Gossler Farms Gives Me Zone Envy

We started in one of the greenhouses, where the fever began. I was coming down with a bad case of Zone 8-itis, complete with the involuntary twitch toward my checkbook before learning the target of my lust was not hardy in my area.  Gossler Farms Nursery is pure Oregon, with a gentle reminder of its range by virtue of the giant palm trees swaying above it all.

Roger Gossler
Roger and Marjorie Gossler had graciously offered to show Dave and me around their compound/display garden/laboratory/growing fields.  What a treat! 
Jamie the cat points out a Hellebore.

I was charmed at every turn, accompanied as we were on our tour by a stiff wind following an Oregonian rain (i.e.: a downpour by anyone who isn’t from the Pacific Northwest, but a drizzle to those who are). We also were accompanied by the Gossler cat, a loner that forged his own path and left Gus and and Sophie with Roger.

Gus and Sophie

The gardens host an array of trees and mature shrubs you likely won’t see anywhere else—certainly not all in one place. The Gosslers specialize in woody plants, but they also carry a selection of very special perennials, including rare orchids, Agapanthus and Gunnera. Roger, his brother Eric and Marjory Gossler, their mother, penned the book entitled Best Hardy Shrubs. The book, along with the Gossler Farms Nursery catalog, makes for a serious mind-expanding encounter for a hortigeek like me.

We'd come for the Magnolias and lingered longer than we’d planned in order to take in some of the rest. Here are just a few of the highlights: 

Davidia 'Lady Sunshine' shows off its variegation with Rogersia. This Davidia is very rare in the trade.

Cornus controversa variegata matures to form a horizontal cascade of branches with a beautiful layered look.

Zenobia, a North American Native with a charming name and more charming flowers.

Deutzia candidisima
Pieris 'Little Heath' doesn't offer many flowers but the foliage and compact size more than make up for it.

If you've started sensing a theme here, it could be variegation. There is nothing like it to brighten up a shaded spot. And the plants with the variegation pictured here all are hardy down to a Zone 6a. Yay!
Marj Gossler stands with a Magnolia loebneri by the same name.
We had the great pleasure to meet and talk with Marjory Gossler, who introduced us to Magnolia denudata x sargentiana 'Marjory Gossler. The tree was named by Phil Savage of Detroit.
Magnolia x wieseneri is a cross between M. sieboldii and  M. hypoleuca. So far, it's the only plant I ordered from Gossler,
but I've got a long list of "must haves" that I hope to eventually work through.

Peonies and Coneflowers Cross Paths

More than a month since the first peony bloomed in my garden, I created a farewell to the season. It's the first time I've mixed peonies and Echinacea in the same arrangement; normally the peonies are long gone when the coneflowers start to bloom.
The coneflowers are 'Southern Belle', shown with Astilbe
Peony 'Elsa Sass', and Brunfelsia jamaicensis.

The peony in this arrangement is 'Elsa Sass', a late double form. I love using Astilbe in arrangements for its fragrance and long-lasting constitution. It's the first time I've used a cutting of Brunfelsia jamaicensis, a tropical shrub I've grown in a pot for several years. It needed to be shaped up a bit so I cut a stem of the fragrant flower for a drooping accent.

Speaking of accents, the stems of Itea 'Little Henry' I included in a recent arrangement are still as perky as ever three days later! I cut the stems before the flowers had opened completely, and let them cascade downward in the bouquet.
The spiky white flowers are from the shrub, Itea 'Little Henry'.
My garden is home to a wealth of coneflowers, including several that are new to me. I am trialing one called 'Butterfly Kisses' from Walters Gardens. This little cutie, from breeder Arie Blom, is described as an improved double pink, highly floriferous and compact. I planted three about a month ago amidst Oregano 'Kent Beauty', which fills out a sunny spot near the patio. It won't be long before the oregano begins to show its pinkish bracts. I'm anticipating a good color partnership. Meanwhile, 'Butterfly Kisses' is an energetic bloomer, even in its first year.

Echinacea 'Butterfly Kisses' is less than a foot tall.
I'm testing a few Echinaceas from Terra Nova Nurseries, including 'Supreme Elegance', 'Supreme Cantaloupe' and 'Supreme Flamingo'. They've just begun to open, and will take a couple more days before they form their tufted little topknots. 'Supreme Elegance' is just that in its early stage, with slender petals curved gracefully downward like Isadora Duncan's scarf (before it got caught in the car's wheel).
Echinacea 'Supreme Elegance' from Terra Nova Nurseries.
Echinacea 'Supreme Cantaloupe' is more traditional in form, less so in color. It's appropriate that a flower named for a tropical fruit would be reminiscent of a summer day. Unabashedly melon in color, it's liberated itself from its maiden name of purple coneflower. I can see some extra petals forming at the base of its cone, so there is more to come, but I wanted to include an untouched photo of this seriously orangey coneflower.
Echinacea 'Supreme Cantaloupe'

Coral, Salmon or Peach Combinations

No matter what you call it, the result of mixing red and yellow creates a color that isn't orange or pink, but something in between. And it can be as challenging to find companion colors as it is to put a finger on the exact shade or name.

