Enkianthus companulatus ‘Red Bells’

‘Red Bells’ close-up

Purchased at the HPSO spring sale in 2006, Enkianthus companulatus ‘Red Bells’ has lived in a pot all this time.

‘Red Bells’ in its pot

We have determined that this must be the year of its liberation, so we have been moving it around from place to place, trying to determine the perfect spot where we can enjoy the subtle coloration of its bell-shaped flowers and still give it the little bit of shade it craves.

hand truck

A hand truck comes in mighty handy at times like these. I can move big, heavy pots around with ease, all by myself, using this little garden buddy.

‘Red Bells’ at Portland Nursery

The plant tag said that this small tree would top out at 8′, but the one in the display garden at the Stark Street Portland Nursery is more like 12′ at 27 years of age. My tendency is always to plant things too closely. I will use this information to try to mend my ways and give this beauty plenty of elbow room. It is a relative of Rhododendrons, so we know what it likes. Richard gives his Rhody’s a yearly dose of cottonseed and plants them high, with lots of grit in the hole for good drainage. I’m pretty sure ‘Red Bells’ will thank us with years of May into June blossoms and fall color.

wildflowers in my garden now

buttercup close-up

You couldn’t ask for a tougher ground cover than buttercups, so why fight it? Their shiny golden faces light up the woodland’s edge (and anywhere else that they have not been diligently removed).


I never know where the foxgloves will show up from year to year, but they have a starlet’s sense of where they will show off to best advantage.

odd foxglove

Once again, a few of them are doing this strange thing where the top flower opens into a most un-foxglovely blossom. I asked my master gardener neighbor about it, but she had no idea…anyone???

field daisy

Beyond the reach of the hose, the field daisies carry on regardless.

grasses and vetch

…as do pretty grasses and vetch.


I find the wild silene as charming as any cultivated beauty. As such, it is allowed free reign anywhere it chooses to put in an appearance.

salmon berry Rubus spectabilis

Thanks to The Oregonian, I even have the botanical name for the salmon berries that grow in our woodland. They are Rubus spectabilis, with large, maple-like leaves and white flowers that become salmon-colored berries. Their name, however, is derived not from the color, but from their use. Native Americans served them with salmon roe, and the fish typically spawn at the same time that the blossoms appear.

I am a bit late to the party this month, but on the third Wednesday of each month, Clay and Limestone hosts Wildflower Wednesday, giving us an opportunity to pay tribute to the flowers that tough it out with no coddling. Where would we be without them?

foliage follow-up


Back in what I have come to call the “graveyard berm” (ironic, because I think it was Loree who once referred to berms as burial mounds) this Verbascum has placed himself in a crevice of the rock border and is happy there. I have never planted one of these, but am happy to see them pop up here and there. See that little thing that looks like a very small twig near the center? It is an insect. Fun, huh?

primrose foliage

I am in love with the foliage of primroses after the annoying little flowers have had their day. In the woodland, the flowers always look a little tatty (through no fault of their own: they bloom during full rain/slugfest season), but the leaves are perky, puckery, shiny delights.

primrose with hosta and fern

Just look how lovingly they combine with ferns and hostas

primrose with Persicaria ‘Lance Corporal’
…and especially with Persicaria ‘Lance Corporal’. Isn’t that a perfect name for the leaves with the chevron markings? It used to be called Tovara virginiana, but I didn’t know the new name until I saw it on Scott’s wonderful blog.

bronze sedum with golden creeping charlie

It will be interesting to see who will win this battle between the bronzy sedum and the golden creeping charlie. Right now I’m liking the way they are cooperating to weave a carpet of color.

Juniperus communis ‘Gold

You can see that war going on in the background here, setting the stage for Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’ to put on the command performance that happens only this time of year, when the new growing tips emerge all fresh and golden.

Ozothamnus ‘Sussex Silver’

Are these growing tips or flower buds on the Ozothamnus ‘Sussex Silver’? Only time will tell, as this is their first appearance in the three years we have had this plant.

sedum groundcover

Another ground-covering sedum, this a very small leaved variety, covers bumpy ground in no time. This started out as a 4″ pot from the supermarket, and it does a good job of keeping weeds at bay. I just happened to catch it when a few red petals had fallen from the Rhododendron. What are the chances of that ever happening again?

