got gratitude?


Making a garden for myself seems to be a function now of my autonomic nervous system, like breathing and a beating heart. It is a big comfort to know that wherever I go, I’m fairly sure I can make a little garden, at least while strength holds out.


All that time spent thinking of, reading about, and making gardens? I’m feeling gratitude for that lived experience that enables me to make a garden that traps light, catches wind, color and contrast, even if the only other appreciative visitors are birds and insects.


I may not be able to draw raindrops captured by seedheads or beading up on smooth leaves, but I can plant that — and know how and what to plant, thanks to all the generous garden writing I’ve read, the welcoming gardens I’ve visited.


I know what will glisten every morning after an overnight rain.


The fact that the most exuberant, knowledgeable gardens have to be sought out, and are not to be found around every corner, instead of finding that depressing, I see it now as proof of the value and rarity of this specific knowledge base and skillset. Gardeners know how to make something out of soil, water and light that acts as an enticingly sexy advertisement for the natural world. Gardens defiantly say look closer and take care. In the face of rampant cruelty and stupidity, it may not be enough but it’s not nothing either.


I am beyond grateful for the years spent learning how to make a garden. I can bake bread, I can make a garden — what else could you want or need?

To all the garden makers, salut! Indulge yourself with gratitude for all you’ve studied and accomplished. To all those who share what they know, plants or otherwise, thank you, I’ve learned loads. Have a wonderful holiday!

Posted in Oregon garden | 7 Comments

clippings 10/24/23

Mopping up the earlier report on blooms in October that was abridged due to technical issues…

Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’
Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’ at the base of Emilia javanica ‘Irish Poet,’ an annual that seems to get better as it gets colder and wetter — we’ll see how it likes the nighttime forecasts later in the week down into the 30sF
Eryngium ravenelii planted May 2022 — not much to look at now but it did survive its first winter and flowered, so I’m thinking it has a chance to improve with age and size. Notable for being a wet-tolerant eryngo native to southern U.S. wetlands (aka Eryngium aquaticum var. ravenelii). Narrow leaves, currently about a foot in height
Eryngium yuccifolium over 3 feet in height, flawless in leaf and flower
I moved Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ back near the fence to give Eryngium pandanifolium a full 360-degree zone of appreciation — and the possibility of more bloom stalks next summer. Achnatherum calamagrostis might be my favorite grass. Early blooming, when it earns its name Silver Spike Grass, the blooms gracefully age with the seasons, now in October fading to a rosy tan. Miscanthus ‘Yaku Jima’ spikes in the background
Is Salvia ‘Amante’ overall as good a plant as ‘Amistad’? Hard to say. Possibly not as floriferous. Having grown my fair share of purple and blue salvias, I do love the color break.
Solanum laxum (nee jasminoides) is everything I want in a vine — low-key, always fresh-appearing, self-cleaning, lightweight, blooming in unassuming trusses, quietly turning into an October garden star as others quit the stage
Dahlia ‘AC Rosebud’ — I’ve given away the shorter, less floriferous dahlias, with ‘Camano Sitka’ also remaining. These two are robust, tall, incredibly prolific and might possibly benefit from pinching back next spring because who wants 8-foot dahlias anyway? I did bring home ‘Twyning’s After 8’ from Windcliff. (Hinkley warned me that, being a seedling, there was no telling its color. Well, it has bloomed and it’s spot on, looking like this.) These three remaining dahlias will no doubt be knocked down by upcoming predicted frosts.
Posted in Bloom Day, clippings | 10 Comments

bloom day October 2023

Can we just keep calling them asters? Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis ‘Lady in Black’

I’ve been talking up all summer the two Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis varieties in my garden (‘Prince’ and ‘Lady in Black’). Rich dark leaves early in the season suspended on a light framework that doesn’t overwhelm neighbors. I’m not saying the Sept/October blooms are incidental, but they are an additionally winning, late-season virtue of an all-around, very good plant. Wind and rain do not beat these plants down. Right now I wish I had room for a much larger planting of them — so good with grasses.


If I had to choose, my preference would be ‘Lady in Black’ for its open, arching habit of growth. Spittle bugs were all over early spring growth, so I cut quite a bit off to rid the plant of the pests — not sure if they’re damaging but they are disgusting! Even with that spring cutback it makes sizeable growth up to blooming size of approx 4 feet.

the “Prince’ is much more dense in habit, possibly more floral impact than LIB
Anisodontea and dahlias don’t know when to quit
those late-season sparklers, mums, are also very weather-resilient and really class up the fall vegetable garden
chocolate cosmos love the never-too-hot coast and have a very long season here
fall-blooming hesperantha is no flash-in-the-pan either. Their long season of Sept/Oct bloom is as much an occasion in the garden as crocosmia earlier in summer
the bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, one of the “late but great” plants for zone 8b fall

Special mention to those plants whose images refused to upload: The wallflowers manage to handle the 4-month dry season as well as the cold, rainy rest of the year (Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’); Emilia javanica, an annual with tall stems topped with small, brilliant, orange thistle brushes, nice with Pennisetum villosum, both gracefully handling a rainy October; and Parahebe catarractae, a flawless little foreground shrub, evergreen, covered in tiny white flowers now, as it has been on and off all summer.

the annual Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate, Persicaria orientalis

And last but not least, the tall annual Persicaria orientalis in the vegetable garden leaning on the bean trellis. Lettuce, beans, peas, and zucchini have been stellar this summer on the coast.

