Billie in the snow


February was not just about prettily frosted plants. Later in the month the garden was buried in almost a foot of snow. Unheard of amounts of snow, I’m told! Schools and city hall closed for a couple days, and the snow stayed on the ground about a week.


For most of February the Oregon garden continued to be pummeled by frosts and feet of snow.  This amount of snow, I’m told, is unusual.  The garden and gardener may be on winter hiatus, but the energy normally poured into plants and garden inevitably spills over onto the wider surroundings, which to me are a novel and fascinating ecosystem. 


I haven’t said much here, but  after growing up in Los Angeles, living among small towns in a temperate rain forest is an extraordinary change.  Traveling along the coast, I compulsively check the population numbers of every town we pass through — Marty is used to this tic now.  Renowned PNW writer Ken Kesey described them as “Towns dependent on what they are able to wrest from the sea in front of them and from the mountains behind, trapped between both.”


The geographic isolation works to both attract and repel. I’ve met families who’ve been here several generations that can’t conceive of living anywhere else. But word occasionally gets around that so-and-so is leaving, moving away because they can’t take the small-town isolation anymore.

All the fiercely independent small towns have a lot in common: “There will be a small scatter of boxlike dwellings somewhere near a mill, usually on a river, and a cannery on the docks, needing a new floor. The main street is a stripe of wet asphalt smeared with barroom neon.” — Ken Kesey

Our own small town of approx 5,000 functions as a “15-minute city” (I can get anything I need on foot in 15 minutes). It will never see sprawl — not through proactive design but because there’s not much buildable land in a small town surrounded by farms, rivers and floodplains.  Big enough for reliable buses, trash pickup, utilities, supercharger stations a block away. Veterinarians, dentists, hospital, groceries, seasonal farmer markets, schools, haircuts, hardware store, microbeer, boat launch, library, all within walkable distance.  Most of the other coastal town populations come in under a thousand. The majority of towns appear to have a seasonal population — tourism replaces industry. 

crab yields are still strong on the coast, and we had to put oyster stuffing on the Thanksgiving menu

How many people does it take to keep a town functional?  What industries have come and gone, and why?  Forest fires ravaged the timber industry in the fairly recent past (see Tillamook Burn), and my town is down to one lumber mill.  Every morning I am greeted by its plume of smoke to the east when sitting under the overhang having the first coffee in the garden with Billie.   The replanted burn areas have grown in surprisingly fast, but the mills are gone for good.  Lumber will no longer be the powerhouse employer it once was.  A coastal railway operating from the coast to Portland was so severely damaged in winter storms that in 2007 is was decided the cost was too great to fix, and repairs would also likely damage spawning grounds, so the railway line was abandoned. Overfishing ended most commercial fishing, with sport fishing taking up the slack now.  Oysters, clams and crabs still multiply lustily in this unique five-river estuary, the second largest in Oregon.  


Indigenous people became “complex” hunter-gatherers here in this narrow coastal strip bounded by the Coast Range, able to build permanent houses and complex social structures without a written language.  This defies the old anthropologic saw that agriculture and its surpluses are first acquired and then permanent dwellings and complex societies follow.  Here the abundance of food, and especially the predictability of the salmon runs, allowed for permanent villages of cedar plank houses.  Cedar also made water-proof clothing, baskets, canoes — it was put to protean uses. 

“Graveyard of the Pacific” — many came for the otter furs and other goods, but the ferocity of storms on the coast claimed hundreds of ships

The geographic isolation of the coast worked to the advantage of the native people for thousands of years, until European fur traders sailed in.  Very soon after, the native people succumbed to European diseases and settler disputes, with the rapidly dwindling number of tribal members eventually pushed to reservations. Just driving along the coast brings all this readily to mind.  The rivers, the ocean, the mountains, the geographic isolation even now with just a couple roads, the winter-long rain — all tell vivid stories of the limits and possibilities here.   

local boat ramp after rain and high tide — a 15-minute walk away

The dairy farmers seem to be thriving despite new rules protecting wetlands, spawning grounds, and the watershed.  There is grumbling but respectful cooperation.  Small farms are gaining a toehold, growing seasonal produce for restaurants, farmer markets, and CSA boxes. 

blueberries picked last fall from bush in the front yard

Unlike Los Angeles, everything is tangible, visible on the surface, the systems easy to read.  Geography rules! Los Angeles is a subtle ecosystem easily overrun by ambition, at least in the short term until water supplies capsize. Here geography and climate have the final say. Cause and effects happen in real time.   Housing is scarce and locals cannot afford to buy a house on local wages — some things are constant.  Child care is not just scarce but impossible to find — another constant.