Foliage follow up comes right after Bloom Day, and is the brainchild of Pam. Best hurry on over there to see what the rest of the foliageans have to offer.

june in bloom

Astrantia rubrum

Astrantia rewards close inspection.


The wands of blossoms on the Heucheras have an ethereal quality that is hard to capture, but you can get an idea of the colors in this bed, with the Astrantia nearby, and a Hydrangea that will soon pick up the bruised tones.

Weigelia ‘Wine and Roses’

On the other side of the entry, hot pink blossoms complement the dark foliage of Weigelia ‘Wine and Roses’.

Sambucu nigra ‘Eva’

As you can see, I really go in for the dark stuff (the garden, you may be glad to know, is pretty much where my noirish tendencies leave off). Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’ anchors another bed. I love her near-black foliage, but she is also pretty when she puts on her pink party dress.

Physocarpus oputifolias ‘Summer Wine’

Next to ‘Eva’, Physocarpus oputifolias ‘Summer Wine’ steps back a couple of notches to deep bronze foliage and covers herself in clusters of paler pink flowers.

iris blush

Out along the fence line, the iris are in full swing. Normally, they would be finished by late May. This blush-colored one is the first to bloom,

iris, two-toned purple

With this sort of generic two-toned purple hot on her heels. I’m wondering if anyone knows if iris tend to revert to this color? I seem to have way more of them than planted, and fewer of what I thought I would get. Speaking of which, I ordered up a collection (mail order rhizomes), only one of which produced a flower looking anything like the photos in the full-color brochure.

iris ‘Immortality’

Here it is, the only one to come true, and thus the only named iris in my “collection”, ‘Immortality’. The buds are a very pale ice blue, opening to pristine white.

iris, bronzy-yellow

The others must be content with names like “bronzy-yellow”,

iris, mahogany


iris, champagne

and “champagne”.


I can almost smell the Philadelphus just by looking at the picture.


…and speaking of fragrance…

Oxalis adenophylla

The cute little pinwheel design of the buds on Oxalis adenophylla

O adenophylla flower

open to this.

tree peony ‘Gold Sovereign’

Whadda ya know…the tree peony ‘Gold Sovereign’ is, for once, in bloom for GBBD.

unnamed orchid

I could go on and on, but we all know about the “embarassment of riches” that is June. Instead I will leave you with an indoor shot of an orchid that I found abandoned and nursed into bloom. If you are still wanting more, click here. Thanks, Carol!

at the corner of “oops” & “not so fast”

opuntia (dead)

No amount of waiting or wishful thinking is going to bring the Opuntiaback to life. I see them growing happily around town, and I put effort into planting properly. Some sort of critter or bug had been nibbling on it before the rain set in, so it probably let in the moisture to turn it to mush. I think I will try one in a pot next.

Agave neomexicana ($)

The jury is still out on Agave neomexicana. I think it’s too soon to give up on it, but it is not looking very happy.

leather fern

Nearby, this crispy critter is Astrolepis inuata, or wavy cloak fern. Looks hopeless to me, but I won’t dig it up just yet.

sedums engulfing hesperaloe and yucca

Bucking the trend at the other end of the same berm, the sedums are engulfing a Yucca ‘Bright Edge’ and a hesperaloe. My plan is to extricate them from the sedum’s clutches, move them somewhere else and hope for the best. My best plans for this berm seem to be destined for failure, so I just may let the sedums have it.

Romney coulterii (dead)

Meanwhile, out at the fence-line, the Romneya coulterii was not looking good.

Romneya coulterii (it’s alive!)

But wait! What’s this? Sometimes I am too timid about cutting back hard. Mom Nature has no such qualms. Time will tell if it was just what this plant wanted.

Rhododendron sinogrande (?)

We were so disappointed when we saw how dejected Rhododendron sinogrande was when we carefully removed his winter wrappings. Those drooping upper leaves soon darkened, curled up and fell off.

