Thursday, June 25, 2015

Alpine Flowers of Mount Hood

Hello, Everyone! Mister Chickadee Gardens here. Been awhile. I think since last winter when I reported here on my adventure to Everest Base Camp. Remember? You can revisit that post here. Many pictures of mountains and me trying to breathe? This time I am once again on a mountain, but it's local talent, i.e., Mount Hood. Yes, I am back in my boots and taking more pictures. This time, instead of mountains, I focused on flowers. Alpine flowers, I should say. Sweet, low-growing alpine flowers. 

Just below is an Indian paintbrush. I think. I am no expert. But this is what we called them as kids, and so be it here. Please feel free to share the real name. As to Latin names, indian paint-a-brushas? Haha, never mind. At any rate, I loved this little jewel. Hope you do as well.

Yep, that's me with a multitude of bear grasses behind me. They are very busy on the ridge above Zigzag River canyon. To take this hike, drive to Timberline Lodge, walk up behind the lodge to the Pacific Crest Trail and head west/north. It follows along the mountain and is not so tough. These bear grasses are just so snowy and creamy. Oddly, while there were plenty of bees on other flowers, nary a nodual of bear grassery featured a bee, bumble or otherwise. Hmmmm.

I want ice cream now, for some reason. 

This is looking due east up Zigzag River canyon. The 6.5-mile (out-and-back) hike is an annual tradition for myself and a good friend. This is by far the earliest we've gone on any year in about 30 years of going. No snow to block the trail. This looks like late August on the mountain. Yipes!

Okay, this is where the fun starts. I do not know the name of many of these flowers. I just like them. So tiny and sturdy. You have to be, I guess, to live up there at 7,000 feet. Again, if you know the name, feel free.
(Tamara the blogger here in parentheses. I shall fill in botanic names if you care to know; ignore these notes if you'd rather play along with Mr. Chickadee which is probably a lot more fun. This is Lupinus latifolius, broadleaf lupine).

More purple goodness. 

(Mimulus guttatus, monkeyflower)

That's the plant above this delicate little blossom. Sweet, soft yellow. 

And some wild life, too. Not a cougar. Not a bear. Nor a raccoon or eagle. Just a gentle, half-dollar-size butterfly (or moth).  

I am of a mind, thanks to Mrs Chickadee, that this is a sedum plant of some sort. (Close, Mr. Chickadee - a penstemon...looks like Penstemon rupicola)

These blooms were smaller than a malted milk ball (of course he compares them to chocolate). I like the color and their energy. These grow in direct sunshine. Not much water. (These oddballs are Cistanthe umbellata or Mt. Hood pussypaws. We like these.)

Fuzzy! Pink!

This is why we go, get out of the city, see some green and a mountain in the distance. Sigh. We love Oregon and good ol' Mount Hood.

Lots of this stuff about. Not sure of the name, but it seems very happy. The funny thing is that since we tend not to get on this trail until mid- to late-summer, we don't often seen all of these flowers. So this was a treat. 

Looking due south to Mount Jefferson, the Sisters and possibly Mount Bachelor.  (More lupine.)

Here is a scrubby little conifer. Dozens of these about. Reminds me of bonzai. (This seems to be a rather stunted mountain hemlock.)

This time the flower (above) and then the plant. It was growing in the deep shade on the long, switch-backed trail from the ridge to the river below. In this picture, the flash went off so the green really pops. (This is a sweet false Soloman's seal or Maianthemum racemosum.)

Flowers can be green, too, I suppose. Kind of like this one. (Aruncus dioicus, goadtsbeard, another fabulous native woodland plant.)

Here is my happy flower. About the size of a silver dollar. Reminds me of tiny seashells (oh goodness, this could be anything...!). 

 I was a day or two late for the trillium bloom. Not many, and those I saw were in deep shade around some water seeps. Very small, too, unlike the trilliums, say, in Forest Park in Portland.

(Not sure about the plant I.D. on this one, either.)

Yellow flowers really stand out on the gray and brown landscape along the trail. (Arnica latifolia, mountain arnica.)

So does hot pink! (Not sure what this was!)

