Monthly Archives: April 2012

Using Gravel to Improve Your Lawn

For being a nursery that specializes in clematis, hydrangeas, fuchsias, and perennials, we sure talk a lot about gravel.  We use it in our pathways, use it to amend our planting beds, and use it as mulch.  But what we get asked about most is how we use it on our lawn.  When we last treated the lawn at the nursery I did a five month pictorial to show people how this works.

It is best to do this treatment during the rainy seasons.  So usually  October through  April  are your best times for gravel application  If you will be doing compost and overseeding,  October, March and April and sometimes May, are the best times.  If the existing lawn is very sparse or has existing bare spots compost and overseeding is reccomended.

First mow your lawn short and aerate if you want.

January 11

Here is the lawn on January 11, one week after the gravel had been applied. About 3/4 of an inch of quarter ten gravel was spread over the top of the existing lawn.  The type of gravel is important.  1/4 10 is crushed basalt that has been washed. Having gravel that is crushed, not round, allows it to travel better through the soil and help improve drainage.  You want the washed variety because you do not want to be adding sand to clay soil.  We added extra gravel to fill in a low area that is on the far left of the picture.

February 1

After a few weeks, on February 1 you can see the lawn starting to grow through the gravel. In the last ten years there has been roughly four inches total of gravel applied to this lawn.

March 4

Due to a warm February, some of the grass has started to grow by March 4, but there are still gravel patches. We apply the gravel for two main reasons. First, it helps with winter drainage so that the lawn does not get mushy and mossy with all of our rain. Second, by breaking up the soil underneath the lawn it lets the grasse’s roots travel deeper whcih in turn allows you to water less in the summer.

March 25

This is a high traffic lawn and certain areas needed extra care. We top dressed them with some organic compost and re-seeded the bare spots.

April 29

By April 29 it was staring to look like a normal lawn again. At no time was this lawn blocked off, and since it is in the middle of one of the main garden paths, it was being walked on daily by a number of people

May 15

On May 15 it is hard to tell if the gravel has even been applied. This lawn takes a beating all summer, thousands of people walk across it, and is watered deeply maybe once every two weeks and still manages to stay green.



Clematis ‘Asao’ and Clematis ‘Kakio’ (PINK CHAMPAGNE)

Over the decades, I have enjoyed watching the ups and downs of clematis cultivars on the international best-seller list and, on a more modest scale, at our nursery, Joy Creek Nursery.  With so many new cultivars being released annually to distract the public, I am always amazed that the tried and true names like ‘Nelly Moser’, ‘Henryi’ and ‘Jackmanii’ continue to hold a fair share of the market even though in human years they are well past retirement.

Clematis 'Kakio'

It was with great surprise last year that a plant that had been on the market for at least 20 years in the United States suddenly became a nursery best-seller.  Out of the blue, one day, we began to receive orders from customers who had read an article in Garden Gate magazine about Clematis PINK CHAMPAGNE, originally named ‘Kakio’.  The orders came in briskly and surpassed the orders of all other clematis in our catalogue last spring.  What was most surprising was that Clematis ‘Asao’, the sister of PINK CHAMPAGNE and usually a better seller, did not sell well at all.

Both plants are the results of a cross done by the Japanese hybridizer Kazushige Ozawa between (what we think was) Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’ and Clematis ‘Crimson King’.  There were three seedlings that were released from this cross but only the two sisters remain.  ‘Asao’ and ‘Kakio’ are very similar in appearance with bright rose red flowers in April.  As the flowers of both cultivars age, they become lighter at the bases and centers of their sepals.  ‘Asao’ is usually the first of all our large-flowered clematis to bloom at the nursery in the spring followed soon after by ‘Kakio’.  (By the way, the names refer to actual small towns in Kawasaki near the hybridizer’s home.  Raymond Evison, the well-known English hybridizer and nurseryman, visited Japan in 1984 and received ‘Kakio’ from Mr. Ozawa.  He renamed it PINK CHAMPAGNE for marketing purposes.)   It is interesting that even though the two plants are close in appearance, Mr. Ozawa chose to release both instead of choosing one over the other.  Why is that?

Clematis 'Asao'

I think it is because he had come to love both of them and thought they were different enough in character to warrant release.  ‘Asao’ is the more star-shaped of the two.  She is also the flashiest in appearance with flowers that show extra sepals.  Sometimes this results in flowers that are semi-double or even completely double.  ‘Kakio’ has what appears to me to be an underlayment of lavender on its more rounded sepals.  This underlayment gives the flowers a smoky appearance.  I have never seen ‘Kakio’ double.  Neither sister produces much fall bloom although they sometimes manage a lovely stray flower or two.  It is the stunning spring bloom that is so memorable.  It is long and unforgettable enough to make a gardener anxious for spring to see the familiar flowers again.

Over the years Mr. Ozawa gave up growing and selling both plants.  He said that the temperature index in the Tokyo area had gone up so much since the plants were released that they no longer retained their crisp colors when they bloomed.  He told me that both were more suited to areas with cooler spring temperatures.  I remember a visit he made to our nursery when ‘Asao’ was in bloom.  He was delighted to see the flowers looking the way he remembered.

I have no idea what clematis will become the most sought after this coming year.  But if you want one or two reliable and remarkably beautiful spring flowering clematis, either or both of these “new” classics will do.

Maurice Horn

Class Preview: Low Water Gardening with Maurice Horn

We continue our class series this weekend with Maurice’s talk on low water gardening.  Maurice is co-owner of Joy Creek Nursery and has years of experience with low and no water gardens.  He has worked on large scale projects with Reed College and the Oregon Department of Transportation as well as smaller projects here at the nursery and at clients homes.   The class is Sunday, April 8th, at 1pm.  No registration or fee required.

Near the end of a rainy day I sat down with Maurice and asked him a few questions.  The conversation went a little long because this is a topic that Maurice is both passionate and knowledgeable.  This is a slightly condensed portrayal of what we talked about.  You are just going to have to come out to the class to find out more.

Clematis 'Durandii'

What is your inspiration for this class?

I want to help people lower their water usage. The commercial and residential projects I have worked on have taught me quite a few ways to do this.

Do you have a goal for the students?

I want to increase their familiarity with soil amendments and appropriate plants so they can be successful with this at their home.  There are also a series of tips and lessons that I have learned through experience.

Such as?

For hell strips, a planting strip between street and sidewalk, there is a certain logic that you have to follow.  You have height restrictions because you cannot block any views and this is also a heavily used area where trash cans have to go.  Within this framework there is a plant pallet and design that work.

Bulbs are also great no water plants that can give you bloom throughout the season.  This is not just tulips and daffodils, but a wide array of underused varieties that thrive in this situation.

You have a hell strip at your house, what plants have you enjoyed most in it?

In my own garden I am allowed to experiment more.  Clematis ‘Durandii’ has been a wonderful surprise.  It is the only clematis that I have grown that has bloomed well without supplemental water.  I also have a wide variety of bulbs that are nearly always blooming.  They really add to the garden.

I would like to thank Maurice for sharing his time.  We hope you can make it out to the class to learn more.