Just some quick thoughts on small towns where, for good or ill, the machinery that makes towns run, or not, is in full view.  In LA it was always inscrutable to me, starting with that crazy concrete-bottomed river, which I hear is near to overflowing lately…

Posted in journal, Oregon garden | 6 Comments

really gets me frosted (February in zone 8b)

Rubus calycinoides early this morning– I bet it has a different name now, because everything seems to. But it’s evergreen, a virtue much appreciated in a frosty garden when so much else hunkers down and waits out the nights in the 20sF.
frost melting in bright sun around 10 am with temps climbing into the 40s

Changeable, volatile, sunny, rainy, hail for 5 minutes, sunny again, pouring buckets an hour later — this slice of temperate rain forest is all the weather I never got in LA…in one day! I used to perceive LA’s skies as being in stasis, chronically blue and bright. Now my garden is the thing seemingly in stasis the past couple months, which brings fresh insights into so much of the classic garden literature. For example, I get the tribe of galanthophiles now — hungry for any signs of green piercing the brown plane as early in the season as possible.


I haven’t gone the snowdrop route yet, but I do compulsively count evidence of emerging bulbs. These are narcissus, but really who cares what they are? Twelve green nubbins is what they are! Allium are up too, and countable.

Now counting tulips in pots
Beschorneria ‘Flamingo Glow’

Something else I’ll be counting will no doubt be plant losses. Iffy plants, like this beschorneria, should ideally be planted early to have all summer to make size. Even though it is rated to 10-15F, I wish I had planted it in spring, not fall. Established plants have much better odds of making it through their first winter, just as established plants handle drought better in zone 10.

I wanted geums in the Oregon garden for the long-necked tangerine flowers. Now I’m finding their reputation as good plants also derives from their enduring robust clumps of evergreen leaves.
Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ (evergreen)
Largish restio Rhodocoma capensis is always touched and brushed by 16 m/o Hannah as she stomps through the gravel in her winter boots. Evergreen!

And I will grow a euphorbia, some euphorbia, in whatever garden I make, that’s nothing new. Seeing them stirring into bloom in frosty February brings a whole new level of appreciation. Like seeing new attributes in a dear friend.

Hesperis matronalis — as a first-year biennial will it bloom this spring or next?

And now biennials make sense too. They made no sense in LA. I mean why go through the bother of sowing them in August, growing them on for a year, etc, when there’s so many other choices? Well, I’ll tell you why. They’re hardy, for one thing, and Sweet Rocket keeps its leaves all winter and will be in bloom early in spring when a lot of the garden is just waking up. I know because I saw it in bloom in a local garden last year. Will I like the way it looks in the garden? Not sure, but I know I will appreciate the effort when it happens.

Phlomis monocephala

I wasn’t sure my enthusiasm for phlomis would jive with all this rain, but so far they’re looking fine. Also growing Phlomis aurea and Phlomis anatolica ‘Lloyd’s Variety’ and always on the hunt for more…No new phlomis coming in a couple plant orders pending, but we’ll see how eremurus finds life here at the Oregon coast.

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Oregon garden in late December

Billie is very nearly weatherproof, or thinks she is anyway, and we did go out for a quick stretch yesterday while it was a dry but very brisk 20F…especially factoring in the wind chill, which approached the single digits…

Yesterday, Dec 22, temps hovered at 20F all day, the first time that’s happened this winter, possibly not the last time though. The night-time numbers usually ease back up during the daytime into the high 30s/40s. The concrete walkway to the garage iced over, windows iced over. Billie’s copper water bowl froze solid, rim to rim, bottom to top. Highway 101 was closed last night just south of us to deal with a 20-car icy pileup. Just to be on the safe side, we let faucets drip the last two nights — the majority of insurance claims are exploded pipes, each claim averaging 20k!

still frozen solid today too but all ice on paving has melted

There’s been lots of frosty mornings, a little snow, but what’s been amazing me are the incidents of resilience, how some plants spring back after appearing to be full-on wilted and shriveled by frost. Euphorbia stygiana makes a robust rebound every day. And up until yesterday’s 20F all day, the melianthus and the big-leaved Lepechina hastata were looking fabulous. I’ll probably leave up the tattered mess they are today as a tent to protect from any future low temps.


