Thursday, September 8, 2011

How Do You Say Yucca?

When I was studying landscape design, most of my fellow students regarded Yucca plants (Yucca filamentosa) with contempt. YUCK-a, they would say.
And with good reason. The foliage can look pretty ratty and grooming is difficult because the leaves are sharp and tough. If you decide that you want to remove the plant altogether, you have your work cut out for you. If you don't get all of the fibrous root out of the ground, it will sprout "babies," and you'll have to go at it again. I suspect that one reason we see so many unkempt clumps of Yucca plants is that people get tired of trying to dig them out, so they give up and let them continue to multiply. Thus adding to the YUCK factor.
But on the plus side, just look at these flowers! Borne on stalks that can reach 10 feet high, they are a striking addition to the landscape. In addition, yuccas are tough plants that can handle drought and salt spray.

Y. filamentosa, or Adam's Needle, is the cultivar seen in Seattle gardens. There are many other varieties, including Y. brevifolia or Joshua Tree, all of which require warmer climates than we have here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Canna lilies

Canna 'Tropicana' foliage
Cannas (members of the Cannaceae family) are not actually lilies, but for some reason unknown to me, that's what people call them. I just call them beautiful. Their big, colorful leaves remind me of banana trees and their exotic flowers make me think of the tropics.

Even if Cannas never flowered, their variegated foliage would make them worth growing. Look for the green-yellow variegation of 'Pretoria', as you see above, or the red-yellow-pink-green leaves of 'Tropicana' at top. Others like 'Red King Humbert' and 'Wyoming' have mahogany leaves.

Dwarf varieties get 18" to 3 feet tall. Standard varieties reach 4 - 6 feet tall.

Canna flowers may be yellow, orange or red.

In Seattle, cannas are most often grown as annuals. They will over-winter in mild years, but the past few have been too cold for many to survive. Cannas do well in containers and as focal points in mixed borders. When they are blooming, they're a sure sign of summer in Seattle.