what’s up (April 2023)

Waiting, longing, wracked with anticipation for the garden to jump into growth is an entirely new experience for me, born and raised in the eternal sunshine of zone 10. When the slow emergence of spring in zone 8b begins — lord have mercy it’s exciting! It feels like there needs to be some sort of authoritative summation on the state of the garden, on life, on the disgraceful behavior of our species…but that feels too much like homework. So instead, here’s a brief roundup of what the camera found today, at the ass end of April, on the Oregon coast, after what I’m told was an exceptionally rough winter. (There was snow! A blanket of it swaddled the garden for a week!)

Phlomis monocephala

What looks good when the garden is just starting to stir in April? In my garden, in one word, phlomis. Unscathed, fully clothed, holding it together all winter. I didn’t expect phlomis could deal with this much rain, hail and snow, but see for yourself.

Phlomis monocephala is planted slightly under the eaves in the rocked area; P. anatolica and aurea are in the main garden borders
Phlomis anatolica ‘Lloyd’s Variety’ with that other great, unchangeable winter stalwart Carex testacea
Phlomis aurea

And for mainlining the life force, jumpstarting slumbering rods and cones, another easy answer: tulips in pots. In colors you’ll never find locally available. (You must rouse yourself in July and order then for the best selection.) They’re the perfect aperitif for opening the growing season, especially for me because I don’t plan for much strong color for summer.

‘Orange Princess’ — grit your teeth and order despite the name
‘Orange Princess,’ ‘Slawa,’ lower right, tall in the back ‘Amber Glow,’ purple is probably ‘Queen of the Night’
And you’ll need to look back at the garden in March 2022…
because gradually planting has encroached into the wide open rocked area by a couple feet — a barrel band, to be exact. In the above barrel band, lower right Hebe parviflora angustifolia, Sedum ‘Capo Blanco, upper left Kniphofia hirsuta, upper right Bulbine abyssinica. Dasylirion texanum is in the concrete tube. Sprawling behind the tube, Marrubium supinum looked presentable all winter. Spikes are Libertia ‘Amazing Grace’ and Libertia ‘Nelson Dwarf.’ I’ve gone libertia mad — not shown is L. chilensis. The empty band in the distant left is awaiting arrival of another phlomis. I need all the phlomis!
looking the other way, east
detail from the band plantings, Crambe maritima
Eryngium paniculatum is another of those plants much appreciated for looking impeccable all winter
Eryngium varifolium
in the center stock tank, zone 9er Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ won big in a cold zone 8b winter. If you don’t like pink, you’ll dismiss it outright, and I don’t seek out pink myself — but I know of no other plant that performs like this. Bees were visiting it all winter. Battered by winds, a main trunk split — but that didn’t stop it either. Another form I hear is equally good is ‘El Rayo’
Thalictrum ‘Elin’

Thalictrum — I’ve daydreamed about growing thalictrum for many years, in a good, moisture-retentive soil. Early emergence of delicate ferny leaves followed by a massive rush of growth to head height. ‘Elin’ was planted last year, two ‘Black Stockings’ were added in March. Yellow-flowered Thalictrum lucidum will arrive in May.

Thalictrum ‘Black Stockings’

The euphorbias bring a strong early presence.

Euphorbia characias supsp. wulfenii with ‘Vulcan’ wallflowers
Euphorbia cyparissias is irresistible to me, bright and early — but it is incredibly invasive!
Euphorbia stygiana was struck flaccid from cold so many times I thought it couldn’t possibly recover, yet here it is
And geum is another that holds onto a robust rosette of leaves all winter in cold, wet soil then is quick off the mark in April
Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’
Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’

And always shopping for more. I bumped into this bigeneric cross of bergenia and mukdenia last week with the sempervivum-like flowers and couldn’t think of a reason not to buy it. There is no reason, right?

ethereal, starry Lychnis flos-cuculi ‘Petit Henri’ is said to bloom all summer, also brought home last week

Light snow again mid April. Yesterday spiked into the high 80s, at least 20 degrees over the norm, but we’ve climbed back down into the 60sF with the possibility of rain tomorrow…and some more in May but then drier days ahead…

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8 Responses to what’s up (April 2023)

  1. What is the concrete tube? I see them in gardens but have never known where to find one. Your Eryngium paniculatum looks so good! Maybe I will try that one again. Drier days ahead!

  2. Denise says:

    Loree, I found that tube abandoned in a field — wish I had more! I should get more of the E. paniculatum too, what a trouper. My stachyurus is showing new growth, thank goodness, as is metapanax. What a winter!

  3. Kris P says:

    You have every reason to be excited! I never knew there were so many species of Phlomis and I’m curious to see what they look like in bloom. Of course, I LOVE the tulips but I found myself sighing over the Thalictrum as well. The Eryngium laniculatum is a stunner too. Thanks for including a bonus shot featuring Billie as well šŸ˜‰

  4. Elaine says:

    Love the look of the barrel rings. They help break up the expanse of gravel nicely. The garden is certainly expanding. Billie looked like she might be a bit concerned there wouldn’t be any room left for her. Phlomis is indeed a gorgeous plant with some very hardy species.

  5. hb says:

    So I guess you don’t have to store the tulip bulbs in the fridge in that climate? They sure are pretty.

    The Phlomis is nice, but the silvery plant in the background–I’ve killed that. Nice to see a happy one.

    Garden looks very Growing Obsession–just in a different language–the Zone 8 language!

  6. ks says:

    ooh Crambe maritima ! A plant that had slipped out of my grasp for so long. I would settle for Eryngium maritimum but I can’t find that one either. I surely have a high appreciation for spring this year -it took it’s time getting here. Such a great adventure to trial so many new plants that snub their nose at zone 10 .

  7. Jerry says:

    Phlomis are stalwart troopers up here. Your gravelly area gives me echoes of Derek Jarman’s garden – such a perfect backdrop for plants, rust, weathered concrete…gives me goosebumps it’s so good. I just released E. cyparissias ‘Fen’s Ruby’ into a garden bed this year after years of keeping it contained in a wine barrel. We’ll see how horrible of a mistake that was in the next year or two. I will probably manage it like I do my E. amygdaloides v. robbiae – by periodically ripping it out by the roots after blooming and letting whatever regrows take it’s place.

  8. Denise Maher says:

    @Kris, it is so very different from our zone 10 gardens yet very absorbing and rewarding to grow stuff like thalictrum!
    @Elaine, I did decide against the last barrel ring in the gravel…for now. Thank you for the encouragement!
    @Hoov, that silvery plants is a cassinia x ozothamnus cross, just a wonderful little plant.
    @Kathy, from what I understand Eryngium maritimum is very difficult to grow under garden conditions — I might try it elevated in a pipe.
    @Jerry, good to know that about phlomis. Gravel works so well here — makes a heat trap in summer to warm under cool skies and then acts as mulch for winter rain, and as you say the plants look good in it. I did tear out all that E. cyparissias yesterday — a very scary plant here, with adventurous, wandering, thread-like roots that infiltrate other plants very easily.

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