Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happy 2014! Twelve garden-worthy native plants to try this year


In a look back at 2013 I thought it worthy to point out twelve native (to my area) plants that performed really well this year. There are others, of course, but in the spirit of potentially adding just one native plant a month over the next year, here's a start:



1. Native Wild Ginger or Asarum caudatum, a (mostly) evergreen groundcover. It handles dry shade once established and despite the holes in these leaves holds up pretty well in my garden - hardy to -20 degrees. Low maintenance for sure.



2. Of course the California Poppy or Eschscholzia californica. Drought tolerant, self-seeding annual - tough and pretty too. Easy to pull out if they become overwhelming...but they are so pretty..why would you?




3. Bear Grass or Xerophyllum tenax. This photo is from Cistus Nursery, it has been more widely available at nurseries around the Portland area this year. Eventually forms a tall stalk with white blooms. Perennial plant in the lily family, hardy to zone 5. Likes some sun, drought tolerant.




4. Maidenhair Spleenwort or Asplenium trichomanes - an evergreen fern. So sweet! I love her. She likes a bit of lime in the soil, otherwise no other fussiness required. I have only ever seen this available at Bosky Dell Natives in West Linn, Oregon. I would have a hundred if I could. Best in shady areas, can handle some dry. I have seen it on hikes growing in cracks with no soil whatsoever...so very tough once established.






5. Good ol' Salal or Gaultheria shallon. Evergreen, soft round leaves, white bell shaped small blooms and eventually berries which are edible. So pretty, and as an evergreen subshrub, so valuable in this region. Birds love the berries too. Likes shade but can handle some sun and is very easy to care for, a great plant if you have an area you do not want to spend a lot of time fussing with.




6. Oregon Grape or Mahonia nervosa. Many different Mahonias out there which are all fab. This is the native version, great winter color as can be seen here. Wonderful yellow flowers in spring followed by steel-blue berries the birds adore. Evergreen, year round interest, what more can you ask for?




7. A teeny tiny little plant, Penstemon davidsonii var. menziesii...purchased at Wild Ginger Farms in Beavercreek, Oregon. A low mat-forming evergreen dense groundcover, slow growing, HUGE purple flowers for the size of the leaves which bees love. While the plant itself is only one inch high the blooms are probably two inches in length. Has handled all kinds of crazy weather and exposure. Likes full sun and great drainage. Drought tolerant.





8. Asclepias speciosa, or Common Milkweed. This is THE host plant for Monarch butterflies. Needs open spaces, sun...totally drought tolerant once established...huge lavender pink round bloom heads, soft bluish green gray leaves. This photo is after the seed pod had exploded, very cool. I have to admit I planted this and saw nothing for a year or two and thought it wasn't going to make it but this year it pumped out the stalks and blooms in abundance much to my delight. If there ever were a Monarch in the area, this is where they would live.




9. Yellow-Eyed Grass or Sisyrinchium californicum. This photo is on the eco roof. They have great sunny flowers which last all season, it divides easily, just grab a clump, tear in half and stick both in the soil and eventually you'll have two full-sized plants. It spreads by seeds too and is easy to pull out if it becomes abundant, but it's not invasive at all. The bees like it and it's semi-evergreen, very charming. Only to about 8" tall it's easy to tuck in here and there. Likes moist soil, too. The spikiness of these is great in the garden, especially in miniature.



10. Hairy Honeysuckle or Lonicera hispidula. This guy has been twining around this railing for a few years now (with a bit of help from me). Pretty much evergreen, soft fuzzy blue-green leaves, just a nice native vine. One can always use a vine for some vertical gardening. Blooms are pink but this has yet to bloom. Grows a couple of feet a year, not too fast which in the Honeysuckle world is nice. Can also be grown on the ground and allowed to crawl along as a groundcover.




11. Shrubby Monkeyflower or Mimulus aurantiacus. LOVE these guys, semi-evergreen, sticky dark green leaves, blooms that range from yellow to red. Very common in California and hotter regions, not really native of the Willamette Valley but rather hotter regions of Oregon. I have had some die-back in the colder months but I whack it back as far as I can and it comes back with gusto in the spring. Woody subshrub. Hummingbirds love it, bees do too. Purchased this from Cistus Nursery, have also purchased it at Portland Nursery. VERY easy to propagate from cuttings.




