Monthly Top 10 Plants at Campiello Maurizio (November 2022)

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Geranium robustum in the former garden of The Practical Plant Geek.

This plant is not yet in my garden—but I have quite a few of its seeds. Evan collected them for me for several years, I sold them in my old shop, and I will grow all of the ones that I have left of it. It’s a species from South Africa with incredibly lovely silver veined leaves. We took cuttings to take to Cistus Nursery too. Let’s hope that both of our crops work out so we can get this one into cultivation around here.

Love the fall color each year on the Acer palmatum ‘Villa Taranto’. It matches the stain on the front door and makes quite a combo.

This is a small slow-growing Japanese maple for me. To be honest, I’ve had it so long now, I’m not even sure where I bought it. For a few years I thought about moving it, but each autumn it does this and I’m in love with its location all over again.

Begonia sutherlandii var. dissecta is a precious gem. I think I succeeded in making a few more, but we’ll have to wait and see.

If you didn’t know that I love begonias, then you don’t know me well. I don’t even grow that many well, but I grow a lot of them to learn more about them as a group of plants. Gesneriads and begonias are my favorites, and honestly, there are enough of each to keep me interested for the rest of my days.

This dissected variety of this African species that is hardy here for us, is just stunning. I’m not sure yet if this form is hardy as well, so I’m trying to make as many of these as I can to try them out in the ground in the garden, but it takes time.

(We can’t just plant these anywhere though and have them come back. More on that next year!)

A friend let me care for this plant for winter to keep an eye on it. Of course I will make more, but for now, I’m just going to try to grow it “well”. It’s Begonia sp. YuGu 301.

Oh look! Another begonia!

A friend bought this during a visit to Far Reaches Farm and was concerned he might kill it over the winter in his house so I offered to care for it in exchange for a propagation from it. For now, I just plan to figure out how to grow it well, and I love the fuzzy leaves. It’s one of the fuzziest I’ve seen yet.

The end of the season for this Cyclamen hederifolium.

Around here the hardy cyclamens are a tried-and-true go-to for fall blooms. They look to me like flocks of winged magical little creatures falling to the ground. Clustering around the garden in different spots, they’re always welcome and you cannot have enough of them.

An Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myersii’ I’ve had in the ground now for a year. We’ll see how it fares after this winter.

Not necessarily a hardy plant, I’m growing this in one of the most protected spots in my garden and I’m thrilled to say we’ve made it through one mild winter, so maybe we can keep it going for another year. I do NOT want to claim it’s hardy though—because it is not. Many “non hardy” plants can survive mild winters, but this does not make them hardy by any means.

On of the best Japanese maples for striking color, Acer palmatum ‘Geisha Gone Wild’.

This fun tree was found during one of our gardening friend expeditions driving around to nurseries we’d not yet visited with friends from out of town. It’s in a container and is not probably living its best life, but I planted it there so that I could see it out of the large window in my kitchen door. I love its nearly year-round color. It sparks much joy.

This is a bit of a sloppy perennial but for some reason it looks lovely at the base of my Trachycarpus. It’s a wood aster, Eurybia divaricata.

My wood aster came from Secret Garden Growers. I loved how it looked in a container with its flush of star-like blooms, but I honestly did NOT know where to plant it in my garden. (This is a habit I must break in the coming year since caring for plants in pots while I do so much away from home is just KILLING me physically. I wish there were more hours in the day.)

In a rush to go on a trip somewhere, I “rapid planted”. That’s what I do when I am in a time crunch. I just go crazy planting things without overthinking them and it’s honestly kind of fun. Maybe even therapeutic for this virgo lol.

This plant was part of a combo that really worked out. This perennial blooms for a long time, and a fluffy cloud of white at the base of my palm tree is just lovely when I look out my dining room window.

Sinningia conspicua, one of the fragrant gesneriads.

A gift from a friend who loves gesneriads, this is a fragrant and tough beauty. Not hardy in my climate, it lives in the garden for many months in its container, but then it comes back indoors to keep me company during the colder months. Most of my sinningia collection does this and I’m still calculating the best migration plan for them. Bringing them in too early led to lots of plants dying back too harshly last year. This year, I waited until later, and oddly, they’re still pretty perky. I’ve turned down the temperature as well in the Seed Studio so that may be helping too.

Alfie with this unknown Schlumbergera hybrid.

Lastly, who doesn’t love a holiday jungle cactus that’s not pink or red? Damn I love this hybrid but I have no clue what its name is…

Check back in another 4 weeks to see what’s caught my eye around here. I’m really enjoying these monthly posts. I hope you are too.

Our Vine Maple: a native plant reborn (Acer circinatum)

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The original tree is on the right. The new growth is that on the left.

Time to introduce my ugly vine maple, a tree that only this gardener can love and I can’t even tell you how old it is, but my guess is that it’s close to 15 years old now.

When we visit gardens, it’s easy to say that something looks bad, or even that it’s ugly. Many visitors will see this soon and say that it’s unattractive and maybe that it should be put out of its misery. I myself am a believer in plant-driven design, and this tree doesn’t look as if it’s in the right spot, but there’s a reason it’s so ugly, and that has to do with the additional light that poured in after the Doug fir was removed, and the shape it was already in. It was leaning and that just looked bad.

But, as the mentors of my childhood would have said, that’s the lazy way to think. Let’s not just jump onto the ugly train. Let’s dig deeper. What’s going on here!?!

The original tree was planted at least 15 years ago when it was part of the understory beneath the 7-headed Doug fir tree that was removed because it was dangerous.

Vine maples can lean and sometimes they lean hard and FAR. This one started to lean and it was stretching towards the light. It grew quite tall. After the Doug fir was removed, for years, it fried. Last summer it started to fail but I chose to hold off on cutting it down since it appeared to be regrowing, redirecting even the root growth. I wanted to observe what was going on and why.

This spring, it has very noticeable and strong new growth. I’m thrilled, but it means rethinking the area again.

I look forward to watching the new growth grow. In the meantime, it is likely that I will remove the old trunk soon.

The new growth looks good. The old trunk and its branches are alive, but it is clear that the organism wants that side to die as its energy has been focused elsewhere. In the wild, with a bit more time, the old trunk would just snap and break as it became more brittle.

I kept this tree going on purpose. It’s called a vine maple for a reason, and if you’ve never thought about it, well, it’s the only maple capable of layering itself and its behaving more like a shrub than a tree. Layering that can root is more like a vining shrub. While that is not what is happening here—these are much more like new shoots—it’s clearly a tree that has a different way of being in the natural world.

It’s for these reasons that I kept it around. Before I had several umbrellas for shade, it was a shade tree in summer. From indoors, it blocks my view of the neighbors’ homes for many months each year. I enjoy native plants, so I will keep this experiment going. (Yes, for the record, that tree needs water and it is in my more heavily watered garden zone.)

There are other trees planted near it that I’m hoping will grow more soon to help support more of a canopy, but a few of the other trees are struggling too. The strong winds from the east via the Columbia River Gorge are hard for trees in this area. So many of mine are always leaning because of the wind.

But that’s another post so more on that in the months to come…