Mulch For Garden Beds And A Pretty Winter Plant Combination

Over the weekend, our across-the-street neighbor was raking up the many Japanese Maple leaves from his gorgeous tree, and so I ran out and asked him if I could take the leaves for my garden beds, pretty please?  He said yes (not the first time for this same reason, I might add), and so away we hauled a bunch of beautiful tiny orange and gold leaves to dress our flower and vegetable beds.  Some photos to illustrate:

Bulb bed mulched, Dec. 2011

A little bulb bed, tucked in for the winter with a couple of inches of Japanese Maple leaves for mulch.

Another flower bed mulched, Dec. 2011

In this bed I’ve left room around the rose on the left and daylilies on the right, and mulched over the top of where I have lots of bulbs planted.  From garden writer Ann Lovejoy, I learned to mulch the bulb beds, because it helps to keep the upcoming spring flowers from getting mud splashed on them from incessant spring rain that we get here.

Fruit trees mulched for the winter. My fruit tree row, weeded (and I was aided in this by the neighbor's chickens who like to come over and visit--there must have been bugs that they were excited to eat there) and mulched with a couple of inches of leaf mulch. Dec. 2011


Vegetable bed mulched with Japanese Maple leaves, December 2011

It’s also a good idea to cover bare soil in your vegetable beds as well, and the leaves work great for this.  In the upper left corner there are some bright green garlic leaves–I planted them several years ago, and even though they get pulled up every year, they keep coming back, and not a bad thing I might add.  They are much more pungent than garlic from the grocery store.

Japanese Maple leaf mulch

Japanese Maples grow readily in the Pacific Northwest.   They are gorgeous, there are many in smaller sizes, and they tend to grow unaffected by disease or pests, making them a winner for the garden.  I like to use Japanese Maple leaves in my garden for several reasons:
  • They are already naturally small, so I do not have to chop them up like would have to do with full-sized maple leaves
  • They are free
  • They are amply available when I need them

In our climate, it tends to be best to use about a two-inch layer of leaves for mulching your flower and vegetable beds.  Leave room around the plant crowns; don’t cover them with mulch.  If you put more than two inches, it can sometimes become a haven for mice and other pests that like to live in the leaves if given the chance.  I also like the small leaves better than large maple leaves, because the large leaves, if they are not chopped up fine, tend to stick together in our rainy climate and don’t break down very readily over the course of the winter, and they also become a haven for slugs, which will winter over and eat the plants that you have so carefully covered nearby.


Another type of “mulch”:


Outdoor containers covered in plastic, Dec. 2011

I just grouped my containers on the garage roof together, and covered them with several layers of clear plastic.  Old clear shower curtains also work great for this, and are made from heavier plastic, which is better.  Although it occasionally goes down as low as 18 degrees here, it is pretty rare, and this in times past has been enough protection to keep containers from splitting, and plants from dying in the containers.  (Fingers crossed.) 

Now here is a pretty plant combination (or two):


Gorgeous early winter foliage, December 2011

The yellow leaves are on a red-flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum, that I plan to begin shaping into an espaliered form on the wall.  The brilliant red leaves adorn a Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar’ barberry.  This is a perfect plant if you are looking for a low-maintenance shrub to fill a tight and narrow spot in the garden.  It reaches five feet tall but only two feet wide, and is great in a small garden.  It’s deciduous, and it has semi-glossy burgundy leaves that turn green as they age, but still keep a burgundy undertone.  It also gets bright orange and red seeds in the fall as well.  I need to take a few more pictures of it, and will then present it in a “Through The Seasons” post. 

Viola and feverfew, December 2011

As you can see, I haven’t gotten around to emptying the hanging baskets yet, (wanted to leave them til the last minute for the hummingbirds, because they had nasturtiums in them), but there are still some purple violas along with chartreuse feverfew.  I may pull those out and transplant them in a protected spot in containers at the front of the house.
Some more plant hangers-on:

Snapdragons in December


Roses flying high in the sky, December 2011


A lone, bright pink 'Zephrin Drouhin' rose, Dec. 2011

And some winter-flowering plants:

Yellow forsythia and white viburnum, viburnum=hummingbird food, December 2011

I’ll do a post soon of holiday decorations!
Enjoy a break from gardening.  I still have a couple of little chores left to do, but nothing major.  The temperatures have definitely dropped–it’s ranging from the low to mid-40s during the days and down to low 30s at night, so I am on winter hummingbird patrol, putting the feeder out in the morning and bringing it in right after dark.  Sun shining through the bright blue sky today–I love it!
Leave a comment if you like!

