Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2016

Looking for landscape and garden inspiration? Desperate to see colorful flowers and gardens full of texture? You are not alone! With the mild climate in the Pacific Northwest, outdoor living is a top priority for many people. Rock gardens, streams, cottages, decks, container gardens, native plants, orchids and spring bulbs delight even the most discerning gardeners at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

Every year we make the trek to the Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. The Northwest Flower & Garden Show is a massive indoor landscape show with vendors, landscapers and landscape designers from around the Seattle area. The displays never disappoint. This year was no different. The landscapers went above and beyond. What a fantastic way to welcome spring!

Check out some of the gardens at the 2016 Northwest Flower and Garden Show:

If you’re dreaming about renovating your outdoor space or just want to add some new elements to your garden, don’t miss the Northwest Flower and Garden Show next year!

 

 

Winter and Spring Hellebores

What’s the big deal with Hellebores?

Looking for winter and spring color for your garden can be discouraging. So many evergreens lack luster and offer no color. That used to be the case with Hellebores, otherwise known as Lenten Rose. For years Hellebores lacked polishing. They were often ratty looking. You couldn’t count on them for a specific color and growing them on your porch wasn’t even considered. Luckily, breeders recently perfected some old varieties that actually made a huge difference in the Hellebore world. Things have really turned around for them. As a matter of fact, Hellebores might be exactly what your garden (and patio) needs! Yes, gardeners are adding new varieties to their gardens, but they are still embracing the older types too. With so many species to choose from, why not try them all?

Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob

Why plant Hellebores?

Envision Hellebores in your garden. You can look out your window on a cool winter day at colorful flowers. They are incredibly hardy so most of them survive even the coldest winters (unless they are planted in South Dakota). Deer won’t touch them. You can plant Hellebores just about anywhere because they are tolerant to both sun and shade. Don’t worry about pH; they prefer alkaline soils, but do just fine in acidic conditions. Feel free to fertilize, but it is not an absolute requirement for them. You will love the evergreen foliage during late fall and early winter when almost no other perennials in the garden seems to have a heart beat. And, if that’s not enough, Helleborus even offer a good source of nectar for bees during late winter and early spring when food sources are scarce.

Pick great companion plants for your Hellebores like Fuchsia, Hosta, Galanthus, Ferns, Epimedium, Ligularia, Hakonechloa, Cyclamen, Ajuga, Vinca, Heuchera. Imagine Helleborus on your porch in your favorite container with violas and pansies that brighten up your entryway all winter long. In the landscape, try groups of three or more together for curb appeal. Consider planting Hellebores under deciduous trees where they will enjoy shade in the summer and bright light in the winter.

Hellebores in my garden

In my Pacific Northwest Garden, the Christmas varieties began blooming in December. Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob was the first to bud. The pure white flowers faded to pink as they aged. Early spring varieties followed the Christmas varieties with overlapping bloom times. Many of them peaked with the transition into spring with deeper color tones than the early varieties. Some are lovable for the foliage alone, like our mystery mutant.

Helleborus argutifolius

Helleborus argutifolius mystery cross mutant
Helleborus argutifolius mystery mutant

 

Helleborus argutifolius
Helleborus argutifolius

 

Helleborus Silver Lace
Helleborus Silver Lace

 

Helleborus Gold Collection® (HGC)

While most Helleborus are commercially propagated from seed, Helleborus Gold Collection are grown from tissue culture, creating clones of the mother plant. Home gardeners, be assured you are buying a plant that looks like the plant in the pictures when buying a clone.

HGC Christmas varieties produce early winter flowers because they have genetics from Helleborus niger bred into them. Growing HGC Christmas varieties in containers began taking off in recent years. Plant them in perennial gardens after they finish blooming. There’s nothing like pure white flowers in the garden at Christmas time!

Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob
Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob

 

Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob
Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob in the window

 

HGC Early Spring varieties begin to bloom between late winter and early spring. These varieties are some of the first Hellebores to flower after the holidays at the beginning of the new year.

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Merlin
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Merlin

 

Helleborus x ericsmithii Gold Collection®  Monte Cristo
Helleborus x ericsmithii Gold Collection® Monte Cristo

 

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost

 

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost

 

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Snow Dance
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Snow Dance

Helleborus orientalis hybrids

Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Aprictot Blush
Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Apricot Blush

 

Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Cherry Blossom
Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Cherry Blossom

 

Helleborus x hybridus (formerly orientalis)
Helleborus x hybridus (formerly orientalis)

Can’t find the Hellebores locally? Check out these mail order sources.

Bluestone Perennials

Plant Delights Nursery

Wayside Gardens

Winter Color In The Garden

Finding winter color in the garden is challenging, but not impossible. After the trees and shrubs drop their leaves, most landscapes resemble a sad and empty existence. Thankfully, the more common evergreen conifers show some signs of life throughout our neighborhoods. Adding a little color can make a huge difference! Placing a few perennials and shrubs in the correct place brightens up the otherwise dull, dark space.

