Gardening notes

Because I need a place to keep these notes somewhere!

We planted trees and shrubs in the back yard in 2006. Most came from Molbak’s Nursery in Woodinville or Sky Nursery in Shoreline.

  • Camellia
  • Crab apple
  • Japanese magnolia
  • Japanese stewartia
  • Korean dogwood
  • Rhododendron and azaleas
  • Roses
  • Weeping cherry


I’m intrigued that so many of the plants I associate with “the south” have Asia (China and Japan, specifically) as their point of origin.

Camellias, no exception, remind me of Georgia. And there was a giant (white) one outside the Communications Building at UW that charmed me every winter. So when I convinced Mike to let me plant trees along the back fence, camellia was on my list. Although we planted the camellia in 2006, it did not produce flowers until 2016!  And I thought it was going to bloom in January, not November!

Of course, I’ve forgotten which nursery it came from, and we can’t find a receipt. So I’m trying to identify it. My reading – and the fact that it flowered in the fall – suggests it is a Camellia sasanqua. These are the top contenders > Kanjiro, originShishi Gashira, origin



Crab apple

Japanese magnolia

Also known as “tulip magnolia.” These lovely shrubs look nothing like the white-blossomed magnolia of my youth. But in my early adulthood, my mother planted one of these in her garden. Southern magnolias do not fare well here in the Northwest, so as I was plotting my garden, I was drawn to this variety. It is the first tree/shrub to bloom each spring, with the flowers opening before its leaves.

This pest-free tree requires little pruning. Although it is known as “Japanese magnolia” the tree is native to China.

Japanese magnolia
Magnolia liliiflora blooming: a series of photographs taken one per day in the Spring of 2006 in Gainesville, Florida. Via Wikipedia.

Japanese stewartia (pseudocamellia)

I remember the nursery staff at Molbak’s asking me if we were planning to stay in our home for a long time. When I answered “yes,” she suggested the Stewartia.

This is truly a four-season tree: shiny green leaves in spring, white flowers resembling single camellias in summer, bright fall foliage, and exfoliating bark in winter. It is slow-growing (hence the question about how long we planned to stay in our home).

I’ve seen photos where the branches start at ground level, but that’s not the profile of our tree. It looks like a tree, not a shrub, with a definite trunk to about three feet, where the branches begin. It is graceful and slender and a focal point for the northeast corner of our backyard.

Stewartias prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Hardy to zone 5. Disease-resistant.

stewartia flower

Korean dogwood

Our Korean dogwood, Stellar pink, was a Molbak’s purchase. In early spring, the tree comes to life with soft pink, four-petaled blossoms that give way to green leaves in summer. In the fall, the tree turns a vibrant red before losing its leaves. This is a fast-growing disease-resistant specimen.

korean dogwood

Rhododendron and Azaleas

Being a native of Georgia, I grew up surrounded by azaleas (Callaway GardensThe Masters). But not rhoddies; that came after moving to Seattle. I didn’t realize that azaleas are a sub-genre until I was trying to explain why one plant in Mike’s front yard was an azalea, not a rhoddie.

Our rhododendron and azaleas came with the house; that means that they are more than 20 years old.

The rhoddies and azaleas are all evergreen. There’s a giganormous white rhoddie on the east wall of the house. We have two compact rhoddies with small, deep red flowers in the backyard; they have a sibling in the front. The textured leaves are so dense that you don’t see the wood.

According to WikipediaRhododendron are distributed between latitudes 80°N and 20°S and are native to North America as well as Asia, Australia, Europe and Russia although the greatest species diversity is in Asia, specifically China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal.

scarlet wonder rhoddie


Roses are lovely, and those with lovely scent are also high maintenance. This is the northwe(s)t. Black spot. Mold. I’m not sure our upright roses have ever kept their leaves for the entire season.

So we’ve resorted to mounding shrubs. No scent but plentiful flowers.


Weeping cherry