The center green band of these NOAA charts delimits the 20 year average for each day, the bottom marking the average minimum temp and the top marking the average high temp. The red and blue portions of the chart mark the range of temps between that and their record high and low levels. The dark blue ‘bars’ show the actual recorded temps for those days. This chart shows distinctly the initial cold span with the slight warming to well within normal range, followed by a more irregular cooling. The relative steadiness of these temperatures helped plants maintain their slower, more dormant metabolisms for the month. Typically February has been notable for the stability of its daily temperatures, the relative narrowness of the ‘green, normal, band’ indicates this.
This chart for March again shows the slowly warming/rising light green normal band contrasting with the dark blue bars of our actual temps. The March temps appear colder because they shifted the chart downward. The more extreme minimum temperature swings of Nov., Dec., and Jan. have even out, the lt. blue portion narrowing and showing more consistency.
It’s 41ºF at 5:30am on Mar. 12 as I begin to write this.We appear to have come out of the longest sustained ‘cold’ period of the winter of ’18-’19 which began on February 4 and continued through Mar. 11, a period of 36 days.Over those days we had freezing minimum temps at PDX, the official NOAA reporting station for the Portland area, on 26 of them.On two of those days, Feb. 6 and 7, PDX recorded the winter’s lowest temp, 23ºF, making it a zn 9a winter, mild for us historically and especially so for the temperate US as a whole, much of which was experiencing its own much colder temps.It’s mid-March and our high temps have climbed well above what they were and our forecasts call for milder, more ‘normal’ highs and lows now locally. It looks likely that not only are we going to be on the ‘warm side’ of normal, but that our lows have shifted into a pattern well out of the freezing range. (State ODF meteorologist, Pete Parsons, calls for a pattern of slightly warmer and drier weather than normal over March, April and May with the highest chance of this during May.)
While weather consists of moments, recorded data points, we attempt to make sense of it in its patterns over time…our experience of it.In this we are much like our plants.Plants too have their ‘expectations’ of the weather and those conditions that take them outside of them, outside their familiar patterns, the relatively quick changes and perturbations, as well as the longer sustained patterns, and extremes, are ‘noticed’ and make a difference.How does this winter compare?Continue reading →
I never used to think of the East Coast when I thought of North American geology slowly, placidly, sinking in to the Atlantic as the entire continent moves easterly heaved up along the western edge of the Pacific Plate with our spectacular scenery, but the whole of New York was ground down between the ice sheets of successive Ice Ages leaving massive granite bedrock and ‘erratics’ along the way as they retreated north with the warming. Everywhere you go, like here in the Native Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, there is evidence of this with its thin rocky soils and rock scarred and channeled from the moving ice that once buried this place, much as it did our own Puget Sound area and points north, leaving coastal British Columbia a network of gouged out sounds and fjords, with mountains rising abruptly many thousands of feet from the sea. I wonder how the little island of my own father’s birth, a 12 mile long strip of soft sandstone, survived to today.
Here the board walk follows the recently reworked ponds in the NYBG’s native plant garden Lobelia cardinalis sparking the scene in September…so different than anything you would find in the maritime Northwest, our rain patterns and base rock responsible for bearing very different soils, even where the ice sheets scraped it down…the patterns and diversity are amazing.
A view on Manhattan, just west of the NYBG, this one at the Met’s Cloisters, the museum’s home of much of its religious art and artifacts, sits high along the banks of the picturesque Hudson River. Buildings in Jersey City and the George Washington Bridge are in the Background. When Rockefellar built this he also purchased the forested bank on the other side to preserve the natural view which also serves to block the sprawl of urban development to its west. The Hudson River Valley is another creation of advancing ice, running north/south with the advancing ice sheet.
As gardeners our hands are ‘bloodied’ with the chlorophyll of plants…while it may not stain us as ‘murderers’, we are never the less complicit in their deaths…as much as we are necessary for their lives. Without us, as a group, these garden plants would never would have been propagated and, if not for our ‘selfish’ acts in the garden, choosing, designing and displaying them, many would be passing into obscurity, most of us knowing nothing of them or of their loss, their passages into decline and extinction, even more quiet, unnoticed, as too many already do today. While we may acquire and attempt to grow them with the ‘best’ of intention, eventually, they will all die, ill fit or not, suddenly or after many years in our gardens, as a result of our ignorance, impatience, simple curiosity, our desire for something ‘different’, or even in spite of our best informed efforts. Death comes to all things and our gardens are no exception. Our gardens art artificial after all, creations of our making and they do not comprise a viable population that will out live us, reproducing in place, making the adjustments that they must over time to survive. To do this would take an unprecedented amount of effort and coordination on our part and that of our neighbors. The setting of our gardens are unique to us and their purposes are much narrowed and more intentional than are the places their progenitors come from, the ‘gardens’ of their origination. For many of these plants our relationship with them might best be thought of as student to teacher as nature sacrifices itself in an attempt to teach us of what is being lost, ever since we stepped out of the loop that once put us in daily direct contact with nature and came to embrace this modern world and its expectations of consumption, ‘ease’ and never ceasing growth…so it is not ‘murder’, it is life, an attempt to return and reclaim. There is purpose to be found in our gardens, well beyond surface amusement and distraction in what is too often becoming an ever uglier world, or for some of us our need to impress in a game of one-upmanship. Nature demands more of us, that we accept our role as student and become careful observers, willing acolytes…maybe even crusaders….Too much? no, I don’t think so. Continue reading →
The inflorescence of Fascicularia bicolor with its blue flowers. The center of the foliage on a blooming rosette, turns red when the flowers appear and then, like many Bromeliad, that rosette dies replaced be previously formed offsets. My blooming plant had multiple rosettes at the time, three of which bloomed. Taken in my garden, Sept. of ’17.