More Bloom Day reports for October can be found here.

Posted in Bloom Day, Oregon garden | 7 Comments

checking in on the zone 10 garden

Under the piles of tree debris there were some exciting finds, like how well the bromeliad Alcantarea imperialis and Pyrrosia lingua get along, both tolerating extended periods of dryness in a container sitting directly under an acacia — ground zero for maximum tree litter. Cleaned up, debris pulled out by the handfuls, and the pot moved to a shady, debris-free east corner.

The Long Beach, CA zone 10 garden had a renter/caretaker in residence for almost a year while we’ve been on the Oregon coast. I think they may have been watering the containers before decamping in July, but I’m not really sure how much consistent water the garden itself got after the 2023 winter rains, which were fortunately epic. Neighbors say this was an exceptionally cool summer here, with no temps over 100. And August brought unexpected, significant rainfall for this summer-dry climate. Overall, I’m trying to find a caretaking pattern that can be duplicated again, but maybe I just caught a lucky break because the garden has, in the main, survived very well without me.

The evergreen Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is a nice, small-sized tree, producing good light for growing bromeliads, but the steady stream of debris year-round requires constant cleanup to avoid smothering crowns of bromeliads and succulents.
This small amount of breathing room was made possible by pulling a pincushion shrub/leucospermum, two westringias and lots of grasses. Swift, command decisions needed to be made! Grevillea on the left is ‘Poorinda Blondie,’ heavily cut back this trip. The Euphorbia cotinifolia was limbed up. In the far corner, not captured in the photo, a trevesia surprisingly flourishes, along with Doryanthes palmeri, the African Spear Lily, and a Purple Giant Crinum Lily.
trunk of trevesia, doryanthes on the left, giant crinum behind on the right

The back garden greeted me with wall-to-wall growth — the drought-breaking rains worked their magic. By late September the soil was bone dry again, but the garden party raged on anyway, with roots settled and deep. Exuberant growth overwhelmed many of the smaller succulents. Fall is the best time for this kind of cleanup, allowing the newly exposed succulents to acclimate to the changing light before next year’s summer sun. (I did some spot cleanup in July, and the newly exposed cycad Encephalartos horridus and an agave were burnt and disfigured but may recover.)

Tetrapanax has never looked this lush in fall before. Yards of the Crimson Passionflower, Passiflora vitifolia, were cut off the tetrapanax, and the Skyscraper Senecio (Curio ficoides) had surged almost pergola-high then crashed down — complete removal was needed. The big aloe is ‘Goliath,’ rooted ithrough the drainhole of a pot into the ground.
the Crimson Passionflower loves to drape over and then smother anything in its wake. Trimmed back but not removed…yet. Flowers are so lovely, as are the leaves. All the salvias behind Euphorbia ammak were removed to rescue smaller succulents.
Next to the potted ‘Goliath’ is my treasured Cussonia gamtoosensis — this seems to have survived by rooting thru the pot drainhole as well
The outlines were basically familiar. Established succulents fared well, but smaller introductions were overwhelmed by the growth of grasses, shrubs and perennials
Agave kerchovei is becoming a formidable presence. Ruby grass has seeded around, here between the smaller agave and aeoniums.
Wonderful fall performance by the slipper plant, with its fabulous lime/red bracts, Pedilanthus bracteatus
The agaves were smothered by perennials like salvias and small shrubs, many of which were intended to be trained into orbs like westringia and “golfball” pittosporum — not a long-distance project! (Three golfball pitts were trained into one large orb but westringias were removed.) Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’ was uncovered after removing yards of Salvia ‘Savannah Blue.’ For now, restios work better than grasses with the succulents.
Three shaggy “golfball” pittosporum were merged into one — nice surprise to find the potted turk’s cap melocactus somewhat healthy
Salvia ‘Savannah Blue’ before removal — I’m going to try this in the Oregon garden, supposedly tolerant of zone 8 — much too vigorous among succulents but a good dry garden plant
Leucadendron ‘Jester’ in good health — alas, a large Leucadendron ‘Ebony’expired
another open area attained by removal of shrubby stuff like salvias, anisodontea. A potted Agave guiengola ‘Moto Sierra’ was moved here for more sun. The aloes here were swamped, including Aloe lukeana near the large pot containing the Skyscraper Senecio, unwatered and in full sun, an effective way to curtail its exuberant growth!
the “chainsaw” leaf margins of Agave guiengola ‘Moto Sierra’
Looks like over 2 inches of new growth on a potted Euphorbia canariensis
Through reseeding sonchus has become a permanent resident
Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ snapped a large branch. The shrub canopy was cleaned up, branches cut off the garage roof, gutters cleaned out, etc.
All the little potted cacti and succulents are probably at greater risk than those in the ground — caretakers tend to ignore them or overwater them! I was tempted to plant many of them in the ground, but with a super El Nino rainy winter forecast, ultimately opted to keep the status quo for now.
Furcraea macdougalii is trunking now, surrounded by big, weed-smothering succulents like Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’ and Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii. Spikes are Nolina nelsonii.

