the gates of hell

the gates of hell
The Gates of Hell

Saturday, November 15, 2014

T-Rex is moping

My T-Rex is looking none too thrilled about this early winter weather, looks like an early hibernation is in store. 20 degrees this morning, brrr.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

my pet T-Rex

The T-Rex (Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant') is living up to its name (and its nickname). I bought this plant on a whim last fall from Celestial Dream Gardens, at about 2-3 feet tall. It's now over 8 feet tall and its largest leaves are more than 4 feet across, fabulous! For years, I've had a dream of turning my back yard from a boring lawn into a jungle. It always felt like a pipe dream, but this one plant has made the jungle seem within reach.


This was the same plant 4 months ago, mid-June, when it was under 3 feet tall. If you look closely, you can see the edge of the black bamboo barrier it's planted within. We'll see how that works out. Do you think it will escape the island?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bright spots as October darkens

Today I'm posting a few photos of plants that are brightening my garden as October darkens. In the devil garden, the Tiger Eyes sumac is catching on fire (the gargoyle doesn't seem concerned).

The Harlequin Glorybower (Clerodendrum trichotomum) is living up to its name. My favorite tree still has a few white jasmine-scented flowers, but is mostly displaying magenta and teal.


Yesterday's hard rain pushed the Eupatoriam rugosum 'Chocolate' (chocolate stems/leaves and bright white flowers) over on top of the purple vinca, happily resulting in a sloppy pile of bright color.

Another aster that's just covered in flowers now, Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black' (calico aster).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Aralia cachemirica

The color combination of these berries is so luscious! I hunted down this shrub after falling in love with it at the Bellevue Botanical Garden while it was in this stage. Now after one year in the ground, its already covered in berries, making me very happy. Just a twig last fall, and about 2' x 2' this year, so I expect it may take off next year. (Its not an easy plant to find, but Dancing Oaks has it.)

Monday, September 1, 2014


Actaea pachypoda in the devil garden, aka dolls eyes, aka white baneberry. Beautiful poisonous white berries with a black "pupil" on blood-red optic stalks. Very creepy to imagine the empty sockets these eyes left behind.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cocktail hour

Now in bloom: All the ingredients for a devilishly delicious drink (at least for the eyes). Does this put anyone else in the mood for a fancy cocktail, or is it just me?

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' pineapple lily
Echinacea 'Coconut Lime'
Hydrangea 'Limelight'

Ready for more plants!

As of today, my last hardscape border is in place, and ready for planting. Time to collect some new plants! I found some at the Fronderosa Frolic yesterday, including this gorgeous Schefflera delavayi from Cistus Nursery, and am really looking forward to Heronswood on 9/6.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Syneilesis palmata in bloom

This shredded umbrella plant has been taunting me all spring (shredded, because, well, check out the leaves at the base). It sent up a flower stalk early, and for seemingly months now has been on the brink of opening, but then takes just a little longer to stretch out (more than 3 feet tall now). Now that the flowers are beginning to open, I'm glad its been a slow process, maybe they will entertain me for quite awhile longer. I didn't know what to expect, but certainly not this. These flowers look like they are sprouting cooked quinoa or a collection of coiled insect proboscides, or some little creature with spectacles, depending on my mood. And they look like they may still have something up their sleeve...


Monday, July 14, 2014


There's a chimera in the devil garden, and I don't mean the gargoyle on the fence. This butterfly bush has both white and purple flowers growing out of the same trunk. They grow on distinctly separate stalks, and I've now marked the origin points of the white ones so I don't prune them completely away by accident, as I have some years. I'm not really sure whether this is a true chimera, or just two different buddleia varieties that were planted too close to each other long ago and now have completely melded trunks. But I love the idea of having a chimera! (even one that isn't a fire-breathing hybrid monster)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Firecracker flowers, perfect timing!

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' and Monarda 'Jacob Cline' joined forces to set hell ablaze today. They are quite reminiscent of fireworks. These flowers are surprisingly robust, as tall as I am, and loving the devil garden despite limited sun. Maybe the lack of sun has encouraged more height in search of it. The monarda bloom that's centered under the entry gate is a double-decker, one bloom growing out on top of the other on a single stem.

And check out the
  red dragonfly spy.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hellstrip Gardening

I'm not sure if this exactly qualifies as a hell strip, but given that: (1) we don't have a sidewalk, (2) this area abuts the street, and (3) it also marks the path to hell (the devil garden), perhaps it might. This is a row of 5 to 6 foot tall foxgloves that run about 20 feet down the line between my asphalt driveway and the gravel area to the side. Amazingly, these are volunteers; they started growing a few years ago and come back every year now with no effort on my part other than a quick shake before cutting the spent stalks. They seem to just love the little gap between the weedcloth underlying the gravel and the driveway. Note: this post was inspired by danger garden:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Double-duty weirdness

I'm in heaven (in hell)! Turns out "little brother" (shorter, to left) is also A. tortuosum. After 2 attempts, I'm having no luck at all with A. consanguineum, and may or may not try planting it again. Perhaps I'll try A. nepenthoides next instead.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Devil's Hat

aka Butterbur (an unplanned addition, courtesy of Jungle Fever Exotics); this plant looked unhappy for a week, but seems right at home in hell now, reportedly invasive, will have to keep my eye on it (contained with bamboo barrier for now)

Arisaema on the hunt

And today its waist high and whipping its tongue across the patio!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Arisaema emergence

My cobra lily survived another year! Its about hip-high now, including the black tongue reaching to the top of the photo. Last weekend it was only 4" tall. That's mayapple/american mandrake to the lower right, and a second Arisaema just beginning to emerge at lower left, about a third of the way up. First year for that one. These plants are so cool!
Arisaema tortuosum
Arisaema tortuosum

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

sinogrande update

Something chewing on the end of the leaf buds (slugs? don't know) has had quite an effect. Its becoming more and more obvious how much as the leaves continue to enlarge (and turn from soft white/silver toward mature green). I think this poor plant lost a third of each leaf. Next year I'll try to prevent this somehow...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rhododendron sinogrande

What a difference a day makes. I finally understand how these "little" leaf buds turn into huge leaves (the last set was 12-15" long, they can get up to 36" or so). They're a bit chewed on the edges, I'll have to pay closer attention to critters next spring.
 From one the next

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Evil brethren

Oplopanax horridus in background
These are my evil twins, Malevolence (foreground) and Horridus (background). Both are very spiky and consigned to the back corner of the devil garden, perhaps I will name that corner the 9th circle of hell. I'm hoping that sun-loving Malevolence will grow big enough to provide some shade to Horridus, who is struggling with more direct afternoon sun than I expected in that corner. The purple spines on Malevolence are quite striking! I hope I don't regret this...

Solanum atropurpureum 'Malevolence' (aka "Purple Devil")

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014


Uncoiling young snake lily with awesome stem markings, alias voodoo lily, black dragon, stink lily, black lily, dragonwort, and more, all very appropriate names for a devil garden plant. Behind the lily lurks the butcher's broom (needle sharp), sending up fascinating new shoots, turns out it's related to asparagus.
Dracunculus vulgaris
Ruscus aculeatus