If your front bed looks a little drab as fall sets in, try Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, a cultivar whose green glossy leaves turn a bright burgundy red in the fall. The color lasts throughout the winter and without looking tattered. The large reddish leaves give way to early spring flowers too!
Bergenia

Helleborus Gold Collection® Jacob is a perennial bred for the savvy gardener. According to The National Gardening Association, the overwhelming majority of home gardeners rely on seed packets for their gardening information, which means they miss out on growing this sterile hellebore hybrid. The more savvy home gardeners in milder climates will absolutely love the rewards…pure white flowers in the garden at Christmas time! Available during the holiday season as a holiday plant, Jacob makes a nice indoor plant for a few weeks. It can then be planted outside as an evergreen perennial. Pack your patience, because the first two or three years it may not flower heavily in the garden.
Helleborus Jacob

It is nearly impossible to talk about Hellebores and not bring up new varieties. It is also nearly impossible to bring up new varieties without talking about Helleborus x ericsmithii Gold Collection® Monte Cristo. New genetics helped spur the interest in Hellebores in recent years, which in turned triggered an overwhelming amount of new varieties to choose from. Sterile hybrids propagated from tissue culture produce clones that are completely different from the older hybridized versions of Hellebores. For growers, this is a win because they can grow a flowering crop faster and more uniformly. For home gardeners, this is a win because they know exactly what they are buying because each plant is exactly the same as the parent plant. We can count on the robust silvery blue evergreen foliage of Love Bug to give rise to plenty of winter flowers in the garden. In fact, in the PNW we can count on high bud counts as other varieties are scrambling for survival and color in the garden is becoming crucial. This color will push into late winter as other Hellebores begin to promise color.
HelleborusLoveBug.JPG

It is not just Hellebores, breeders are also pumping out Heuchera quicker than most of us can keep track of. Many of which lack vigor. Home Gardeners are left to gamble their hard-earned money on plants which may not produce the results they expect. Gardeners who want to leave the gambling in Vegas should try Heuchera ‘Pinot Gris’. It is one of the best performers of the many new varieties that entered the market in the last few years. In the Pacific Northwest, the foliage on Pinot Gris is evergreen and clean, seemingly insulated from cold winter temperatures. Interesting veining and colors in the leaves remain until spring when a prospect of new growth brings fresh and interesting surprises to the garden.Heuchera.JPG

June Blooming Perennials

If you are like many of us, you look at your garden with  great satisfaction in June. We accomplished a lot over the past few months! We cleaned up the winter debris. Planted vegetables in abundance and even harvested our first crops. Our containers are brimming with colorful annuals!  Bulbs, fruit trees and shrubs carried us through the spring colorfully while we did our work. Unfortunately, in June the spring color faded away leaving us wishing for more color in our gardens and landscapes. Perennials are the perfect solution to our color woes for so many reasons. They are an investment that pays back year after year with very little care and most transplant well after it’s too late to plant vegetables and herbs. Because I’ve been gardening in the Pacific Northwest for over ten years, I have succeeded and failed with many perennials here. These are just a few of the best June blooming perennials that I have grown or seen growing in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Short June Blooming Perennials:

  • Geranium ‘Rozanne’ – Blooms June through October with an incredibly wide spread and vigorous habit that competes well with weeds. Rozanne can grow tall and wide or stay small depending on the location.
  • Arenaria – Fits perfectly in the landscape in a tidy little mound.
  • Saponaria ocymoides – Pink blooms on large mounds in May and June. Vernalization required for flowers, so patience helps.
  • Campanula Blue Waterfall – Flowers June through September in the ground or in a container garden.
  • Geranium Orkney Cherry – Tender perennial with dark foliage and pink flowers. The first year was the most interesting year. It grew tall and skinny, like a Thuja. After three years in my Bellingham garden, Orkney Cherry grows in a short mound.
Geranium Rozanne
Geranium ‘Rozanne’ with Spiraea Magic Carpet
Geranium Orkney Cherry
Geranium Orkney Cherry
Saponaria and Aquilegia
Saponaria and Aquilegia

Medium Height June Blooming Perennials:

  • Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice’ – Pink blooms begin in May and last through June. Cut off spent flowers for a rebloom. Though this Heuchera is an older variety, it is still one of the best performers out there because of the fantastic foliage and attractive flowers that last a long time.
  • Primula viali – One of the most unique perennial flowers  and grows well in the sun or shade.
  • Penstemon Red Riding Hood – Gives a fantastic show of bright red flowers in May and June.
  • Lavender -Low maintenance woody perennial with lavender flowers beginning in June and lasting through August. Cut back the top one-third of the plant after flowering to encourage a tidy habit.
  • Dianthus First Love ® – Shades of pink and white adorn this taller-than-your-average-Dianthus April through September.
Lavender Munstead
Lavender Munstead
Penstemon Red Riding Hood
Penstemon Red Riding Hood
Campanula ‘Sarastro’
Primula vialli
Primula vialli

Tall June Blooming Perennials:

  • Leucanthemum ‘Becky’ – This Shasta Daisy grows much taller than the others and blooms on very strong stems May through August. No need to stake ‘Becky’ even though it can grow nearly four feet tall.
  • Penstemon Husker Red & ‘Pocahontas’ – Dark foliage grows tall in the spring when flowering. After blooms fade, the stems can be cut back leaving a cute little burgundy mound. White flowers top ‘Husker Red’ while lavender flowers top the newer variety ‘Pocahontas’.
  • Delphinium – Most Delphinium will bloom in June and re-bloom if you cut them back.
  • Campanula medium and Cup and Saucers – These Campanula are biennials not perennial. They will reseed or you can collect the seed to start indoors and plant them exactly where you want them in your garden the following year. They are a little more maintenance than a perennial, but well worth it! I wrote about them in my last post at cheetahgarden.com/campanula-medium/
Penstemon Pocahontas
Penstemon ‘Pocahontas’
Campanula medium
Campanula medium after flowers were harvested for bouquets