These are just the teeny, tiniest flowers. Good thing I have a macro lens on the old Canon. These grow along the trail in the sun. Don't step on them. (Eriogonum umbellatum, sulfur flowered buckwheat.)

These clumps of cheer just pepper the hillside near Timberline Lodge. Looks like someone spilled the button jar. The jar of purple buttons, that is! (Phlox diffusa or spreading phlox.)

This was the most unusual flower. Up, down, around. Still, they are like the rest of my alpine flower friends. Struggling to survive in a harsh environment and blossoming in the sun. They can handle cold, snowy winters and dry, baking summers, but they carry on. They might be small and they might not make much of a statement, with the exception of the bear grass, but they are certainly favorites (This is a lovely wildflower called Dodecatheon hendersonii or shooting star...lovely, isn't it?)

So there you go: a tour of alpine flowers and whatnot from Mount Hood. Thanks for reading it. Hope you enjoyed it. Cheers.

(Thank you, dear husband of mine, Mr. Chickadee. I enjoyed the tour myself. To all of you readers out there, thank you for humoring us both and until next time, happy gardening!)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Xera Plants: The Silver Garden

Last week we looked at the front garden of Greg Shepherd, co-owner of Xera Plants, with promises of tours of the back garden this week. In contrast to the glowing warm tones of Penstemon pinifolius 'Melon' and sunny Halmium ocymoides 'Susan', Greg has made this back garden a shimmering silver wonderland. Let us take that tour and visit a few of the plants that really caught my eye.

Stipa barbata was placed throughout. It became the magic icing on the cake that tied the whole thing together and made me want to run out and purchase about 10 of these plants and tuck them in all over the garden. Its wispy arms floated on air tickling the other plants, adding a bit of drama.

The bronze, grass-like plant in the foreground right is Arthropodium candidum 'Purpureum' or New Zealand rock lily. It's a sweet little grass-like ground cover that sports small white flowers and reseeds politely. The white-flowered plant in the background is Dicentra formosa ‘Langtrees', which I adore, a native woodland (or can take sun) little plant.

Now here's a study in drought-tolerant beauty. Between the rosemary and the hebes in the back there are a dozen incredible plants. The simplicity of design works - the large pavers are very effective here against a backdrop of silver plants. The ground cover of gravel echoes the plant colors too, creating continuity and harmony. Many plants throughout both the front and back are repeated - this also creates continuity.

What decent Portland garden would be without kale, I ask you?

The veggie patch with onions, asparagus and kale.

Hebe 'Quicksilver' (a favorite of mine) in the lower foreground, I believe Ozothamnus hookeri 'Sussex Silver', the large shrub on the right.

Leptospermum humifusum (rupestre) 'Squiggly' again. This is also in the front garden.

Potenilla gelida

From Xera's website:  WOW! Spectacular foliage. An herbaceous Potentilla from the Himalaya with shockingly silver pinnate leaves. Forms a rosette to 2' wide and in mid summer silvery spires of deep yellow flowers. It is for the foliage though that this plant shines. Literally. Full sun that is well drained, summer water. Best where you can see the entire rosette of leaves. Deciduous. Wonderful in drifts. Excellent with Molinia caerulea 'Variegata'. Thanks, Dan

I asked Greg which Eryngium this was; I had it all wrong. It's an artichoke. And gorgeous. Cynara baetica ssp. maroccana.

Pachystegia insignis.

Here's Eryngium giganteum.

Artemisia canescens on the right, artichoke again on the left. 

Here's what Xera's website says about it:
A superb foliage plant for dry sunny areas, this Artemesia from Iran mixes very well with other perennials. Intricate foliage forms a gray haze on an evergreen dome shaped plant to 14" tall and 20" wide. Full sun and well drained soil. May be cut back to the base in early spring to refresh. Occasional summer water, but not soggy. Excellent on slopes with such plants as Zauschneria and hardy Geraniums.

Even the weathered wood of the fence echoes the colors in the garden. It reminds me of the colors and breezes at the coast, the weathered wood, the waves of grasses...

Arctostaphylos, a stump, and some pavers.

Asparagus fronds in the evening light.

Artemesia canescens on the right.

