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.
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.
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.
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.