Thursday, May 28, 2015

Color Garden: The Blues

Chickadee Gardens is a reflection of me. That may be translated to mean that it's a bit on the neurotic side, i.e., yellow plants go there and blue plants go here. I have groupings of blue plants where they are supposed to go, in the blue garden, of course, and no where else. Joking aside, my blue garden is a very small hell strip garden that has given me much of grief over the years. Now, it is finally starting to fill in, take hold, and bring me joy. Let's have a look at this tiny strip of dirt between the sidewalk and street known as the hell strip blue garden.

Today's blue garden, bringing spiky, blue-ish joy.

Here it is, a few seasons after I removed everything that was here when I moved in. A few incarnations later, this selection of plants is beginning to take hold. This is no bed for sissies; it's a brutal east-wind facing, car-exhaust consuming, dog-pee infested little strip of clay. I have lost probably two Arctostaphylos and one Ceanothus 'Dark Star' (boo hoo!) and countless other goodies. But the beat goes on and here are the survivors.

Before we delve too deeply into dissecting the blue garden plant population, let's look briefly at the before photos from last year and maybe two years back.

This is late winter probably two, perhaps three years ago with a doomed Pieris that I gave to a neighbor and some other odds and ends. It isn't pretty.

This is early last summer. The lush, lovely Sedum oreganum in the foreground is long gone thanks to some over zealous pigeons on a never-ending quest for ground bugs. Thanks, piges--you guys are on my hit list. The now-gone Ceanothus can be seen at the back of the bed in this photo, as can the doomed Arctostaphylos in the middle of the bed. Also, in the middle is the super hardy Philadelphus lewisii, our native mock orange, still going strong. The blue fescue here is gone, replaced with a much better cultivar 'Beyond Blue'. I had a few native pentsemons that did well for several years but fizzled out as penstemons do.

Let's break it down into some of the players. Here's a favorite that replaced the Ceanothus 'Dark Star', and I love this plant. It's a Callistemon viridiflorus from Xera Plants.

It has white bark, spiky leaves and bottlebrush blossoms. It bloomed just this week for its first time and I love it. Be damned that it's not blue, I am giving up my rigid color confining ways. Maybe a little.

I am mad about sea hollies or Eryngium spp. This one is Eryngium bourgatii also from Xera Plants. This is the first year for it to bloom also.

From ghostly white to electric blue, it's gorgeous.

This sweet little flower is Sisyrinchium angustifolium our native blue-eyed grass. It happily seeds about and is easy to pull out if it becomes too abundant. I allow it to settle where it will.

Like here. I don't remember where I actually planted this originally but it's all around now.

Here's my happy Eryngium agavifolium. It has been swallowed up by other plants this year but it will soon send up a submarine periscope flower stock so I will be able to locate it.

So I asked Greg at Xera what the toughest (at the right size) Arcto is, because I have to have one for this blue garden, and he said this one, the Arctostaphylos x densiflora 'Harmony'.

So far so good, it has taken hold and grown like mad since last year. It survived the winter and has not dropped many leaves and likes the gravel mulch. I think this one will stick. Thanks, Greg!

Another sea holly, Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue'.

Just beginning to turn electric, and I do mean electric blue. It's a stunner.

Penstemon heterophyllus 'Electric Blue', also from Xera Plants. This should be renamed the Xera Plants Hell Strip.

Wowswers, how about that color? The Arctostaphylos can be seen in the background here.

I found these yucca at a big box store last year mislabeled as Yucca filamentosa. I think we've determined they are Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata'. I have three in this hell strip and they are all doing quite well. Blue fescue 'Beyond Blue' on the right. A very good cultivar in my book.

The grass is Carex comans 'Green', yes, from Xera.

The large-leaved plant is another sea holly, Eryngium giganteum or Miss Willmott's Ghost. Edelweiss in the foreground.

Detail of edelweiss.

Sedum, yucca, blue-eyed grass and seedlings.

Carex comans 'Green', Miss Willmott's Ghost, edelweiss, yucca, penstemon, what's not to love? It all does really well with virtually zero supplemental water, I might add. This is the xeriscaped hell strip. The soil is basically clay amended with organic compost and gravel.

Self-sown foxglove, Arctostaphylos x densiflora 'Harmony', Philadelphus lewisii.

Sedum 'Carl' and blue fescue 'Beyond Blue' again.

This is about the extent of the garden, quite small. There is a bit more out of frame, but not much.

Salvia purpurea is doing well this year. It's a hit or miss plant around here.

Here's the other half as seen looking north. Eryngium 'Electric Blue on the left corner, native asters have taken over the right corner. I have to really keep them in check and, yes, they self-sow everywhere in cracks nearby but I don't mind.

Pigeon's eye view looking south.

 There is the blue garden! Small, but coming along. Admittedly, there are purples, silvers and even pinks as in the thyme in this photo, but the main colors are blue-ish. I am trying to loosen up my confining color ways a bit, but I do insist on some color harmony.

There are a few other "color gardens" we'll visit at Chickadee Gardens this season: The orange garden, the white shade garden, the purple and pink hot garden, and the other hell strip garden in pink. We saw the yellow garden last May but may revisit again this year. There's also the chocolate garden, we must not forget that.