I've always subscribed to the belief that true red goes with everything. Although these Astrantia flowers are more of a raspberry shade, they mix well with the peach-colored rose. I think it's because the roses contain smudges of raspberry in their petal composition. (At least that's my theory.)

Blue is the black for peachy shades. Of course true blue is almost impossible to find in the floral world. One of the closest is a Veronica called 'Crater Lake Blue', a somewhat sprawling plant that reaches around 12". I wish I knew the name of this Agastache with orange flowers. It's blooming and standing up pretty straight considering it's sheltered from the sun more than is optimum. The surprise is how well it goes with the rose. Yes, it's the same one as in the photo above--Rosa Oso Easy 'Peachy Cream'. Also in the vase are Ornithogalum magnum (the white flower) and Clematis 'Rooguchi', the purple bell flower that is really out of scale for the arrangement.

If I had to name the color of this plant (Calceolaria integrifolia) it would be "electric coral," although I suppose you could call it orange. You'll notice a bright yellow version to the right and, behind that, a deep rose-colored flower whose name I don't know. This shot was taken at Sebright Gardens display beds. I love this cheery trio, which works because the colors all have similar depth or saturation. A pale pink would look like an interloper and set my teeth on edge, while a softer yellow would just become part of the background.
Calceolaria integrifolia

Cutting flowers is good for you!

Making bouquets is also good for the plant. Here is why:
  • removing flowers encourages more flowers.
  • cutting flowers encourages a closer look - you might even find disease or insect issues earlier than if you hadn't been in search for bouquet participants.
  • putting flowers together in a vase makes it easy to determine which plants should be neighbors in the garden.
  • the more bouquets you make, the better you'll get at it and the more enjoyment it will give you.
Deep rosy-pink Asiatic lilies are blooming in two places in my garden. I wondered if they were the same variety and patted myself on the back for coming up with a simple test: I'd cut them and put them together in a vase! Fortunately or unfortunately, they're not the same. It's subtle, but in the photo you can see that one variety is more peachy than the other. I don't think the colors detract from the bouquet, expecially since I've added some true pink and lavender-pink to the mix along with white.
Two Asiatic lily hybrids with Itea 'Little Henry', Stachys 'Pink Cotton Candy' and the last pink double peonies.

Removing the pistil and stamens from lilies keeps pollen from getting all over everything.

View for the Night

The transition in my garden after the peonies have gone is gradual, with some roses still in green bud stage while foxtail lily heightens anticipation by playing its colors very close to the vest. They are a golden yellow color and occupy the last spot I see each night before dark. Even better, the sun sets behind them, lending the flowers an ethereal glow.

Eremurus or foxtail lilies
Even closer to the window through which I view my garden before dark is a small patch bordered on the south by a short boxwood hedge and to the north and west by a fence. I'm seriously unsure of what's happening in that little corner. There is a rose I'd forgotten about because it's hidden between the fence and a tall trellis. And the Clematis 'Rooguchi' for which I'd placed the trellis, and a mixture of lilies, the names of which I can't recall. There's a Phlox  'David's Lavender', which I cut back so it blooms late, and Kalimeris yomena 'Shogun', which I rationalize growing for its variegated foliage.

A Clematis 'Rooguchi' bud seems to tower above a variegated Japanese Aster.
I planted two tree peonies in this spot also, for its great location, sheltered as it is from the wind on three sides. You kind of get the drift; I'm treating it like all the rest of my garden, But I need to exhibit a little more restraint in this corner. When the tree peonies bloom, they light up the location, but for the rest of the season, I really need some light-hued plants.
Our Franklinia lost its main stem three years ago but seems
to be branching out and bouncing back.

Did I mention this area is also host to the best-looking Franklinia altamaha tree in the area? The story behind this tree (according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia) is that John and William Bartram found a little patch of this really cool-looking tree in 1765 while exploring the forests of Georgia right along the Altamaha River. They took plants and seeds back home to Philadelphia for propagation, which is a good thing, because the tree has proved elusive in nature since the early 1800s.

