How are we all holding up? Mid-term elections over, one major holiday in the can, another looming, but as usual I’m determined to go full contrarian and resist its gravity pull until the typical last-minute panic. (If Christmas involved nothing more than cookies, it’d be the perfect holiday.) Lots of family visits in November, including Mitch with his camera — these are all his images.
On the garden front, bulbs are planted (allium, potted tulips and ranunculus, brodiaea, narcissus). Seeds from Special Plants in England have been sown after a rather circuitous delivery route via Miami, Florida. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is now involved with ordering seeds from England, but Derry’s instructions were unfalteringly accurate and encouraging, and the bureaucratic delay was maybe a couple weeks. And the permit from USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service allows us to take Billie on oversea vacations, if that issue ever comes up, as well as importing more seeds for the next few years. Overall, a surprisingly painless business, with the federal website working flawlessly.
Nights are dipping below 30F here, and I’ve got a little frost-tolerance experiment going with a planter of Echeveria agavoides which can reputedly take temps down to 20F. So far the echeveria are still pristine, but snow is forecast for the coming week. Into the shed they’ll go if that forecast holds. More soon — stay warm!
On the northern Oregon coast, we’ve been in a sunny, dry spell for a week, with rain due to return next week. Frost has blackened the dahlias — I sound like an old hand writing that, but this was another first for me, watching frost move through the garden, taking some plants, leaving others somewhat battered if still mostly intact. Searching the blog for an old photo, I found this post that seemed to really capture the zone 10 garden’s spirit (frost-free about a mile from the ocean in Los Angeles County). Nice to see our old corgi Ein…and a vase of my mom’s sweet peas on the table! I’m moving this post up so I can take frequent sips of it this fall. Hope you’re staying warm!
Photo taken last night, when I still hoped I could squeak this post in under the Bloom Day deadline, the 15th of every month, and be righteously on time, but it was not to be. Flash of red is from the ladybird poppies, P. commutatum, mostly over but left in situ for reseeding.
Never loads of flowers but always plenty of rosettes.
. Still, if you look closely, the plants are procreating. Like the little echeverias that began to bloom while I was away.
Technically, it’s the day after Bloom Day, which lands on the 15th of every month. Director of the Bloom Day production for garden bloggers is May Dreams Gardens, and it’s a great repository of blog reports recording bloom times from gardens in zones around the world. I’ve consulted quite a few of these blogs in making this coastal Oregon garden, in jumping from zone 10b to 8b.
Early morning, 6-7ish, in the garden yesterday, the temperature gauge read 40F, slightly colder than recent October mornings but in the ballpark. Comfortable in a robe with a steaming cup of coffee, enjoying the “coolth” emanating from the plants, abruptly I had the distinct impression of walking into an undercurrent of very warm air, as though leaving a cold room and entering a warmer one. It was such a strong sensation that I checked the garage for any equipment or heaters left on. Marty felt it too, but in a different part of the garden. It was as though pockets of incoming warm air from the east hadn’t become fully incorporated yet, like streaky cake batter before it’s been thoroughly combined. An infrared view of the swirling air currents would have been fascinating. Checking the weather forecast, it was projected to be 80F, and by the end of the day it was corrected to 89F — a rare high for the coast. The warm dry air felt just like the Santa Ana winds back home in Los Angeles. Today we’re back in the mid 60sF.
It’s not looking likely that Lepechinia hastata will flower this year, or possibly any year here in zone 8b. Ditto for Salvia pulchella x involucrata. But if they make it through winter, I’ll keep them if only for their leaves. It’s been a lovely autumn, I hope for you as well.
The one-half inch ‘California Gold’ granite laid down last winter was an emotional decision made during the muddy season, and even then, though I told no one, putting down all that rock made me a little nervous. But it’s become such a huge blessing that now, nerves assuaged, I’m throwing in every other bit of rock I can find.
The gold granite is now veined through with the black river rocks I dig up every time a shovel pierces the soil, buckets and buckets of them, along with occasional bags of smaller gravel to knit the larger rocks together.
