Archive | December, 2011


31 Dec

Banksia, evergreen shrub from Australia, varieties vary in height between 3 and 15 or more ft. in height, large flowers throughout the year in shades of cream, yellow, orange, red and burgundy, very showy, drought tolerant and deer resistant, full sun.

Banksia is a genus of about 78 species in the Protea family (Proteaceae). All species occur in Australia. Banksias can be found in most environments; the tropics, sub-alpine areas, the coast and desert areas. The most diversity in the genus occurs in the south of Western Australia where over 80% of the species occur.

Banksia originates in Australia, where it is found occupying a variety of landscapes and conditions. Heavy producers of nectar, Banksias form a vital part of the food chain in the Australian bush, providing food for birds, bats, rats, possums, bees and a host of insects. Banksias grow as trees or woody shrubs, and there are both erect and prostrate species available to the home gardener. Leaves are usually serrated, and  the unique flower spike is formed by an elongated inflorescence consisting of a woody axis covered in tightly-packed pairs of flowers attached at right angles. A single flower spike generally contains hundreds or even thousands of flowers. Most Banksias are yellow, but orange, red and pink also occur.

Banksia is a hardy garden plant, requiring little summer water and growing in all types of soil. Banksia flowers are dramatic and long lasting, making Banksia popular in the cut flower trade.



30 Dec

Redbud (Cercis), deciduous shrub or tree, single or multi-stemmed growth habit, clusters of magenta, pink or white flowers bloom spring, Occidentalis is native to our area, full sun to light shade, native variety is drought tolerant, deer resistant.

Valued for flowers, fruit, foliage, the Redbud bears lusters of small, sweet pea–shaped, rosy to purplish pink blossoms in early–spring; where plant is adapted, blooms are borne in great profusion on bare twigs, branches, sometimes even on main trunk. Flowers are followed by clusters of flat, beanlike pods that persist into winter. Attractive broad, rounded leaves are heart shaped at base.

All redbuds provide fall color with first frost and are attractive in naturalized settings. Do any pruning in dormant season or after bloom.

Cercis canadensis

Native to eastern U.S. Largest (to 25–35 ft. tall and wide) and fastest growing of the redbuds, and the most apt to take tree form. Round headed but with horizontally tiered branches in age. Rich green, 3–6-in.-long leaves have pointed tips. Needs some winter chill for profuse display of rosy pink flowers. Effective as specimen or understory tree.

Cercis canadensis mexicana

Includes plants from many sources in Mexico. Most widely distributed is a single-trunked form to 15 ft. tall, with leathery blue-green leaves and pinkish purple flowers.

Cercis chinensis

Native to China, Japan. Form most often seen is light, open shrub to 10 to 12 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide. Flower clusters (3–5 in. long) are deep rose, almost rosy purple. Leaves are sometimes glossier and brighter green than those of C. canadensis, with transparent line around the edge.

Cercis occidentalis

Native to California, Arizona, Utah, but predominantly found in California foothills below 4,000 ft. Shrub or small tree 10 to 18 ft. tall and wide; usually produces several trunks from base. Provides all-year interest. Magenta flowers bloom in spring; handsome blue-green, 3-in. leaves, notched or rounded at tip, and newly forming magenta seedpods adorn branches in summer. Foliage turns light yellow or red in fall, and bare branches holding reddish brown seedpods are picturesque in winter. Best floral display comes in areas with some winter chill. Resistant to oak root fungus. Very drought tolerant; excellent for seldom-watered banks.

Curly Tipped Sedge (aka New Zealand Hair Sedge)

20 Dec

Curly Tipped Sedge (Carex comans ‘Frosted Curl’), evergreen clumping grass to 8-12 inches in height with equal spread, fine gray-green leaves are heavily curled near the tip, full sun to part shade, moderate water, other colors available.

This is an eye-catching, useful selection of a sedge native to New Zealand. The slender arching, grassy leaves grow in a wide clump that resembles a fountain. They are silvery-green and seem to shimmer when blown by a breeze. Though it much resembles an ornamental grass, it comes from a different family all together, and like many of its fellow sedges, is more versatile than grasses, being tolerant of both full sun and partial sun and moist to almost-wet soils, and not attractive to deer. The tiny flowers appear in clusters atop thin stems in mid-summer. The narrow leaves give this plant its common name, hair sedge. They are evergreen in warm climates, perennial in colder climates, where they wither and brown in autumn but nonetheless lend color to the winter garden. Remove them in late winter to make way for the new leaves in spring.

Grow this plant in sun to partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Use it for its contrasts of texture and habit in containers, mixed beds and mixed borders. Or plant it as edging for walkways, or massed as a groundcover.

