Monday, May 26, 2014

Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

I planted this Clematis 'Nelly Moser' vine last year.  As you may know, nursery stock usually starts as a spindly little plant and probably won't bloom the first season.  Now that it has had a year to settle in, it is blooming for the first time.  I knew what it would look like, but I wasn't expecting this.  That blossom is 7.5 inches/19 cm across, and I am tickled to death with it.  I read that it also has attractive seed heads, so I still have that to look forward to.

Previously, I had a Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom' in this spot.  It was a vigorous evergreen variety with beautiful foliage.  In my garden, however, it was a sparse bloomer and never looked like the pictures.  The blossoms were always hidden in the leaves.  As soon as the rain hit them, they would turn brown and fall off.  It was not a good choice for my situation and I decided it had to go.

This Clematis is growing on the east side of the house near the south corner.  It gets morning sun and afternoon shade.  From what I have read, this exposure should provide for long-lasting blooms.  It is now just under four feet tall with four big blossoms.  By next year, it should put on quite a show.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Trash Collection

Anacortes Trash Can

I grew up in Gig Harbor, Washington where commercial salmon fishing was the most important industry.  You might say, I was weaned on salmon.  In those days, we never had to buy this king of seafood.  Friends in the industry were always bringing us fish.  I also remember talk of Anacortes.  Before heading to the Alaska fishery, Anacortes was the port where they stopped to provision.  It was the second home of the Gig Harbor fishing fleet.

Of course, commercial fishing has also been important in Anacortes.  The city remembers this history through a unique form of public art.  Trash cans along the street in Old Town and around the downtown waterfront are decorated with authentic vintage canned salmon labels.  Some of the designs are a hundred years old.  All were for products produced by Anacortes canneries.

Anacortes Chamber of Commerce Building

The Chamber of Commerce building also commemorates this piece of Anacortes history.  Salmon canning began in 1894 with the Fidalgo Island Packing Company.  By 1915, eleven seafood canneries were in operation on the wharves along the Guemes Channel.  The last one closed in 1999, but a memory of those times lives on in a unique and colorful way.

Anacortes Trash Can
Anacortes Trash Can

Yes, I am talking trash here.  These wonderful wastebins have always caught my eye.  Once while sitting in my dentist's office, I watched the city worker who came to empty the receptacle outside the door.  Secrets were revealed.  There is another trash bin inside that contains the refuse.  The work was an example of speed and fluid efficiency.  We rarely think about such a mundane but important city service.  Anacortes does it with exceptional style.

Anacortes Trash Can
Anacortes Trash Can

Anacortes Trash Can
Anacortes Trash Can

I thought it would be fun to make a photographic record of these Anacortes ashcans.  Please enjoy this "trash tour" of the city's historic dustbins.  Above, notice how beautifully they fit into the Old Town neighborhood of businesses.  Many of the buildings here date to the same era as the labels.

Anacortes Trash Can

Come on people, close doesn't count!  The city's aim is to keep the streets clean in a very special way.  Attention to your aim would help in that effort.

Anacortes Trash Can
Anacortes Trash Can

Anacortes Trash Can
Anacortes Trash Can

Anacortes Trash Can
Anacortes Trash Can

Seafarers' Memorial Park adjacent to downtown is another good site for trash can spotting.  This is also a great place for strolling, jogging, dog walking, boat watching and smelling the salt air.  If you bring a lunch, you won't have to pack out the litter.

Anacortes Trash Can

Anacortes Trash Can

The quest continues along the walkways around the Cap Sante Marina.  Take a moment to appreciate the personality of a city that copes with human flotsam in such a handsome way.

Anacortes Trash Can

Anacortes Trash Can

Anacortes Trash Can

Anacortes Trash Can

As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure.  I had fun taking these pictures and enjoyed posting them.  The hard part was figuring out when to stop.  I hope you don't find this all just a lot of rubbish.  Next time you are in town, take note of these colorful trash receptacles and the history they bring to mind.

Monday, May 12, 2014

My 2014 Pacific Rhododendron Adventure

Lower Forest Trail,
Deception Pass State Park

Since late April, I have been visiting Deception Pass State Park at intervals.  On Saturday, I returned to the park once again.  My quest has been the grove of wild Pacific Rhododendrons growing on the lower south flank of Goose Rock.  This never ceases to be an amazing experience for me.  In the deep shade under the canopy, a network of trails leads through this old growth forest.  It's a dark, two-tone world of greens and browns.  Then, suddenly, I am confronted with this:

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

The incongruity is startling.  Where a bit of dappled sunlight penetrates the trees, the Rhododendrons have found a spot to their liking.  I have wondered why they grow in this location, but not in other similar environments in the park.  The U.S. Forest Service database provides some clues.  First, they grow in association with coniferous trees, pines, firs, cedars and hemlocks.  Soils should be moist, but well drained with a balanced supply of moisture.  Rhododendrons are indicative of low soil nitrogen content, and they have shallow roots.  A mycorrhizal fungus around the roots assists in the uptake of nutrients.  Good soil aeration is important.