Stipa barbata

Here's what Xera's website says about the grass:
Everything that you could ask for in a grass, grace, beauty and fantastic form
this is sure to become a garden classic. Long smokey tails become the inflorescence on this beautiful plant. Tightly clumping and somewhat sparse
growing at the base its true beauty is in bloom when wiry stems display
long silken trailing tails up to 18” LONG! They wave and gently sway in the finest breath of a breeze. Their constant motion is mesmerizing in a garden. As the flowers mature they slowly twist in an effort to mature and then eventually take flight and literally wind themselves into the ground. Unfortunately, they rarely germinate (damn!) This deserves a place in EVERY garden in full sun and well drained soil. Tolerant of great drought when established. Blooms appear in June and are effective through early August. Spectacular and rare unfortunately.

I leave you with a parting shot of the beautiful Stipa barbata, for that is the signature plant that left its impression on my wine-filled mind as I left Greg and Christian's incredible garden.

I took away a lot of impressions from this garden, the golden glow of the shrubs out front and the wispy silvers of the private back garden. Both have such personality and beauty in a xeric setting. When it comes time for me to design new gardens for myself I am going to definitely revisit these ideas that Greg, an incredibly experienced and knowledgeable plantsman, has put into play in his own garden of exceptional beauty and serenity.

I thank him and Christian again for opening their home and garden to a bunch of plant nuts on a hot Sunday afternoon, it was a delight and I look forward to the next visit. I think it's time to visit Xera's retail shop once again, even if I have no room left in my own garden!

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens, as always, thank you for reading and happy gardening!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Nursery Owner's Garden: Xera Plants

Greg Shepherd, co-owner of Xera Plants, sent me a lovely, impromptu invitation to a garden party at his home on a very scalding hot Sunday afternoon. Be damned the heat; I was going! And since it was so close, I walked. What was I thinking in 93 degree weather at 5:30 in the afternoon? I wasn't. Thinking.
But the plants and Greg's sweet invitation lured me.

 As Greg is a nursery owner, I expected a great garden, but what I found left me a little speechless. It also has that je ne sais quoi quality of placement, of design, of magic. I took so many photos I went through a battery and a half.

Today, I present the front garden, small but jam-packed with xeric treasures that were especially appropriate for this ever-warming West Coast climate.

Greg and Christian's sweet home: The garden is not large, but it is inspiring in that every square inch is plant-inspired and rich with texture. No fancy hardscaping tricks here, it brings to mind Lauren and Scott Springer Ogden's Plant Driven Design book that (in a nutshell) touts the use of plants to create a sense of place rather than relying on hardscaping.

Established shrubs get no water here. Only smaller perennials and new plants receive a bit to get them established. Beyond that, they are adapted to our hot dry summers (which we are experiencing already) and our wet winters. That's what Xera Plants is all about, after all. There are lots of native plants in there, too, which I love. In fact, Greg shared with me that he plans to expand his selection of natives to add more interesting and harder-to-find varieties. I'm all for that and I plan on sending him my wish list.

A tapestry of hebe, fescue, penstemon and euphorbia in a dry river bed in the front garden captures the evening light and the plants in the hell strip in the background. The Hebes are Hebe ‘Karo Golden Esk’ from Xera, of course.

One of my favorites that does very well in my garden, Penstemon pinifolius, I believe this to be the cultivar 'Melon'. That it's evergreen is a wonderful thing.

From Xera's website:
Western Pine-leaved Penstemon has small needle-like leaves and in late spring and summer copious small brillant 1" long orange/red flowers. Forms a woody stems and is one of the longest lived perennial Penstemons. Full sun well drained soil with occasional water in summer. Great in rock gardens or on steep slopes. To 10" tall and about 2' wide. Cut back hard in early spring. Hummingbird heaven. Evergreen.

Hebe ‘Karo Golden Esk’ and fescues again. Someone mentioned that the fescues are self-sown.

Golden delights. This whole garden felt warm and glowing. Maybe it was  heatstroke or the wine talking. No, it really was golden.

A wider shot from the sidewalk. Many well-established shrubs hold down the fort and keep everything balanced. These are no ordinary, water-hungry shrubs à la rhododendrons and hydrangeas, rather these are the water-wise hebes, arctostaphylos and friends. Just as gorgeous and pollinator friendly, too.