Dwarf Tree Fern

12 Dec

Dwarf Tree Fern (Blechnum gibbum ‘Silver Lady’), evergreen fern with an unusual, palm-like appearance, 1-2 ft. trunk with a  crown of spreading fronds, new fronds are light green and mature to deep green, medium to dense shade, consistent moisture, good container plant, native.

These evergreen ferns are noted for their symmetrical, formal appearance.

Blechnum gibbum ‘Silver Lady’ is fast-growing, and can reach 6 feet in height, though it’s more likely to top out at 4 or 5. It has a distinctive frond structure that I’ve always found difficult to describe until I heard it classified as one of the “shuttlecock” ferns. Exactly. For anyone who’s ever seen a badminton “bird,” this description will make perfect sense. Oblong, lance-shaped pinnatisect bright green fronds rise vaselike from a central trunk and maintain their verticality, making for a distinctively architectural form. With its short trunk, one can understand why it has the appearance of a small palm to some.

California native cousin: blechnum B. spicant, known as deer fern, is a native cousin. It is tougher than ‘Silver Lady’, but does not have that wonderful trunk.

You can grow B. ‘Silver Lady’ inside, if you give it a warmish position near a window. Increased humidity will aid in its growth and general happiness. Blechnums are lime intolerant, so if you are in an area where hard water is the norm, use purified water for indoor specimens or add a few drops of lemon juice to the water. Grow in moist, well-drained slightly acidic soil in full to partial shade. Add lots of organic material to the soil. Top dress in the cooler months if specimen is not being brought indoors. Remove any older leaves as necessary. Feed every three months during the growing season with an organic, slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer.


12 Dec

Coneflower (Echinacea) deciduous perennial, clumping very vertical growth to 2-3 feet, large fragrant daisy-type flowers in shades of orange-red, purple, yellow and brown, deep green hairy leaves, used medicinally, good cut flower, full sun, attracts butterflies.

These are tough, colorful perennials from central and eastern North America. Daisylike flowers, usually with narrow, arching rays, have brownish orange, dome-shaped centers and are held on straight stems above clumps of bristly foliage. Flowers are often lightly fragrant. Generally bloom over a long period in summer (may start in spring in mildwinter climates). Flowering may continue until frost.

Use on the outskirts of gardens or in wide borders with other robust perennials. Also excellent in containers. Generally do not need staking. Perform well in summer heat (though not in the hottest desert areas, where they are mainly spring blooming). Good cut flowers.

Clumps spread slowly, become crowded after 3 or 4 years. Fleshy rootstocks can be difficult to separate; divide carefully, making sure each division has a shoot and roots. Plantings can also be increased by taking root cuttings, seeding, or transplanting self-sown seedlings.

Echinacea angustifolia

Native to central North  America. Prairie wildflower to 3–4 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Flowers to 2 in. wide, with pink to rosy purple rays drooping from a purple-brown cone. Narrow, bristly leaves to 6 in. long.

Echinacea hybrid

Complex crosses have produced hybrid coneflowers that are popular for their vigor and extended color range.

Echinacea pallida

Native to eastern North America. Grows 3–5 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Erect plant with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Mauve pink flowers with slender, drooping rays appear in late summer to fall.

Echinacea paradoxa

Native to the Ozarks. To 2–3 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Drooping yellow to orange-yellow rays surround a brown cone. Flowers are about 2 in. wide. Smooth, lance-shaped leaves to 8 in. long.

Echinacea purpurea

Bristly, oblong, 3–4-in.-long leaves form a 2-ft. wide, dense foliage clump from which rise sparsely leafed flowering stems 3–4 ft. high. Showy, 4-in. flowers have drooping, rosy purple rays and a central orange-brown cone that resembles a beehive. If faded flowers are left in place, bristly seed heads hang on into winter; seeds are favored by finches.

‘Mango Meadowbright’

Grows 2–3 ft. high and wide. Orange-yellow petals surround orange-brown centers.

‘Pixie Meadowbright’

Just 1 1/2 ft. tall and a bit wider, with pink, nondrooping petals surrounding a yellow-brown center.


Deep rose-pink, fragrant flowers on a bushy plant 2 1/2 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide.

Orange Meadowbright

To 2–3 ft. high and wide; bears reddish orange flowers.


Grows 2–3 ft. high and 2 ft. wide, with fragrant reddish orange flowers.


12 Dec

Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), deciduous shrub, upright growth to 5-6 ft. in height with an equal spread, small pinkish white flowers produce edible berries, best in full sun to part shade, needs cool moist slightly acidic soil, mulch warm soil to protect roots, best fruit production with regular summer water.

Native to eastern North America, most blueberries grown for fruit are also handsome shrubs suitable for hedges or shrub borders. Leaves, to 3 in. long, are bronze when new, maturing to dark green, turning scarlet or yellow in fall. Tiny, urn-shaped spring flowers are white or pinkish. Summer fruit is decorative.

