new stuff

grasses from Perry

Plant sales are going on everywhere these days. Our neighbor down the road had one the other day, and I bought him out of these lovely little silvery grasses.

new bamboo

When I asked him about this pot of golden bamboo, he said I could just have it if I would bring back the pot. What a deal! We were in line at Portland Nursery the other day and the person ahead of us had the same thing, a little smaller, for $75. Do you wonder that I can never pass by a handmade “plant sale” sign?

Italian cypresses

Many people have a bone to pick with Means Nursery because of hiring (and firing) practices. It is true that they employ practically a skeleton crew of non-gardeners who have no knowledge of the plants and who all go to lunch at the same time, leaving customers to wait and chat amongst themselves. Still, we have found the plant material to be fairly high quality and they manage to keep their prices low. These two Italian cypresses were just $16 each. R tries to add a couple of them each year. It’s mighty dangerous to have to drive by this place and Joy Creek’s road every time we go to the store.

Rhododendron saluense

Speaking of Joy Creek, they have quite a few Rhododendrons in their display gardens. They were inherited from prior owners of the property, and are not featured for sale at the nursery. Still, customers are continually asking about them, so arrangements were made to bring in real experts Mike and Maria Stewart of Dover Nursery to give a talk. They also brought plants to illustrate the wide variety of possibilities within the genus. This Rhododendron saluense is among the smallest, and will go into a new berm.

Rhododendron recurvum

We were drawn to the lance-shaped leaves with velvety indumentum on their undersides. Rhododendron recurvum will make a nice addition to the evergreen drive.

R recurvum in place

It will only reach 2 to 3 feet in height over time. I wish I had had time to photograph more of the plants, but we were overbooked that day and had to cut out right after the presentation. One fun fact I will leave you with is this: the way you can tell the difference between an azalea and a Rhododendron is the number of stamens. Rhododendrons have ten, while azaleas have only five.

wildflower wednesday

anonymous wildflower

I’ll start with one that I am hoping someone will identify, as it grows profusely around here.

candy flower and ferns

Mostly, the cast of characters changes dramatically from month to month, but the dainty little candy flower sticks around long enough to pair with the emerging ferns.

wild geranium

I pull these out of my borders, but along the roadside the masses of wild geraniums are a delight.

wild heuchera

Judging by leaf shape and flower form, I’m guessing that this is a wild heuchera. One has taken up residence in a border and chose its placement so well that it will stay.

wild solomon’s seal

In the wild, the Solomon’s seal stays low to the ground, unlike the one in my woodland garden, which is 3′ tall.

false solomon’s seal

False Solomon’s Seal shares the same leaf shape, but instead of dangling bells, the flower is a white pouf similar to goatsbeard at the end of the stem.

close-up of false solomon’s seal

Here’s a closer look at that flower form.

wild strawberry

The banks along the road are covered with wild strawberry plants. I must remember to keep checking to see if any fruit escapes the notice of the critters to be plucked by me.

scotch broom

Coming out of the woods, where the dominant color scheme is green and white, things get more colorful. Scotch Broom was introduced to the US in the late 1800’s for use in stabilizing mine tailings and other types of erosion control. With its deep root system and tough persistence, people came to like it for easy-care landscaping. Uh oh…those qualities also mean that it is tough to eradicate as it makes its way onto the ‘noxious weed’ lists of many states. It is just beginning to gain a foothold along this bank, but there are many hillsides that are bright yellow (the color of highway warning signs) as far as the eye can see.

Scotch Broom close-up

We always seem to be walking the line between trying to find plants that will thrive effortlessly and those that will overrun us with too much of a good thing. One plant like this can produce 15,000 seeds in a year. Digging them up is not a good idea, because disturbing the soil will just bring more of those seeds to the surface where they can germinate. While the plant is toxic to most animals and humans, goats can be pressed into service. Brooms hate shade, so providing a canopy of shade can be a long-range solution. Cutting off and painting the stump with glyphosate might be one of the rare instances where chemical warfare could be justified.