If you’re not into blood and guts, consider this genus, as on my scale of one to ten as described above with ten warning of near complete evisceration if one is fool hardy or reckless, this one’s a solid 4, dangerous enough but not stupidly so. Fascicularia pitcairniifolia. You would think that in a genus composed of one or two species things would be pretty well settled taxonomically, guess again. Originally described as F. bicolor it was reclassified as F. pitcairnifolia and later changed back to F. bicolor. Subspecies were proposed. Changes retracted. There are significant differences in the sampled populations, but were they sufficient to constitute separate species??? Adding confusion at a different level are those who say the species name indicates that it is from Pitcairn Island. It is not. The specific epithet simply recognizes a similarity to the foliage in genus, Pitcairnia, another Bromeliad member. This Fascicularia is from the lower Chilean Andes, allegedly north of the other Fascicuaria species, F. bicolor which is suppose to be slightly hardier and occurs at least occasionally as an epiphyte! Some botanists have argued that F. pitcairnifolia possesses thicker, slightly wider leaves. and some minor differences in the timing of flowering and is reputedly slightly less hardy. The ranges of both overlap Good luck sorting this out. Continue reading →
The low angle evening sun really lights the red up in this one!
Impatiens omiense fronting a composition including: Vancouver hexandra, Podophyllum pleianthum, Aspidistra elatior, Dryopteris erythrosora, Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ and Prosartes hookeri (previously Disporum hokkerig). This is the south bed on the 5th St. side of Portland’s City Hall.
Hibiscus x ‘Snow in Summer’, is one of the Fleming Brothers hybrids. The flowers are 8″ in diameter with deeply lobed bronzed leaves.
I learned this plant as Acidanthera murielae 30 years ago, though now its known as Gladiolus callianthus ‘Murielae’ has an elegant symmetrical 3-parted flower other than the missing ‘red’ blotch on the ‘upper’ tepal.
Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’ and Delosperma cooper both ‘succulents’ that are well adapted to heat and though they do best with an occasional summer soaking.
Hippeastrum x johnsonii, commonly sold at florist shops as Amaryllis, looking much like a Lily, but in family Amaryllidaceae, characterized by its flowers held in umbels. Seen around it are other Monocots, Bilbergia nutans ‘Variegata’, Hakonechloa macro ‘Aureola’ and Astelia chathmatica ‘Silver Spear’.
Beschorneria septentrionalis, a Mexican native and Agave relative in the Asparagaceae. This is not very often successfully pollinated here in our wet early spring. Maybe a couple of fruits ever form where there were dozens of flowers.
A long shot, from beneath the ‘Pagoda’ towards the house and front gate.
My front, ‘hot garden’ facing Gladstone St. Thank you Josh McCullough.
Photo thanks to Josh McCullough
Iris ensata ‘Cascade Crest’ w/ Arundo donax ‘Variegat’ and friends
Manfreda undulate ‘Chocolate Chips’, another Agave family member showing similar flower structure with the extra long filaments and 6 tepals. This plant flowers annually.
Winter structure. This photo, taken in February ’16, shows evergreen substance of the Trachycarpus wagnerianus, Cordyline and the wispy Rhodocoma capensis solidly above the deciduous Molinia, at least until it is cut down.
Looking north in Spring across the pushing Molinia toward the Butia x Jubea in the center with Penstemon left and Acorus on the right.
Of all the things our gardens do for us, arguably the most important is their role as our teachers, even in winter when a temperate garden ‘rests’, its surface crust or top few feet, frozen, maybe sheltered beneath the cover of snow, or, as ours so often are, simply too cold for active plant growth, the soil wet, the rain too heavy to percolate fast enough down through its layers, without the active aid of either the direct heating of the sun or its effect on plants, through evapotranspiration, pumping water back into the air as the plants grow.Gardens teach patience.They encourage us to become more careful observers…to think and plan, to anticipate and prepare, to understand that there is more going on here than we can readily see…and they teach us about faith and trust in the natural world, that there is always more going on than we can see. Continue reading →
Roldana petasitis var. cristobalensis shown here looking amazing with Aeonium arboretum ‘Zwartzkop’. Its substantial leaves are some 8″ across, thick and velvety, the undersides of which are red/purple, like the stems. The color often comes through in the veins along the top surface. A very striking foliage plant. Picture this with its close relative, Pseudogynoxus chenipodiodes, the Mexican Flame Vine, formerly known as Senecio confusus!