Blueberries thrive under conditions that suit rhododendrons and azaleas, to which they are related. They need cool,moist, well drained acid soil (pH 4.5–5.5). Where soil isn’t acidic enough, either create proper conditions in garden soil or grow in containers filled with acidic potting mix.

Blueberry (Lowbush)

Though horticultural varieties of this ground cover species (V. angustifolium) exist, seedlings or wild plants are most commonly cultivated. In Maine and Canada’s Maritime provinces, fruit from wild plants is harvested in commercial quantities. Very sweet bluish-black berries mature in summer. Plants grow from a few inches high to 2 ft. tall; they spread by underground roots to cover large areas. They can thrive in poor, rocky, thin soil as long as it is acid and drains well.

Rejuvenate plants by cutting all growth back to 1-2 in. every few years.

This is one parent of hardy half-high blueberries.

Blueberry (Northern highbush)

Native from Maine to Florida, east to Louisiana. Selections of Vaccinium corymbosum, these are the blueberries found in grocery stores. Most varieties grow upright to 6 ft. or more; a few are rather sprawling and under 5 ft. The majority are northern varieties: they require definite winter cold and ripen fruit from late spring to late summer.

‘Berkeley‘. Midseason. Open, spreading, tall. Large, light blue berries.

‘Bluecrop‘. Midseason. Erect, tall growth. Large berries. Excellent flavor. Attractive shrub.

‘Blueray‘. Midseason. Vigorous, tall. Large, highly flavored, crisp berries. Attractive shrub. Tolerates more heat than ‘Bluecrop‘.

‘Chandler‘. Midseason to late. Tall, upright. Very large, sweet berries produced over a long season.

‘Darrow‘. Late. Vigorous, upright. Very large fruit, up to the size of a quarter. Heavy producer.

‘Earliblue‘. Early. Tall, erect. Large, heavy leaves. Large berries of excellent flavor.

‘Elliott‘. Late. Tall, upright. Medium to large berries of excellent flavor.

‘Ivanhoe‘. Early to midseason. Large, dark berries are firm, crisp, tart.

‘Legacy‘. Late. Unusual shrub that doesn‘t lose its leaves in winter. Will color in cold winters, but stays mostly green in mild areas. Upright, arching. Medium-size berries with fine flavor.

‘Olympia‘. Midseason. Medium-size fruit with exceptional, spicy flavor. Large, vigorous, arching bush with great fall color.

‘Rubel‘. Early to late. Erect, tall growth. Small, firm, tart berries.

‘Spartan‘. Early. Heavy bearer of large, flavorful fruit.

‘Tophat‘. Midseason. Dwarf hybrid that stays under 1 1/2 ft.; good for pots. Small fruit with mild flavor.

‘Toro‘. Midseason. Compact plant with pinkish blooms. Large, firm berries with an excellent, sprightly flavor.

Blueberry (Rabbiteye)

These selections of Vaccinium virgatum (V. ashei) are native to the southeastern U.S. and can be grown in mild-winter areas from California to the Gulf Coast if given acid soil conditions. Unlike most blueberries, these tolerate heat. Often taller and rangier than highbush plants, growing to more than 6 ft. high and wide, they ripen large, light blue berries from May to July. Quality does not equal that of highbush blueberries, but it is still quite good. Plants have good fall color, even in warm years.

Some popular varieties include ‘Bluebelle‘,‘ Southland‘, and ‘Tifblue‘.

Blueberry (Southern highbush)

Hybrids between Vaccinium darrowii and V. corymbosum, these grow about 6 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide. They’re chosen for success in mild-winter climates and for good fruit quality. As you scan the list, don’t miss ‘Sunshine Blue’ at the bottom: it’s excellent on all counts.

‘Cape Fear’. Early to mid season. Large, light blue fruit.

‘Georgia Gem’. Midseason. Medium-size fruit.

‘Jubilee’. Early. Tall, upright. Medium to large berries with excellent flavor.

‘Misty’. Very early. Large berries with excellent flavor. Bears heavily.

‘O‘Neal’. Very early. Large, flavorful berries.

‘Sharpblue’. Early to midseason. Large, fast-growing shrub, and large, light blue berries with sweet-tart flavor.

‘Sunshine Blue’. Midseason. Compact 3-ft. shrub produces large, light blue berries with tangy flavor. Self-fruitful. Can handle less chill (just 150 hours) and higher pH than most other blueberries. Evergreen.

How to choose and grow blueberries

Blueberries thrive under conditions that suit rhododendrons and azaleas, to which they are related. They need cool, moist, well drained acid soil (pH 4.5–5.5). Where soil isn–t acidic enough, either create proper conditions in garden soil or grow in containers filled with acidic potting mix.