Take for instance this euphorbia, probably ‘Silver Swan.’ It bounces back after everything the skies throw at it, much more resilient than the straight E. characias, which does limp along but in a cowed, beaten manner.


Eryngium pandanifolium is such a good foliage plant here in zone 8b. It doesn’t get as large circumference-wise as it does in zone 10, which is a good thing, and doesn’t throw out such a congested mat of leaves either, just a nicely shaped, arching rosette that looks pristine every morning. Surrounded by Yucca linearifolia and Hebe ‘Karo Golden Esk.’

Eryngium pandanifolium showing how it’s done after a day/night of 20F temps
Howard’s Field at RHS Wisley in the UK

There’s a lot of seasonal potential for the winter-strong heaths and heathers, and I’m glad I’ve been including them in both the front and back garden. The RHS Wisley has made a newly designed landscape with their extensive heather collection called Howard’s Field, moving them from the corners of the garden to mass them and join forces with strong architectural plants like Yucca rostrata.

Bronzy, thready foliage in the center is Thuja orientalis ‘Franky Boy’

The various carex are likewise some of the best-looking plants now in the garden. (In the tank are Carex ‘Feather Falls’ and Carex ‘Everillo.’). Carex testacea in the garden is a tumble of russet, and the pheasant’s tail grass, Anemanthele lessonia is similar in effect but on a larger scale.

Sideritis with Teucrium azureum and pheasant’s tail grass

One of the most gratifying surprises is the continued survival of all the sideritis seedlings I brought from the zone 10 garden. I’m pretty sure this large-leaved sideritis is S. oroteneriffae. The one above growing in a container is the largest, but the sideritis in the ground are not only surviving but look to be making size, even in December! With all the hallmarks for extreme drought tolerance — fuzzy, silvery leaves — and earmarked for zone 9, this sideritis is somehow holding its own in the cold and wet…for now…

Senecio monroi with adorably crimped leaves

Enjoy your holiday, stay safe and as warm as you can manage! The pellet stove here is a godsend…

Posted in climate, journal, Oregon garden | 10 Comments

scenes from November

Marty, Billie & I at Cannon Beach. Photos by MB Maher

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.

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Mitch arrives in Portland, Oregon.
on the coast, Barview Jetty
with Billie at Cape Meares Lighthouse
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Hannah observing the inscrutable game of pickle ball
Macaroon shopping in Astoria
Admiring woodcuts at the Columbia River Maritime Museum
up the Hitchcockian spiral staircase at the Astor Column, Astoria, Oregon
view from Astor’s Column
maple strutting fall color, Astoria, Oregon
lots of fine old houses in Astoria

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!

Posted in journal, MB Maher, Oregon garden | 5 Comments

a May 2017 look back at the zone 10b garden

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!

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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.

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Never loads of flowers but always plenty of rosettes.

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Still, if you look closely, the plants are procreating. Like the little echeverias that began to bloom while I was away.

Continue reading

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Bloom Day October 2022

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.

Japanese sunflower in October is taller in size, with smaller flowers

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.

I grew this way back in zone 10 when it was still an aster — Eurybia divaricata. Good presence all season, loves dry shade but growing in almost full sun here at the coast.
Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis ‘The Prince’ is a big fan of zone 8b, not zone 10b.
taller and less dense in flower, Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis ‘Lady in Black’ — note the spikes of Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’ which surprised me by flowering late in September
This mix of asters, snaps, and lysimachia pretty much sums up all the other garden moments that happen once and never again. I doubt I could plan it again. The aster is predictable in bloom, not so much the lysimachia. And since I won’t be growing snaps from seed, it’s doubtful I’ll find plants again next July, or that I’d be likely to purchase them again as the garden fills up. A first-year garden moment.
Lobelia tupa off schedule, throwing its first bloom in late September, which opened yesterday
Another first-year anomaly, Stipa gigantea blooming in late September rather than early summer.
Salvia uliginosa’s wands of flowers are so much fatter here than zone 10 — the individual florets aren’t shattered by the heat but hold on, building into big blue brushes of bloom — very alliteration worthy!
Rudbeckia triloba works well with the bog sage, similar height and breezy growth habit
schisostylis/hesperantha — with buds still closed in the morning
Various miscanthus were very late to put on growth and are just now gaining height and flowering. This is ‘Flamingo.’
Salvia ‘Amante’ and Verbena bonariensis have been rock stars in a stock tank all summer. This salvia, however, is the first and possibly only plant to wilt when temps get relatively high, like yesterday.

