covering the ground in early spring zone 8b

every morning Billie and I inspect the garden, each with a different agenda of course

Dead or alive? Since April I’ve circled the garden carefully every morning, spine at a right angle to the ground, and posed that question to the plants…or the empty space I remember growing plants. Looking for signs of life in Salvia uliginosa (no-show as yet/dead); Salvia nutans (growth from one clump out of two); Aloe cooperi (strong growth from one plant, new nubbins from a second plant.). I inspect the garden daily both for signs of survival and also for what makes an early presence in spring.

Aloe cooperi, a grass aloe, showing new growth, second winter, zone 8 hardy but iffy as far as all the rain. No blooms last summer and most likely none this year. Just had to have an aloe! Another hardy aloe. A. boylei, came thru in a stock tank. Plant on left with blue flowers is Wolfenia x schwarzii with evergreen leaves in winter
the dog fennel last summer. The shrub Rhamnus alaternus ‘Variegatus’ is looking a little peaked this spring and may not be a good fit for the excessive winter rain

There’s visible growth on veronicastrum, on eupatorium. But one of my favorite plants from last year, the dog fennel Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather,’ is so far a no-show. Too early or dead? Canna ‘Cleopatra’ is showing growth. I had no idea if planting this last fall was sane. I left the dahlias in the ground more out of neglect than planning, and surprisingly two are showing growth. All the Sideritis oroteneriffae in the ground perished, but one planted in a bottomless container slightly under the eaves is producing new growth at the base.

Dianthus barbatus ‘Oeschberg’

At least this year there is some growth to inspect. Last year, the first spring in this Oregon garden, was an agonizing time without much to look at in May. Since then I’ve focused on early growth from mostly herbaceous, sun-loving plants after a cold, wet (rain forest wet!) zone 8b winter. I’ve sown biennials like sweet william and hesperis for their early presence. It’s a vast subject, to get a wet 8b garden in sun up on its legs in early spring, so if you have any suggestions I’m all ears! I’ve been adding bulbs but avoiding peonies and early flowering shrubs for now.

Italian buckthorn this spring. The grass behind it is Anemanthele lessoniana, which looks decent all winter but because it shouldn’t be cut to the ground looks a little shabby by spring. I’ve been thinning out the old growth. Carex testacea in foreground is flawlesss. The phormium came through the winter OK, and Eryngium ‘Big Blue’ has strong spring growth
Sanguisorbas are a strong early presence
Not afraid of orange, both in wallflowers and geum. Other early silver leaves come from several clumps of Lychnis coronaria, a sterile strain called ‘Gardener’s World’

The wallflowers, erysimum, thrive here and ignite the May garden. The large-leaved lamb’s ears is scruffy all winter but rights itself early for some gorgeous clumps. Foreground left is a miscanthus, late to bulk up, but behind the wallflower is a treasure, an Oregon native, cool season grass Deschampsia cespitosa in the very good form ‘Goldtau.’ I’m also growing quite a few clumps of the older variegated variety ‘Northern Lights’ which is easier to find.

Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ is an electric presence in April/May
Festuca arundinacea ‘Glow Sticks’ found local last year kept its leaves in winter. Didn’t bloom last spring — will I see glow sticks this year? The open space behind the grass is waiting to be filled by melianthus and an Aralia ‘Sun King’ — a good place for spring bulbs while waiting for these two to make size. The heat wave projected for this weekend should kick the melianthus into gear.
Out of three ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ lavenders, one pulled through, all planted in the gravel
Teucrium ‘Summer Sunshine,’ planted in fall 2021, made it through two winters but just now showing the chartreuse coloring
Salvia argentea after one winter — really had my doubts about this one surviving
One of several clumps of Oregon sunshine, Eriophyllum lanatum, nearly evergreen, bulking up to an artemisia-like lacy clump before bloom. With early-appearing dark-leaved lysimachia (bought unlabeled).
Asarina procumbens, the creeping snapdragon, thins out a bit in winter but still evergreen, thickening and flowering early. Filling in the graveled area under the tetrapanax and restio rhodocoma
Iris ‘Gerald Darby’ planted near a downspout. Everything else is kept in pots here because the ground is just sooo wet
Closest to the garage gets the least amount of sun. Aruncus aethusifolius is center, Eurybia divaricata upper left. Lots of early stuff here not pictured — Gillenia trifoliata, Angelica pupurea ‘Stricta,’ tricyrtis, Filipendula ‘Red Umbrellas,’ Anemone ‘Dainty Swan,’ Potentilla lineata, astrantia
Eurybia divaricata
Astrantia ‘Star of Fire’ planted last week
Peucedanum ostruthium ‘Daphnis’ aka Peuce Masterwort planted last week is a lookalike for dangerous bishop’s weed but is in fact a well-mannered umbel
Also planted this spring. Loved the leaf color of Arctostaphylos ‘Pajaro Hybrid,’ a standout among the arctos at the Wonder Garden’s spring manzanita sale — volunteers hard first choosing rights! Approx 200 plants sold out in a half hour.
view early this morning east of my neighbor’s flowering fruit trees. The double pink (a cherry?) is in bloom all over town. The single white is lovely.
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6 Responses to covering the ground in early spring zone 8b

  1. Elaine says:

    My heart stopped for a moment when I saw the Peuce Astrantia thinking it was goutweed. You definitely don’t want that in your garden. The resemblance is startling. Despite all your rain the garden is really coming on and looking great. The last photo shows how great it can be to ‘borrow’ someone else’s landscape feature.

  2. I can say from experience that ‘Elegant Feather’ is late to rise in the spring. Hopefully yours will be showing up soon!

  3. Kris P says:

    I’ve little experience with most of these plants, although I’ve tried a few (like goatstbeard) while knowing that they’re not considered suitable for the climate here. I’ve tried and failed to grow Astrantia a few times – it probably would have had a better chance this year given the extra rain but I wasn’t prescient. I’ll try that Teucrium ‘Summer Sunshine’ if I come across it locally. Give Billie a pat for me!

  4. Denise Maher says:

    @Elaine, I’m excited about that peucedanum! Hopefully there will be more photos to share later in the season. No rain forecast for a couple weeks, so we’re definitely heading into the dry season.
    @Loree, thanks for the reassurance!
    @Kris, I brought that teucrium up from SoCal under Native Sons label. I know Armstrongs carries Native Sons plants. I tried astrantia down south too, but even aside from steady moisture I think it needs a dormancy.

  5. hb says:

    Billie so cute!

    Your PNW garden this year looks much more planted than last year–very nice.

    The rain must be wonderful but having to wait until May(?) to play outside must be tough!

  6. Jerry says:

    How odd that your Rhamnus isn’t doing well. Seems to enjoy our winter wet over here on the west side of the Coastals. But maybe that’s the ticket and we’re just slightly drier.

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