Some say it was a tree destined for extinction, found by a fluke and too finicky to bother with. It is said to have fragrant, camellia-like blooms in summer, but if that doesn't happen soon, I can't see devoting space to the tree in an already crowded garden. Our Franklinia has healthy-looking but reddish leaves and lots of new growth.
Franklinia leaves up close
If, after residing in this spot for the past five seasons, our Franklinia gets going on flower production, it will be a cause for jollification throughout the land, or at least at my house. I won't be viewing it from indoors, though. I'll be out there as the sun sets, soaked down with mosquito repellent, lamps and my tripod and camera hoping to capture a shot of the reason this plant has caused so much hoopla in the horticulture world.

Peony Season Part IV: In the Pink

The most common color for peonies is pink. But it's not the pink of baby gift wrap or that well-known cause ribbon symbol. The pink that saturates peony petals in varying degrees is the pink that follows sensual modifiers: pearl, abalone, satin, raspberry, soft, whisper, blush, hot, ...

Lighter than the rich raspberry of 'White Cap', but with something else entirely going on at its center, 'Pink Derby' reminds me once again of the humongous array of looks within the world of herbaceous peonies.

'Pink Derby' in the stage that reminds me of a bowl of ice cream.
Picture a deep pink bowl of the finest translucent china. Add a scoop of soft, vanilla ice cream, and add a thick dollop of strawberry cream. Stir gently, and you have 'Pink Derby'. And did I mention it's fragrant, compact and apparently somewhat hard to locate? I bought it in 2009 from Swenson Gardens, and this is just the second year it's bloomed. Swenson Gardens sends healthy and large peony roots, so the reason it hasn't burst out of the ground in two years or even three is that it is one variety that takes awhile to establish.

A fully-opened 'Pink Derby' is a breathtaking sight.
As color mixes go, one of the more unusual is 'The Fawn', named for its fanciful resemblance to a newborn deer's subtle spots. Although it has no fragrance, it has a long season of interest, with buds that offer an exciting glimpse of its speckled demeanor.

'The Fawn'
Not a trick of the light, but 'The Fawn's' subtle pattern of pink spatters on a paler pink background.

'Chestine Gowdy'
She's an old-fashioned girl, named after a teacher in a one-room school house. 'Chestine Gowdy' was hybridized by Oliver Brand of Faribault, Minnesota and introduced in 1913. Opening late in the season on very tall stems, the double flowers are pink in bud and open nearly white with a pearly pink undertone at the base of the petals.
'Chestine Gowdy' shows off pale pink petals that gradually fade to white.

The term, "medium pink" doesn't do 'Belleville' justice. Which is probably why it was described upon introduction to the American Peony Society in 1998 as "cyclamen purple." In peonies, this is about as purple as it gets. There are also varieties described as orange, but they are more of a coral. Whatever it's called, 'Belleville' is a strong grower with a very respectable number of side buds. 
'Belleville' shows off the undersides (or outsides) of its petals as they unfurl.
Unlike some peonies with side buds, 'Belleville's' open nearly at once, allowing for a bouquet on a stem.

Florist Peonies - From the Beginning

We don't often think of peonies as florist flowers. It's probably because their season is relatively short. On a visit to Oregon Perennials, owners Piet and Andre Wierstra invited me on a tour of their wholesale cut peony operation. Impressive!

The fields we saw on that cold, rainy day still had some 'Sarah Bernhardt' peonies, but earlier varieties like 'Joker' had already been picked. We loved visiting the warehouse where thousands of peonies are processed, bundled and stored for up to six weeks while awaiting shipment to florists all over the country.

Andre (left) and Piet Wierstra of Oregon Perennial Co.
(That's Toby in the middle)

Peony Season Part III

This is officially the latest my peonies have bloomed - ever. Okay, so maybe that's not saying much as I've only been growing more than a dozen peonies at any one time for about eight years. My last report on the season was five days ago, and new peonies have opened while those that have passed their first flush are offering up a nice crop of side buds.

This little cutie is called 'Clown'
We've had our share of downpours, and I've got a vase of cut peonies in every room to prove it. I can't bring myself to knowingly allow the fully-opened doubles to suffer the soggy fate of less coddled flowers. And here I'll digress a bit to offer up another reason for growing a variety of peonies. Planting a range of early, mid- and late season varieties will help assure they won't all succumb to the next storm.

'Al's Choice' is an intersectional peony named by Allan Rogers.
Intersectional peonies have earned their reputation for standing up to a rainstorm. But even if one or two blooms lose their petals to a downpour, they'll almost certainly have more flower buds waiting in the wings. Their claim to fame is that they have a longer bloom season due to their ability to flower on stems that initiate from both above and below the ground.
Peony 'Dayton'
While I try not to play favorites, it's impossible for my eyes not to land on 'Dayton', which is currently reigning over the garden. Its vibrant color is further enhanced by a silvery-white edging along the edges of its pinked petals. 
A close-up of 'Dayton' just before it opens shows the gorgeous petal edges.