I hoped the rocked area would function as a giant French drain, and it has, as well as keeping mud from clinging to paws and shoes. And it has done that too. But another side benefit, of course, is planting into it. I just can’t stop planting into the rocks. The broad swath of rocks decreases daily into a path that must now be semi-carefully navigated. Are we not our own worst enemy as far as sticking to the plan? But the plants love this not-technically-a-rock-garden scenario.
The rock is easily pulled aside to dig a hole, especially for the small size plants I’m using.
Currently there’s still plenty of walking room on the gravel….if I can just stop planting it up.
(Edited 10/8/22 — grey shrub is Olearia moschata, thanks to the folks at Xera Plants)
On this isolated part of the Oregon coast, sourcing plants has been its own adventure. Mail order has been a huge resource, but some plants have defied any means of procurement.
On neighborhood walks I’ve been surveying the local plant scene for clues into what grows well here and have discovered a couple of offbeat stalwarts, one whose identity I knew from books, Euphorbia griffithii, while the other remains a mystery.
The euphorbia was notable for looking fabulous from very early spring to…well, to this moment. Same with the unknown shrub, except it’s been evergreen fabulous year-round. In both cases the plants seemed to have been deployed and forgotten, one in a neglected private garden and the other in a commercial planting, where many of the plants were dying during the dry summer. Except for my stellar, grey-leaved enigma, which I’d love to see clipped into orbs against the gravel in my back garden.
I became fixated on these two handsome plants, convinced my garden wouldn’t be the same without them. Meandering walks became more focused to include these two destinations almost daily to check on how they held up through the seasons. Diligent attempts to contact the owner of the euphorbia, offering cash for cuttings, via door knock, notes in the mailbox, talking to neighbors, failed to produce a response. And the owner of the brewery couldn’t remember who did the landscape, so that avenue into identifying the shrub was stymied too. It reminds me of the dwarf olive ‘Little Ollie,’ but the leaves are more silver and less tapered. (Image searches suggest a possibility may be Olearia x oleifolia — all opinions welcome!)
With the owner ignoring my overtures, I built a mail order around Euphorbia griffithii from the one source I could find, only to have the order arrive with everything but the euphorbia, which was last-minute out of stock. (This euphorbia can be invasive in the right conditions, but this neighbor’s planting seemed to be staying put, large and healthy but very few runners.)
Last weekend, at the Secret Garden Growers Colors of Fall festival, I was thrilled to finally get my hands on Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ — they said it is so popular that it’s difficult to keep in stock.
I’ve made no progress on the ID of the silver shrub. Any ideas?
I was actually hoping to do a Bloom Day post for the 15th, but photos wouldn’t load, etc. For the time being, this little becalmed boat of a blog seems to have righted itself and is wobbily under sail again, once again taking orders and allowing content posting from its captain. And content for now is all about the rude good health of the few dahlias I planted in the border made last fall of a berm of stripped turf where I expected not much to grow the first season as it settled — so why not plant a few dahlias?
It’s too early to confirm or refute personal theories, but leaping to conclusions has always been my favorite sport. I’m an inveterate leaper. And I have long suspected gardeners are cynically encouraged to follow their hearts and not their brains regarding plant choices, when many plants have a specific range of acceptable growing conditions outside of which there will be misery (for gardener and plant). You know, if you haven’t killed a plant three times, you’re not really trying, etc. (Go ahead, take a flier on this cloud forest denizen — it might just love Phoenix!) Admittedly, if we don’t experiment, nothing gained. Because, sure, there are always exceptions — Verbena bonariensis and Mexican feather grass seem to grow just about anywhere. And, sure, you can eke out a performance from dahlias even in hot summer climates if you have impeccable horticultural instincts and practices, but it’s not about just adding more water. Oh, no, it’s about night and daytime temps and latitude and proximity to coastal breezes and stuff that just can’t be faked. Of course, beating the odds can be an irresistible temptation, but I can’t think of a plant that I would move heaven and earth to grow — possibly because I’m a promiscuous generalist as far as plants are concerned. There are just so many interesting plants to consider.