Through The Seasons: Red-Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum

The red-flowering currant, a Northwest-native plant and hummingbird favorite with the Latin name of Ribes sanguineum, not sure of the particular variety but could likely be the commonly sold ‘King Edward VII’, through the seasons at Minerva’s Garden in photos:

Ribes sanguineum, Red-Flowering Currant, in my garden blooming in April, along with hyacinth and narcisus

After the flowers on the red-flowering currant are done, the leaves on the shrub turn green, and it looks pretty unremarkable for the summer.  But this is what happens in the fall:

Red-flowering currant foliage, end of November

Pretty remarkable change, making it a great plant selection for the garden, because it gives two wonderful seasons of interest, and doesn’t require any special watering or fertilizing once it is established. 

 Hope you had a great Thanksgiving–we had company over and had a great time.  Still eating leftovers, which actually I like.  It was sunny today, but we just went through two weeks straight of rain.  Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve left the autumn decor up in the house, and will probably switch it out next weekend for the winter holidays.
Leave a comment–what’s new in your garden?

Spring Bulb Planning Guide

Now is the time to plan for next spring’s bulb display.  This is actually easier and more affordable than you might think, because I will show you a couple of ways to use plants that you already have growing in your garden as the basis of creating a spring vignette with bulbs added.

Step One:  Take a walk around your garden now with a clipboard and a pencil.

What you want to do is make a list of all your spring-flowering shrubs–things like forsythia, red-flowering currant, camillia, witch hazel and others.  List those together in a group. 

Next, make a list of spring-blooming perennials that you have growing in your garden.  They might include columbine, candytuft, hellebore, ajuga, hardy geraniums and others.

Finally, make a list of any dwarf evergreen conifers that you have in your garden.

The shrubs, perennials and dwarf evergreens will create the backbone of a beautiful spring display that incorporates bulbs. 

Step Two:  Mark in the colors.

Now that you have your lists of shrubs, perennials and dwarf evergreens, write what color or colors they predominately are in the springtime.  So I would mark forsythia as yellow, because it is loaded with yellow flowers, columbine will vary but could be pink, purple or white, and the dwarf conifers might be gold, blue, or dark green.  If you are a visual person like I am, you might like to do this with colored pencils or pens, or even to be more precise paint chip colors to match from the hardware store.

Step Three:  Note the Bloom Time.

This may be a little tricky to do if you have never kept records of your garden flowers.  What you want to do is mark down when each of the spring-blooming shrubs and perennials are in bloom.  I keep detailed records of exactly when these bloom in my garden–if you want to give it a try, here is a post on how I set up my gardening notebooks to give me important information for both flowers and vegetables.  However, here is a little list of some of my plants and when they bloom to help you get started.  I live in SW Washington State, garden zone 8, so if you live a little north of here, your bloom dates will probably be a couple of weeks later, and if you live a little south of here, your bloom dates will probably be a couple of weeks sooner.   It really depends upon your particular garden’s microclimate, so your dates could vary from mine as listed.  It also varies if we have a warm spring–everything will bloom earlier– or a cold and wet spring–everything will bloom later, so take it under advisement:

Spring-blooming shrubs:

Chinese Witch Hazel ‘Arnold Promise’:  Jan. 28-March 5

‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary:  Feb 19-April 11

Flowering quince ‘Texas Scarlet’:  Feb 23-May 6

Forsythia:  March 6–April 4

Oregon Grape (when it is flowering):  March 17-April 10

Red-flowering currant:  March 13-April 30

Choiysa ternata ‘Sundance’ (Mexican mock orange):  April 10-June 10

Rhodedendron:  April 29-May 30

Spring-blooming perennials:

Candytuft:  Jam. 6-April 30

Corsican hellebore:  Feb 14-June 10

Rock Cress:  Mar. 13-May 5

Ajuga:  April 1-May 20

Hardy geranium ‘Bevan’s Variety’:  April 8-June 1

Columbine: March 29-June 15

Jupiter’s Beard:  April 25–into the fall off and on

Geranium cantibrigense:  April 29-July 10

Step Four:  Add in the bulbs.

