Friday, February 25, 2011

Why a Theme Garden?

Prairie Garden

Red & Yellow Garden

 Chinese Garden

Why a Theme Garden? You may wonder whether a garden really needs a theme.  It’s hard for me to believe that any garden doesn’t have a theme, though it may be as simple as: Plants People Gave Me.  Plants I Like is always a good theme.  But what if you’re not sure which plants you really like?  Or perhaps you like so many plants, that you don’t know where to begin.  This is where a designated theme simplifies your garden planning.  Now you can research plants that fit your theme.  Or you can choose among the plants you already know that suit your theme.  Choose a theme that works with your site.  If your site is moist & shaded, don’t choose a dryland theme, choose a theme of plants from woodland regions.  Color is often used as a theme.  Pink flowers is an easy theme, there are many of them.  Gray is a good theme for a dry, sunny site.  Many plants adapted to dry sun have gray foliage.  Gray & blue together can achieve a theme of tranquility.  Plants with large leaves suggest a tropical theme.  A theme may also be plants from a geographic region.  Pacific Northwest native plants is a popular theme in parks & public gardens in Seattle.  When you travel to Italy, you may return with the desire for a garden of Mediterranean plants, or a formal Italian garden.  There are many attempts at Japanese gardens in Seattle back yards.  Themes may also correspond to seasons, such as a theme of winter-blooming plants, or plants with colorful fall foliage.  Not every plant in your garden needs to be in step with the theme.  Use plants that complement your theme, as well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

 Outside the 1. China Maple Hall.  Numbers correspond to the map below.

2. China Maple Hall Courtyard & moon gate in the 4. Double Corridor

Bridge between islands.  The pebbles used for paving were brought from China.

3. Ting.  'High on a pile of weathered rocks, emulating a mountain, sits an elegant pavilion representing humans in their natural setting.'


 6. Jade Water Pavilion.  'Pitted & convoluted Tai Hu limestone rocks from Lake Tai near Suzhou are highly prized.  The pine symbolizes strength because it can grow in treacherous conditions.'

 Two arrangements from inside the 8. Scholar's Study.

8. Scholar's Courtyard

On 11-25-10, Rusty & I drove from Seattle to snowy Vancouver, British Columbia.  On the following rainy day, we found remnant patches of snow in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.  I thought it was stunning.  Rusty likes plants, but isn't a great garden enthusiast.  He said, 'This doesn't look like a garden.  There are so few plants.'  I replied, 'Gardens can be about pavement & structures.  Ask any landscape architect.'  The classical Chinese scholar's garden consists of 4 main elements & represents the Daoist philosophy of yin & yang.  1. Architecture is Ming dynasty classical design.  A main hall is a tang (yin).  A pavilion or gazebo is a ting (yang).  2. Rocks reflect rugged landscapes.  3. Plants are selected for symbolic value: willow for feminine grace, winter-flowering plum for renewal, pine for strength, bamboo for quiet resilience.  4. Water creates a tranquil atmosphere.  The garden was constructed by a 52-member team of experts from Suzhou.  It opened in 1986.
Map of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Friday, February 11, 2011

Shrubs for Shade

Pieris japonica 'Bisbee Dwarf' July 2010

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Somerset' December 2008

Hypericum androsaemum 'Albury Purple' September 2010

Ribes x gordonianum March 2010

Hydrangea quercifolia September 2008

Here are shade-tolerant & shade-loving shrubs selected for beauty, utility & availability in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest & other areas in USDA zone 8.  Most do better in light shade than deep shade.  Camellia, Rhododendron & Pieris benefit from afternoon shade.  I’ve had success with Chamaecyparis obtusa (Hinoki Cypress) & Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Port Orford Cedar) in light shade.  Mahonia, Sarcococca & Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen Huckleberry) do fairly well in deep shade.  Give Mahonia bealei plenty of shade, other Mahonia tolerate more sun.  Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’ (Compact Strawberry Tree) Gaultheria shallon (Salal) & Ribes sanguineum (Flowering Currant) are good for dry shade.  Enkianthus, Fuchsia & Sarcococca should not be allowed to dry out in summer.  More shade requires less water.  Most of these should be fairly easy to find.  When local nurseries fail, try mail-order nurseries.  Forest Farm is a good source for uncommon plants.  This list is not meant to provide detailed information on shrubs, but to introduce you to some you may not know, or remind you of those you have forgotten.  Be sure you know how large these shrubs grow before you plant them.  Many shrubs do not look good when sheared or heavily pruned.  An abundance of detailed information is available on the web.  Good reference books on shrubs are The Hillier Gardener's Guide to Trees & Shrubs edited by John Kelly, Shrubs by Roger Phillips & Martyn Rix, Sunset Western Garden Book.

