Oregon garden in late December

Billie is very nearly weatherproof, or thinks she is anyway, and we did go out for a quick stretch yesterday while it was a dry but very brisk 20F…especially factoring in the wind chill, which approached the single digits…

Yesterday, Dec 22, temps hovered at 20F all day, the first time that’s happened this winter, possibly not the last time though. The night-time numbers usually ease back up during the daytime into the high 30s/40s. The concrete walkway to the garage iced over, windows iced over. Billie’s copper water bowl froze solid, rim to rim, bottom to top. Highway 101 was closed last night just south of us to deal with a 20-car icy pileup. Just to be on the safe side, we let faucets drip the last two nights — the majority of insurance claims are exploded pipes, each claim averaging 20k!

still frozen solid today too but all ice on paving has melted

There’s been lots of frosty mornings, a little snow, but what’s been amazing me are the incidents of resilience, how some plants spring back after appearing to be full-on wilted and shriveled by frost. Euphorbia stygiana makes a robust rebound every day. And up until yesterday’s 20F all day, the melianthus and the big-leaved Lepechina hastata were looking fabulous. I’ll probably leave up the tattered mess they are today as a tent to protect from any future low temps.


Take for instance this euphorbia, probably ‘Silver Swan.’ It bounces back after everything the skies throw at it, much more resilient than the straight E. characias, which does limp along but in a cowed, beaten manner.


Eryngium pandanifolium is such a good foliage plant here in zone 8b. It doesn’t get as large circumference-wise as it does in zone 10, which is a good thing, and doesn’t throw out such a congested mat of leaves either, just a nicely shaped, arching rosette that looks pristine every morning. Surrounded by Yucca linearifolia and Hebe ‘Karo Golden Esk.’

Eryngium pandanifolium showing how it’s done after a day/night of 20F temps
Howard’s Field at RHS Wisley in the UK

There’s a lot of seasonal potential for the winter-strong heaths and heathers, and I’m glad I’ve been including them in both the front and back garden. The RHS Wisley has made a newly designed landscape with their extensive heather collection called Howard’s Field, moving them from the corners of the garden to mass them and join forces with strong architectural plants like Yucca rostrata.

Bronzy, thready foliage in the center is Thuja orientalis ‘Franky Boy’

The various carex are likewise some of the best-looking plants now in the garden. (In the tank are Carex ‘Feather Falls’ and Carex ‘Everillo.’). Carex testacea in the garden is a tumble of russet, and the pheasant’s tail grass, Anemanthele lessonia is similar in effect but on a larger scale.

Sideritis with Teucrium azureum and pheasant’s tail grass

One of the most gratifying surprises is the continued survival of all the sideritis seedlings I brought from the zone 10 garden. I’m pretty sure this large-leaved sideritis is S. oroteneriffae. The one above growing in a container is the largest, but the sideritis in the ground are not only surviving but look to be making size, even in December! With all the hallmarks for extreme drought tolerance — fuzzy, silvery leaves — and earmarked for zone 9, this sideritis is somehow holding its own in the cold and wet…for now…

Senecio monroi with adorably crimped leaves

Enjoy your holiday, stay safe and as warm as you can manage! The pellet stove here is a godsend…

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10 Responses to Oregon garden in late December

  1. Kris P says:

    I’m glad to see that your garden is (mostly) holding up to those very cold temperatures, Denise. But maybe you need to make a quick trip south? Forecasters are saying LA could hit 80F on Sunday. There’s some rain in the forecast for next week too.

  2. Denise says:

    Hi Kris — no travel plans south until maybe spring. So glad the rain is heading your way!

  3. Elaine says:

    It’s amazing how plants can bounce right back after being beaten down by the weather. This is especially important when there’s lots of gray weather about to help keep your spirits lifted. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season with your family and new granddaughter. Holidays are so much more fun when children are involved.

  4. ks says:

    More cold here than I can recall in many years-though usually the 20’s and 30’s wear off by 10 or 11 am. We have had a few days where it didn’t get out of the 40’s . I will second your observations on the E. ‘Silver Swan’ -it seems to chug along no matter how cold or how hot. Here’s hoping your Sideritas continues to hold on !

  5. I wondered how things are out there at the coast. We’re stuck in Portland for the holiday, our flight out of PDX was cancelled yesterday due to ice, and more is falling today. The garden is doing that bending thing that’s so hard to watch and we’ve been below freezing for 65 hours now (not that I’m counting). I want to move into your California house!

  6. Denise says:

    @Elaine, the very best to to you this holiday season! Hannah has already opened her gift from us, a canvas tent for a reading nook in which she lines up all her plush buddies. Thanks for always checking in on my sporadic posts — I love hearing from you.
    @Kathy, so my varieg euphorb is not a fluke! Strange when varieg plants are usually weaker growers than the species, and yet with this one it’s just the reverse. Happy holidays to you in Napa!
    @Loree, so sorry to hear you had to cancel. I wish we could all move to the Calif house this Dec/Jan! Take care and best wishes to you and Andrew for a cozy home-based holiday.

  7. hb says:

    My sister in Anchorage often mentions the dripping faucet thing when their temperatures take a dive.

    I hope you and your family had a lovely holiday season together. Your choices for your new garden look remarkably spot-on considering the very different climate.

    That heath/heather garden was featured recently on one of the December Gardener’s World, I think…punctuated with multiple Y. rostratas, it was fabulous!

  8. David Feix says:

    What a huge change in gardening climate from Long Beach, and it sounds like you’re fast getting up to speed on the learning curve. This past week it even snowed here in Berkeley, but only in the hills above 1000’ elevation, and all my client’s gardens were safely snow-free at 800~900’ elevations. Surprising(to me) anyway to see some of your successful plants in the cold, and I’ve given up on the growing of those variegated Euphorbias here, they just don’t look great year 2/3 onwards but don’t actually die either. Still wintry weather down here alternating with full-on spring, and the Aloes, Leucadendrons, Leucospermums and Magnolias are glorious right now. Happy gardening there on the coast, it sure is beautiful up there, but I couldn’t hack the winter cold.

  9. Denise Maher says:

    @Hoov, I’m following the progress of aloe bloom season in your garden, such a pleasure, thank you!
    @David, so good to hear from you! What a bare-knuckle sport garden-making has turned into! Record snow, drought, rain, fire, wind, etc. It is a real mental shift to garden up here, the length of dormancy and what that means for planning and anticipation, the rhythm of seasonal desire — fascinating to be sure, but definitely colder!

  10. David Feix says:

    It keeps us young to be challenged, no doubt. It is illuminating to see what I think of as California garden plants and realize their good winter looks and cold hardiness, something I rarely need to consider. But this winter, I’m relearning about too much rain and rot, but it hasn’t been too bad in numbers.

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