And after wondering mid-summer at the light presence of pollinators, and after diligently preparing an elaborate banquet for them, clouds and swarms of them finally arrived fashionably late in September, especially to pillage pollen off of Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and Solidago ‘Fireworks.’ Okay, then!
Some of my remaining questions about this first-year garden: How long does this show go on? What does a garden collapsed by frost really look like? Will my Ricinus ‘New Zealand Purple’ reseed for next year? If I leave the dahlias in the ground, as I tentatively plan to, do they have a chance in hell of returning next year after 90-something inches or rain? And if this is the result its first year, what in heaven’s name to expect of its second year?
This morning’s mist was heavy enough that the downspouts gurgled. The garden embraced the moisture with its leaves and petals, in a heart-melting effect that can best be described in one word: glistening. A full rainy day is predicted for sometime mid-September. Before it all smashes down in a rainy windstorm, I took some photos this morning from every corner of the garden to document its first summer.
This rich, water-retentive soil and cool coastal climate (zone 8b) has limitations that would be deal-breakers for many, but it is very kind to herbaceous perennials — we’ll see how many survive the long, rainy winter to return next year!
I think that covers the garden from almost every angle, so I’ll finish with some close-ups.
I’ll close this out with Billie surveying her world and a potful of sempervivums and this weird mashup of orostachys and sedum called ‘Sedoro’ — so many plants! Let me know if there’s a favorite plant of yours that I’ve missed and must absolutely grow. And please take care if you’re caught in the abysmal West Coast heatwave. May fall weather be kind to all of us! More soon, AGO
From August 12 through the 19th I was in Southern California visiting family and checking on the house and garden, so I had the odd, unsettling experience of leaving one garden just hitting its stride and dropping in on one in survival mode. I knew I’d be facing a dusty, very dry garden of mostly succulents, shrubs, and grasses and possibly some wrenching losses. Fortunately, losses were minimal, and the little garden surprisingly chugged along in my absence without much assistance. (The previous houseguests, staying over a month, mentioned that they hadn’t seen anybody watering — checking with the caretaker, she had been knocked flat by Covid and was non compos mentis for a couple weeks and had been too brain-fogged to remember to let me know. The garden (and pots!) went unwatered at least three weeks, maybe more.)
That in a nutshell describes the difference between the two gardens in summer. Endurance is the goal for the zone 10 garden in summer, threatened by short and long-term water bans. Conversely, the coastal Oregon garden began to tentatively express itself in July and then really accelerated growth in August, as seen in these photos I took just before leaving for Long Beach. I happened to plant a lot of big-statured, late-season perennials, and these really began to find their footing at the end of July. I am just bowled over, because I really didn’t expect much at all the first year. There has been no rain since June, so the Oregon garden is reliant on supplemental irrigation, just like the zone 10b SoCal garden (except that rain-free condition stretches basically year-round), but the mostly soft light and benign temperatures at the Oregon coast keep growth steady. I’m convinced the extra hour of daylight is a positive factor too.
In early July I mail-ordered some salvias from Flowers By The Sea which have leapt into growth. Many are variations on salvias I’ve grown before, such as Salvia chiapensis, but this time in the form of ‘Elk Giant.’ And guaranitica again, but the pale blue form, ‘Elk Argentine Skies,’ a superior selection of AS.
I love the deep green leaves of Salvia sagittata as much as the cobalt blue flowers on delicate stems and wanted to see how it performed in zone 8b. I suspected it would be much happier, and so far that seems to be the case. Winter of course will be the challenge, whatever it brings.
Salvia patens hasn’t been a success in the zone 10b garden, so I wanted to specifically trial it in Oregon, a lilac-colored form called ‘Chilcombe.’ Love.
Salvia pulchella x involucrata was also included in the order, because involucratas have never liked zone 10 much either. The leaves on all of the salvias are lush and healthy, and only the involucrata has yet to set buds or flower, still developing a luscious dome of crinkly, apple-green leaves and red stems.