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.

Posted in Bloom Day, climate, Oregon garden | 5 Comments

on the rocks


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.

Eryngium varifolium, the Moroccan sea holly, against mix of river rock and granite

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 refinement of leaves against the rock never gets old — and when Marrubium supinum is covered in morning dew, it’s a wonder of natural design that merits a long pause on the first walk of the day
It’s just as exciting adding new plants into the rocks as into the main garden (Hebe parviflora var. angustifolia) — maybe more so!
And there’s so many plants suited for this type of planting. An alpine version of fireweed is hard to resist — Chamaenerion fleischeri from Dancing Oaks
some things never change — moth caterpillars still love Salvia argentea, but this is as good as I’ve ever been able to grow it
the stock tank nearest the garage is nearly concealed now by plantings, big boys like Rhodoma capensis and tetrapanax, which now harbor a little understory of smaller plants
Asarina procumbens
asarina sending out stems to encircle the stock tank
and weave around sempervivums

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.

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local plant obsessions

(Edited 10/8/22 — grey shrub is Olearia moschata, thanks to the folks at Xera Plants)

late September visit to Old House Dahlias, about a 15-minute drive south on Hwy 101

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 local walks I discovered a mature stand of dierama growing in an unirrigated front yard

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.

my new walking buddy — gratuitous grandma photo of my little friend’s first walk on the beach, now joining me in walks around the neighborhood

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.

phone photo of unknown shrub which looked amazingly dapper all winter and was covered in tiny white flowers in summer. There are multiples of this shrub along the long western wall of a well-known local brewery in town, both in ground and in stock tanks. Olearia? Osmanthus of some kind?

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!)

Secret Garden Growers Colors of Fall Festival 9/24-25/22 — a really good sale with loads of plants

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.)

a colorist’s dream — red stems, orange bracts in spring with lime green flowers

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.

Canna ‘Cleopatra’ also from Secret Garden Growers sale
Kniphofia caulescens — the SGG sale had a great selection of “kniffies”
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the farm stand, single-stemmed snaps planted in July were not a waste of money. Cut back, they thickened up in August and September, and are now throwing dozens of spikes. Just starting to bloom, tiny daisies are from Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis ‘Lady in Black’
with flower buds forming sometime in June/July

I’ve made no progress on the ID of the silver shrub. Any ideas?

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mid-September coastal Oregon garden

Dahlia ‘AC Rosebud’ from Old House Dahlias, Tillamook, Oregon

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?

dahlias are lots of work in zone 10b and even then success isn’t guaranteed. Here in zone 8b they grow like weeds — at least they did this year! Who knows what next year will bring?

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!

full sun mid-day photo with conifer-like Eupatorium capillifolium in the foreground, shape echo for the variegated Italian buckthorn. The eupatorium lost a third branch to wind.
heavy wind also knocked some branches off of the helianthus — not that you’d notice
Salvia sagittata, Clematis x stans, Euphorbia stygiana in the foreground of the berm made of discarded turf. I also planted big stuff like Rudbeckia maxima, Persicaria polymorpha, grasses Calamagrostis brachytricha and lots more, not expecting much of a showing the first season…you know the old maxim, first year you sleep, second year you creep, third year you leap? The garden is obviously unfamiliar with that maxim –there was surprisingly lots of leaping the first year here…
also in the turf berm, Pycnanthemum muticum, sanguisorba, patrinia
elsewhere in the garden, Kniphofia pauciflora throws another bloom. Penstemon ‘Cha-Cha Purple’ from Terra Nova has good rebloom, healthy leaves — I’m also growing a legacy penstemon in a similar color, ‘Raven,’ that really seems outmatched by CCP
Teucrium hircanicum from Digging Dog Nursery
Salvia uliginosa, gaura, agastache (gaura reclassified as oenothera)
Rudbeckia triloba
Pollinators haven’t acquired our decadent tastes and love it when you keep it simple — ease off the double flowers, give ’em lots of daisies, and they’ll make your garden a destination

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?