In the front garden, there wasn’t much to do other than water it in well and cut off several old palm fronds from the triangle palm, Dypsis decaryi.

Nolina underplanted with succulents, Agave ‘Mateo’
More of the planting in the front garden — especially gratifiying was the survival of Banksia repens, upper right above a form of Agave titanota
it was good to see the aeoniums coming back to liife in fall
One of the snappiest looking things to greet me was the Loll bench, a hotel castoff, bought from a consignment shop earlier in the year. A typical fall occurrence here, bird droppings, stained dark navy blue from the berries from the Chinese Fringe Tree, were ruining its looks, but it scrubbed up beautifully. It’s incredibly heavy but indestructible. Even second-hand it was pricy, but so worth it — made from recycled plastic.

I’ve been walking neighborhoods in LA the past couple weeks and noting the same problems in my garden on a broader scale. Everywhere the dry-tolerant plantings have outgrown their allotted space and impinge on sidewalks, houses. You can easily distinguish those interested in controlling the growth (very few!) from those overwhelmed by the responsibility. The city is lush and overgrown, but the birds are cacophonous, the sheets of blue plumbago and scarlet bougainvillea breath-taking. Plants in LA are both out of control and enchanting. Gardens here need constant, year-round vigilance to keep up with the effects of a year-round, frost-free climate — a very different kind of garden-making!

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, climate, garden visit, pots and containers, succulents | 6 Comments

late but great

Some of the feelings about my late summer/fall garden this year can be broken down into two categories: 1) What took you so long? and 2) Wow, you look so fresh!

Selinum wallichianum definitely falls into the “Wow, you look so fresh!” category. Thistle is Cirsium rivulare ‘Trevor’s Blue’

I’ve been both irritated by tardiness and appreciative of late-summer beauty, and that’s because there are straightforward, reliable fall bloomers like selinum in my garden, but there are also cases where it’s possible more time is needed to settle into a reliable rhythm/performance. And there are undoubtedly instances where the garden is straddling a zone which the plant is hesitant to commit to.

And in the “What took you so long?” category, Salvia uliginosa is just getting going in September in zone 8b

The worst timing anxiety is when it’s weather-driven. Some winters knock plants back hard and mess with normal growth cycles, and then predicting what a plant will do is just a crap shoot.

Solidago ‘Fireworks’

Whereas, reliable late-blooming plants like solidago are nothing but a treat when they arrive and are never a cause for early-season worrying.

reliably fall-blooming kaffir lilies — my rummage-sale schizostylis
Bigelowia nuttallii behind the concrete tube

And then there are the plants you’ve never grown before and don’t know what to expect. Nuttall’s rayless-goldenrod is either in bloom midsummer or late summer, depending on who you read. Obviously more toward late summer/fall here…this year. Sometimes it takes plants a few years to settle into a predictable cycle…that is, unless winter throws them a curveball. And I think it’s safe to say we can expect a lot of curveballs ahead…

Calamintha nepeta — if it reseeds I’ll know it’s not the sterile selection ‘Montrose White’ — I had expected this to begin blooming in early summer. Maybe it needs to settle in another year. Could be a lack of heat. Fabulously long-blooming/pollinator plant in my zone 10 garden.
unnamed salvia species from Szechuan from FBTS

One plant that was causing a fair amount of anxiety is an unnamed salvia with a glowing recommendation from the now-closed nursery Flowers By The Sea. For them in Northern California, it blooms all summer. That was therefore my expectation, too, so having it open flowers in September felt like a fail.


Intricately marked flowers, growth habit similar to the clary sage. For a small garden, initially I felt it wasn’t pulling its weight. But…I’ve been won over. It doesn’t have monster star power, but it is a fresh if subtle sight for September.


Great leaves, tall and branching to 3-4 feet, lots of flowering stems. And I have to say another factor in its favor is that, with FBTS going out of business, it’s unlikely to be easily available commercially again. FBTS says it doesn’t set viable seed.

Salvia pulchella x involucrata

And then there’s the exasperating category: Will they or won’t they bloom before the first frost? The genus salvia is filled with such borderline quandaries. This is the second year for a cross of Salvia involucrata with pulchella by Martin Grantham of the San Francisco Botanical Garden (née Strybing). It didn’t bloom before first frost last year, but I took a cutting (and will need to do so again this year). The leaves are bright green and fresh, and that alone is a rare sight in September. I’m not saying I wouldn’t welcome flowers but am not holding my breath. It seems fairly settled that the best chance for flowers from an involucrata selection in zone 8b appears to be with Salvia ‘Boutin.’

Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis ‘Prince’ budding up with Parahebe perfoliata

Another virtue of renowned late arrivals is how they hold it together all summer. The lateriflorus asters like ‘Prince’ and ‘Lady in Black have had a strong presence since early summer.

Calamagrostis brachytricha, Korean Feather Reed Grass

Late but beautiful, my only problem with Calamagrostis brachytricha is I can’t see it. Reputed to grow to a height of 4 feet, mine are maybe at 2 feet. (The photo above is from a dwindling clump that was dug out of the garden and repotted to fatten up again.). The clump in the garden has plenty of room, has made good size and is nearing full bloom — and at another 2 feet in height it would be a gorgeous asset to the late garden. At its current size, planted in the back tier of my stadium seating layout, it’s invisible, screened by Lobelia tupa and solidago. Maybe the small size is an immaturity issue?

Achnatherum calamagrostis, Silver Spike Grass

I can give the Calamagrostis brachytricha another year to see if that improves their height, or move them to the front garden, where they can be appreciated at whatever height they attain. A worthy replacement for them is the Silver Spike Grass, Achnatherum calamagrostis (aka Stipa calamagrostis) — silver fading to tan, it’s been fabulous all summer long.

Posted in design, journal, Oregon garden, Plant Portraits | 8 Comments

notes on the September garden

Eryngium yuccifolium

Miscanthus ‘Flamingo’

September is a big month in this garden…the equivalent of a king’s tide (the highest full-moon tide that temporarily erases local beaches).

Dahlia ‘Camano Sitka’ and Selinum wallichianum

But this is no act of nature. Big, tall plants have always been a preference. Still, the height and fullness of September is startling.

Other than the paths, like a tide the ground is completely covered
Linaria ‘Plummy,’ a cross between L. dalmatica and purpurea. It’s really something. Only one plant from a forgotten sowing in a stock tank was spotted this spring. Probably sown fall 2022

Even so there are some low-key incidents, like this quiet corner that is one of my favorites to visit at the moment. I’ve shown a couple of these plants before but not as a group portrait, and that’s how they really shine. The constituent plants are so thinly built that I’ll need to show closeups.

Verbascum roripifolium. Of five plants, this one is the most well-branched. Yes, a branching, not vertical verbascum! A cloud of bloom instead of a spire.

Unlike Joe-Pye weed and miscanthus and the dahlias and helianthus that read from a distance, each of these plants is so fizzy and ethereal that a group portrait is like a Seurat painting without the people and parasols. The three are a verbascum, a linaria, and a verbena, all started from seed this year. It’s sheer happenstance that they are all blooming together in a small protected area that seemed a safe bet for cosseting new baby plants. Apart from the linaria, multiples of these same plants are dotted throughout the garden, but they’ve reached their best potential in this little patch. Reseeding of any or all would be most welcome!

Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora ‘Bampton’

And other than reseeding, it’s uncertain whether any of these plants will return next year, just as there will never be precisely this version of a September garden again.

and the group portrait, with a stray astrantia sneaking in. Grass is molinia.

A very absorbing, quiet corner in person, but as a photo it’s not very compelling with the delicate spatial relationships rendered flat. (Don’t you want to settle a potted agave in the midst of the planting?)

Reblooming astrantia? ‘Star of Fire’ planted early May

Good public gardens are full of examples of planting that is easily legible by a general audience. Some strong planting was seen at the Bellevue Botanic Garden we visited recently in late August.

near the entrance at BBG — bananas, alstroemeria, salvia, gingers, hardy scheffleras
late summer planting at Bellevue Botanic Garden near the entrance, hardy gingers stealing the show

Near the entrance the planting was emphatic and clearly legible.

Public gardens have unique concerns — there was a fundraising art show taking place
A looser, more complex, detailed planting with a foreground sedum/hylotelephium, cynara, gaura, eucomis and lots more going on

Deeper into BBG, the planting did become looser, more free form.

Ratibida columnifera at BBG
False hemp Datisca cannabina, Bellevue Botanic Garden

This. The false hemp backlit by late afternoon sun — I’d love to see this at home in a future September garden.

Posted in garden travel, garden visit, Oregon garden, Plant Portraits | 9 Comments

shopping for phlomis at Windcliff

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.” I wrote that in April this year, and I haven’t changed my mind yet about phlomis, especially now that I’ve seen not only how they handle all that winter rain, but the summer dry season too. I counted maybe three spots where phlomis would be an improvement over the current residents: A large clump of the big-leaved, non-flowering lamb’s ears could be halved, Lychnis coronaria struggling in the dry soil under the neighbor’s overhanging fruit tree could be moved, and a Japanese holly fern Cyrtomium falcatum in too much sun needed more shade. Time to go shopping! But where? What nursery has a great phlomis list?

noID phlomis with dark-leaved pittosporum at Windcliff August 26, 2023

Turns out that the owners of Windcliff appreciate phlomis’ many virtues too. (If you need an introduction to Windcliff, Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones, start here.) Scanning their offerings under Plants To Go, I earmarked Phlomis x margaritae and Phlomis ‘Le Sud’ (the latter sourced from Oliver Filippi’s nursery in the South of France), but there were so many other tempting kinds too. The trick is that Windcliff does not offer mail order; plants must be picked up on site, after e-mail arrangements are made for an appointment. Maps declared this to be a four and half hour trip. Hey, that’s a quick jaunt!

