October 2014 Bloom Day

My glorybower tree, Clerodendrum trichotomum, has been flowering like mad all summer and I notice that it’s still going.  I didn’t get photos yesterday and it’s pouring rain right now so instead I’ll show yesterday’s shots of my loquat, Eriobotrya japonica.

Most of the flowers aren’t open yet.

loquat1I climbed up a ladder to get this shot:


Not super impressive, but I’m excited to see the first blooms on my tree.

This tree was a Craigslist acquisition in March.  It protested the move by dropping most of its leaves and looking pretty pathetic all spring, but gradually sprouted new leaves over the summer.

The overall picture of this tree is still pretty sad, but it will fill out over time.

loquat3I planted it in a spot where I had a western serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia, for over 15 years.

serviceberry1I loved the mottled bark of the serviceberry, the rosaceous leaves, and delicate flower clusters, but I got frustrated dealing with rust symptoms and also wanted an evergreen screening tree for this corner.

Take a peek at more Bloom Day flowers on May Dreams Gardens.

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10/8/2014 Wordless Wednesday


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This group of windmill (or Chusan) palms, Trachycarpus fortunei, occupies a prominent spot in a commercial landscape on West Burnside Street.

burnside_trachy1Driving by a couple weeks ago, I noticed this group’s partner tree across the parking lot wasn’t looking so good.

burnside_tracy2A bad sign when all the leaves are brown.  That should only happen gradually to the oldest leaves, which are continually replaced by evergreen growth.

burnside_tracy5Closer examination – exposed roots.  I thought at first that soil had been eroded by foot traffic, but then I concluded that soil washed away from the roots by the in-ground sprinkler head close by.  Maybe it wasn’t planted at the proper depth either.

burnside_trachy3I thought about inquiring to see if it was possible to save this tree.  But I was too late, because this next time I drove by a couple days later…

burnside_trachy7What a shame!  Although it wasn’t as tall as the others (maybe from struggling along for some time?) , probably only about 10 feet tall, it looked OK on the Google street view image from April of this year — leaves yellowed, but still alive.  These palms are slow growers that put on only about a foot a growth per year, and for that reason are expensive to purchase — around $100 for one not even as tall as your waist. Replacing with a sizable specimen would be costly.

burnside_trachy8I’m not sure what the take-away is here.  Something about tree care, planting procedure, increased awareness of signs of early decline. Or sprinkler head location relative to plants?

In order to not end on a downer here, let’s talk about the many fine features of this hardy palm tree. It wasn’t ever a favorite for me even through I spent most of my early life in Japan where it is common.  To my eye it seemed out of place in a temperate landscape.  I don’t feel that way any longer, and planted one in my back yard this year – T. fortunei var. Wagnerianus, with smaller, stiffer leaves.

birthday_palmNative to China, windmill palm is one of the hardiest to cold, and often planted for tropical effect in the Pacific Northwest.  Young plants are less hardy to cold, so it’s best to establish new plantings early in the season.  It can grow in many soil types except wet. Supplemental water during the growing season will help its growth rate.  It’s useful for tight spaces (as long as there is ample room up above for the 8-10 foot-wide crown) since the unbranched trunk is the narrowest at the base.

Trachycarpus fortunei, Windmill or Chusan palm

  • Evergreen leaves up to 3 feet in diameter
  • Hardy to cold, USDA zones 7-10
  • stringy, fibrous bark
  • Slow growth to 20 feet or more, over time
  • Yellow flower clusters in spring
  • Adaptable to sun or light shade
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Under Cover

There’s something picturesque about ivy twining its way up a tree trunk, the contrast of glossy green pointed leaves against furrowed bark.

ivy1But in Portland English ivy, Hedera helix, is invasive.  Letting it ramble up tree trunks over time can have serious consequences.

Ivy_tree6This tree is so completely covered in ivy it’s almost impossible to tell what’s underneath.

Ivy_tree2It’s one of a trio in a curbside planting strip. The ivy’s working its way along.  The second and third tree look like they still have a chance at making it.

Ivy_tree3Actually, it’s hard to believe but the the overtaken tree is still living and from the leaves it looks like it’s a glorybower tree, Clerodendrum trichotomum.

Ivy_tree5You can learn about the damaging effects ivy in our city’s natural areas, removal methods, or how to volunteer with Portland Parks & Recreation’s “No Ivy League”  here. This organization is dedicated to saving trees by eradicating ivy in Forest Park.

Ivy isn’t the only weed that can attack a tree in this way.  Clematis vitalba, known by the common names Old Man’s Beard or Traveler’s  Joy, gives ivy a run for its money.  If things like this don’t give you nightmares, go ahead and read up about this noxious weed on this bulletin posted by the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.  See here for their leaflet on ivy also.


I wonder what kind of tree is underneath this mess?


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Tree tunnel

During these warm sunny days of this seemingly never-ending summer, I find myself searching for shade, lovely shade.  There isn’t much to be found in my own back yard due to lack of inspiration and decisiveness for a garden plan until very recently.  I’m envious of those SE Portland neighborhoods shaded by mature elms in Ladd’s Addition and Eastmoreland.

One of my favorite Portland drives at any time of year is on SE McLoughlin Boulevard. But summer is the best time — when the canopy of trees almost touch in the middle over head offering brief cool respite from the long days of bright sunshine.  Here’s the view north from the east edge of Westmoreland Park.


And south toward the Tacoma Street off ramp:


There’s a lot more light coming through than in past years.  Trees have been removed along the east side where the light rail is being expanded.  Bybee Boulevard overpass is partially closed during construction.



I’ve always called out “tree tunnel!” to my children in the car with me as we drive under the leafy passage.  Together we then silently acknowledge the unique feeling of traveling through a space created by the organic architecture of verdant growth.

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