Set plants about 3 ft. apart for informal hedge; as individual shrubs, space at least 4–5 ft. apart.

Blueberries are available bare root or in containers. Plant in early spring in cold-winter regions, autumn in mild climates. Position the crown so that it is no deeper than 1/2 in. below the ground. Blueberries have fine roots near the soil surface; keep them moist, but don–t subject them to standing water. A 3/4-in.-thick mulch of sawdust, ground bark, or the like will protect roots, help conserve soil moisture, and keep weeds down. Don’t disturb roots by cultivating around plants.

Use acid-forming fertilizers. California growers in particular may need to correct chlorosis with iron sulfate or iron chelate.

Prune to prevent overbearing. Plants shape themselves but often produce so many fruit buds that berries are undersize and plant growth slows down. Keep first-year plants from bearing by stripping off flowers. On older plants, cut back ends of twigs to point where fruit buds are widely spaced. Or simply remove some of oldest branches each year. Also prune out all weak shoots.

Plants seldom have serious problems requiring regular control in home gardens. Netting will keep birds at bay. Plant at least two varieties for better pollination, choosing kinds that ripen at different times for a long harvest. For sufficient fruit throughout the season, allow two plants for each household member.

Pink Weeping Crabapple

6 Dec

Pink Weeping Crabapple ( Malus ‘Louisa’), deciduous tree, to 15 feet in height, weeping growth habit, deep purplish red buds open to large, true pink flowers, blooms mid-spring, full sun to part shade, best with deep water twice monthly.

From North America, Europe and Asia, ornamental crabapples are valued for a brief, lavish display of white, pink, or red flowers and for fruit that is showy, edible, or both. Hundreds of different kinds are cultivated, and new varieties appear every year. Most grow about 20 ft. high, though sizes range from as low as 4 ft. to as tall as 35 ft. Leaves are pointed ovals, often fuzzy, varying in color from medium green to nearly purple. Fall foliage is rarely noteworthy.

Crabapples bloom in spring (usually before leaves unfurl), bearing masses of single, semidouble, or double flowers that sometimes have a musky, sweet scent. Small red, orange, or yellow apples, ranging from under ¾ in. to almost 2 in.wide, ripen from midsummer into autumn; in some varieties, the fruit hangs on well after leaves drop and even into winter. Some varieties bear both flowers and fruit more heavily in alternate years.

Plant bare-root trees in winter or early spring; set out container plants anytime. Best in fertile, well-drained, deep soils, these will also grow in rocky or gravelly ones. They take acidic to slightly alkaline soil. Flowering crabapples are hardier,more tolerant of wet soil, and longer lived than flowering cherries and other flowering stone fruits. Take heat but are not at their best in low desert. For optimal growth and productivity, plants need winter chill—about 600 hours at 45°F/7°C or lower.

Flowering crabapple varieties differ widely in disease resistance. Many of the most popular varieties of years past are highly prone to one or more of the diseases that can plague these trees: apple scab, cedar-apple rust, fireblight, powdery mildew. Today, the nursery trade places great emphasis on promoting disease-resistant varieties —thus displacing many of the old favorites. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s imperative to choose trees that resist cedar-apple rust, scab, and powdery mildew. Fireblight may afflict susceptible trees anywhere when conditions are favorable.

Flowering crabapples are subject to attack from the same pests that affect apple. Scale, aphids, spider mites, and tent caterpillars may require control; codling moths and apple maggots should be controlled if you intend to harvest the fruit. These are fine lawn trees, but their bark can easily be nicked by mowers, creating an entry point for diseases. Protect them by creating a sod-free,mulched area around the trunk. Or underplant with primroses, spring-blooming bulbs, or shade-loving bedding plants. Plant them near fences to heighten the screening effect. Prune only to build a good framework, remove any suckers, and correct the shape. Crabapple trees can be trained as espaliers.

Malus toringo sargentii

This broad, densely branched tree grows 10 ft. tall by 20 ft. wide, producing a profusion of small, fragrant, single white flowers followed by tiny, red, long-lasting fruits. Good disease resistance. 


This round-headed hybrid grows 20 ft. tall and wide. Deep rose pink buds open to single flowers in a lighter rose pink; they’re followed by reddish purple fruit that hangs on well. Leaves emerge reddish maroon, turn dark green. High disease resistance.

‘Red Jade’

To 15 ft. tall and wide, this has an irregular, weeping form. Small, single white flowers are followed by a heavy crop of bright red berries that hold well into fall. Moderate disease resistance. Named for the color of its heavy crop of berries, not for the rose-tinted buds that precede its white flowers.