Vanessa Gardner Nagel chirps about garden design

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Welcome to Garden Chirps!
I make every effort to blog once per week (or more) to keep readers current about what I am up to in the garden or with design. If you have a specific topic you are curious about, please contact me. I'll consider writing about it. Read on below...

Serendipitous Spring

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year.  While I can’t wait for my garden to wake up in spring, I find myself wishing that it would slow down so I can keep up with the work out there. So much happening!

After a hard winter  I am browsing the garden for dead plants. What I’ve discovered after many years though, is that looking for dead plants in March is much too soon. I usually give plants at least through May to recover. Here we are in the first half of April and this is what I am discovering.

One of the plants I’ve been keeping a close eye on (because I planted quite a few of them) is Disporum ‘Green Giant’. They were all knocked back to the ground this winter, despite their ‘evergreen’ claim. It is also supposed to be a zone 7 plant, so I have faith that I will see little nubs sometime soon, especially because the nights have warmed to a minimum of above 40 degrees. The plant is supposed to be 6 feet tall, so if they don’t come back I’ll have to get replacements. I use them to disguise fencing and create a visual barrier from one garden area to another.

A slim reminder of the dormant plant that lies underground.

A slim reminder of the dormant plant that lies underground.

 Another great plant that could be used in a similar fashion is Eucryphia milliganii. I planted this about 10 years ago, so it’s had plenty of time to get its roots established. I read that it is a zone 8 plant, so I protected it this winter. I’ve since found out from reliable resource, Paul Bonine (one of the owners of Xera Plants, Inc.), that it is a zone 7 plant. There are little green smidgeons of new growth on it so I know it has survived successfully. This is supposed to be a dwarf Eucryphia growing to about 4-5 ft. So far it has stayed within those bounds, but I thought it might also have something to do with having been in too much shade (not true for this year now that the huge English laurels have been removed) or at the feet of several 100’ Douglas fir trees.

Burned leaves-yes. Dead-no. Little buds remind me that it will be back for another year.

Burned leaves-yes. Dead-no. Little buds remind me that it will be back for another year.

 A few more surprises waved hello as I wandered through the garden. Edgeworthia dropped most of its blossoms but now has new leaves popping out. Carpenteria californica and one other mystery plant have lots of burned leaves but are coming around with new growth. The mystery plant takes a lot of shade as well as full sun I sort of recall being called “mosquito” plant, but it doesn’t look anything like that when I search for the plant on the internet. I hope one of my fellow ‘hort heads’ can identify it.

Carpenteria californica is an evergreen plant for us with gorgeous white flowers in late spring.

Carpenteria californica is an evergreen plant for us with gorgeous white flowers in late spring.

An unknown plant because I lost the tag years ago. Identify anyone?

An unknown plant because I lost the tag years ago. Identify anyone?

Another good garden plant for structure is Euonymus ‘Green Spire’. Not as hardy as the fortunei species, this plant took a bit of a hit this winter, too. A species rhododendron (unknown because it is from a friend’s garden who passed away a number of years ago) looks like it sailed through without any damage. But it’s blooming, so I have to throw you a bone after looking at dead leaves and bare stems.

Dead tips on several branches of this Euonymus japonicus 'Green Spire' will need to be pruned away ASAP.

Dead tips on several branches of this Euonymus japonicus ‘Green Spire’ will need to be pruned away ASAP.

Only one flower this year demonstrates that even this hardy Rhododendron didn't like this cold winter.

Only one flower demonstrates that even this hardy Rhododendron didn’t like our cold winter.

The point is that if you rush right out and tear out a plant that looks dead, you might regret that you didn’t wait longer to see if the plant would come around on its own. Patience, fellow gardeners, patience.

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Learning from Garden Shows, Part 4

The Philadelphia Flower Show (grand Poobah of American flower shows) is the first show I’ve attended where floral exhibition was integrated into the landscape rather than segregated as a separate area. This year’s theme, ‘ARTiculture’, found designs inspired by a selected piece of art, a range of paintings by a particular artist, or even a specific exhibit at a museum.  […]

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Learning from Garden Shows, Part 3

Because I will be in Philadelphia during the course of Portland’s Yard, Garden, & Patio Show this year, I asked to come to the show the day before its opening. Yes, it’s a LOT hectic that day, with so much construction still going on. So I’m focusing this designer’s eye on what was in place […]

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Learning from Garden Shows, Part 2

The same family-owned company that owns the Northwest Flower & Garden Show owns Portland’s Home & Garden Show. This year the gardens were the first visible parts of the show as we walked in, making it more evident that the owners want to refocus this show into something that will eventually look more like the […]

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Learning from Garden Shows-Part 1

At this time of year, garden shows are in abundance. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show has already been tucked away until next year, with two Portland shows about to happen over the next two weeks. The granddaddy, The Philadelphia Flower Show, begins Feb. 28.  Seeing something new is what I yearn to see as […]

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The Ubiquitous Adirondack

For those of you expecting a gushing love affair with the Adirondack chair, this is a rant about the excessively-used and overly-beloved garden seat. People use Adirondack chairs in nearly every style of garden imaginable. While a few locations are well-suited to this chair, many are not. Thomas Lee designed this chair in 1903 when he […]

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Looking Back at the 2013 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

I’m in the throes of substantial anticipation of the 2014 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Since that is two weeks away my best option is to look back at the 2013 show and what were my highlights. As a member of the APLD’s international board, I must recognize my fellow members’ efforts in the following […]

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Sharpen the Pruning Shears; I’m Ready for Spring.

It’s late January in case you hadn’t noticed. The days are getting a little longer and there’s a wee bit more sun. Time to prune! I’ve already begun with hellebores, which if I don’t clip off the old leaves, the new flowers will have a rather dismal looking skirt. Once I’ve finished with the hellebores (they are […]

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Intentional Serendipity

Serendipity…something to consider in every garden.

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Taking Stock of My 2013 Garden

Following the example of some fellow bloggers, I decided that looking through one’s garden experiences from the past year is a great way to begin 2014. So here is a look at my garden through the year. Click on each photo for a larger view.                     […]

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About
Garden Chirps is written by Vanessa Gardner Nagel, gutsy garden designer, passionate garden speaker, enthusiastic garden writer/author, and frenetic gardener.