Dichroa febrifuga along the front driveway

But…Friday afternoon Seattle/Tacoma traffic was awful. Accidents, delays, sluggish progress up the 5 north made it closer to 6 hours. Not a day trip! Good thing we opted for an overnight in the town of Edmonds, where you catch the car ferry for a half-hour ride across Puget Sound to Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula. Windcliff/Indianola is maybe 10 minutes away from Kingston. (Heronswood is approximately 7 miles away from Indianola.)


Finally out of the damn car, settling in for cervezas and Mexican food in the walkable town of Edmonds Friday night, with a Billie-friendly room booked, at that point the trip took on a glow it never lost. Our appointment was set for Saturday at 12 noon.

Cortaderia fulvida owning the bluff.

Detailed instructions from Robert take you from Indianola to the Windcliff gate, where he meets you with advice to see the garden before shopping the nursery and to take photos of any plants about which you have questions. Dan and Robert were both manning the nursery sales table. A few cars were at the gate when we arrived, but very few people are admitted in at one time (I believe maximum is five per two-hour visit — it’s all on the website). I had the garden entirely to myself — Marty and Billie stayed in the car.

private home of Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones

Pretty much any month is a safe bet for visiting Windcliff, though Dan says he doesn’t have as much going on in winter as he’d like. The last two winters have been especially brutal. The zone 8b garden sits on a bluff overlooking the Puget Sound, where the ferry system still thrives — which thrilled Marty, an alumnus of the Catalina Island ferry boats. Drainage at Windcliff is excellent, and the name is no empty poetic turn of phrase. Previous owners named it Windcliff for a reason, and the name was kept by Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones. The fierce winds off the Sound keep the crowns of plants dry all winter…which isn’t as rainy as you’d assume for the PNW. Annual rainfall is under 30 inches.

distant ceramic towers by Dustin Gimbel entitled….”Phlomis”! — and I think that’s a phlomis to the right of the eucomis

The noon visit was hotter than warm. Only mid 80s, but that bluff soaks up and radiates every bit of that sunshine.

What’s so interesting about the summer focus on agapanthus is how despite all the varieties and differences in heights and variations in colors on the blue/purple spectrum, with some white, the overall effect is to unify the garden, like a scene from a South African grassland

Famous for Dan’s own collections of rare araliaceae, the hardy scheffleras, and all the plants ending in the suffix “panax,” nevertheless Windcliff in summer is brilliant with agapanthus. Dan says Agapanthus praecox was on the property when they bought it, along with the huge expanse of sunny, south-facing lawn which is now the bluff garden. Intrigued by the possibilities suggested by that original surviving agapanthus, the plant list has now grown to over 50 varieties of agapanthus on offer, many of them Windcliff-bred exclusives.


Agapanthus at Windcliff are given center-stage treatment, rather than sidelined in narrow utilitarian plantings as they are in Southern Calif. Fully appreciated, they strut and swagger like I’ve never seen them do in zone 10.

Agapanthus, eucomis, kniphofia and plumes of the dramatic New Zealand toetoe Cortaderia fulvida
A selection of Agapanthus inapertus
Wonderful clump of Acanthus sennii on the left, but then it’s all simply wonderful
Because it stood taller than me, I’m guessing that this may be Eucomis pallidiflora subsp. pole-evansii, the giant among pineapple lilies.
native madrone distant left, yellow poppy flowers look like Hunnemania fumariifolia. Every plant shown here would also grow in zone 10, though I doubt eucomis would grow as well
stunning hypericum from Nepal, possibly H. uralum. Not available currently at the nursery, but Plant World has seeds
Mathiasella bupleuroides flourishes at Windcliff, named in honor of Mildred Mathias, Director of the UCLA Botanic Garden

Gardens can be many things, calming, dreamy, an attempt at an imposition of order that either attracts or repels. Windcliff is an incredibly stimulating garden to visit, and I confess to a partiality for beautiful gardens that provoke discovery and wonder. Windcliff is a meandering, closely planted garden, almost as if Dan is recreating the experience of discovery he felt when first becoming acquainted with many of these plants in the wild.

Sinopanax formosanus, an evergreen endemic to Taiwan, aka Formosa. If my little one survives it may have to be moved!
Salvia with rusty spent blooms of an olearia in background, possibly Olearia cheesemanii
pitcher plants at the man-made pond just off the house, bluff-side
Caesalpinia gilliesii is marginally hardy so has been tucked in close to the house under the eaves, warmer and drier, where it stands the best odds over the winter
looks like Agave gentryi, maybe ‘Jaws’

All the phlomis I coveted were available and made the trip home, including an additional highly recommended Phlomis ‘Whirling Dervish.’ Disappointingly, the last pot of Dahlia ‘Forncett’s Furnace’ was snapped up by a shopper ahead of me. Dan brought this bright orange single dahlia back from Hadspen House during Nori and Sandra Pope’s tenure, and it’s not easily found elsewhere. One of the hardiest acacias also made the trip home, Acacia pravissima, and a few other odds and ends. I spent Sunday settling the plants into the garden, and now rain has been forecast for the coming week…bliss!