Now the fun begins!  You will start to add in spring-flowering bulbs that bloom at approximately the same time as your spring-blooming shrubs and perennials to create a gorgeous display next spring.

Spring bulbs are loosely classified as early blooming, mid-season blooming, and late blooming–this information is typically marked on the packaging when you buy them.   Here is a quick list of some that I have planted and when they bloom:

Early Blooming Bulbs (January-March)

Winter aconite and yellow crocus

 1.  Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

  • -3-4 inches tall
  • -bloom February and into March
  • -best to soak tiny bulbs overnight before planting
  • -plant 1-2 inches deep
  • -do best where they get full sun in winter and spring but shade in summer


2.  Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrops)

  • -6 inches tall
  • -can start blooming in January
  • -bloom well in sun or shade


Iris reticulata

3.  Iris reticulata

  • -blooms February to March
  • -6 inches tall
  • -plant in groups of 10 or 12 for best effect
  • -like sun and well-drained soil
  • -don’t overwater in summer or let other plants elbow them out


4.  Iris danfordiae

  • -the yellow version of Iris reticulata
  • -They sometimes don’t return after the first year. This is because the bulbs split into dozens of little bulblets after first year bloom, then they disappear.
  • -To prevent this, plant them 4-6 inches deep instead of the usual 2-3.


5.  Scilla sibirica (Squill)

  • -5 inches tall
  • -blooms February to March
  • -like well-drained soil
  • -likes winter and spring sun

 Spring-blooming bulbs (April-June, depending upon the variety):

1.  Allium

  • -varieties bloom April through June
  • -easy to grow
  • -multiply rapidly; control by deadheading or dividing
  • -need sun, space, well-drained soil–curb strips!

2.   Grecian Windflowers (anemone)

  • -bloom early, and for a long time
  • -the tubers are tiny–if you can’t figure out which end is up, plant them sideways–the plant will figure it out! (I got this tip from Ann Lovejoy–smart!)
  • –like exposed places, but bloom best in good garden soil with moisture in winter and spring

    Mixed crocus


3.  Crocus

  • -bloom February through March
  • -bloom earliest in sunny areas, but will grow in less than ideal conditions
  • -can naturalize in a lawn as long as you let their leaves ripen
  • -look best planted in larger groups–10 to 20

 4.  Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)

  •  -Can grow to four feet tall!
  • -Need well-drained soil = put some gravel in the planting hole, prefers full sun but will tolerate light shade
  • -They like water in the winter and spring, yet dry during summer dormancy
  • -Plant them 8 inches deep and tip the bulb to the side a bit so it doesn’t get crown rot (another good tip from Ann Lovejoy)
  • -Add one teaspoon of dolomite lime in and around the planting hole to help combat our acidic soil

    Checkered fritilaria


 5.  Checkered Fritillaria (Fritillaria meleagris)

  • -They top out around 12 inches tall
  • -They really do look like a checker board
  • -Cream and purple, or solid whites, purples and rose colors
  • -The bulbs are dried out when you buy them. Soak in warm water a few hours to help hydrate them, then plant
  • -Like light shade and nutrient-rich soil

    Hyacinth 'Jan Bos'


6.  Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis)

  • -Pretty, very fragrant, and easy to grow!
  • -Need decent soil, some sun,
  • -Nice for forcing indoors in winter
  • -Older bulbs tend to bloom a little looser, and the flower heads are slightly smaller

    Mixed tulips, grape hyacinth, and forget-me-nots


7.  Grape hyacinth-

  • The common deep blue Muscari armeniacum tend to take over your beds-a beautiful beast. Keep that in mind when you place them in the garden–try them around rhodies or shrub borders, or a spot where they can run wild a bit.