Coming in at a close second for sheer color magnitude is 'Ursa Major'. If all of the peonies in the garden were such a deep and lustrous raspberry shade, my eyes wouldn't know where to light. As luck would have it (I certainly can't claim I planned it.), they are spaced far enough apart so as not to each lose their impact.

'Ursa Major' is a Japanese form peony.

Four Weeks of Peonies: You Can Grow That!

"They flop!" "They last such a short time..." These are the two main objections I hear when planting peonies enters the conversation. The rebuttal is this: Plant non-flopping varieties, and plant lots. What follows is a sequence of blooms that began this year on May 15, and today, haven't finished.
Tree peony 'Princess Chiffon'

I have four varieties of tree peonies, and if you keep them out of the wind and provide just a bit of well-placed support, you won't need to worry about flopping. Give them partial shade, especially in a hot climate, and the blooms will stay colorful longer on the plant.

Peony 'Roselette's Child'

While the single type of peony doesn't seem to last as long as those with more petals, they stand up better to rain and wind. One that stands up well, is somewhat short-statured, and bloomed May 28 this year is 'Roselette's Child'. This is its first year to bloom since I planted it so it only had a few flowers. But the number of flowers will increase as the plant matures.

Peony 'Abalone Pearl'
'Abalone Pearl' also has fewer petals than the well-loved doubles, but its color is so ethereally-beautiful it's hard to resist. It and 'Pink Hawaiian Coral' were in bloom this year by May 28.

Peony 'Pink Hawaiian Coral'
Skip into June and the rest of the 40 or so plants begin to pop. 'Ariadne', a tree peony with lots of sunset colors is still blooming, after starting nearly a week ago.
One of my favorites for being a "stand-up" plant is 'Madame Ducel' a very old variety that is fragrant to boot!
Madame Ducel
Intersectional peony 'Yellow Doodle Dandy'
Another group of peonies that will extend the season and let you kiss the stakes goodbye are the intersectionals, or Ito peonies. These crosses between tree and herbaceous peonies have a long bloom season because they send up blooming stems from below and above the ground. Their flowers are nearly as elaborate as those of tree peonies, and you can cut them back to the ground in the fall.

As of today, there are at least half a dozen varieties that haven't begun to open yet. It's best to buy peony roots in fall, especially the herbaceous types. And I have had the most success buying through specialty peony nurseries, having ordered from the following:

I really hadn't planned to cause you any stress, but you may experience a light-headedness when viewing any of these websites. It's caused by the sheer number of forms, types, colors and bloom season. If you'd like to find out about some of the peonies that do well in a Zone 5-6 garden with some shade, take a look at Peony Bloom Season Part I and Part II. Part III will be coming soon, possibly followed by a Part IV. But remember--the more varieties you buy, the longer the peony bloom season will be in your garden!

For more inspiration, insights and recommendations, head over to ...


Long-lasting Bouquets

This arrangements features filler plants that have spent at least
two days in a vase. I realize the peony colors don't go well;
they were added for illustration purposes.
We didn't need the rain. And my peonies didn't appreciate the heavy downpour. I'd captured 'Judith Eileen' in photos the day before and it's a good thing, because the plant would never look the same again, at least not this year.
Heavy rainfall during peony season can be an excuse to make bouquets. Not that you need an excuse. I'd been experimenting with mixers, and how long they lasted as cut flowers. One of the longest lasting has been Ornithogalum magnum, an inexpensive and hardy bulb that's easy to grow and goes well with everything. I like that it can be flexible or upright, has a see-through presence, and lasts nearly a week in a vase. It grows about 30" tall and doesn't need to be staked. In fact, compared to the somewhat soggy appearance of its neighbor, peony 'White Wings', the Ornithogalum is positively perky.

Another plant I like to use as filler for bouquets is Nepeta or catmint. Most varieties have nice bright blue flowers, and the foliage doesn't give off a scent unless crushed. And of course, blue goes with everything.

I knew that Lady's Mantle or Alchemilla mollis makes a good filler, lasting several days in a vase. But two sleepers that tend to fade into the shade beds impressed me with their longevity.

I've been on an Epimedium kick lately, and have expanded my repertoire by adding three new cultivars. But one variety that has expanded happily through my partially to full-shaded beds is Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'. I cut a few of its wiry stems to add to a test arrangement. Two days later it's as perky as if it were freshly picked. And for a plant that tops out at no more than 12", it's got incredible presence.

Epimedium (at right and center) holds its own with scene-stealers like this peony.
Another plant I like to use as filler in a vase is Thalictrum aquilegifolium, or columbine meadow rue. And I wish I knew which perennial geranium I have growing on the east side of the house. Its foliage reaches about 2' tall and also makes a nice filler. It's shown front and center in the first photo at the top of this blog.