Three Early April Bloomers

Plants and early flowers are off to a strong start thanks to a warm and moist Seattle spring. Here are three plants blooming right now.

Checkered Lilies are my favorite early spring flower. I love the purple lampshades. My patch has slowly grown, and this low-maintenance plant clears out nicely summer bloomers.

Checkered Lilies are my favorite early spring flower. I love the purple lampshades. My patch has slowly grown, and it does back nicely for summer bloomers.

Pulmonaria saccharata throws out these cute spring bells. This perennial thrives in two tough spots in the front and back. Flowers are followed by unique spotted foliage for summer. Pulmonaria’s minus is the plant will mold up and die in early fall after a dry summer

Pulmonaria saccharata throws out these cute spring bells. This perennial thrives in two tough spots with little light and moisture. Flowers are followed by unique spotted foliage in summer. Pulmonaria’s minus is the plant will mold and shrivel by early fall.

Pansies are a spring tradition on my porch.

Pansies are a spring tradition on my porch.

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Wanted: Trillium for my Backyard Garden

Trillium kurabayashii at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens - I want this for my backyard!

Trillium kurabayashii at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens – I want this for my backyard!

Trillium is at the top of my perennial wanted list. We discovered the plant on a recent field trip to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.

On foliage alone, I want Trillium varieties much like these. The large flat horizontal leaves have stunning shapes and variegation. I fell in love with the plant before the flowers fully showed up. It’s a natural for my garden, because Trillium is a shade-loving Washington native. As a monocot, each plant has three leaves and three-sided flowers.

West Seattle nursery didn’t have any in stock. The owner explained that Trillium does not do well in containers, which eliminates a greenhouse source. The nursery had a supply from a guy who grew it on a Delridge-area hill, but he moved away. Turns out that Lincoln Park in West Seattle was once full of Trillium, but people harvested it to the point of extreme scarcity.

With a tight supply, my first Trillium is going to cost me. I can probably find some at native plant nurseries or sales. I need just a stalk to get started, and then it will take a couple of years to fill out.

The plant is such a big part of the Bellevue Botanical Gardens that the gift shop is named the Trillium Store. I appreciate their Trillium collection, and will visit it again.

Trillium luteum - The yellow flowering plant would be a welcome addition to my shade garden.

Trillium luteum – The yellow flowering plant would be a welcome addition to my shade garden.

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Arum Italicum: Perennial that Grows in Winter

Arum italicum

Arum italicum is a shade plant that grows in January and dies back in summer.

Always on the lookout for unique shade plants, I couldn’t resist buying a small Arum italicum last March. The plant’s common name is Italian Arum or Italian Lords-and-Ladies.

It’s all about the foliage. Arum italicum have arrowhead-shaped deep green leaves with white to light green veins that create wonderful contrast. I planted it in my shade garden out back. In June, it disappeared. I was sure I killed it. It wouldn’t be the first.

Arum italicum2

Arum italicum will flower and produce berries, but it’s the unique leaves that attract me.

Surprise! The Arum italicum reappeared in September. I couldn’t believe it. Better yet, the leaves stayed green all winter despite two periods of frost and a little snow. Now in January, new leaves are emerging. It’s refreshing to have a growing green plant in the middle of winter.

Accidentally discarding the tag, I didn’t even know the plant’s name. The folks at West Seattle Nursery helped me identify it last week. I’ve learned Arum italicum will grow from 1 to 1.5 feet tall and wide. Jack-in-Pulpit type flowers will emerge in April or May, followed by orange-red berries. From what I read, the plant and berries are toxic, but probably won’t kill you.

Gardeners in milder climates (not the Midwest) like Arum Italicum because the plant provides shade foliage at different times than Hostas. The plant has invasive tendencies, but I’m not worried, as I’m far too mean of a gardener for it to grow uncontrollably.

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Gardening 2015: Blooming Cyclamen in January

Blooming Cyclamen in January

Planted in March 2014, these red and white Cyclamen are blooming on my porch this January.

Already hit a 2015 gardening goal: January flowers on my porch. This is the first time one of my established plants bloomed during the bleakest gardening month.

My red and white Cyclamen are sporting colorful flowers, which standout on a nearly empty porch. The blooms almost didn’t happen, as a New Year’s cold snap just about took the plants out.

Potted in late March, the Cyclamen bloomed abundantly last spring and into early summer. Heat can kill them, so I moved these to a shady and cool corner, where the leaves stayed healthy. A few red blooms surprised me in October, and the white flowers came out in force around Christmas. More blooms are on the way.

During our two cold snaps, I put the Cyclamen under a chair and covered them with my grandma’s old and pink and green blanket. Grandma would be proud that beat-up blanket is preserving my flowers. Judging from her home in Delhi, NY when I was young, she loved plants, flowers and a green world.

Weather note: a normal winter cold snap in Seattle is lows in the 20s and highs in the 30s for three to five days. Growing up in the Midwest, that’s nice winter weather, and in some years, it’s almost balmy.

 

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My Top 5 Havigarden Facebook Flowers of 2014

These are my five favorite 2015 Havigarden Facebook photos that aren’t the 11 most popular. These are simple quality photos.

I initially chose 10 photos. I picked three “must haves,” and discarded three. With four photos and two slots remaining, the final factor was how they looked as my computer desktop photo. Two clearly stood out and made the list. Finally, I ranked all five after writing the first draft of this post.

This is the last Havigarden Blog post of 2014. I plan on bringing my blog back for a fourth year in 2015. I will continue posting unique flower photos on the Havigarden Facebook page. More of the Facebook photos will start showing up on Twitter in 2015, where you can follow me @haviman.