It's fun to garden like this and, in all honesty, I am not that uptight about color - rather, I am fussy about color harmony and making the whole thing feel balanced.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you so much for reading and until next time, happy gardening. I do hope you're having great spring weather wherever you are and no floods, no cold weather, rather - just good ol' sunshine and spring breezes.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Drake's 7 Dees Nursery

Every once in a while good ideas grow into great ideas. Nurseries hover on the fantastic side of good ideas, design by itself is also pretty grand. Put the two together and, boom, you have the freshly renovated Drake's 7 Dees Design Showroom and Garden Center in southwest Portland, a WOW idea brought to you by some of the finest talent in the Portland nursery trade.

In 2009, Drake's which many of you may know from Drake's out on the east side of town and their landscaping services, purchased the former Langdown Florist & Garden center location on SW Scholls Ferry Road, across the street from the Portland Golf Club.

This is where it gets interesting: In 2013, Drake's closed its Southeast Stark retail space and was going to do the same with this one. Instead, they decided that with this great old space they would hire some incredible talent and change the focus to design, for which their operation is known. Anna Kullgren (of the blog Flutter and Hum), who is herself an experienced interior designer and plant goddess with an eye for sustainability, is tasked with helping to turn this charming space into a garden-design destination. Then there's the fabulous Gina Cardoza, the plant expert extraordinaire, and, of course. William McClenathan - yes, that brilliant William of television's Garden Time fame with so much experience under his belt that it's silly. The point is this: They have turned this small, retail nursery space into a place to, yes, shop for plants, but also into a garden-design showcase. You can visit for ideas from their vignettes within the nursery setting itself, find inspiration and quality products all under one roof. Plus, you can hire landscaping help right here to get it all done.
How clever is that?
Let's look around a bit.

Drake's 7 Dees goal is to provide design ideas and inspiration, as well as becoming a community resource for learning about gardening sustainably. One thing I really love is that all of their products are chemical and synthetic-free. An organic nursery- I LOVE it! And they have stopped using neonicotinoids. A very important step in the right direction for our pollinators and world health overall. Yay! Gardening for the planet for the long-term also by using long-lasting materials such as stone, not plastic to add to the landfill.

The nursery itself is not overwhelming, rather it is a manageable space. It consists of a selection of garden rooms full of design ideas and themes on the perimeter of the nursery. Tables of perennials, annuals, grasses, shrubs and trees fill the center with an enticing selection. Well-chosen garden trellises, art and containers are grouped throughout and plenty of garden products, tender succulents and houseplants are in the greenhouse/checkout area. There will be more innovative displays in the future - they are nowhere near finished from a design perspective. The grand opening a few weeks ago was, I have the feeling, the beginning of some beautiful visionary ideas from a lot of talented people.

An eye-catching selection of containers and garden art, as well as some very charming nursery help.

For a compact nursery, they really have a great selection of plants.

The terra cotta pots made me swoon and. yes, I took one home with me. I had to, it matches the house.

Plants are arranged by type for easy shopping. Here, shade annuals in a variety of choices.

Here is the first of the garden rooms - the Pacific Rim idea room.

Fountain in the background, Asian-inspired statuary and a monolithic rock-themed focal point. Broad leaf evergreens appropriate to our climate offer suggestions as to what would works well in such an environment.

Shady groundcovers in this section, and more container varieties.

Take a break in the lovely swinging bench.

Here is part of the Rustic Edible room featuring berry plants, vegetables and herbs. There are also tomato cages and container options if you'd like to grow your veggies in a raised bed or a pot.

The water trough seen here is actually a recirculating fountain. I love the idea of a galvanized trough used this way. Behind is a raised bed with newly planted starts of veggies. Hanging baskets of colanders are a fun idea in the background.

I had to show the whole thing in action. I love this -- rustic and simple.

Functional and cool, too.

It's my understanding that William made these tables. How wonderful are these legs? I love it. This is the herb section, if I'm not mistaken.

A colorful addition to the rustic edibles area. Love this table, too.

Now onto the Modern Outdoor area. Big bold colors, large leaves and comfortable furnishings are one way to go contemporary in the garden.

Really clean lines on the rusted firepit, which could be placed just about anywhere and look great and be quite useful.

Unifying color schemes add sophistication. I really like the treatment of the ground with large square pavers here. I imagine this will change over time as Drake's 7 Dees is a landscape design company with resources at their fingertips. This is the point of the showroom nursery - to share ideas, and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing it evolve.

A bottle tree with a selection of bottles.

Some fabulous containers with a glittering, subtle palette. Nice.

There is some pretty impressive garden statuary.

Here's an interior shot of the greenhouse taken earlier this spring.

This happy face is another in the large statuary category, going up on the wall.

And all the strong men taking care of business!

Not only that, this gem of a space will soon have a coffee house. Why would you ever want to leave?

It has been a pleasant surprise for me to rediscover this nursery in its new location out on the west side of town. It was totally worth the drive, not only to see my friends, but to see the incredible amount of creativity put into making this a gem of a showcase. To have William's vision, hard work and experience is a stroke of luck for the nursery, and to have the same -- the talent and hard work of Anna and Gina is brilliant. The whole crew is great, although I don't know them all. They have all worked so very very hard to make this a showcase of a design center. I say they have achieved their goal. I know more changes are on the way, so I will certainly revisit. I would love to see some earlier "before" pictures to show how far the crew has come, perhaps in another post.

In the mean time, if you are in the area, I encourage you to get out to Southwest Portland at 5645 SW Scholls Ferry Rd and pay a visit.

That's it this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you so much for reading and until next time, happy gardening (and garden shopping)!