Distant orange flowers are Dahlia ‘Forncett’s Furnace,’ umbellifer on the right is Selinum wallichianum
Posted in garden travel, garden visit, Oregon garden, plant nurseries, Plant Portraits | 13 Comments

Bloom Day August 2023

Recently transplanted Salvia ‘Stormy Pink’ weathered the past two days in the mid-90s, a bonafide heat wave here at the Oregon coast, zone 8b

This little Salvia greggii pushing out a few blooms this week is emblematic of how small, well-timed interventions can mean a lot, especially in small gardens. The salvia was getting swamped in a stock tank and it became a case of move it or lose it. So it was transplanted into the gravel in front of the tank maybe a month ago and trimmed back a bit. And that’s how I was gifted with this translucent performance this morning. I’m very curious how salvias like these greggii/microphylla will perform here. I’m hoping til frost, of course. Just a few can make such a difference in late summer. Also growing ‘Nachtvlinder,’ ‘Mesa Azure,’ which wintered over, and ‘Amethyst Lips‘ — ‘Oriental Dove.’

Second summer, first blooms on Eryngium yuccifolium

The annual Madia elegans is sprawling its 5-foot stems in all directions, over the melianthus and aralia. I say sprawl away, because every day there’s a new association to appreciate by virtue of its clever insinuations into surrounding plants.

Side shoots blooming on Digitalis ferruginea with echinaceas

Crocosmia grows like mad in coastal Oregon. For the most part, they appear to be the dark red ‘Lucifer.’ I skip a lot of easy-going plants I’m seeing locally but made an exception for crocosmia. Nice leaves, nice timing of bloom in mid to late summer. For a homework assignment, I dare you, go ahead and choose a crocosmia. It’ll make you crazy, there are so many cultivars, and to the uninitiated (me) the differences seem slight. I defaulted back to an old cultivar ‘Solfatarre’ I have grown in zone 10. Surprised me by blooming after an early summer planting.

Seeds of the annual Coreopsis tinctoria hitched a ride from the zone 10 garden. It’s a tall, floaty thing.
New salvage in the garden, planted with lewisia, thyme and sempervivums

Second summer for Heliopsis ‘Bleeding Hearts.’ Kind of a thin performance? I like it fine. Sure, helenium has masses more flowers, but that comes with masses of leaves. Heliopsis serenely floats over its neighbors, slim footprint, good manners, not too pushy.


The next photos are from the southeast corner of the garden, that has to contend with the neighboring tree roots just over the fence. Here all the fizzy, floating things congregate, coming into full bloom in August. In addition to the heliopsis, there’s gaura, Scabiosa ochraleuca, Succisella inflexa, Rudbeckia triloba, agastache.

IMG_7677 2
Snapdragons were added maybe a month ago. Like crocosmia, they love the coast. I would never grow them outside a cutting garden in zone 10, but I’ve been persuaded by their health and happiness on the Oregon coast to include them in the garden
portrait of happy snapdragons in August, Antirrhinum ‘Costa Apricot’

A pale mass of froth and foam, static in photo, but a dynamic little corner that draws me in every morning. Dechampsia ‘Goldtau’ has been good here since spring, now casting a gold net through the planting.

Same frothiness, but showing how the dark-leaved Aster lateriflorus ‘Prince’ adds some welcome bass notes. This aster leafs out early and stays dark-leaved all summer, opening small flowers in fall. Another lateriflorus var. horizontalis I grow is ‘Lady in Black,’ which is taller and much lankier, less dumpy than ‘Prince,’ but both have their uses.

A lackluster photo of some plants that deserve better. The grey leaves belong to mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum, backed by Joe-Pye weed. Apparently I have the same taste in plants as insects do. I love the buxomy, plush grey mounds of mountain mint and planted it for these attributes, not knowing of its renown for attracting pollinators. Now I know!

Mountain mint with the one that paused long enough for his portrait

Apart from red clover, I’ve never seen another plant bristling with so much buzzy activity.