At least some plants are taking it slow, like Teucrium ‘Summer Sunshine’
Posted in journal, Oregon garden | 6 Comments

glistening September views

glistening Renga lilies, Arthropodium cirratum, a giftt from Kris/Late To The Garden Party

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.

view from the house, standing at the back steps. Neighbor’s hedge is laurel, with a spangling of bindweed. If you stand still long enough, I’ve no doubt bindweed will start creeping around your ankles. It is the town scourge, an enemy sneakily waving white trumpet flowers — show no mercy!

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!

still on the steps, looking straight ahead. If you’d like an ID on a plant, leave a comment. The Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ in the left stock tank is roof-high and marginally hardy in zone 8b. I’ve been tip-pruning it all summer. I’m in the process of setting up a makeshift cold frame and may grab some cuttings.
Looking east along the overhang. There’s a 2-3 foot perimeter dog path along the fence where Billie is in the photo. I doubt I’lll plant anything closer to the fence because the neighbor’s bindweed would love to get a root-hold and high visibility is key. Keeping a mulched moat is the best defense.
another view looking east (a deceptive one because the camera flipped the perspective) showing the basic layout and the three stock tanks close to the overhang. Unless I have a radical change of mind, there will be no hiding neighboring houses, no mitigating the stark fence boundary, just a simple space to grow plants
Looking west along the overhang to the garage. This area with the melianthus was the last to be planted. The diascia in that stock tank has been in bloom since April, no lie — I should get cuttings of that as well (‘My Darling Tangerine’). Three planted in the ground are in bloom as well, but nothing like the performance in the stock tank
looking southwest at corner garden shed. Paint is needed, outdoor lights replaced, but the garden comes first, right?
view from the corner garden shed back at the house
looking west at the garage across the main planted areas — gaura, agastache, penstemon, Aster ‘The Prince,’ succisella, Deschampsia ‘Goldtau’ — like I said, for more IDs, leave me a comment
same view but grabbing more of the planting closer to the back fence. I walked along the landscape timbers that separate the two large planting areas all winter to plant — not possible now. Along with retaining the slightly elevated back berm, the timber acts as a brake to Salvia uliginosa and other large perennials, which have plenty of elbow room to move without squashing other plants
standing at the back fence looking at the house. Umbel is Selinum wallichianum. Dahlia is ‘Camano Sitka,’ incredibly tall and vigorous so I hate to quibble that the flowers are a tad too big…Distant yellow flowers are Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen,’ positively hedge-like
Japanese sunflower towers over the southeast corner

I think that covers the garden from almost every angle, so I’ll finish with some close-ups.

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ — I think it’s safe to say, for instant gratification, this is a great first-year garden plant for coastal Oregon. Very late-blooming but good leaves all summer. May eventually replace it with something less vigorous…
This glistening Yucca linearifolia died in my zone 10b garden, was resuscitated and rerooted and now seems to be flourishing — so relieved!
Dahlia ‘AC Rosebud’ — Marty says he hates this dahlia but loves ‘Camano Sitka.’ Personal taste is endlessly interesting…
Helianthus argophyllus (Texas native annual known as the Japanese Sunflower) is every bit as cool as its reputation. Hated my zone 10b garden — loves rich, moist soil. Needs staking. All dahlias were staked too.
Heliopsis ‘Bleeding Hearts’ was found local and looks like an instant classic.
It blends in really well, leaves and flowers,
Southeast corner with the Japanese sunflower
Scrophularia auriculata ‘Variegata’ (or S. aquatica ‘Variegata’) has been so good all summer, steadily increasing in girth. Hummingbirds come to its tiny flowers before the salvias!
Big surprise to have Clematis stans x heracleifolia bloom its first summer. Found at Hortlandia in April — yes, I admit I’m weird when it comes to clems in not craving the big-flowered vines. C. heracleifolia also performed decently in my zone 10b garden, back in the days when it was much wetter.
glistening Rhodocoma capensis will need thinning and careful pruning as it grows into its towering shagginess. The Plectranthus argentatus in the stock tank is another plant I’d hate to be without, slightly marginal here. The slider stays open til nearly bedtime — last night a large moth flew in, giving Billie a startle, then the chase was on.
Brachyglottis monroi, a smaller version of B. greyi — the overhang extends slightly over some of the rock plantings which theoretically should provide more dryness in winter
Sonchus palmensis (uncertain to survive this winter), Crambe maritima, Cassinia x ozothamnus, couple Aloe cooperi squeezed in. Ask for any further IDs. And on the far left, just added last week, nonblooming Calluna vulgaris ‘Skyline Barcelona.’

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

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