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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Posted: Apr-16-2004 at 8:40am
Several folks on the April bloomer thread have mentioned lewisias, one of my favorites!
I am still quite new at these little guys, tho, so wondered what experiences others have had with them in our climate. I'm nervous about something so alpine, which usually means sensitive to rotting in our wet winters. And sure enough I've had a few casualties, one big plant in the main garden with some rot this spring, tho it will outgrow it. And one of the potted plants that totally rotted off even up against the house and under the protection of the eaves.
So far I've been keeping them in pots, so they can be brought under the eaves during winter. This has worked okay this past winter, but it will be nice to have them in the open garden too. Anybody have experiences, good or bad, overwintering? Tweedyi looks sooo nice, but I've heard it's especially temperamental overwinter. I have mostly the cotyledon hybrids (var. Regenbogen from Jelitto seeds) and some Little Plum year old plants that hopefully will start flowering this year.
I've got a big strawberry pot sitting here that needs to get filled with lewisias, too. Saw an example in a book, what a great way to enjoy them! I like the pots for some of them coz I can bring them onto the table in the pergola for a close look during those garden coffee breaks. Also seen them at the Botanical Garden here, growing in a dry stack rock wall, seem to do great in that situation...drainage perfecto!
What an awesome little charmer this plant is :-)))
Posted: Apr-16-2004 at 9:35am
I have grown them, Glen, but currently don't have any. I have been making mental notes that I must get some again, though, after reading everyone's posts about their blooms.
When I grew them, I had them in full sun with good drainage (on a slope). They did well until my well-meaning hubby hooked them up to the drip system. Summer watering made them croak really fast. But my knowledge about them is still limited. Any success I had could easily have been beginner's luck.
Considering where these are naturally found, I would think the trick I learned for planting many of our native penstemons, such as cardwellii and rupicola, would work for them, too. This is a rock garden technique shared with me by an expert with penstemons and a member of the Rock Garden Society. Dig the soil out of their intended garden home to the depth of 10"-12", line it with landscape cloth, fill it with 4 parts 1/4-10 gravel or pumice (pumice is preferred because it has more air pockets) and 1 part compost and plant. I don't know how deep Lewisia roots go but the native penstemon's roots don't go much deeper than 8"-10".
I planted a new area last year with this trick. The whole spot slopes and where the ground is higher, the penstemons did better. I need to lift the other plants and raise the area more for better drainage. Two of them are really happy and have grown 4x their size in one year. Amazing!
I have also been contemplating learning how to make a trough garden since this would be an ideal planting spot for Lewisias.
I'd love to hear how others have used Lewisias in their gardens, what works and what doesn't. Thanks for starting this topic, Glen!
Posted: Apr-16-2004 at 3:19pm
I second Lisa's advice. I have several cotyledon on a hillside, about 11/2 feet from the drip hose. At first, I thought I had them too close to the hose but they are blooming really well. So maybe they are okay after all.
I am going to add rocks to the area to give it more of a rock garden feel. Maybe that will help also.
They are sweet little plants!
Posted: Apr-16-2004 at 7:37pm
I have L. cotyledon and L. tweedyii in the rock garden. Didn't know what I was doing at the time I did it, so took a guess, and it must be sheer luck. I laid newspaper on the ground to suppress weeds, compost on top of that, and I laid large rocks around a granite boulder to make semi-circular "planters". Filled those with a mix of potting soil and sand (about 1:1), and planted the L. cotyledons.
For the tweedyiis, I made the "planters the same way; but Kruckeberg recommended planting them horizontally under a stone overhang in a wall. So I tucked one in back of the boulder, in a slight hollow, and for the other, I laid a flat granite slab on top of 2 large rocks, tucked against the boulder (that's not very clear; it looks like a slanted table, set against a boulder), and tucked the other one as far under that as I could. Used the same mix of potting soil and sand, a little more sand this time. They survived the winter.
The Lewisias that are not doing well are L. longipetalum. I moved them from the rock garden, where they were thriving, to the front yard, and the drainage there is not to their liking, even though I added sand. So if I don't move them soon, I may lose them. I may try them in a trough or container of some kind.
Posted: Apr-17-2004 at 8:58am
Barb--interesting about the longipetalum. I'd heard these were the most tolerant of normal garden conditions.
I have quite a few of the long. but only since last year, so too soon to be sure of anything. These seedlings haven't even bloomed this spring, tho many coty. have at the same age...still hoping for some!
Posted: Apr-17-2004 at 5:46pm
The soil in the front yard is horrible, horrible stuff. In the winter, it will coat your feet up to the ankles in 5 pounds of muck if you take 3 steps in it; in the summer, it bakes hard as adobe. I've been adding compost and topsoil and sand everywhere. The Longi's are looking a little better, I've noticed. Maybe they will make it after all.
Posted: Apr-17-2004 at 7:55pm
Barb, adding sand will help provided it is coarse sand and you add a lot of it. Using small amounts of fine sand mixed with clay and you end up with concrete, which isn't what you are aiming for, I'm sure.
We had a discussion about this some time ago but I'm pretty sure it was on the old forum and those discussions are lost to us since the change over. Hopefully someone will remember the ratios for you.
Posted: Apr-17-2004 at 8:14pm
Love my Lewisia's....I just bought 3 more. c.'Sunset Strain' (orange), c.'regenbogen' (beautiful white), and a bright red one that didn't have a name with it. All I have are the cotyledon's (so far), and they are doing great, that is, the ones I've had for four or five years.