12. Sedum spathulifolium - one of our native Stonecrops. This photo is from Dancing Oaks Nursery in Monmouth, Oregon. What a crop! Super easy to grow, drought tolerant, cool looking, big yellow flowers in late spring which the bees love. I have this and other native stonecrops or sedums all over my garden.


OK, twelve great native plant picks, done. These next two are native wildflowers which I love and are worth mentioning.




Indian Paintbrush or Castileja miniata...although I don't have this in my garden, I have seen it available at Portland Nursery. It is a gorgeous native wildflower, do not collect in the wild as it will likely not survive. I know they need a companion plant to survive such as a Penstemon. Grows at streambanks, open woods and roadsides. This photo was at Bird Creek Meadows in Washington State this past summer.




Lastly another native wildflower, also from Bird Creek Meadows. This is a Penstemon, although I do not know the variety. I have many Penstemons in my garden, some have been challenging to grow and others have been very easy. I encourage trying new things and the native Penstemons have a great variety from which to choose. I have seen great selections at both Bosky Dell Natives in West Linn, Oregon and also at Wild Ginger Farms in Beavercreek, Oregon.


There you have it, twelve very worthy native plants for the Willamette Valley and beyond. There are many many others which we will eventually cover, but for the time-being, hopefully a few ideas for next years' garden have sprouted for you! Even planting just one native plant in a vast garden does a world of good, especially in place of invasive species. Do you have favorite native plants too? Share some ideas in the comments below.


Thank you for reading and here's to a wonderful 2014 gardening season for everyone... for the birds, the bumble bees, the chickadees and all of us gardeners in practice and at heart.

16 comments :

  1. I finally picked up a Mahonia nervosa this fall, that dark purple color was just too good to ignore. And I'm wishing I would have bought a couple more Xerophyllum tenax, hopefully they'll be around again next summer!

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    1. Oh, I know! That purple was a surprise (pleasant) for me. The Xerophyllum - I also hope it will be around again next year, they seemed to sell out at Portland Nursery so we can hope! Cheers!

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  2. I have quite a few of these natives, I love them too!

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    1. Great! Love that...nice to know others out there like them too...cheers!

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  3. I've been really wanting to add the Aslepias over the past few years...but I'm pretty sure I just won't have enough sun (or, honestly, space) to make them happy :-(

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    1. Well, come by my garden any time Scott! They do like the sun, for sure. Maybe someday!

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  4. I'll have to try the Maidenhair Spleenwort. I love ferns! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Cynthia! Thanks for reading my blog! :) Yay! Nice to have you here....yes, the Maidenhairs are SOOO sweet, see Grace's post below for a possible lead on some more this spring...cheers!

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  5. We have several of these growing wild in our woods. I'm going to try transplanting a few into the garden proper this spring. In the Cecil Smith Rhododendron garden maidenhair fern made a stunning planting under the rhodys.

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    1. Hi Ricki, that's great! Good luck with your transplanting... I bet the Maidenhairs look great underplanted....If I had many of them I'd do that too..great idea!

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  6. The Spleenwort--last year at the Spring Garden Festival in Corvallis (I live in Albany) a vendor was selling them for a dollar apiece! I only bought one but if he's selling them again this spring I'm getting a few more. They're so sweet. Ebay is selling a couple different types of Indian Paintbrush. I prefer the pink flowering varieties. I don't know how how easily they'll germinate but the seed is cheap. I grow the pink flowering Cal Poppy. It's such a delightful plant. Mimulus lewisii is on my wish list--again pink flowers. My soil is too dry for Salal but I love it. I have Asclepias speciosa and A. incarnata. Love them both. Bear Grass is also on my wish list. Great post!

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    1. Hi Grace,
      Well, thank you for the tip! If I get out there to Corvallis this spring I'll look for them! What a deal. Yes, Cal Poppy is so sweet, I love the pinkish ones too. Good for you with the Asclepias - do yo see any butterflies? Thanks for your comments! Cheers,
      Tamara

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  7. Okay, you've convinced me I need beargrass! I have a lot of natives but I've never considered this one, for some reason.

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    1. NICE! I hope it performs beautifully for you! :) We'll see if mine ever bloom...but I really don't mind if they don't.

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  8. Salal is one of my garden favorites! I didn't ever think about beargrass -- assumed it needed high elevation. I think I'll give it a try, thanks!

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    1. Me TOO, Portlandtreetour! I loves me some salal. The beargrass seems to do fine - so far! I'll keep everyone posted as to its health, mine are fairly neglected and do just fine...evergreen so far too.

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