Meanwhile, back in zone 10b last week….getting house and garden ready for new houseguests, I so enjoyed getting reacquainted with the plants. Fingers crossed, I may have found someone who will sweep up the debris from the trees off the patios and walkways, which is the bulk of the work that needs doing when we’re away.
Since I’ve been culling out the most water-intensive potted plants over the past year, somehow everything managed to hang on. Most of the work in the garden was removing dead leaves, trimming back the rambunctious passionflower, cutting back spring/summer herbaceous stuff, leaving the succulents to carry the torch. Incredibly tough, beautiful plants. And another dry spell is ahead for the garden, this time imposed by our water district while they work on pipe repairs.
So there you have a look at two very different gardens in August, one that was in the 90s all last week and one that’s in the 70s this week. One at a latitude of roughly 33 degrees, the other at a latitude of roughly 45 degrees. One that is undergoing record drought, the other having just experienced record rainfall. More soon!
Driving north on Highway 101 now is a very different experience than just a few weeks ago. The roadside attractions are no longer mauve foxgloves, which seemed to go on forever, but now mauve fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium (formerly Epilobium angustifolium), with big splashes of fiery red crocosmia, sheet-white Shasta daisies, and blue and purple hydrangeas.
And seeming to coincide with the blooming of Shasta Daisies, my formerly quiet drive past shallow, calm bays has been overtaken by Vacationland, typified by countless cars with roof-racked canoes, campers haulng small boats, massive RVs pulling cars. I kinda love seeing this outpouring of allegiance to summer at the seaside even if does slow traffic down a bit. The allure of the ocean, tangy sea air, and coastal ice cream joints is primal and timeless, and it stirs happy memories for me to see it work its magic on visitors. I often head north to volunteer at the Wonder Garden in Manzanita, which I did on Saturday, but Sunday was to visit the garden of Mark and Linda Kuestner, through the HPSO open gardens program. Mark also volunteers at the Wonder Garden.
Gardens like the Kuestners’ and the Wonder Garden have been a huge help in my informal comparative horticultural studies. I’m joking when I say “studies,” but I have been asking a lot of questions. Fortunately, plant and garden people love talking about their passion. I had seen the Kuestner garden in June, when everything was delayed by a cold, rainy spring — what a difference a month makes! But what I was really interested in seeing in June were the structural plantings in the Kuestner garden, pittosporum, manzanita, grevilleas, fremontodendron, drimys, eucryphia, and so many others that I wished I’d written down. But July in the Kuestner garden is a celebration of flowers, not an easy thing to accomplish with sandy soil, deer, summer drought, and a shortish growing season. Even with the rainless summer, and despite the slow spring, once they’re up and growing, dahlias’ love of the coast make it all look effortless.
I hope your local weather is being reasonably kind to you and your garden. Take care! More soon, AGO.
Before starting a tour of the Courtney garden in Banks, Oregon, USDA zone 8b, it’s only fitting to first visit the “engine room,” the workshop of Harlan Courtney that fabricates the idiosyncratic hardscape of Mary and Harlan’s garden. The house and garden are situated on a hilltop of 5 acres in Banks, Oregon. The unpaved access road off the highway eventually leads to the driveway and front door of the house. The garden is on the sloped ground to the back of the house, a strolling garden accessed by carefully graded paths and terraces. Some of the flatter acreage is leased to a local farmer for grass crops, but the majority is under intense use by Harlan and Mary for their home, a new home addition in progress, the garden and workshop. Harlan has lived on the property since the ’80s, but most of the garden work was started around 2015. After marrying and moving in, Mary’s love of gardens jumpstarted the frenetic pace, which accelerated after 2020 into a “pandemic project.” Through the HPSO Open Gardens program, on the weekend of July 16 and 17, their unique collaboration of plants and hardscape was open to members to tour, entitled “Hilltop Artistic Gardens.”