Crocosmia Lucifer

5. Posted January 27, this Crososmia Lucifer bloom was shot in 2013. I posted it in January 2014 as a summer dreaming photo. The brilliant red blooms signify Seattle garden summer. I like how the blooms trail down the photo that earned 76 views.

Cone Flowers

4. I photographed these Cone Flowers growing at the West Seattle Arboretum on the campus of South Seattle Community College. Texture, form and color make Cone Flowers extremely photogenic. This post on August 10 drew 71 views. I don’t grow Cone Flowers, but the Beacon Hill gardener does.

Firebird Penstemon

3. If you follow my blog, you know this Firebird Penstemon was my favorite new perennial of 2015. I look forward to more blooms next year, because I’m confident I can get a better photo of these beauties. Posted September 17, this Penstemon photo drew 86 views.

 

Clematis Blooms

2. These two blooms belonged to a Clematis growing in the Beacon Hill garden. This photo received only 57 views after posting July 8. We’ve had little success growing vining plants in the West Seattle Garden, which could be the reason I like this photo so much.

Profusion Yellow Zinnia

1. I like how this Profusion Yellow Zinnia bloom is framed. Posted October 7, this photo drew a respectable 91 views. I shot this flower on my porch with my new 50mm lens. I’m happy to report the lens works well in low light, also known as shade in gardening photography. Zinnias are a favorite, but for some reason, I have serious trouble spelling the plant’s name.

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Top 5 Havigarden Facebook Page Photos of 2014

Drumroll please…the top five are actually not what I expected. Just like pop music, my most popular photos on the 2015 Havigarden Facebook Page are not the best. The two biggest factors driving popularity are timing and familiarity.

The top four photos are all common plants. Much the same as food, people have “comfort plants.” That’s understandable, as I have my own common favorites. The time of year a photo is posted also influences popularity. I bet a pot of flowers on a porch makes you happy when another blizzard is raging outside.

Enjoy my most popular from Havigarden Facebook photos of 2105. My final blog post this year will be my five favorite Havigarden Facebook photos that did not make the top 11 list.

Weeping Chinese Lantern

4. (tie) The Weeping Chinese Lantern is my favorite of the top five. The bomb-shaped bloom dangles around variegated leaves in this photo posted October 18 that earned 118 views. The plant’s formal name is Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Variegatum’, and is also known as a Flowering Maple. Reaching its peak in October, the Weeping Chinese Lantern is one of my final two blooming perennials. The plant is tough, as it has a few leaves left.

Neighbor's Serious Tulips

4. (ties) Coming in with 114 views, I shot this Tulip photo with my iPhone while walking about a quarter mile from home. Posted April 10, this gardener is seriously good at growing Tulips. I’m not a huge Tulip fan, but this is Washington, where they grow them by the field and have festivals for the flowers.

Late October Coleus

3. Coleus is one of my favorite comfort plants. Earning 158 views, I posted this Coleus photo October 28. That’s pretty late in the year for a delicate plant. Turns out some of my Midwestern friends had Coleus still hanging on as well. This is the only non-flower in the top five. My Coleus thrived in Seattle’s unusually warm summer of 2014.

Finest Rose

2. I don’t grow Roses, as I’m not a huge fan. But, I captured the beauty of this one growing in the Beacon Hill garden. Posted May 28, the Rose had 180 views. Hats off to Helen, the Beacon Hill gardener who grew it.

Simple Pot of Pansies

1. This simple pot of Pansies was Havigarden Facebook Page’s most popular post in 2014. Earning 191 views on a February 18 posting, this was the best-timed photo of the year. I think my South Dakota friends looked at it over and over in hopes one would grow through the snow and ice outside. Little did they know plants were a frustrating three months away in 2014.

 

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Starting in the Garden, It Ended as a Christmas I Will Remember

Most of my plants have died off for the winter. I love to garden now to prepare for the beauty of spring and summer to come. The pattern of dying off and springing to life is part of my love for gardening.

My Christmas tree

Christmas 2015 was memorable.

Christmas was nearly perfect. Sunny, dry, temperatures in the high 40s, I laced up my garden shoes and pulled on my gloves for an afternoon of pruning and raking. Even Juanito the Garden Cat ran around as I worked. Playing in the dirt, this was Christmas bliss for the gardening nerd.

Having filled most of the yard-waste bin, I was sweeping Cedar tree remnants in the backyard when I heard angry shouting coming from the front. It’s a nasty domestic dispute across the street. Then I hear the word “gun.” Inside I go, and luckily we did not experience the ending.

Flashing lights flood the neighborhood. Police were everywhere. The crime scene tape goes up. I asked an officer what was going on. He politely tells me he isn’t at liberty to say, but added that everyone is accounted for. Looking from our porch, we see a body covered by a yellow blanket. Twitter quickly confirms, a man committed suicide. Holy shit!

In an hour, our friends Theara and Nick will come to eat dinner; grilled rib eyes with twice-baked potatoes. It’s a huge day. That morning, Nick surprised Theara with a diamond ring. With tears, she happily accepted his proposal. We planned a night of celebration. Curtis and I decided we could not control what strangers did, but we could choose our path. We readied the house and food for guests.

Despite the scene outside, we consumed my finest grilling job to date. We talked about the events, but we pushed the conversation to happier days ahead. We heard about their plans to marry, buy a home, and someday have children. There was a sense of life and excitement. We started making plans for another Fourth of July camping trip on the coast.

As we hugged Theara and Nick and said goodnight, we could see suds running down the street from the fire department scrubbing the scene. I realized I would always remember this Christmas. I will remember the death, but I’ll also remember how we focused on the future and life to come.

 

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