Susie’s wattle fence

Enough with the ranting. I am going to take you back into our cool woods, where one of our neighbors is building a wattle fence. When I stopped to chat with her about it, she was thrilled that I knew what it was (apparently it is a foreign concept to folks in our neck of the woods). I volunteered the prunings from our fruit trees, but I think what is really needed here is a helper. Wattle building is mighty slow going.

Wildflower Wednesdays are the brainchild of Gail at Clay and Limestone, so hop on over there if you want to get in on the fun.

stinging nettles…to eat!


Nettles have been showing up on chi chi menus of late. These are growing along the roadside, giving them two strikes against them: 1) they are about to bloom. Nettles must be harvested before they flower. Once flowers form, harmful crystals form within the leaves that can irritate the urinary tract. 2) the roadside location means that they have been polluted by exhaust. We have plenty of nettles out in our woods, where they get less sun so are still early enough in their evolution to serve a culinary purpose. If you have ever tangled with a patch of nettles, you know that it can be a painful experience. The stinging hairs are on the underside of the leaves. Be sure to cover up and wear gloves if you want to harvest some nettles. Cooking removes the sting. Sauté, steam, boil or simply soak in water for 20 minutes and they are ready to be used just as you would spinach, chard or kale. The water left behind makes a good fertilizer.

more nettles

I can’t say that the taste differential between a quiche made with nettles and one using plain old spinach is outstanding, but there is something sort of charming about harvesting foodstuffs in the wild. The chefs around town obviously think it adds cachet to the whole “NW Style” thing.

Janet’s sale is coming up

Last year, when I wrote about Janet’s Sale a lot of Portlanders expressed interest in the next one. Well, it is coming up this weekend. Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 3pm.

sale plants

Plants are being labeled and pampered in preparation for moving to new homes. If you think a trip out Lake Oswego way is in your weekend plans, you can email Janet at and she will send you her address and a plant list. Oh, and for all you HPSO members, there is an open garden right on Janet’s street, so you can pump up the pleasure even more. Maybe I’ll see you there.

 more sale plants

Even with the May(hem) of flowers running riot in our yards, foliage holds its own.

Acanthus spinosa

From the moment it begins to emerge from winter’s slumber, all bristling with fresh “new green”, to its red-tinged dying act, the foliage of Acanthus spinosa threatens to upstage its dramatic flower spikes.

Cornus canadensis

The few 4″ pots of Cornus canadensis that I planted at the woodland’s edge are beginning to fill in nicely. Most of the dogwoods are deer magnets, but they seem to leave this alone (knock wood).

ferns with Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’

Ferns are beginning to migrate into planting beds, and welcome to them. Especially when they pair so nicely with the Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’.

Picea abies ‘Nidiformus’

The new growth on the evergreens gives them a wonderful dimensionality, like on this Picea abies ‘Nidiformus’, sometimes called a Nest Spruce, for the way it spreads out in a way that might invite passing birds to take up residence.

J maple new growth

Maple leaves are beautiful in all stages, but especially in the spring and fall.

Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’

Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ is at its best, with leaves and blossoms emerging simultaneously and still allowing the twisted, thorny nature of the superstructure to shine through.

Heuchera ‘Caramel’

As pretty as any flower, Heuchera ‘Caramel’ will keep this color nearly year-round, producing fairy wands of blossoms almost as an afterthought.

This is no afterthought: check out Digging and let Pam introduce you to others with foliage on the brain.

…and along comes pretty little May

The focus shifts from searching far and wide for something to show to editing out all but the most photogenic of the bloomers in the garden. Not that they are not beautiful and garden-worthy, it’s just that the camera (or the person behind the camera) is unworthy. Anyway, here are a few of the stars in my garden this month:

Berberis thunbergii purpurea

A plain old barberry might seem like an odd choice to make the cut, but let me explain. This one, Berberis thunbergii purpurea arrived as one of two tiny little whips of plants from one of those cut-rate catalogs. They grew so vigorously that I was seduced into ordering other things from the same source with far less success. Those catalogs now make their way immediately to the round file. Still, the barberry shrubs came to dominate their border and surprised me with a profusion of tiny flowers.

berberis replicata

At Dancing Oaks Nursery the Barberrys shed the cloak of contempt that so often obscures their natural charm. I left there with this Berberis replicata

Berberis jamesiana

and Berberis jamesiana. Purchased in 2007, they are just coming into their own. Jim here bloomed for the first time last year, but only sparsely. I take the plentiful blossoms this year as a good sign that he is working up to the clusters of pearly hanging berries that were love at first sight.