    Narcissus: 'King Alfred type, 'Geranium' with orange center, and white 'Thalia', along with Spirea 'Goldflame'

8.  Daffodils (Narcissus)

  • -Easy to grow
  • -Likes full sun to part sun
  • -Likes good drainage

 Good ones to try:

Early, with small blooms:  ‘Tete-a-Tete’, ‘Jetfire’

Mid-season:  ‘King Alfred type’ single daffodils, ‘Tahiti’ double yellow with orange eye daffs

late-season, double flowers:  ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’, ‘Winston Churchill’–a white version of Yellow Cheerfulness

Red tulips with Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing' in the back

 9.  Tulips

  • -plant them deep-8-10 inches so they’re more likely to return
  • -well-drained soil
  • -sunny spot
  • -ones more likely to come back next year are labeled “single early tulips’ and ‘Darwin’ tulips

Good ones to try:

early tulips:  (end of February into March):  ‘Johannes Strauss’ tulips–these are low-growing and tend to multiply; they have red and yellow striped petals

Mid- bloomers (for tulips, this means middle of March through first week of May):  ‘Triumph Beau Monde’-single pink and white stripes, ‘Atilla’-Purple, lily tulip ‘Aladdin’s Redord-red with a yellow to white edge, ‘Triumph Judith Leyster’-single pink

late bloomers (for tulips, this is April well into May)generally speaking, all the Parrot-type tulips are late blooming, and they are usually double flowers: ‘Rococo’ parrot tulip–double deep red, Darwin tulip ‘Golden Apeldoorn’-yellow, ‘White Triumphator’ lily tulip, 

Step 5:  Enjoy some spring-flowering shrub/perennial/bulb combinations to whet your appetite:

More tips:

  • Get a simple colorwheel–you can print them out for free online–and pair your shrub and perennial colors to your bulb colors.  You can use colors that are complementary, or next to each other on the color wheel, for a more subtle look, or go for contrasting colors, which are opposite each other on the color wheel, for greater dramatic impact.  (Guess which I prefer?  You got it–contrasting, in most cases, but not all!)
  • The absolutely best book I know of about planting bulbs in the Pacific Northwest is Seasonal Bulbs by Ann Lovejoy.
  • If you don’t have a garden, don’t worry–you can combine these plants just as easily in containers that you group together for a lovely display–even indoors if you can chill the bulbs in a cold garage and have good lighting for them when you bring them in to bloom.  Try a dwarf evergreen conifer on its own in a big container, and surround it in front with winter and spring-blooming bulbs.


Hyacinth ‘Blue Jacket’ at work in a mixed border: combined with ‘Ice Follies’ narcissus, ‘Tete-A-Tete’ mini narcissus, pink tulips not yet in bloom, a huge annual, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurenscense’, that wintered over and is blooming purple, a burgundy-leaved Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar’, and in the cage is Veronica ‘Goodness Grows’, which will flower later in the season.

Another hyacinth combo: Hyacinth ‘Pink Pearl’ with a pink primrose, a Corsican hellebore, and grape hyacinths (Muscari). There are additional purple tulips behind that are not yet in bloom, and to the side is a clump of ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylily. Behind is the dwarf arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’. Now a baby, it will make a nice backdrop for all of this when it matures.

‘Red-flowering Currant’ partnered with ‘Carnegie’ and ‘Blue Jacket’ hyacinths, grape hyacinths, and ‘Ice Follies’ narcissus. Hummers love the northwest native Ribes, as well as the grape hyacinth. TheRibes will also have glorious fall leaf color to boot. Hard to see, but to the left as a backdrop is a dark green arborvitae, a hummingbird home.

Another great grouping: Lamb’s Ears for an edging, then grape hyacinth, with white mini narcissus ‘Thalia’, pink and white ‘Beau Monde’ tulips, ‘Ice King’ double daffodils, and ‘Salome’ pinkish-centered daffodil. Notice how the firm grey stone background sets off the flowers.


