Tuesday, August 30, 2011

'Midnight Barbara Blossom' daylily

Bob Anderson of Midnight Gardens has given me the greatest gift: a daylily he’s named ‘Midnight Barbara Blossom!’ Here’s how Bob describes it:
“I think this flower is especially notable for the saturated red base color, metallic finish, black-red veining and chevron eye.” YES!
It all began when I visited his nursery on a sunny morning in July, with my friend Donna. This was my second year in a row to check out the beds, sparkling with pink, red, orange, yellow, purple and lavender daylilies.
Bob took us on a tour, pointing out some of the latest hybrids, like ‘Emerald Starburst,’ with green and wine flowers.
“It’s a cutting edge color,” he said. “Bigger blooms and intense colors are what people are drawn to.”
We took a close look at ‘Midnight Velvet Touch,” a rich black red, with good branching and high bud count. Then Bob showed us ‘Lemon Lollypop.’
“It’s the first daylily to bloom, and repeats, with three flushes of bloom, and good blue-green foliage,” he said. I scribbled a note to myself to buy it. A little voice inside whispered You don’t need any more daylilies. I replied, Yes I do!
While we strolled along, Bob’s friend Loraine, was steadily deadheading and weeding.
“I’m a weed killer,” she declared, demonstrating her mission with a hand-held mattock. “I help Bobby out—it’s fun to watch it all grow.” Loraine likes to be known as the “Weed Wolf.”
Now some growers are great with plants, yet shy away from people, but Bob has a wonderful way with plants and humans. So before long Donna, Bob, Loraine, and I were chatting away like old friends. That morning visit had turned into a plant lovers’ party.
At one point Bob asked me to choose a favorite seedling. As a hybridizer, he crosses many daylilies to create new cultivars, but keeps only about 20% of his seedlings, those which are clearly better than similar ones already on the market. One dark wine daylily with a spidery shape kept calling to me. A yellow throat and streaks of white along the petals in a starburst pattern made the burgundy-red pop. To me, the texture looked like satin, and the petals recurved at the edges. “That one!” I said, pointing to the dark beauty.
Pretty soon Bob got busy with other visitors. Donna and I placed our orders for daylilies, waved goodbye to Bob and Loraine, and slipped away. We would pick our plants up later in the summer when it was the right time for Bob to divide and dig the daylilies for his customers.
A week or so later I received a beautiful handwritten card from Bob in the mail, asking if he could name the burgundy daylily for me. The new plant, ‘Midnight Barbara Blossom,’ will be introduced in 2012. But Bob went even further. Last Saturday he dug divisions of the daylily for Donna and me to plant in our gardens right now! I can hardly wait until next summer to see it bloom again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Cafes with Gardens to Enjoy

What greater pleasure than to eat in a garden on a summer afternoon or evening? Lately I’ve discovered two destinations worth traveling to. DiPrima Dolce at 1936 N. Killingsworth is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, and for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer. I’ve been there twice, once for breakfast and once for lunch. The frittatas are out of this world. Served with home made bread and well seasoned potatoes, this is a meal to savor. Eating in DiPrima Dolce’s perfectly groomed garden, surrounded by ferns, hydrangeas, flowering perennials and fragrant herbs completes the experience. What’s best is that it’s not my own garden, with deadheads crying out to be snipped and weeds hollering to be yanked. I sat there peacefully, enjoying quiet conversation with a friend, the mild air, the buzz of hummingbirds, the drone of bees, and the taste of delicious home made food.
Singer Hill Cafe at 7th and John Adams Street in Oregon City is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, with live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. The menu offers freshly made sandwiches, salads, wraps and Stumptown Coffee. On a rainy day the spacious interior is pleasant, with art on the walls. But the gardens are the highlight of a visit to Singer Hill Cafe. Inspired by vertical gardens in Madrid, the outdoor patio is an amazing sight with walls transformed into blankets of flourishing plants, and columns dripping with greenery. A tapestry of heucheras, hostas, ferns, hydrangeas, sedums and more have turned a long alley into a sumptuous garden.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Perfect Partners for Summer

Perfect Pairs
When perfectly matched plants bloom together in the garden, I feel thoroughly satisfied. Sometimes I’ve planned a winning combination, but just as often, purely by chance, a stray seedling pops up right beside the ideal partner. Either way, here are some terrific pairings for midsummer.
I’ve always adored ‘Strutter’s Ball’ daylily. The wine flowers have the texture of velvet—I would love to have a jacket just like this. ‘Xenon’ sedum, with thick, waxy leaves of an even deeper burgundy, is a great companion, and sets buds just about when the daylily finishes blooming. Soft pink flowers arrive in late summer, lasting into fall. To cap off this combination,‘‘Madame Julia Correvon’ clematis scrambles through ‘Winter Fire’ cistus, an evergreen shrub which anchors the bed. ‘Madame Julia’ is a lively red-pink, echoing the central wine blotch in the heart of the cistus flowers, as well as the daylily flowers, and the sedum foliage.
Just when everything was coming together so well, ‘Lucifer’ crocosmia seeded itself into the composition for a hideous color clash. I guess I was feeling too cocky, so this blast of in-your-face orangey-red came along to humble me. If it weren’t for the hummingbirds that sip from Lucifer’s flowers, I would yank him out. But mercifully, the hummingbirds have saved him from shovel pruning.
In another bed, even after removing every shred of ‘Lucifer’ from a bed near the side path where colonies leaned and sprawled every summer, dozens of seedlings sprouted right cross the path, defying me. At first I was plenty mad, thinking, How could they, but this morning when I spent a good five minutes watching a very happy hummingbird drink her ‘Lucifer’ lunch, I changed my mind and decided it was all for a good purpose. Sometimes it’s OK to give up control and let the plants have their way. The garden is not just about my will. Please remind me of this resolution the next time I go on a mission to hunt and destroy.