Eanothus ‘Blue Jeans’

I was told that ‘Blue Jeans’ was the hardiest of the Ceanothus and I guess it’s true. I’m happy, after losing ‘Vandehberg’ last year without ever having seen a blossom.

Rhododendron ‘Seaview Sunset’

The Rhodys are going great guns. We buy them primarily for leaf shape, but with the foliage suffering from the cold snap, the parade of flowers is a welcome distraction. This one is Rhododendron ‘Seaview Sunset’.

Rhododendron ‘Mrs Betty Robertson’

I wanted to show you how the buds are a much deeper hue than the flowers when they emerge, making for an interesting display. This is Rhododendron ‘Mrs Betty Robertson.

Narcissus ‘Salome’

The last of the Daffodils to put in an appearance is Narcissus ‘Salome’. I have been planting daffys in drifts, but I may need to rethink that strategy after seeing the impact of this single, well-placed bulb.

orange tulips with Fritillaria meleagris

Speaking of tweaking and fine-tuning, I love the color play of these orange tulips with the Fritillaria meleagris. More of the frits are called for, don’t you think?


For scent, nothing beats the old-fashioned lilac.

Penstemon newberryi

Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes of fame” says it all when it comes to bloom time for Penstemon newberryi, so even though it is just getting started, I’m sneaking it in here. Just as a point of interest, it usually blooms around the first week in April.

Epimedium x warleyense

What is it about Epimediums? They are super-expensive, have diminutive flowers and are almost impossible to photograph (if you don’t believe me, that was the best of my many attempts). Still, I was inordinately thrilled with the first bloom on Epimedium x warleyense that I picked up at an end-of-season sale at Garden Fever. The other one I have is ‘Lilafree’, whose tiny purple blossoms disappear even to the naked eye. It does have lovely foliage that turns autumnal colors before dying back.

Almost forgot to give credit and send you on over to May Dreams Gardens, where Carol has masterminded this monthly ritual and will link you to many more May blooms.

moms’ day rambles

Mothers Day weekend brings the Rhododendron Society’s big sale in the parking lot of the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Since Richard is a fan, it has become something of a tradition with us. Here is what we came home with this time:

Rhododendron ‘Nancy Evans’ x macabeanum

Rhododendron ‘Nancy Evans’ x macabeanum will have creamy yellow blooms with red nectaries (whatever that means).

Rhododendon ‘Loderi White Diamond’

This is the second Loderi in our collection, Rhododendon ‘Loderi White Diamond’. It should get huge in time, with large fragrant ivory trusses.

Rhododendron ‘Markeeta’s Prize

Bright red flowers attracted us to R. ‘Markeeta’s Prize’, even though we have had less than perfect luck with red-blooming Rhodys…fingers crossed.

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashura’, Araucaria araucana, Pinus mugo ‘White Bud’

While R was indulging himself, I was off browsing the other offerings. On the left is Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashura’, or Lion’s Head maple. This is an unusual form for a Japanese maple, tall and upright rather than low and weeping. I have been wanting one for years, so I was happy to find this small one in my price range. On the right is Pinus mugo ‘White Bud’, an Israeli introduction with “White buds that glow against the dark-green foliage in winter…”. The plant in the center is a Monkey Puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, my Mothers Day gift. It is from Means Nursery, but that’s another story.

We though it would be fun to see a nursery and display garden featuring Rhodys to get some ideas about how to combine them with other plantings, so we headed over to Bovees Nursery

gateway to Bovee’s Nursery

Behind this gate is a fully mature garden made by true connoisseurs of the species.

big-leaved Rhododendron

Several of these big-leaved guys took a big hit and were lost, but this one is looking good.

maple bark

Mature trees like this maple with the beautiful peeling bark provide a canopy of shade.