A classic combination: grape hyacinth with mixed yellow and white narcissus, along with a dusky purple sage ‘Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’ 

Notice the perennial Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’ coming up to help hide dying bulb foliage later on. Also Blueberry ‘Sunshine Blue,’ and Daylily “Driving Me Wild.”

Blue and Yellow partners: ‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary, caryopteris ‘Worchester Gold’, chinese witch hazel-Lorapetalum chinense ‘Razzleberry’

This is a group of mixed narcissus–white single ‘Ice follies’, short yellow ‘Tete-a-Tete’ in the front, yellow ‘King Alfred type’ single, ‘Geranium’ singles with orange eyes- growing alongside a spirea ‘Goldflame’ and backed by a ‘Lochinch’ butterfly bush with grey leaves.

‘Angelique’ with new dance partners: New Zealand Flax and Lamb’s Ears

Bulb-Buying Tip:  There are lots of spring-blooming bulbs for sale right now, and the best selection is at garden centers, although they are the most expensive there as well.  I like to shop sales.  Bi-Mart, and likely other sources, will sell bulbs at a reduced rate late in the season, likely when it starts to get colder around the end of October or so–this is when I dive in and get a bunch.  If planted late, they will bloom late next year, but will get back on track the following year.

Bulb-Planting Tips:  You can plant your spring bulbs at the recommended depth for each bulb.  It is sometimes faster to use a big shovel and dig a bigger hole if you are planting a dozen or more bulbs in one spot, rather than dig little holes for each bulb.  Also, put a handful of complete organic fertilizer or, if you don’t have that, bone meal, in the bottom of each planting hole, put in a little soil to cover, then the bulb and refill the hole.  Water after done, or let the rain do its thing.

October is also the time to fertilize your previously planted spring blooming bulbs.  If you don’t fertilize them now, they won’t bloom well next year, so sprinkle on some complete organic fertilizer or bone meal on those bulbs, preferably when it is getting ready to rain so the fertilizer will disolve right into the soil. Fertilize again in late winter, and you should be good to go for a fantastic season of blooms!

I hope this helps to inspire you and also takes some of the mystery out of combining spring-blooming bulbs with other plants in your garden!

I always love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below.  And visit the Garden Party.

Daylily Delights

After the flush of all the blooms in the garden at the end of May and beginning of June, things start to flag a little bit.  This is when my daylilies start putting on a show.  I love daylilies for several reasons:

  • They are super easy to grow–good for beginning gardeners
  • They don’t require any special fertilizing or watering (especially this summer of our never-ending rain)
  • Pests don’t bother them at all
  • They come in a wide variety of beautiful warm colors
  • They don’t require staking
  • They are perennials, so as they get bigger, you can divide them and enlarge your flower garden for free

What’s not to love?  Here are some of the ones growing in my garden right now:

Daylily 'Velvet Shadows'

Although this was advertised as being purple with a light throat, mine surely looks more burgundy to my eye.  In any event, this is a beauty.  This daylily stays quite short–it’s only about 12-15 inches tall, so it works well in a packed-out garden bed like mine, in a small garden or even in a container.

Daylily 'Fall Farewell'

I always thought the name of this daylily was a little off, because it blooms in July, rather than in fall, but nevertheless it has such gorgeous shrimp and yellow tones.  This is a medium-height daylily–mine is around two feet tall.  As you can see, my daylilies are not worried about sharing tight quarters in the flower bed with other plants–no fussy prima donnas here.  It grows well with the companion plants of ‘Marguerite’ daisies, nasturtium foliage and variegated sage.

Another look . . .

Daylily 'Fall Farewell' close up

Daylily 'Driving Me Wild' and companion plants

I got this next daylily several years ago at the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon plant sale.  I kind of got my wires crossed, in that I was looking for an iris called ‘Driving Me Wild’, but instead I saw the correct name but didn’t really pay attention that it was attached to a daylily plant.  It all worked out for the best, I think.   Other companion plants that bloom at the same time include the deep pink-flowered clematis ‘Princess Diana’, a blue delphinium, and pretty purple foliage from the purple sage, with seedpods of earlier-blooming columbine in the back.

