mid-May 2024 Oregon Coast

photos below pick out a couple things happening in the above overview

Morning is always my favorite time in the garden, with the plants softly exhaling into the warming air while the sun slowly traces its way through tree canopies and clouds. The surrounding town is quiet while I study the garden as it ushers in another day of surging spring growth, and I love that juxtaposition. Now that May has typically brought ferocious afternoon winds, mornings are savored even more. It is a riveting time in the garden checking out what’s formed shape and gathered strength seemingly overnight, some things familiar and others entirely new. Here’s a quick sketch of the back garden mid-May.

asphodels in bloom in a cloud of Omphalodes linifolia
last photo of asphodels this year, I promise!
Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’ and Euphotbia ‘Copton Ash,’ a replacement for ‘Dean’s Hybrid’ that melted away
Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ seems to be the next-gen ‘Husker’s Red,’ bigger in leaf. First spring in the garden, so haven’t seen it in flower yet.
center, clump of Sanguiisorba ‘Red Thunder’ making size, cirsium and dianthus on the right. Background in bloom left to right is euphorbia, erysimum, geum
Dianthus barbatus ‘Oeschberg’ was planted a couple years back, more as a filler while the garden grew in, but I’m finding its early dark-leaved presence invaluable, and several clumps are threaded throughout the garden. All these early spring plants from seed — dianthus, hesperis, lunaria — have been incredibly enjoyable, a big change from staring at bare ground in the garden’s early days a few springs ago
Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ is also good in early spring, and I’ve been spreading it around open ground that’s waiting for stuff like melianthus to fully leaf out
Cerinthe major purpurascens — I could never make much sense of this plant in zone 10, where it was an irritating sprawler with pinched leaves on the gaunt side that looked nothing like the seed packet photos. In the Oregon garden, one plant that was gifted from a Portland blogger reseeded copiously, but only a handful survived winter so it’s not really a pest. Seeing their lush, upright performance in May, now I get why honeywort is a thing!
Polemonium ‘Golden Feathers’ found local early spring — looks promising!
Allium karataviense has wonderfully thick, pleated leaves
buds just forming
tetrapanax, hesperis, rhodocoma, Darmera peltata in stock tank lower left
Stipa gigantea brings that golden summery haze to the garden so early in the season and is invaluable for it. A few days ago the gravel path was impassable — both the stipa and rhodocoma had to be thinned quite a bit, to neither’s apparent detriment nor loss of good looks
digitalis/digiplexis from the ‘Illumination’ series — overwintered outside, with an overturned bucket easing conditions during the January ice storm. I had forgotten all about this former “it” plant, an expensive annual in zone 10, but took another chance when it turned up at a local nursery last fall. Really surprised it’s come through the winter, a challenging one. On the right is gillenia.
Kniphofia hirsuta showed great stamina over winter and is a gorgeous spring presence as it elongates from its winter rosette. Haven’t seen a bloom yet
I brought up north from zone 10 fat bulbs of eucomis, which all squished out and rotted over winter — but look at the unexpected offsets! So maybe big bulbs are more susceptible to winter wet/cold?

There’s a few more rainy days forecast for May, and then we won’t see much rain again until…October (sob!), but at least the winds will be dying down as the temperature gradient adjusts. I’ve been nursing flats and flats of seedlings for a cutting garden that needs to be a lot bigger than what’s available to me to accommodate 40-plus zinnias, scabiosa, cosmos, sunflowers, and more. Floret Farms launched their own seed strains this year, and if I can bring just a few of their zinnias to flower it will be so worth it to see what they’ve dreamed up (‘Dawn Creek,’ ‘Alpenglow‘!) May is such a deliriously fresh month in the garden — I hope it brings you lots to look at!

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10 Responses to mid-May 2024 Oregon Coast

  1. It really is the merry month of May! You are so adventurous with your plantings – I’m inspired by your Allium karatavience. Alliums do not like my clay/loess and my stingy watering habits. A raised planter like yours is obviously the ticket. Next, I need to take your cue to plant more from seed!

  2. Elaine says:

    So great to ‘hear’ your obvious excitement about your new garden. It is looking quite fresh and lovely. Spring really is the time of hope and optimism that the garden will look as good all season. fingers crossed.

  3. Things are looking lush out there! So this cutting garden, will it be in the front yard perhaps? Looking forward to updates, and also hating the wind…

  4. Jerry says:

    Heh – I can’t tell if your comment about the last of the rain until October is a slight bit of sarcasm or a more truthful statement. It’s sprinkling a bit here today, but our May has been pretty dry. Interesting to see how many things in your coastal garden are maybe a week or two ahead than where I am about 70 miles inland. Our microclimates make a big difference.

  5. Kris P says:

    Both floral and foliage are fabulous in your May garden, Denise! I love that Allium karataviense even in its current state. The only Alliums I’ve seen thus far were Allium neopolitanum (ornamental onion), which I fear may have been a mistake to plant. Is the Euphorbia in the second photo next to the asphodel ‘Miner’s Merlot’? It seems that I missed my chance to pick up that plant when it first appeared in reasonably priced 4-inch pots.

  6. ks says:

    The Denise Garden aesthetic has really unfolded this spring –it looks just splendid. I had P. ‘Dark Towers’ that I got several years ago from Annies -really liked it and it’s definitely superior to Husker Red which have also grown. DT fell prey to one of my serial renovations and I kind of forgot about it. I loved using the seedheads in arrangements too.

  7. Denise says:

    @Jane, it will be so interesting to see what you do with your new garden!
    @Elaine, May seems like a great month to indulge in an “anything is possible” attitude!
    @Loree, the cutting garden will mostly likely be the east side, which doesn’t get more than 6 hours of sun a day, so I’m still puzzling this out…
    @Jerry, not facetious! I’m still a fan of rain, and it did rain unexpectedly this morning. Living through years of drought in SoCal, rain still seems a miracle. Microclimates are real — there are towns a few miles up the coast that get hotter or wetter or are sheltered more from wind.
    @Kris, yes, that’s ‘Miner’s Merlot,’ will see how it fares over summer. I’ve been trialing a few summer-blooming onions too since they love the soil and moisture here.
    @Kathy, I’m guessing DT is a Terra Nova penstemon? If it does well I’ll be spreading it around the garden and will set aside a piece for you too!

  8. Gerhard Bock says:

    I’ve said this before, but I can’t believe how established your garden looks after just a few years!

    So many plants I’d never be able to grow in the Sacramento Valley!

  9. Denise Maher says:

    @Gerhard, I find the growth impressive too! I’ve already been thinning stuff and moving things, a lot to the front yard so the timing is working out well with starting the back garden to feed the front garden with plants! I hear you, most of these plants are completely unsuitable to SoCal too – it’s a lot of fun to build a garden for an entirely different climate.

  10. Tracy says:

    Beautiful, the epitome of May! The leaves on that Allium are fantastic.

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