Deception Pass State Park lies within the Olympic Rain Shadow.  The annual rainfall is about 20-26 inches/50-66 cm.  The characteristics of this specific site include a south-facing hillside which might capture a bit of extra rainfall from prevailing storms.  The exposure may produce a microclimate that is a little warmer than other sections of the park.  The site is adjacent to Cornet Bay which is surrounded by hills.  The bay could add some extra humidity in the rhododendron grove.  Some of the rhododendrons are growing from the trunks of fallen trees or nurse logs.  The decaying bark is fibrous and holds moisture.  This gives seedlings an extra chance of succeeding.

I have spotted numerous seedlings along the Southeast Summit Trail.  There is more sunlight here and the presence of Madronas is indicative of well-drained soil.  Along the shadier Lower Forest Trail, there are young and mature plants, but no seedlings that I have seen.  Over time, the conditions may have changed here making the germination of seedlings less likely.  Or perhaps I just have not searched well enough.  This trail defines the western edge of the grove.

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

The Pacific or Coast Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum) is the Washington State Flower.  It ranges west of the Cascades from spots in southern British Columbia to coastal northern California.  The scientific name translates to "rose tree with big leaves."  Some of the leaves in the grove are a foot long.  The flower clusters are called trusses and appear at the ends of the previous year's shoots.  New shoots for next year's bloom sprout from the base of the flower as it goes to seed.  You can determine the approximate age of a rhododendron by counting the joints in the limbs.  Climate conditions during summer and fall when the flower buds are setting can determine the quality of next year's bloom.  For example, severe drought during this period might result in a poor bloom the following year.

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)
Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

In shadier understory locations, the growth habit is tall and rangy.  Some Pacific Rhododendrons can reach 30 feet/9 meters in height.  In sunnier spots, the plants will be more compact.  The shrub is evergreen, usually holding its leaves for two years.  After new leaves appear on this season's shoots, the two-year-old leaves will die and drop off.  You can watch this same process in your garden rhodies.

Pacific Rhododendrons can be grown in gardens where conditions are right.  They are sometimes available in nurseries or local native plant sales.  If your garden includes some large conifers, you may have a good spot for this understory shrub.  If you live where Pacific Madronas are growing nearby, that is another indicator of a good site.  I planted one in my garden, but the poor thing was quickly ravaged by root weevils.  This is a garden pest they may never encounter in the wild.  They apparently lack any resistance to it.  There is evidence of chewing on the leaves in the grove, but nothing like what happened in my garden.  When I try again, I will be prepared for the attack.

Never, never dig up wild Pacific Rhododendrons or support this in any way.  Because digging them up will disrupt the mycorrhizal fungus in the roots, the transplant will undoubtedly fail.  Of course, rhododendrons in state and federal parks are protected.  Look for plants that have been cultivated for gardens from domestic stock.

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

All of the photos in this post are from last Saturday's visit to the grove.  In a forest setting, these wild plants are every bit as beautiful as their cultivated garden counterparts.  Adding to the experience, I was serenaded by ravens in the canopy on this visit.  Enjoy this gallery of wild Pacific Rhododendron photos.

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)


Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)


Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)


Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)
Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)


Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)


Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)
Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)

In the previous post, I mentioned finding this native orchid, Western or Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata).   It was growing at the upper end of the Lower Forest Trail.  The photo on the left is the same plant showing the flowers have now completely opened.  View the photo full size to see the little spots.  On the right is a second Coralroot I found growing nearby.  There are many interesting plants besides rhododendrons growing all over Goose Rock.  These were challenging photos of plants growing in deep shade.  In these woods, I have gotten a lot of experience taking photos at ISO 3200.

Discovery Trail,
Deception Pass State Park

There are many reasons to visit Deception Pass State Park.  There is something here for just about everyone.  If trail running is not your speed, try exploring the park at a more leisurely pace like me.  You might discover something you have never seen before.  This is my second season visiting the Goose Rock Rhododendrons.  Last year, I barely began to learn my way around the site.  This year, I also found the parasitic little Naked Broomrape and I finally got to photograph Common Camas and Chocolate Lilies.  I had seen Spotted Coralroot in other locations, but not at Deception Pass.  I met some new friends which also made this season extra special.  I am already making plans and looking forward to next year's visits.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pacific Rhododendrons 5/5/2014

Western Starflower

Today was my scheduled return to Deception Pass State Park to check on the blooming Pacific Rhododendrons (R. macrophyllum).  I was accompanied once again by Jerry who first joined us on April 27th.  I have been tickled how this former Texan has come to enjoy hiking in the Pacific Northwest woods.  As we made the turn onto the Discovery Trail we were greeted by Western Starflower (Trientalis latifolia).