Another look at this pretty daylily . . .

Daylily 'Driving Me Wild' and friends

Notice how well the shrimp-colored daylily goes with purple, and blue for that matter?  That is a good trick for mixing hard-to-mix shrimp colors into your mixed flower beds–add some purple and blue–opposites on the color wheel for great contrast.

Daylily 'Woodruff's Memory'

This daylily blooms a little later in July than the aforementioned ones.  It is also a bit taller than any of the others as well.  I’m not sure who Woodruff was–I get the feeling he was a WWII hero, or at least that’s what I think when I look at this lovely flower.

Another look . . .

Daylily 'Woodruff's Memory' closeup

They, whoever “they” is, said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or I suppose by its title, but as soon as I saw the name of this daylily, I had to have it . . .

Daylily 'Thai Ballet'

I especially like any of the rose and pink-colored daylilies, rather than the orange ones, and so I just love the color of this.  All of the pink-ish dayliles do have orange undertones, but they are not a harsh orange.  I grow this with a lovely buddleja, butterfly bush, called ‘Lochinch’ that I got from Joy Creek Nursery.  The shrub is so big, I couldn’t really get a good picture of them together, but here is a picture of the butterfly bush for your consideration:

Buddleja 'Lochinch', lavender flowering shrub on the left

This picture of the front of our house pretty much explains why I can’t get a good shot of the two plants together–I’d need to be hung from a crane to get them at the right angle!

So that’s it from my garden this week.  Leave a comment if you like–they are always appreciated!  Do you grow daylilies, and if so which ones?  Do you grow them by themselves or with other plants?  And don’t forget to visit the Garden Party.

A Garden Walkabout

A rare sunny day, so I walked around the garden with my camera.  Here are the results:

Lots of different types of tulips in bloom now:

These are ‘Beau Monde’ tulips, a favorite of mine.

Some red mixed tulips, a bright double yellow narcissus, and on the right side an ‘Atilla’ purple tulip not yet in bloom, but close.

A bright yet elegant combination of red tulips and Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Raven’s Wing’, a perennial that features this gorgeous chocolate foliage and later in the season white flower umbrells that look like Queen Anne’s Lace.

This is an interesting combination of ‘Blue Jacket’ hyacinths, ‘Judith Leyster’ tulips, and a Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond’s Pillar’, which features this burgundy foliage, and later in the season yellow flowers and in the late summer to fall red berries.  It stays tall and very narrow.

Now other bulbs:

This is a grouping of ‘Goldflame’ spirea on the left that blooms later in the season, with mixed narcissus including ‘King Alfred’ type (the bright yellow ones), ‘Geranium’ narcissus (a confusing name, but they are bright yellow with orange centers), ‘Ice Follies’ single light yellow narcissus, and toward the front shorter ‘Thalia’ narcissus.  I love ‘Thalia’–the shape and drop of the petals.

These are Checkered Frittilaria–about twelve inches tall.  I am always struck by the rose and white coloring of these.  They strike me as unusual, when compared with other spring-blooming bulbs.

Now some Northwest Native Shrubs:

Ribes sanguinium, or Red-Flowering Currant–such a brilliant pink color.

This is Indian Plum, another native deciduous shrub.  The white flowers are so delicate in person–I’m not sure that this picture does it justice, but it is quite beautiful.

To finish, a flowering vine:

Evergreen clematis, or Clematis armandii.  If you have space for it, (it gets pretty big), it is wonderful for early and fragrant spring blooms.

So what’s new in your garden–leave me a comment if you wish.  And visit the Garden Party.

