herbaceous stuff

Flower bud on Centaurea macrocephala

I admit I’m enthralled by the range of herbaceous plants that can be grown here on the Oregon coast, zone 8b. I should be putting my energies into building up evergreen and woody structure, but for the moment, aside from a few shrubs, I’m mostly playing with perennials, annuals, bulbs, and even biennials. I had some old seed packets of hesperis and dark sweet williams that I brought north and threw on the garden in early June, when it was still rainy. The germination was surprisingly good. I’m still seeing hesperis and sweet williams in bloom around town in July, so the hope is they will have early leaf presence and then continue to bloom spring into early summer in this cool climate, before the summer stuff gets going. I don’t want to shade out the back garden, and there are plenty of other trees and shrubs in town as far as providing habitat opportunities. (The neighbor to the east has large trees, and the neighbor to the south grows an epic 10-foot high evergreen hedge — maybe laurel? — but our backyard was all turf, no trees or shrubs.) Free-draining berms are in mind for the front garden, where hopefully some arctostaphylos will be happy. In the meantime, it’s the incredible range of herbaceous stuff that I’ve been exploring in the back garden. Transformational, dynamic, ephemeral, but not necessarily quicker to establish than shrubs. It takes a few years for many perennials to show their best. And when impatience is regularly tamped down, the exceptions to the rule that arise are even more thrilling, like a dierama that is getting ready to flower in its first year — who knew? — and a small Sanguisorba ‘Red Thunder’ is already throwing some crimson thimbles.

This is some of the random stuff that’s caught my eye so far this early summer — all photos are from gardens I’ve visited or local plantings.

Centaurea macrocephala opening into yellow, Sweet Sultan-type flowers. Reminds me in size and girth of Lobelia tupa. And similar leaf color but wavier leaves.
Madia elegans, Showy Tarweed — need to find seed for this next year

Showy tarweed reaches heights atypical of our native wildflowers, often standing more than 5-feet high, towering above the dried-out kin of earlier seasons. This late season bloomer also has the fantastically amazing ability to set deep tap roots that allow it to prosper in the latest, hottest days of summer, even in heavy clay soils, months after the last rainfall. Occurring from southern Washington throughout California, showy tarweed wraps up its short, dazzling lifecycle with small, sunflower-like seeds that attract goldfinches and other songbirds. This is an easy to grow garden plant, and one that more people should get up early to take notice of. ” Northwest Meadowscapes

tritelia/brodiaea, a summer-blooming bulb
Love this sedum’s radial growth pattern. I think it is Sedum sieboldii, the October daphne
calluna, helianthemum, yarrow and Calif poppies in the Wonder Garden, Manzanita, OR, a great mix of trees, shrubs and perennials
calluna, helianthemum, cuphea, and an evening primrose/oenethera
Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist’ and Parahebe perfoliata, Wonder Garden
Erigeron glaucus ‘Cape Sebastian’
Cistus ‘Jenkyn Place’ — I always prefer the white to pink-flowered cistus. I trialed a lot of varieties of cistus in zone 10 as well but tapered off as the Australian and South African shrubs took their spots in the garden
yes, this is the land of lilies…
and clematis
The martagon lilies are invaluable for blooming in shady gardens
Martagon lilies with bergenia and ferns — the shrub looks like a choisya
A fabulous, long-blooming foxglove, Digitalis x ‘Honey Trumpet’ I need to find. (Killed this in SoCal zone 10!)
eremurus, foxtail lily
The dark-leaved Clematis recta in I believe Mary DeNoyer’s garden in early June, draping over an osmanthus — another visitor’s jacket photobombing the shot
shade is the springboard for some amazing textural plantings — I’m hopeless at identifying the incredible range of shade plants used in gardens here. But I do know that’s a podophyllum in the center. I think most of the shade photos were taken in the DeNoyer garden.
and this may be a podophyllum as well. The big leaves for shade are darmera, podophyllum, arisaemas, rodgersias…
I like setting off unusual hostas in pots
an incredibly happy pyrrosia maybe? Ferns are way out of my wheelhouse for the moment
guessing asplenium
variegated solomon’s seal

Hope you’re finding beautiful things to look at this summer. I find it one of the strongest antidotes to the crazier-than-ever news cycle. More soon.

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9 Responses to herbaceous stuff

  1. Kris P says:

    What fun you must be having experimenting with plants that are impossible to grow in zone 10b (much less my 11a)! Although it hasn’t been truly toasty here yet (we still have a morning marine layer until 9-10am), the sheer dryness of my garden, combined with guilt every time I resort to using a hose, has made summer all the more depressing this year. (A second water leak, discovered yesterday, didn’t help matters.) Given our increasing water woes, I vacillate from wanting to sell our house and move north permanently or convince my husband that we “need” a tiny house in a cooler/wetter climate to escape to as necessary.

  2. Denise says:

    @Kris, so sorry you found another water leak! Incredibly frustrating. We had rain last Tuesday, and I ran around collecting it from the downspouts to store in a 50-gallon trash can — old habits die hard! Selling your house is a huge decision and obviously a scary one — I know how hard it was to find a house in your neighborhood! But discussion of options is always worthwhile. You can still have a beautiful garden in a dry climate, and yours is proof!

  3. Erik says:

    Denise, I have been reading your blog for… gosh, I can’t recall, at least the last 6 or 7 years. Anyway, your garden, photos and descriptions were a joy to me, stuck in my zone 8b garden in the south end of Puget Sound. But, since you have started the new garden, you have reopened my eyes, to what I had taken for granted. Thank you so much for that. Erik P.S. don’t worry, your ability to ID shade garden plants will come around soon, I have no doubt about that! … I believe that the shade garden photo, clockwise from the left, you have our native sword fern, a Choisya, a boxwood, a Rodgersia, Ophiopogon and Podophyllum difforme ‘Star fish’ in the center. A beautiful picture!

  4. Joy says:

    You are in the best of both worlds with this zone and in heaven when it comes to such a stunning variety of plants to grow .. I would be overwhelmed but so happy !
    I am 5b .. and if I can sneak a few plants from zone 6 over a winter I am ecstatic !
    I love ferns and hosta, a lot of my garden is shade … seeing the unusual type is my happy place and seeing these plants have been exactly that, thanks so much ! Great post !

  5. Denise says:

    @Erik, your comment made my day! There’s trade offs and strengths to making a garden anywhere. I think, bottom line, plant nuts like us are in love with the natural world in all its guises. And thanks for the IDs — I really appreciate the help!

  6. hb says:

    Everything looks so wonderfully moist. A person can only take so much dry. (and of course, only so much moist). Balance…

    Lilies, yeah. Towering lilies.

  7. Oh that Centaurea macrocephala photo is dreamy! And you’re right, that is an incredibly happy pyrrosia; P. hastata. So glad you got to see Mary’s garden!

  8. Denise says:

    I’m going to check up on that centaurea to see if it has a miserable decline. Thanks for the ID! Mary was such a sweetheart, handing clumps of that variegated saxifrage to all tour goers!

  9. Denise says:

    @Joy, so funny that you’re sneaking plants past your zone too — we’re incorrigible that way! Thanks for visiting.
    @Hoov, with a brand-new garden, even after all that rain, it’s time to reach for the hose now that the dry season has set in. I hear a lot of complaints about having to water for two months up here, but that’s a cakewalk to me…

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