Spotted Coralroot

We made a special discovery on this trip.  Near the top of the Lower Forest Trail we found a Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata) just beginning to bloom.  These are members of the Orchid family.  This region is home to several species of Orchid which are ideal forest shade dwellers.  They have no chlorophyll and are not dependent on photosynthesis.  Instead, they live by parasitizing fungi that grow in duff, the decaying organic material on the forest floor.  You must look carefully to find these secretive little plants:
Less than the Coral-root you know
That is content with the daylight low,
And has no leaves at all of its own;
Whose spotted flowers hang meanly down.

-From On Going Unnoticed by Robert Frost

Pacific Rhododendron

Then it was on to the Rhododendron grove.  Since I was there scoping things out yesterday, I knew what to expect.  The blooms are more numerous this year than they were last year.  They are still in various stages of opening, so the display will probably last for a couple more weeks.  The weather was better today.  It did rain again last night and this morning.  By the time we set off, however, we were getting sun breaks.  Enjoy today's photos from the the Deception Pass rhododendron grove.  Right-click the photos to view them full size:

Pacific Rhododendron

Pacific Rhododendron

Pacific Rhododendron

Pacific Rhododendron

After we finished viewing the rhododendrons, we took a different route back to the North Beach parking lot.  Instead of continuing up and over the Goose Rock summit, we decided to pick up the southern end of the Discovery Trail for our return.

Cornet Bay Retreat Center,
Deception Pass State Park

On the way, we took a short side trip to the Cornet Bay Retreat Center which is a major facility at Deception Pass State Park.  It is also referred to as the Environmental Learning Center.  There are guest cabins, a large meeting hall and a kitchen and dining hall that will accommodate up to 181 guests.  While we were there, we met and chatted with the seasonal caretakers that live on the premises.  Note that the Center is off-limits to hikers when there are guests in residence.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

These are not the caretakers, but they seem to be year-around guests of the Retreat Center.  They enjoy grazing the lawns of the campus adjacent to Cornet Bay.  Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) enjoy a love/hate relationship with the park.  These graceful and majestic birds can become a nuisance when their numbers get too large.  For the moment, we can enjoy their bucolic family outings.

My next journey into the Deception Pass rhododendron grove will be Saturday, May 10th, 2014.  The rhodies should be in their prime bloom by then.  If you want to come along, we'll meet in the North Beach parking lot at 08:30 AM.  We want to get started early to avoid the weekend crowds.  Again, use the main park entrance on Whidbey Island.  After passing the entrance gate, veer right at the Y following the signs to North Beach.  The road ends at the parking lot.  Bring your Discover Pass, or pick up a day pass at the gate.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Rhododendron Recon 5/4/2014

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

This morning, I returned to the Pacific Rhododendron grove in Deception Pass State Park.  As I mentioned in the last post, I am planning to return there tomorrow morning.  It's been raining here for the last couple of days.  When it started to let up this morning, I thought I should take the opportunity to check things out.  I set off in a light drizzle, but under the canopy of the forest, I didn't get very wet.  By the time I got to the rhododendrons, the rain had stopped.  It was actually a very pleasant hike.

In the Pacific Northwest, the term "mossback" can refer to someone who plays in the rain.  Hiking camping and golfing are typical examples.  We are quite the opposite of the contrarian, backward sort the word usually describes.  Instead, we relish our opportunities when they come, rain or shine.

Anyway, the rhododendrons are coming along nicely.  I am still planning to return tomorrow morning, May 5th if it's not raining hard.  Check the rain situation and the radar on my Current Weather page.  For anyone who wants to join me, we'll meet in the North Beach parking lot at 9:30 in the morning.  Use the main park entrance on Whidbey Island.  Veer to the right when you come to the Y.  Signs point the way to North Beach.  I might be a bit late, so don't leave without me.  We can celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Deception Pass State Park.  In the meantime, here is more of what I saw today:

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

Pacific Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum)

No matter how many times I come here, this is just not a sight I expect to see under the canopy of an old growth forest.  I am not exaggerating that magenta color with editing.  In fact, it tends to over-saturate and I usually have to tone it down.

Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Once again, I continued up to the summit of Goose Rock.  Near the top I spotted what appears to be Common or Oneseed Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) just beginning to bloom.  This is a native of Europe, North Africa and western Asia introduced here in the 1800's.  The seeds are spread to new territories by birds.  It is considered invasive in some natural areas.  Since this was the only one I could see, it doesn't appear to be causing too much trouble at the moment.  It apparently likes the dry, austere conditions of Goose Rock.

Western Starflower (Trientalis latifolia)

Western Starflower (Trientalis latifolia) is also blooming all along the trails in the park.  Look carefully, however, they are very tiny and easy to miss.  Unlike the Hawthorn, these are much loved native plants.  They even come up wild in shady spots on my garden.  Starflower is the Washington Native Plant Society's symbol for their native plant restoration project.

Once again, if you are free tomorrow morning and want to see the rhododendrons up close, you are welcome to join me.  My next trip will tentatively be Saturday, May 10th.