Plants That Thrive In The Curb Strip

These curb strip areas, narrow bands of soil surrounded by sidewalk on one side and the asphalt road on the other, tend to be very dry and some would argue not the best place to try to garden.  However, I have had good luck with growing a variety of plants that thrive in what are ordinarily some fairly harsh conditions.  I do not water these plants myself; Mother Nature provides any water they get in the form of rainfall.  Some of these plants I didn’t even plant out there myself, because they reseeded on their own from other areas of the garden.  But these have grown and come back each year with not much help from me.  Admittedly, some of these plants are rather tall, and they may not work for you if you are trying to get in or out of a vehicle right onto the sidewalk, but we tend to park closer to our garage area where it is open and easy to disembark from a car, so it’s not an issue for us.  We followed Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Nursery’s advice to dig up the soil in the strip and add plenty of gravel to provide good drainage for the clay soil that is there–that’s basically all we did to “amend” the soil.  No fertilizer added.  I occasionally will add some compost in the fall, and usually it gets a mulch of leaves in the fall and winter from nearby trees that drop leaves.

Several plants in this small area.  Moving from left to right, there is a bright red crocosmia ‘Lucifer,” followed by Lamb’s Ears pink and grey flower stalks below.  Next are yellow hollyhocks, and a little grouping of pink hollyhocks mixed in with some Centranthus rubrum, or commonly known as Jupiter’s Beard.  The yellow at the end is a bit of coreopsis, probably ‘Sunburst’ because I have it growing elsewhere in the garden and it reseeded down here.  Across the sidewalk from the curb strip are two terraces with four-foot tall retaining walls that are planted with other drought tolerant plants, one of which is the blue catmint that you see in the bottom right foreground.  The crocosmia, hollyhocks, Jupiter’s Beard, Lamb’s Ears flowers and catmint are all hummingbird nectar plants as well, because the flowers are all essentially large to small tubular shapes.

A close-up of crocosmia ‘Lucifer’–such a pretty flower, hummingbirds love it and it also makes a great cut flower for flower arrangements.  To the immediate left are some just finished blooming Oriental lilies, ‘Casa Rosa.’  Spring and summer-blooming bulbs are crowded into these curb strips as well, because they provide the perfect growing conditions for bulbs, namely wet conditions in spring and bone-dry conditions in the summer.  These Oriental lilies only reach about 3 feet tall down here–I have others in amended flower beds elsewhere on the property that are 7 feet tall, so my neglect helps to keep them shorter down here!

This is growing in a terrace bed opposite the curb strip.  The large plant is Santolina ‘Pretty Carroll.”  It started life as a one-gallon sized plant, and as you can see it is gigantic now, especially when in bloom.  The foliage is such a lovely contrast to the bright yellow flowers–very cool grey and fillagree-looking.  With it sprung up a light pink hollyhock that reseeded there, so I just left it and am happy with the result.  Opposite this is the blue catmint, so there is lots of blue contrasting with yellow going on here, of which I am particularly fond.  Just barely in the shot at the top is a hint of the large butterfly bush now in flower, called ‘Pink Delight,’ which is a beautiful pink and another hummingbird favorite.

Feel free to leave a comment–what types of plants do you like to grow in your curb strips, or other low/almost no maintenance plants have you found to be effective in your landscape?

Please stop on by the Tuesday Garden Party as well–lots of fun seeing everyone’s gardens!

Northwest Native Shrubs Blooming Now!

I have a few different sorts of Northwest native deciduous shrubs that are currently in bloom.  These would include Indian Plum, or Oemleria cerasiformis; Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa; and Red-Flowering Currant, or Ribes sanguineum.  Tall Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium, has been blooming for quite a while now.

I like all of these plants for several reasons.  They are native to this area, and thus require no fertilizers and, once established, need no water other than rainfall.  They produce spring flowers and their leaves in the fall are outstanding.  They, except for the Oregon Grape, will reach around 12-15 feet tall, and thus make a good natural shrub screen to hide ugly views.  Finally, they produce flowers and fruits that the birds love–they will attract hummingbirds in the spring, and other birds in the fall when the Indian Plum produces fruit (non-edible for humans, though.)  And, the shrubs, when they are in bloom, can also be paired with spring-blooming bulbs that flower around the same time, such as narcissus and hyacinth.

