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

July surges

On drives through the coast range I note the prominence of naturalized foxgloves in bloom is being replaced by fireweed (epilobium), the color and shape so similar that I didn’t notice the change at first. Around town rhododendrons are done, hydrangeas, dahlias and Shasta daisies are up. In my garden, July brings the penstemons and agastache into bloom, the first dahlias, Digitalis parviflora (but not D. ferruginea yet), the cool season grasses, sanguisorba, the double-flowered sterile form of Lychnis coronaria in screaming magenta, gaura, Watsonia pillansi, Lobelia tupa, patrinia, Rudbeckia triloba. Oregon Sunshine, Eriophyllum lanatum, has been cut back just as the echinacea are budding iup. Geum is having a second flush of bloom. Needless to say, July shows how I like plants in concentrated doses, where juxtapositions of leaves, shapes, and colors fire off each other.

from the patio against the house
in the furthest stocktank looking east, Cassinia leptophylla subsp fulvida aka the Golden Bush, one of my fav shrubs in the garden. No luck with cuttings yet.
Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ and the hummingbirds are having a lovefest. A runner has escaped the tank and is growing in the strip of soil between tank and patio. A cutting is being trialed in the open garden to see how it handles winter there
Between the cool-season grasses and the warm-season grasses like miscanthus now filling out, the garden is heading into grassland territory. There’s some formula out there that says no more than 30% grass — I may have exceeded that ratio a bit. The giant with the red stems behind the phormium is a eupatorium, also budding up.
Never saw blooms on Anemanthele lessoniana in zone 10, another surprise
Only one bloom stalk from two clumps of Eryngium ‘Big Blue’ this year — it bloomed better in its first year.
fasciated bloom on Digitalis parviflora showing some love
A foxglove I’ve long wanted to grow — very exciting to watch its development
Lysimachia ‘Beaujolais’ showing staying power into July
and now it’s surrounded by some good leaves like melianthus and astralia which are just now making size
Dianthus barbatus ‘Oeschberg’ and sanguisorba hitting the same color notes
Achnatherum calamagrostis arches its plumes outward with a vase-like symmetry
Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ in front of achnatherum was cut down by half in June — the “Chelsea chop”
Deschampsia ‘Goldtau’ is a disorganized fizz of bloom.
Purple spikes coloring up are Teucrium hircanicum. Big leaves are an unnamed species of salvia from Szechuan from Flowers by the Sea
Penstemon ‘Cha-Cha Purple’ is one of the best dark-colored varieties I’ve grown. Healthy leaves, strong growth. Penstemon ‘Raven’ is still way behind in growth.
July ramped up growth on a cardoon planted in spring
Rudbeckia trilloba
Agastache ‘Blue Boa’
Two 5-foot stalks of Watsonia pillansii came up in July
more lilies continue to open
A seedling from Malva sylvestris ‘Zebrina’ that was miserable in the garden last year, much happier in a stock tank
Filipendula ‘Red Umbrellas’
A closeup of the leaves would have been more helpful — maple-shaped, red venation
Hebe ‘Western Hills’ — new to hebes and still thinking of them as foliage plants, the flowers are a surprise!!
Morina longifolia sending up a bloom
Bulbine abyssinica looks like it’s going to seed, but it does this before opening blooms!
Posted in journal, Oregon garden | 8 Comments

Bloom Day June 2023

Persicaria polymorpha

Not to be duplicative of recent posts, but just a few things that caught my eye this morning. I actually lost track of the Bloom Day timeline (15th of the month) but was out with the camera this morning to document a few things — nothing splashy, just documenting what’s up and growing and flowering — like the fabulous shrub-like quality of Persicaria polymorpha. (Side note: nearby Dahlia ‘Rosebud’ is nearly as high as the persicaria and in bud, so that will be representing for July. All four dahlias were left in the ground over winter and all returned. A local grower, Old House Dahlias, said that’s how he’d handle them here in a home garden. His operation is offline this spring/summer, don’t know why. Mine all came from OHD. I did cover them with branches from the Christmas tree, if that explains anything! But locally, in front gardens, it’s apparent that the dahlias are all treated as perennials and left in ground. Rainy zone 8b.)


