it has a little to do with planting location and a lot to do with the severity of frosts.

Honeybush, but it smells more like peanut butter to me. You can see a ‘Kentucky’ asiatic lily encroaching on the lower right.

Just a few feet away, the Paulownia tomentosa (Empress Tree) has turned on the afterburners.  I have been pollarding it for 2 years, and I really like the results.  It never completely obliterates the surrounding landscape, but it still dominates the skyline with it’s rhubarb-sized leaves.  Of course, this is my favorite tree.  By removing all but a single bud in the spring, the tree puts all of it’s growth into a single limb.  It turns an already massive leaf into a spectacle that instantly catches the eye.

An Empress Tree. Very purple, and fuzzy. Different, but still neat.

Wouldn’t you know it?  I misplaced my identification tag for the pomegranate tree.  I don’t know exactly what variety it is, but with little chance of ripe fruit anyway, why worry?  The flowers on this thing are good enough.  They’ll show up soon!

An unnamed pomegranate variety pokes out from behind some rosemary.

I will end today’s post with a few blooms.  Most of my garden is best seen later in the year, but there are a few things that stand out right now.  The Watsonia gladioloides hasn’t quite bloomed yet, but it has a pair of bloom spikes ready to open.  Last year it didn’t bloom, and the previous year I bought it right as the last few petals fell.  If I manage to get some seed from it this year, you can bet that I’ll have more next year.

Watsonia gladioloides is not a common garden plant here, but it is so much more interesting than most!

The Echium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’ has begun to bloom.  Being a biennial, it may be running on it’s last legs.  I hope not!  I have taken a few sideways glances at the giant Star of Madeira at Cistus Nursery in Portland, wondering how they’ve gotten theirs to last so many years.  It is huge!  Even if mine dies, I’ll enjoy it.  And then replace it with a few of the echiums that I’ve started from seed this year.

This Star of Madeira is electric blue!

Last but not least, I bring you Eccremocarpus scaber (Chilean Glory Flower).  I started this from seed in April of last year (2014) and got my first flower around the end of October, seven months later.  It never lost it’s leaves over the winter, and sat with a few flower buds all winter long.  Here’s to the start of a long, bountiful year.

I’d like to personally thank the country of Chile for providing such an interesting plant to the rest of us. The flowers are like little tubes of fire! All the more rewarding when you grow it from seed.
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2 thoughts on “While the gardener is away, the plants will… grow

  1. It really is a case of while the gardener is away! There is so much to see and enjoy – the tree dahlia is an all-time favourite. I love watching them romp away: it’s like mother nature crossed dahlias with bamboo 🙂 The Western columbine is just beguiling – I wonder if it would be worth attempting to cross it with the common varieties? Agapanthus are so much tougher than they are credited – here, they have become a roadside weed (I am usda zone 7/8 like you) – while hard frosts turn their leaves to mush, I leave them on overwinter and then treat them to a dose of the line-trimmer in spring… but the key to hardiness is drainage – the soil is rocky, gritty sand: give them that and they will romp away

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I may have to amend the soil around the agapanthus and see if I can get a bit more out of it next spring. I also like your idea of crossing the columbine. I know where I can get a lot more of them… I think I’ll be doing a lot of dividing and propagating this year!

      Liked by 1 person

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