Here is a picture of one of my Red-Flowering Currants:

(Ignore the giant dandelion in the corner there, or think of it as an insect feeder, which it is.)  The Red-Flowering Currant lights up this spot in the garden, and notice how it is nicely set off by the evergreen arborvitae next to it–the solid dark green helps to show off the pink flowers.    The nice thing about planting spring bulbs around these northwest native shrubs is that both of them benefit from having a dry summer, so they prosper under the same growing conditions–this helps to make them good partners, plus they bloom at the same time.

Leave a comment, if you will, and let me know how you use Northwest Native plants in your landscape.

Inexpensive Northwest Native Plants Now Available To Order

The Clark County Conservation District each year holds a Northwest Native plant sale. The way it works is you fill out their order form and mail it with a check to the Clark Conservation district, or you can drop off your order at their office during the work week. The ordering deadline is February 12, 2010 at 4:30pm or while supplies last  (I suggest you place your order early, because they run out fairly quickly).   You then go to their office and pick up your plants on February 25, 26 or 27, 2010, where people will be available from 9am to 1 pm each of those days to give you your plants.

These plants are typically sold bareroot. What this means is that you will end up with several sticks with roots sticking out of the bottom. But, these bareroot plants take off very quickly once planted. I have had good luck by potting the bareroot plants up first in one or two-gallon containers, and growing them on for a season in the containers. Then, when they have more of a root system in place, I plant them out in the garden, typically in fall when it starts to rain again.

This is certainly the least expensive way to expand your Northwest Native plant collection. The bareroot plants come in bundles of 5, with prices ranging from $3 to $8 dollars per bundle. (My kinda plant sale!)   There are a variety of plants suitable for dry or wet growing conditions, full sun or shade.

To get on their plant sale mailing list and receive their plant sale flyer each year, contact the Clark Conservation District office at 11104 NE 149th St., Bldg. C, Suite 400, in Brush Prairie, WA. Their office is open Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm. You can also call them at (360) 883-1987, or visit their website at for more information.

Consider a Drought-Tolerant Garden

There are many plants that will grow in Pacific Northwest Garden zone 8 that are fairly drought tolerant when they are established plants.  Some are native plants, while others are not, but all produce lovely flowers in season and add to the summer garden without running up your water bill.  Here are some that I’ve tried with good success:

-Most anything with grey foliage-this would include lambs’ ears, butterfly bush or buddleja, Dusty miller, wormwood,  santolina and others.

–Bearded Iris–They have beautiful flowers for a short period of time, but then add green leafy spikes to the landscape, which is nice in the heat of summer.  Quite drought tolerant.

–Catmint–these plants have lovely blue flowers, and cats will go after this plant.  It looks wonderful cascading down a wall with Santolina ‘Sweet Carol’ nearby to give a bright yellow accent when in bloom

-Maltese cross, with bright orange-red flowers that hummingbirds love

-Daylilies–these come in beautiful yellows and pinks, and are quite drought tolerant

-Other lilies–Asiatic and Oriental lilies will grow to six and seven feet tall when they are watered here during the summer, yet I grow them in my curb strip, which receives little water besides rainfall, and they grow to 2-3 feet tall and bloom like crazy.

-Hollyhocks–They tend to get rust on the leaves, but if you keep the diseased leaves picked off and give them good air circulation, they will grow tall and bloom well into fall.  They may need staking if you live in a windy area.

–Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber)–This is a wonderful plant that has clusters of red flowers.  Just keep it deadheaded and it will bloom all summer and into fall.  A hummingbird favorite.

–Red-hot poker (Kniphofia)–They come in more than screaming orange flowers, so check online sources.  Hummingbirds like them, and they are very drought tolerant.  They look beautiful planted next to something blue.

–NW Native plants–Oregon grape, Indian plum, Red-flowering currant, and red elderberry are all drought tolerant once established, and they have beautiful spring flowers that are all hummingbird food, and lovely fall foliage that turns colors.

-Spring-blooming bulbs–Daffodils and tulips look great interplanted among any of the above plants, and they do best when they have very dry conditions during the summer months.

Any of these plants will need to be watered regularly the first year you plant them, but after that, their root systems should be established enough that they can survive nicely on the rainfall we get here.

Give them a try–you’ll have a beautiful garden with a fraction of the summertime work and cost.