Digitalis obscura, a plant I have in my garden and really appreciate. The fact that it's a perennial is a bonus.

Leptospermum humifusum (rupestre) 'Squiggly', a fabby New Zealand tea tree.

From Xera's website:
A cold hardy evergreen shrub with a very modern feel. Mahogany brown, wiry stems are clad with small olive green-gray leaves. In early summer profuse small white flowers open from pink buds. Twisting habit to 3' tall and 5' wide over time. Good looking year round in full sun and well drained soil. LOVE it with ornamental grasses and big bolders. Perfectly hardy to cold- undamaged in containers after 3 nights in the single digits. Wow. Myrtle family, from Tasmania. aka. L. rupestre. Occasional summer water. 

One of the many Arctostaphylos spp. in the garden of golden delights.

Erica arborea 'Alberts Gold'

From Xera's website:
Cold hardy form of Tree Heath with new foliage that emerges vivid chartreuse green. Slow growing at first it gains speed as it ages and in several years will attain 4' tall by 3' tall with an ulitmate height of 12'. Small white flowers emerge with the new growth in spring. Full sun and well drained soil. Water until you see new growth, drought tolerant when established. Long lived shrub of Mediterranean origin. Handsome year round.

Callistemon pityoidies 'Mt. Kosciusko' (probably)

Digitalis parviflora.

Halmium ocymoides 'Susan'

From the Xera website:
If space is at a premium this fantastic selection of golden rockrose is perfect. Compact habit with fine gray foliage to only 18" tall and 2' wide. Profuse golden flowers with an expanded ring of maroon around the center. Blooms for an extended period from late April to early July. Full hot sun and good drainage in soil that is not overly rich, little water when established. One of the smallest Halimiums and excellent in a rock garden or along a wall. Rare.

Antirrhinum sempervirens or silver snapdragon.

From the Xera website: 
We love this tough perennial Snapdragon that can bloom for months and months in summer. White flowers with a yellow lip cover the almost deep green succulent foliage. Becomes a semi-woody plant and dies back to a base in winter regrowing in spring. Full sun and very well drained soil with occasional water. Excellent in seasonal containers. Appreciates organic fertilizer in early spring. Cut back hard in early spring as well. 

The hellstrip is one of the loveliest around. There's the halmium in the foreground right again to get a sense of scale.

Euphorbia rigida in front.

Callistemon viridiflorus ‘Xera Compact’ in the center.

Here is an example of a tapestry. Evergreen shrubs in the background - leptospermum, arctostaphylos and grasses with shorter grasses and penstemons in the foreground. Greg tied it all together with large rocks and gravel.

View from the street looking over the hellstrip onto the sidewalk.

Sedums, euphorbia and Artemesia canescens on the left.

Agave bracteosa 'Calamar'. These stunners do very well in our climate. I would love to add these to the garden someday.

Euphorbia rigida adding prickly structure.

Euphorbia, opuntia and agave in the hot, baking sun and loving it.

Erodium chrysanthum on the right, a plant that Greg convinced me to get last year and I adore it.

There are many lessons for me to learn from this garden, one of which is the application of plant-driven design. I felt like a butterfly in the garden amongst the plants, it felt good to be there. The memory left was so intense, an experience beyond just gardening and plants. That's what I want to get from my garden. Each plant is pretty self-sufficient and tough. In my next garden I will borrow a lot of these ideas and go more towards xeric landscaping; it makes sense. I don't necessarily want to be out there watering every other day in super hot weather. Plus, when plants are this gorgeous, there's no reason not to choose them.

The palette is gorgeous, there are obviously many different directions one could go in a xeric landscape. Is it surprising that Oregon has this climate? We really always have, this is nothing new. I was born and raised in Portland and my memories of hot, dry barkdust in July are firmly set in my brain, as are the smells of baking asphalt and dry summer grasses.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you, Greg and Christian, for the lovely evening of garden talk, friends and wine. We all appreciated it.

As always, thank you for reading! Tune in for next time when we cover the silvery garden of Greg and Christian's backyard, it's a stunner. Oh boy...(you can see it here)!