Rhododendron sinogrande (in recovery)

Soon the lower stalks formed big buds that looked like they would become flowers, but no, here they are unfurling replacement leaves. Even that stalk in the upper left corner is showing signs of new buds forming. Hallelujah!

Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’

In the six years that my ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies have been growing here, they have never been bothered by slugs. I went out there the other day in the pouring rain and there were slugs draped across many of the upper leaves. Looks like they have feasted to the detriment of this year’s blooms. We shall see. I tore them off with my gloved hands (they resisted as if they had been super-glued in place) and threw them back into the woods where they are actually beneficial. I will patrol the area more diligently in future.

nibbled geum

And then there are the deer. A friend gave me this geum. The buds were swelling and just beginning to color up. I was looking forward to the splash of orange: just what this bed needed. Instead, the deer neatly nipped off each bud. Time to mix up a new batch of my evil witches’ brew to spray on susceptible plants.

geum (coming back)

It worked! Here is the first cheery orange blossom to make it all the way to maturity. If you want to try my formula for deterring deer, you will find it here.
hydrangeas (struggling)

My hydrangeas took a big hit with the one-two punch of two harsh winters. Some did better than others, and if you want to know which ones will be hardiest you should check out Joy Creek’s blog. Hydrangeas are one of their specialties and they devoted their most recent blog post to the subject.

wall pocket (my bad)

Sometimes we have no one to blame but you-know-who. I have had great success with Ipomoea batatas spilling from my porch pocket. I found a couple of them, plus a coleus with exactly the perfect complementary color at our local one-stop market and popped them in the pot. I kept them watered, but they insisted upon this dying act. Well, I emptied the pot, scrubbed it out and soaked it in bleach solution overnight. The new coleus housed there is doing fine. So how about you? How has nature, in her many guises, conspired for and against you so far?

asparagus two ways

asparagus in a vase with peonies

We went to the farmers’ market to get tomato plants, and kind of went our separate ways. When we got home, we saw that each of us had purchased a generous bunch of asparagus. One we ate, of course. The second bunch got put in a vase to help support a bouquet of peonies (tree peony ‘Chinese Dragon’).

In case you’re interested, my favorite way to serve asparagus is lightly steamed, with a sprinkle of this concoction: sauté onions in butter, add dry mustard and almond meal and sprinkle over the asparagus. Wendy can put you in touch with all kinds of yummy ways to use the season’s bounty, and even offers prizes if you want to join in the fun.

waterfront condos

view north

Our friends who downsized from a big old Victorian in the alphabet district in NW Portland now have this view of the Fremont Bridge looking downriver.

view upriver

While in the other direction there is the Broadway Bridge in the foreground, backed by the city’s skyline. The sidewalk you see here is part of a 40-mile loop trail for walkers and bicyclists. The water of the Willamette River is so high right now that parts of the trail are submerged, but that won’t last for long. We plan to bring our bikes sometime soon.

view from sidewalk

The condo building is surrounded by something like a moat. This is the view looking from the sidewalk out between the two buildings with the river in the distance and industrial buildings and docks on the far shore.

cascade at side

Down the sides of the buildings the water cascades down these concrete spillways. The reflecting pool in the last photo has similar levels that can be seen through the water, but not easily photographed.

side plantings

The landscape designer was meticulous to the point that the first rocks in this dry creek bed had to be removed because they were the wrong color. These rocks are exactly the color of the sidewalk and nearly uniform in size.

red petunias

I am normally not a petunia person, but I find the large blocks of bright red ones in concrete raised beds surprisingly pleasing.

view of the river from the balcony

After passing through a lobby with falling water on both sides (just in case we haven’t had enough rain) we made our way to our friends’ condo, where they have this view from their balcony. They can watch all of the river traffic and the loading and unloading of cargo ships across the river. If that isn’t enough excitement, the Portland Police’s horse barn is off to the left, where the horses are worked in the ring. They miss having a space to garden, but the low maintenance will make room for sailing getaways, etc. Looks like a pretty good life to me. Now I am off to spend the next three days of promised sunshine mucking about in the garden and loving every minute of it. To each his own, right?