I never did anything with them except put them in the ground, sandy soil, and watch them grow. I did lose one a couple of years ago to over watering, but the rest are fine. I have mine in part shade, no mulch except for the two that I have with pea-gravel around them. I expect the new ones to thrive just as well.
One of the nursery's that I go to a lot gave me a pamphlet on Lewisia's from Rare Plant Research and they sugjest a book called "The Genus Lewisia" by Brian Mathew, published in 1989 by Timber Press. I've not ordered the book but I hope the info. helps.........Linda
Posted: Apr-19-2004 at 10:23am
Now I know that I probably killed mine off myself with summer watering. LOL. I have some really good draining spots on the rock wall that are now screaming to have lewisia's planted in them. A gorgeous plant worth trying again!! I am taking note of all your comments! They would look awesome in the wall if they did well! I love Barb's idea about the strawberry pot... how about a strawberry pot dug into my rock wall. Hmmmmmmm. Or in something I have laying around... Hmmmmmmm. Great information.
Posted: Apr-20-2004 at 7:52am
That book "The Genus Lewisia" is awesome. Have to admit I just checked it out of the library here, to save money for more plants and seeds!
One thing that sticks in my mind is the explanation of their natural environment. Most of our cultivated lewisias are the cotyledon types, native to the mountains of northern California, S. Oregon. They are in very moist soil from snow runoff all spring and most of the summer, then dry off in fall before being frozen/covered with snow all winter.
They do seem to enjoy lots of water now as they are growing and flowering, just try to find a way to keep them drier thru the winter or "rot happens!" And well drained soil is always appreciated. And they are not heat lovers, so cool and sun, sometimes hard to provide, eh? I try to think of their alpine home, a gentle north slope in full sun would be one example...cool roots but lots of light. Not right up against a south wall, probably.
I just looked at more pix of the tweedyi, what a spectacular species! Too bad it's supposed to be quite a bit more fussy, but the suggestion someone passed on about an overhanging rock sounds very good.
More seedlings are opening first flowers all the time, what a great time of year :-)))
Posted: Apr-20-2004 at 8:36am
Very cool info, growest, thanks for sharing that! It really does help to know where a plant is from and what its native climate is like for best plant placement in our gardens.
Posted: Apr-20-2004 at 12:55pm
I wonder what Meriwether Lewis would think - the plant named for him, which he called bitterroot, which the Indians used for food, now the subject of a gardening forum on the internet.
Posted: Apr-20-2004 at 8:27pm
Lisa A, I've used the coarsest sand I could find at Home Depot . . . and it may not be coarse enough. I do remember that discussion on the old forum. Anyway, I may have to do something with the Longi's. I would hate to lose them to rot. I could add pea gravel, I guess.
Posted: Apr-21-2004 at 12:02am
Great information Growest! I love the library. Great place for information!!
Posted: Apr-21-2004 at 8:09am
Barb, 1/4-10 gravel or pumice is what I've usually heard recommended for improved drainage. I've no idea if pea gravel will serve the same purpose - if rounded shape vs. angular shape makes a difference. Does anyone have experience or knowledge with this?
Growest, does the book you got from the library offer any advice?
btw, it was in MG training that I first heard the term coarse sand but they didn't say exactly what that meant and I haven't pursued the answer since. It seems a subjective term but perhaps it alludes to a grain size, similar to how they grade gravel. Does anyone know?
Posted: Apr-21-2004 at 11:07pm
Barb, Lisa and all--I'll have to see what suggestions are made re amending the soil.
I can't remember if it was in this forum that we discussed ceramic amendments, but I've wondered about using those sorts of things (Profile,Turface, etc.) They sound like the best product around, used at about 15-20% of the mix, or a 1 in. layer blended into the top 5 in. of soil. No idea how the price is, probably quite high.
Perlite would be the only other product with anywhere near the same air and water porosity, but I don't like the way it moves and floats around in an outdoor bed of soil.
As mentioned, sand is hard to use for increasing porosity, it varies so much and you have to add so much, way over 50% before it stops reducing and starts to actually increase drainage and air capacity.
Anybody used those ceramic products? I know they are standard stuff on sports fields and many golf courses...I think I'll keep an eye out for some, not sure where it's sold.
Posted: Apr-23-2004 at 6:55pm
Somebody stole my beautiful lewisias right out of my front yard! Can you believe it? It makes me so #$%@ mad! What possesses people to do that?! They left the tag and a hole! Whaaaaa!
They were such a beautiful pink/peachy color!
Posted: Apr-23-2004 at 7:47pm
Oh, Jeanne, that is awful! I have heard of plant thefts and it just makes me so sad that people can be so heartless. I am sorry this happened to you.
Posted: Apr-24-2004 at 9:04am
Jeanne--I'm saying some @#$%^&* for you, too!
Seems like everything has to be locked, security systemed, and video monitored. What next, GPS system on our plants?
My driveway has hundreds of plants in containers this time of year, but if I have to put up chainlink fencing and locks, I'd rather just stop doing them.
Wish you could just drop by and pick up a replacement...you'd be more than welcome here!
Posted: Apr-24-2004 at 4:29pm
Jeanne, I am so sorry for the theft of your Lewisias--how awful! How infuriating! I hope the people who stole them end up allergic to them, and break out in an unsightly green and purple itching giant rash.
Posted: Apr-24-2004 at 6:14pm
Thanks for all your kind words, everyone! I appreciate it! That's a good one, garden spider, imagining the thiefs with allergic reactions! That helps a lot! I feel sad for my poor little lewisias, being ripped out of the soil that way. I feel violated every time some thing gets stolen from my property. This is the second thing in the last year.
I guess I can't put anything too pretty out there or it will walk off!