Abelia x grandiflora: for part shade, flowering evergreen
Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’ (Compact Strawberry Tree): evergreen with flowers & fruit in fall
Aucuba japonica: colorful evergreen foliage
Buxus microphylla (Japanese Boxwood) Buxus sempervirens (Common Boxwood): evergreen, often used for hedges & topiary
Calycanthus floridus (Carolina Allspice) Calycanthus occidentalis (Spice Bush): needs moisture, fragrant
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Ellwoodii’ (Dwarf Port Orford Cedar): & other cultivars, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’ (Dwarf Hinoki Cypress): & other cultivars (note: while these tolerate dry shade, they are probably better with moisture in sun)
Choisya ternata 'Aztec Pearl', Choisya ternata 'Sundance' (Mexican Orange): for part or light shade, tolerates some dryness, fragrant bloom, evergreen
Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet) Clethra barbinervis (Japanese Sweet Shrub) Clethra delavayi, Clethra fargesii: all need moisture, fragrant bloom, fall color
Corylopsis glabrescens: large shrub, Corylopsis pauciflora, Corylopsis sinensis: large shrub, Corylopsis spicata (Winter Hazel): all need moisture, good from, early bloom
Daphne x burkwoodii: for light shade, needs moisture, easier to grow than other Daphne
Disanthus cercidifolius: for light shade, needs moisture, excellent fall color
Enkianthus campanulatus, Enkianthus cernuus rubens, Enkianthus perulatus: all need moisture, showy bloom, good fall color
Euonymus japonicus: many cultivars, good foliage color
Fuchsia magellanica (Hardy Fuchsia): showy bloom, low temperatures can cause damage
Fatsia japonica: large shrub, evergreen
Fothergilla gardenii, Fothergilla major: both need moisture, with fragrant flowers & colorful fall foliage
Gaultheria shallon (Salal): tolerates dryness, spreads widely by stolons, edible fruit
Hamamelis vernalis (Ozark Witch Hazel): fragrant flowers, colorful fall foliage
Holodiscus discolor (Oceanspray): for part shade, tolerates dryness, showy bloom Hydrangea aspera, Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea): for light shade, tolerates dryness, showy bloom
Hypericum androsaemum (St John’s Wort): some cultivars with colorful foliage
Ilex cornuta (Chinese Holly): evergreen, Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly): evergreen, Ilex verticillata (Winterberry): needs moisture, colorful fall foliage & fruit
Illicium anisatum (Japanese Anise) Illicium floridanum (Florida Anise): evergreen, uncommon
Itea ilicifolia: showy bloom, evergreen, uncommon, large shrub, Itea virginica (Sweetspire): fragrant flowers, good fall color, uncommon
Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel): needs moisture, showy bloom
Leucothoe axillaris, Leucothoe walteri: needs moisture, several cultivars with colorful foliage
Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape): tolerates dryness, Mahonia bealei: needs moisture Mahonia repens: tolerates dryness
Myrica californica (California Wax Myrtle): tolerates dryness, large shrub, also grows in sun
Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo): tolerates dryness, 'Plum Passion' has colorful foliage
Oemleria cerasiformis (Indian Plum): tolerates dryness, native plant
Physocarpus capitatus, Physocarpus opulifolius (Ninebark): tolerates dryness, for part shade
Pieris japonica (Lily of the Valley Shrub): tolerates dryness, showy fragrant bloom
Rhododendron: tolerate sun, but better in shade, very many species & cultivars
Ribes sanguineum (Flowering Currant) Ribes odoratum, Ribes x gordonianum: all tolerate dryness, better in light shade
Skimmia japonica: needs moisture, evergreen, female plants have red fruit
Sarcococca confusa, Sarcococca hookeriana, Sarcococca humilis, Sarcococca ruscifolia (Sweet Box): needs moisture, evergreen, very fragrant bloom
Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry): tolerates dryness, white fruit
Taxus x media (Yew): for part shade, evergreen conifer
Thuja koraiensis (Korean Arborvitae) Thuja occidentalis ‘Hetz Midget’ (Dwarf Arborvitae): for part shade, evergreen conifer
Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen Huckleberry): edible fruit
Viburnum davidii: for part shade, evergreen, blue fruit, Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’: for part shade, showy bloom, evergreen

Friday, February 4, 2011

January Garden Pictures & Bloom Times

Cyclamen coum January 2011

Erica x darleyensis 'Goldrush' January 2011

Helleborus lividus January 2011

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Zi Er Giao'

 Primula x juliana 'Wanda' January 2010

Below is a list of plants that began to bloom in my garden in Seattle in January 2011. I recorded the date when the 1st flower opened, not when they were in bud. Not very many plants bloomed in my garden in January.  Nurseries in Seattle usually sell plants when they are in bloom. I have included dates from previous years. Weather conditions probably account for most of the difference in bloom times.

01-05-11  Veronica pectinata 3-05-10, 4-06-09, 3-30-08
01-21-11  Primula elatior 2-25-10, 3-2-09
01-25-11  Euphorbia rigida 1-20-10, 2-12-09, 1-19-08
01-26-11  Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ 1-20-10, 1-20-09
01-27-11  Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ 1-25-10, 2-10-08
01-27-11  Mahonia aquifolium 1-28-10, 3-13-08
01-29-11  Helleborus x hybridus 1-15-10, 1-17-09, 1-26-08