Sometimes called Velvet Groundsel, this plant has been living and marketed under several different names. The first name in the heading is the one Jimi Blake ascribed to it, a name I didn’t recognize for a plant I’ve grown off and on in the past…it got lost in his list paired with a particular Thalictrum and I simply missed it…until recently. I knew it as Senecio cristobalensis and, had I recognized it, would have included it with an earlier post in which I focused on his favorite Asteraceae. I did actually mention the plant there simply as another Senecio that I’ve grown of value. Here I shall treat it more directly. The genus, Roldana, was recircumscribed in 2008 to include some 54 different species. Other authors include as few as 48 and as many as 64 in the genus, most of which used to belong to Senecio and are native to the extreme Southwestern US, Mexico and Central America. Most of the Roldana species are somewhat ‘shrubby’ herbs with a few, like this one woody, even tree like. Both genera are within the Asteraceae and share tribe status as well, Senecioneae. For the curious, Roldana spp., even more finely, are included in the sub-tribe, Tussilagininae, which includes the very commonly grown genus of garden plants…Ligularia! On closer examination the morphological similarities will begin to stand out to most of us. Check out all of the photos on the Wikimedia Commons page for Roldana petasitis. Roldana petasitis is the correct species name for this plant. With all of the shuffling and consequent confusion still going on in the world of taxonomy, especially in such a mixed large genera like Senecio, we must all be allowed our mistakes of nomenclature. It is a volatile changing world out there. Continue reading →
We woke up the morning of Jan. 11th with this about ten hours after the snow began to fall. What may have been more damaging was the extended period of cold weather through much of the month. It included too many days in which our high temps did not move above freezing. With the fronds bent down so much it was easier for water to move down into the trunk and do its freeze/thaw/freeze thing. Had I been on top of it I would have put an informal tent over it to keep this area dry and protected.
Last summer was a sit, wait and worry, summer. The previous winter of ‘16-‘17 was a hard one here. Because my Butia capitata had been sailing through its previous nine winters, in this location, without damage, I assumed it would be OK this time, but it wasn’t. Our 12” snowfall weighted the fronds down splaying it open and no doubt allowing moisture, ice etc. to penetrate down into the trunk to the meristem, the critical tissue from which all growth in the plant begins. Last summer not one new frond emerged, an indicator that the meristem was damaged or killed. The good thing was that there was no sign of rot. The new ‘spear’ could not be pulled free….The same winter killed my Trachycarpus martianus darkening and shattering much of the fronds’ cell walls and structure in a way typical of many freeze damaged plants. Its center spear, the newly emerging fronds, pulled free. My Butia spent last summer in a kind of limbo. This last winter was much more mild. Now, finally, with the heat settling in around us, those old spears are growing again, their leaflets opening wide, while their long rachis/stems, fully extend and arch! New spears are forming still pressed tightly against the most vertical and longest of these whose leaflets you can see below just beginning to fan open. This is slower growing than the Trachys, working on opening its third frond of the year! Typically my Trachycarpus fortuneii form 15-20 fronds in a year. I’m wondering now how this lost year of growth will effect the Butia’s trunk diameter. Because of how Palms as monocots grow, I suspect that it will result in a narrowing of its ‘waist’, with a swelling back to normal above when more normal winters prevail. Continue reading →
Salvia confertiflora in the San Francisco Botanical Garden, October
I can’t get Jimi Blake’s HuntingBrook Garden out of my head…that’s a good thing, though a little odd since I’ve never been there. The images and ideas, the energy that both Jimi and his sister, June, who gardens nearby, projected at the NPA Study Weekend was infectious and inspiring. Their gardens are both beautiful and, obviously, central to each of their lives. They are dynamic, like the minds of each of them, endlessly creative and curious…botanical dabblers of the highest order. Apparently, their gardens don’t stand still. No plant or bed is ‘safe’ from revision, in part or from wholesale revision. I have no pictures, their’s, however were gorgeous and seductive. I have to rely on the few they have posted to their websites. Please, go to them. (Jimi’s HuntingBrook Garden.)
Of the two, Jimi spoke first, his topic, Salvias, those that he’s found to be worthy of a place in his garden. With such a relatively large garden he can ‘trial’ many plants, and, if you’re like Jimi, evaluate them in terms of both aesthetics and performance. He loves Salvia…there are nearly 1,000 species and who knows how many hybrids and selections! He grows many from seed, others he’s rooted from cuttings, like minded Salvia-philes gift him with treasures and Jimi works them into his beds, artfully. You won’t see any sterile lab like rows, he trials them in mixed borders and beds. In Seattle he presented his ‘winners’, 33 different species, hybrids and selections. The list is comprised primarily of plants ‘durable’ enough for his conditions with long bloom periods…with a few exceptions, late bloomers, and those of short duration…need not apply. Continue reading →