Prunus serrula

As does this Prunus serrula.

mossy rocks

Something to see at every level. Looking down, these moss-covered rocks give way to seas of white anemones as ground cover.

fern groundcover

Other parts of the woodland floor are covered in lacy ferns.


These little pom poms were a form I had not seen before.


Following a trail around the house towards the greenhouse, we came out of the woods into a more open area just as the sun broke through for a few moments. We spent most of the day dodging hailstorms and cloudbursts.

Vireya Rhododendron

The next few pictures were taken in the greenhouse, where the largest collection of the semi-tropical Vireya rhododendrons in North America (perhaps the world) are housed.

more Vireyas

and still more Vireyas

The owners of this nursery are slowing down as age catches up with them. It shows in the haphazard labeling and pricing, as well as their willingness to shoot the breeze endlessly with visitors. We learned a lot, and came away with a warm feeling about the place. We did not come away with any plants. We felt kind of bad about that, but it was hard to tell what was for sale (many areas were roped off with not for sale signs) and nothing that interested us had any kind of labeling. In hindsight we would have made at least some sort of token purchase, but the skies opened and we dashed for the car. Maybe we will go back on a nicer day, pick up an unusual plant or two, and remember to ask about those “nectaries”.

nw 23rd stroll

Once upon a time, walking around 23rd was all about the little boutique dress shops and such. Now I gravitate to places that grow things. Oh, I must admit to stopping by Dazzle, a shop that has morphed from artful home goods with a smattering of jewelry to artful clothing, still with a smattering of jewelry. The fancy duds are as flamboyant as any bouquet, and I dare you to pass by their windows, on 23rd and Irving, without sneaking a peek inside.

flowering street trees

The most industrial corner on the street (most of the shops along it are in Victorian houses, or new structures built to look at home in such a setting) is softened by these beautiful flowering cherry trees.

Jenny Greene a-board

Just a little detour down Lovejoy St leads to Jennie Greene Designs “a unique flower shop”, and it really is.

Jennie Greene window display

As I approached, Jennie’s sidekick (who, by all appearances, is as talented as is Jennie herself) was putting the finishing touches on this window display, an architectural wonder utilizing bamboo to support the grid of flowers.

red flower arrangement

That same architectural approach is evident in arrangements using unusual materials to support and enhance the flowers and branches.

yellow floral arrangement

It isn’t very often that I feel the need to go for the extra WOW factor beyond a posy from my garden. When I do, this is the place for it.

mixed hellebore blossoms

Something as simple as an assortment of Hellebore blossoms floating in a bowl is sure to be put into practice at my house.

framed moss

Framed moss: now there’s an idea I can get behind.

succulents in a trug

Succulents in a trug: how cute!

tulips in a rustic basket

Then there were the tulips and twigs in a rustic basket. Is my enchantment showing? This shop started in a tiny space converted from a shipping container next to the coffee shop on 23rd and Pettygrove. They outgrew that space and set up shop just east of 23rd on Thurman. This, then, is their third location, destined for razing in the near future. All this flitting may explain why the A-board above still displays the last address. It could get frustrating, but this is one shop I find worth following around, so I will give you a heads up when they settle into a new space.

Back to 23rd, I was stopped in my tracks by this sidewalk display.

red bench with greenery

The red bench surrounded by all the greenery would have done the job, but just beyond it:


Succulents, a few of them new to me.

decorated entryway

The rusted decorative gate made a perfect foil for the entryway, decorated to within an inch of its life.

floral exotics

Now if what I was after was a selection of unusual material by the stem, I would come here, to Luv “N” Stuff. As it was, I blew the last of my cash on succulents. Just as an aside, it seems that while succulents are the new “hot” plant, none of the suppliers provide labels for these fascinating plants. We should lobby for them to do that, but I have no idea where to start. Any ideas?

magnolia leaves

wall cooler for flowers

may day! may day!

Incoming May basket!

narcissus hawera & forget-me-nots

It’s virtual, but just pretend I rang your doorbell and left a posy of Myosotis scorpioedes and Narcissus hawera before fleeing to watch from the bushes. The forget-me-not’s give you some idea of the scale of these dainty daffy’s. Happy May Day!