late-summer blooming Selinum wallichianum, large mass of ferny leaves
first flowers on toad lilies
‘Dainty Swan’ anemone is a hybrid that supposedly begins bloom mid summer. This is its first flower, not quite as early as advertised, but still earlier than traditional fall-blooming anemones
the white wood aster, Eurybia divaricata, for dry shade but okay in full sun on the coast. Grew for me in zone 10 as well
From seed in spring, Verbascum roripifolium. Except for the flowers, it’s very unverbascum-like — small footprint, thin branching stems give an exceptional floaty quality
Also from seed this spring, tiny starburst flowers on a stemmy structure that builds into a billowing tumbleweed, Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora ‘Bampton,’ perennial zones 7-9, maybe 6
Looking east, Joe-Pye weed in the distance, Rudbeckia maxima, one of about five stems. Performs best when basal leaves are open to sun and air
Lobelia tupa
Hooray for Eryngium pandanifolium, blooming second summer, brought up from the zone 10 garden. Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ just starting to flower, whole plant cut back by half in June
Calamintha ‘Montrose White’ just starting bloom in August. Big billowy plant in zone 10, less so here. For scent, for pollinators, for texture and durability. The big dark leaves are Penstemon ‘Dark Towers,’ beefy as lamb’s ears, planted recently
My zone 10 escapee Echeveria agavoides reddening up in summer, with culinary oregano, agastache, scabiosa, rudbeckia, blue blades of Schizachrium ‘Standing Ovation.’ Salvia uliginosa is also in this corner, very, very late to appear, just now budding up — a perennial in near-constant summer bloom in zone 10
there’s possibly over 30 blooms on this dahlia now, ‘AC Rosebud.’ Over 8 feet in height, long-stemmed, prolific, OTT, it would be a money maker for a market grower
Dahlia ‘Elks Lips on Fire’ maybe 3 feet, not a lot of blooms at once
lining the path in bloom are kniphofia, verbena, diascia

Since I arrived in coastal Oregon, I’ve been determined to find a use for the easily obtained oyster shells that form large mounds/middens along the coast. Huge amounts are consumed from the local bays. Without equipment to crush the shells for pathways, my bags of oyster shells lay idle over winter in the vegetable garden. A mail-order gabion was the answer, topped with a former bridge light shade gifted from a blogger meet-up last fall. I’m beginning to feel like a local now! More August Bloom Day stories at May Dreams Gardens.

Posted in Bloom Day, Oregon garden | 11 Comments

clippings 7/24/23; new views

earlier in July, with view of garden from pergola/overhang obscured by pink-flowered anisodontea

Some recent small changes at home. This stock tank held that incredibly generous friend to bees, Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty,’ that I brought up from the zone 10 garden. In its second season here, the unexpected girth and height now completely blocked my view of the garden when sitting under the pergola. And in a small garden, every viewing vantage point matters, and most particularly in July.

today’s view after removing the anisodontea

The anisodontea lives on in the garden via a couple more cuttings now of blooming size. Immediate replacements for the stock tank were found of a less obstructive nature. Tall and slim Aristea major and low-growing rosette Beschorneria septentrionalis were in pots plunged in the garden, and I think their chances for surviving winter are possibly improved now that they’re planted in the stock tank, slightly sheltered under the overhang, than in the unheated garden shed. The zone 9 anisodontea flourished in this spot, so hopefully these zone 8 plants will find it to their liking as well. Fingers crossed they make it through winter without becoming too hideous.

First bloom on Dahlia ‘Bewitched,’ second summer in the garden

And a few more new things on view recently.

First bloom on Heliopsis ‘Bleeding Hearts,’ second summer in the garden — excellent dark foliage on this one
Cirsium rivulare ‘Trevor’s Blue Wonder,’ planted in spring. Not an easy thistle to locate in the U.S. You need to act quick when you find it on offer because it quickly sells out
Second year for echinaceas, possibly ‘Sombrero Granada Gold’
Kniphofia in the “Popsicle’ series seemingly shot up overnight, second summer — the slugs love to literally nip these in the bud

And then after all the work was done and plants settled in, we had some light but steady rainfall, the first real rain since May. I sat under the pergola to enjoy the show of unexpected rainfall through my new, unobstructed view of the garden.


I’ll close with a couple recent newspaper articles, one about the town-shaking experience of a blooming agave in Georgia. A reminder that many plants familiar to me are a rare and wondrous sight elsewhere.

captioned “The century plant has become a local landmark in Luthersville. (Doris Flournoy)”

Jackie Flournoy was leaving her home in Luthersville, Ga., one morning, when she spotted a strange-looking stalk poking out of one of her plants on her front lawn. She had never seen anything like it before.” This recent article in the Washington Post “After 36 years, her plant suddenly grew a towering 25-foot stalk” initially had me shaking my head at such persistent naivete about plants in the era of search engines. And then I came around after reading the comments to a new appreciation of the power of plants to inspire and renew wonder. (If the link is paywell-protected, you can search with the title of the article. Luthersville, Georgia is USDA zone 8a, but nevertheless agaves apparently are a rare sight there.)

Another article, this one from the Los Angeles Times, “‘All the neighbors know who she is’: How one woman built a flower farm across eight yards” brought me back decades ago to when I tried the same thing — in a community garden, a nearby neighbor’s backyard, and at my mother-in-law’s front yard. When I brought fresh horse manure in at my MIL’s to amend the soil for cut flowers, the arrangement turned somewhat dicey…So much fun for very little money providing cut flowers to restaurants. I love reading stories like this of how people somehow make it work.

