coastal PNW gardens late July

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.

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In full bloom at the coast, Luther Burbank’s decade-plus work, the Shasta Daisy, originated with the humble ox-eye daisy, which is still featured in meadow plantings at gardens like Great Dixter. A British wildflower, Leucanthemum vulgare, accompanied the Pilgrims and naturalized in Burbank’s home state of Massachusetts. From meadow daisy to a quadruple hybrid, it is now a big, overbearing composite, a gift to public gardens and those large enough to accommodate it. Its appearance midsummer to me announces:
I give you the Summer Daisywhere’s your picnic basket?
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Crocosmias in the Kuestner garden

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.

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callistemon (possibly ‘Esther’), Euphorbia stygiana, Lobelia tupa, nepeta, achillea in the Wonder Garden in July
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Continuing with my self-guided studies in comparative horticulture on the Oregon coast, I note that Anigozanthos flavidus overwinters in Manzanita’s zone 9a. The Wonder Garden’s fall plant sale features plants grown in the garden — not sure if the anigozanthos will be included though.

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.

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lilies, alliums, and Dahlia ‘Forncett’s Furnace’ which I originally mistook for tithonia, also grown by the garden owners, Mark and Linda Kuestner. This dahlia is said to originate from Nori and Sandra Pope’s garden at Hadspen House, England, brought to the U.S. by Dan Hinkley. I’m absolutely no expert on growing dahlias but have observed that single dahlias might be better suited to cool coastal conditions. The big, congested doubles take forever to open in the garden, which is conversely a wonderful attribute in a vase
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Dahlia ‘Forncett’s Furnace, Kuestner garden
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Another single dahlia in the Kuestner garden
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In my garden, Dahlia ‘Elks Lips on Fire’ from Old House Dahlias, a complex, intense raspberry, that was offered as a replacement. Although zone 8b, Tillamook is slightly warmer in summer than Manzanita. Unlike the deep alluvial soil in Tillamook, Manzanita’s is sandy. The recent PNW heat wave hasn’t pushed temperatures up much at the coast.
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Another replacement from Old House Dahlias, ‘Camano Sitka,’ my garden
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Dahlia ‘Hollyhill Bewitched,’ my garden
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Tigridias in the Kuestner garden
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Lobelia tupa in the Kuestner garden
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Annual poppies in bloom in July! Kuestner garden.
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Papaver commutatum, Kuestner garden
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Fabiana imbricata post-bloom, Kuestner garden.
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tigridia, alliums, and aquilegia foliage in the Kuestner garden
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calluna, hebe, alchemilla, daylilies, and a young Sambucus ‘Lemony Lace’ at the Wonder Garden
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the Moon Carrot, Seseli gummiferum, 3 years to bloom in the Wonder Garden. I’m hoping mine speeds up the process!
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Trough in the Kuestner garden, with variegated Agave schidigera and Monardella macrantha

I hope your local weather is being reasonably kind to you and your garden. Take care! More soon, AGO.

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6 Responses to coastal PNW gardens late July

  1. Kris P says:

    Lush flowers everywhere! I remember being completely bowled over by the flowers in Alaska when we visited oh so many years ago during the latter part of July into early August. Gardeners and the flowers themselves seemed to take advantage of that short growing season by exploding with lavish blooms and it seems that coastal Oregon is following suit. I’m glad you’re having a bit of fun with dahlias this year.

  2. Elaine says:

    The gardens are looking gorgeous. Who thought of the name ‘Elks Lips on Fire’? Must have been some alcohol involved. Am always jealous of how well dahlias do in the PNW. My dad grew beautiful ones every summer without every really trying. I try every year but results are mediocre at best.

  3. Denise says:

    @Kris, I may be wrong calling this a shortish growing season — we’ll see how autumn goes! Depending on the first frost and how early and hard it rains, autumn could be a big deal…or a bust! But July/August has seen some amazing growth.
    @Elaine, elks are kind of omnipresent here on road signs, the animals themselves in the fields, and of course the hunters are gearing up for hunting season opening in August. Maybe the fire refers to when the fuzzy lips are backlit by the sun? I used to think that dahlias being from Mexico would be perfect in a hot climate like zone 10. Apart from being water hogs, they really seem to prefer milder temperatures too.

  4. hb says:

    Oh my, coastal weather! Beautiful garden there. No doubt you are learning from experts there.

    The weather here is too depressing to mention.

  5. Horticat says:

    Thanks for the information about Shasta daisies – I had no idea they were a man made thing. Very interesting read.

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