Second year in the garden and first bloom for Iris x robusta ‘Gerald Darby,’ a naturally occurring hybrid of two native species, Iris versicolor x Iris virginica. It is especially celebrated for its plummy-colored new growth and season-long good looks. Not for dry soils, it can even be grown in standing water but does fine in retentive garden soils like mine.

Purple coloring to the soft, arching leaves mostly gone now. It was flooded under a drainspout all winter. Very exciting to find yesterday the potted francoa has a bud too! One of those unforgettable horticultural moments was seeing francoa growing like weeds in Mendocino.
Lysimachia atropurpurea surprised me by returning this spring. It is very short-lived in zone 10, one summer only in my experience.
Osteospermum ‘Voltage Gold’ — a color I couldn’t resist. Planted this spring though I’ve noticed they do overwinter here, at least the pale lilac color. And these daisies are said to bloom til frost in cool-summer climates like this
Another photo of Kniphofia pauciflora, such an impressive performance in its second year. In flower about 18 inches tall. Biggest danger with diminutive plants like this is getting swamped by growth of surrounding plants. ‘Millenium’ allium is budding up, and these two are in perfect scale for each other and would make great mates
Euphorbia ‘Copton Ash,’ planted in spring. ‘Dean’s Hybrid’ did not return after winter. The peachy diascia just started blooming this week, overwintered in stock tanks and garden. ‘My Darling Tangerine’ maybe?
In its second year evergreen Bupleurum fruticosum is throwing its first bloom and making good size and shape
Textural treasure Cassinia x ozothamnus in flower
a martagon hybrid ‘Guinea Gold’
Cotula ‘Tiffendell Gold’ opened blooms this week
When nearby Origanum ‘Xera Cascade’ starts blooming, these two are going to be best buds! If you stopped by Xera’s shop last summer and saw this flowering oregano displayed in a container, you probably are growing it in your garden this year too!
A couple seeds from last year’s Orlaya grandiflora grown in the stock tank made it into the rocked area and liked what they found
I must be subconsciously attracted to sisyrinchiums because I have a few now. This is ‘Quaint and Queer’

We had light rain for a few minutes yesterday morning, the first since…the beginning of May? Daytime temps mostly in the 60s, nights in the 40s. Hope you’re having a fine June! May Dreams Gardens collects bloom day reports the 15th of each month.

Posted in Bloom Day, Oregon garden | 7 Comments

Flora Grubb Takes on LA

Memorial Day Weekend was the official launch of Flora Grubb Gardens’ new location in Los Angeles. When I heard Mitch was going to take advantage of the opening 20% sale, I pleaded for a few photos. With the recent closing of the beloved Atwater Village shop Potted, the opening of another design-forward, cool-plant nursery in LA comes not a minute too soon.


FGG’s history is briefly this: With financial partner Saul Nadler, Flora Grubb opened her first shop in the Mission district of San Francisco in 2003, a neighborhood that was at that time still one of the most affordable neighborhoods in SF (before the Google bus regularly made stops there and rents became unaffordable to teachers, nurses, chefs, etc.) A series of very smart business moves quickly followed. A wholesale growing operation was acquired in San Diego in 2005, a frost-free climate ideal for growing agaves and aloes and the other beautiful dry garden plants FGG loves to showcase in their nursery and designs. In 2007 FGG moved from the Mission to Jerrold Street in the Dogpatch neighborhood, which is where I first became acquainted with FGG. At that time, Dogpatch had an industrial, tumble-down vibe and was just starting to become filled with interesting, brave, pioneer businesses like FGG. But cool things have a way of following in Flora Grubb’s wake — Dogpatch was recently named the 36th coolest neighborhood on Earth by TimeOut.