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, clippings, Oregon garden | 9 Comments

garden impostors and other July blooms

Digitalis ferruginea

The clumps of leaves on these two foxgloves were impossible to tell apart in winter, but in bloom Digitalis parviflora and Digitalis ferruginea are very distinctive. Apart from very different coloration, D. parviflora is the first to bloom, and D. ferruginea is the taller of the two.

Digitalis parviflora

In this coastal Oregon zone 8b garden, July brings the first dahlias, more lilies, and…(add intro to Beethoven’s 5th)…dierama.

opened this week, ‘Camano Sitka’
Dahlia ‘AC Rosebud’

The first dahlia to bloom by a couple weeks, ‘AC Rosebud,’ is over 7 feet tall and towers over the back fence — the only way to get a decent photo is to cut the flowers for a vase. All dahlias were planted May 2022 and no new dahlias were added for this summer.

A dark strain from Dancing Oaks, dierama hangs and sways with the Golden Oats grass Stipa gigantea.
Kniphofia ‘Timothy’
Patrinia scabiosifolia
Two plants of Sanguisorba ‘Red Thunder,’ one over 5-feet in height, the other under 3 feet. I’m assuming the taller is the true ‘Red Thunder’ — the shorter variety would be fine at the front of the border
Veronicastrum ‘Fascination’ — I can either wait for it to bulk up or add a few more plants for a bigger impact
Unlike veronicastrum, one Lobelia tupa is ample! Love the pale celadon-colored leaves as much as the flowers, about 5 bloom stalks in its second summer
Salvia ‘Mesa Azure’ slowly coming back from complete winter dormancy

Sown in spring, about a dozen Lychnis viscaria ‘Blue Angel’ were planted in the garden and in pots. Weak and spindly as small plants, I had low expectations but July turned things around. They are similar in growth habit to corn cockle, agrostemma, but maybe a foot in height.

with variegated oregano and little white flowers of Parahebe catarractae
Viscaria oculata, Lychnis viscaria ‘Blue Angel’
Madia elegans

Another annual, this one very tall, Madia elegans was brought in as plants with hopes for resowing. I saw this “tarweed” in bloom last summer, had no luck with seeds, but grabbed a couple plants this spring, very unimpressive in their nursery pots but I knew their potential: grey-green, slightly furry leaves, fringed petals, dark center, tall graceful habit, a beautiful Oregon/West Coast native. It can be grown hard or in luxurious conditions like here, where it will soar up to 5 feet. A couple stalks did break off during a very windy June but it recovered and branched out.

Scabiosa ochroleuca just opening this week — like knautia, it’s all about the clouds of bobbing dancing flowers which endlessly entertain me and pollinators. Similar is Succisella inflexa, very pale, almost white, not yet in bloom
Morina longifolia
Teucrium ‘Summer Sunshine’ spreading mat in bloom
Bought in bloom, the sublime purply/green/blue Mendocino Reed Grass, Calamagrostis foliosus, maybe a foot to 18 inches in height and width. Apparently not easy to propagate or grow so not a sure thing for surviving winter here
Salvia ‘Amante’ wintered in a stock tank with Verbena bonariensis, the salvia just now coming into bloom
Solanum laxum — I thought I stumbled onto a new-to-me vine especially suited for the PNW, but turns out it’s the old potato vine Solanum jasminoides with a new name. To zone 8b, it came through its first winter in the ground, under the awning, growing up a supporting beam.
the cardoon Cynara cardunculus hardy to zone 7
the best I could do to show the height of Peucedanum verticillare, over 8 feet — its enormity defies capture by my point-and-shoot camera and what looks here like a mad jumble is an elegant architectural presence surprisingly resistant to heavy wind

And now I get to set the record straight and correct a misidentification. I thought I was digging up Angelica stricta ‘Purpurea’ from the Long Beach zone 10 garden in autumn 2021 to transport to the Oregon garden. Prior to this post, I’ve referred to photos of this plant as an angelica. It is not. I’ve puzzled over the enormous height and lack of purple color to the umbels but assumed seed variation. Browsing a catalogue the other day, I found photos of Peucedanum verticillare — boing! Instant recognition — this is the plant! And I was growing it in the Long Beach garden in October 2020, so must have dug this one up instead of the angelica, which I also grew down south (see post here). If that’s not weirdly confusing enough, this spring I planted a Peucedanum ostruthium at the base of this plant when I thought it was angelica…

Peucedanum verticillare Giant Hog Fennel June 2023. For the record, it’s also known as Angelica verticillaris!
biennial or short-lived perennial with amazing rose-flushed seedheads
I love the drama of big plants so wasn’t too bothered by this one tripling its anticipated size when I still thought it was Angelica stricta…
Podocarpus macrophyllus ‘Mood Ring’

And lastly, I’m not impulse-buying many shrubs, but the colors on this podocarpus reminded me so much of the coloring of the leucadendrons in my zone 10 garden that I couldn’t say no. To zone 7b, it appears to be trademarked and heavily marketed. (Some of the photos may show as links only, not sure why, but clicking will bring up the image.)

Posted in Bloom Day, Oregon garden | 7 Comments