The LA branch of FGG is located on the site of the former Marina del Rey Garden Center, a nursery I routinely visited whenever court reporting work took me out that way to the conference rooms in the office towers with distracting views overlooking the glittering marina. The 90 freeway that takes you to this very upscale coastal town pretty much ends at the nursery.


From Marina del Rey Garden Center’s Facebook post of 4/23/23: We’re so happy to announce that Marina del Rey Garden Center is now Flora Grubb Gardens! We are open daily 9am-6pm at 13198 Mindanao Way in Marina del Rey. Come visit us! We can’t wait to see you.

Marina Del Rey Garden Center has served the community since 1977. In recent years, as they became more focused on sustainable gardening, they turned to Flora Grubb’s farm, Grubb & Nadler, for rare and exceptional drought tolerant plants.

When Flora Grubb heard they were ready to pass the nursery along to a new owner, she was thrilled! In 2022, the Flora Grubb Gardens team began operating Marina del Rey Garden Center and updating the site.

At Flora Grubb Gardens we believe that gardening makes people happy, brings peace into their lives, and offers a powerful antidote to the stresses of life. We believe in creating lavishly beautiful gardens that require minimal water and chemicals to maintain.

a very festive opening weekend

Welcome to LA, Flora Grubb Gardens!

Posted in MB Maher, plant nurseries | 4 Comments

June takes over

February 2023 — June is such a startling transformation, a resilient, resurgent renewal — words fail!

June is happening. Whatever garden plans you made, whatever winter took away, June is here, right now, and blots out everything else. The job now, as I see it, is admiring the incredible architecture of plants in all their phases, leaf, stem, bud and flower.

Broom-handle stem on Angelica stricta ‘Purpurea’ — actually, bigger than a broom handle and reaching over 5 feet. It’s been able to withstand Incredibly fierce afternoon winds.
Nepeta and hesperis have made a huge difference this year, providing an enveloping color wash and early flowers for the pollinators that adds a dynamism I was missing last year. The nepeta is planted in the second-tier border right up against the retaining railroad tie, where it has room to billow but not smother neighboring plants. The hesperis is biennial and will reseed, and there are a few young plants established for next year. It’s a simple field of grasses and flowers that I can easily manage. The horticultural heavyweights are conspicuously absent — I can admire the roses and peonies, the Japanese maples, rhodies and lilacs around town.
Parahebe perfoliata aka Veronica perfoliata, Digger’s Speedwell
Oregon Sunshine, Hebe ‘Karo Golden Esk,’ Yucca linearifolia, Eryngium pandanifolium arching over it all
Yucca rostrata with sisyrinchium, erinus and sedum
Eryngium variifolium getting busy
Ditto Eryngium paniculatum
Sicilian honey garlic
Festuca arundinacea ‘Glow Sticks’ living up to its name
The rusty foxglove, Digitalis ferruginea in spike
lush and lovely Gillenia trifoliata
the ground is nearly covered
green leafiness with the white midrib is Euphorbia stygiana, to its left Clematis stans x heracleifolia, backed by Persicaria polymorpha with white plumes. Intense honey scent from this euphorbia
Trying another asphodel, a gift from Ketzel/the Wonder Garden in Manzanita where they likewise haven’t flourished so far. ‘Italian Gold’ is either dead or taking summer off
Nepeta ‘Blue Dragon’ looks like a chunky agastache. A yunnanensis hybrid from Terra Nova
Kniphofia pauciflora reminds me of a miniature K. thomsonii. The little black stakes are to flag the presence of small seedlings nearby like Verbascum roripifolium
Kniphofia thomsonii var. snowdenii
Primula bulleyana in a stock tank
Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ flowers in much looser heads than E. characias, a very different effect that I like quite a bit
Just beginning to flower are the dark-leaved ‘Oeschberg’ dianthus started last summer from seed. A biennial, right? Not so fast — they often can live up to three years. And the darkest flowers and leaves can be selected by taking soft cuttings of nonflowering shoots

Posted in journal, Oregon garden | 5 Comments