Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nursery Visit: Xera Plants

A trip to Xera Plants is always special. Working at a nursery myself one would think I would tire of looking at plants. Not so. Xera Plants, which I have written about and visited before several times, is well worth repeated visits. Xera specializes in climate-appropriate plants for our region and consistently feature an exceptional collection. I think I love every plant they sell. Recently, Facilities Manager and I were in Portland so we made it a point to come here after a dental appointment. I deserved a very good reward after a good checkup, don't you think? Especially sandwiched in between the dentist and taking The Furry Ones to the vet later that day. Oy!
OK, less talk, more tour. Here we go!

Spikes up front always catch my attention. They also grow shade plants, crape myrtles, Arctostaphylos or manzanitas, succulents, grasses, shrubs, ferns, trees, perennials.

Xera's small retail nursery is full of a huge selection of the most interesting plants we can grow here in Oregon. They are a wholesale grower too (one can find their plants for sale in many area garden centers), but my favorite plant field trip is coming here to their SE 11th and Clay location in Portland, all Xera all the time.

You can stand in the middle of their shop and spin around and see the whole site quite easily. In other words, its' small. But jewel-box small. And full of treasures. Next door is Bob Hyland's wonderful shop Contained Exuberance where you can find the perfect container for that treasure you just purchased.

This area under the roof is where one can find the shade plants. The area behind it to the right is the shade garden, planted when they opened the shop a few years ago. My how time changes plants.

Across the store on the street (sunny) side is this warm vignette. Oranges from the Agastache play off of the table and chairs.

Lots of sun shrubs, grasses, trees and perennials for sun.

If you can make out the chain-link fence, you can see it's not a very large space. No matter, there are more great plants in this small location than in many other nurseries.

The shade area has filled in nicely. All along this wall textures and surprising foliage colors are so soothing on a hot summer's day. Let's see . . . I notice Dicentra, Lonicera, Fatshedera, Hakonechloa, Begonia...

Topiaries! I think this is a passion of Paul's (one of the two owners of Xera Plants, Paul Bonine and Greg Shepherd).

A Fuchsia topiary. Who knew?

Holly leaf sweetspire or Itea illicifolia. Xera says "Beautiful evergreen shrub with 1' long fragrant tassels all summer. Full sun to quite a bit of shade. To 10' x 6' in 10 years. Light summer water. Amazing espalier subject. Good looking foliage year round. Fast growing, elegant. Zone 7b." Wow! I'm sold! Actually we already have one of these beauties in our garden and, yes, it has put on quite a bit of new growth this year.

Abutilon 'Tangerine Scream'. If I were able to grow these semi-tender plants with no fuss, I would put this in my garden pronto. My self-imposed rule is: No tender plants in the ground.

This beauty Agave 'Sharkskin Shoes' was listed as zone 7b, which I can handle, but I wasn't ready to commit quite yet after my winter of Agavecide. Maybe next year.

Dasylirion wheeleri or desert spoon. I had two of these, which I had for several years, but they too perished this past winter. Again, I'm not quite ready to repeat that again, although I do love them. When backlit they are a stunning sight.

Choice plants everywhere!

Fremontodendron or flannel bush. I bought mine here at Xera a few years ago. It's struggling along, but hopefully this is the year it will put down some serious roots and take off. A California native, this tough evergreen shrub likes no summer water and lots of sunshine.

Oh, the shade area. Yes, foliage is king in the shade garden, that is very true.

This gorgeous fern is Pyrossia, "tough evergreen ferns for the deepest shade. Good looking year-round. Light summer water, carefree plants, avoid hot sun. Great in containers or as a houseplant. From Taiwan, hardy to zone 7b."

Here's that x Fatshedera lizei, a beautiful cross between Fatsia japonica and Hedera helix or ivy. Non-invasive and upright in form, it's one of the oddest but coolest shade plants I know. I had one at the old garden and regret leaving it there. D'OH!

Eye candy...

Since working for Joy Creek Nursery, I have come to appreciate hardy fuchsias. This is my favorite of them all, Fuchsia 'Hawkshead', a clean white with small star-like flowers when you view it from a few feet away. Mine survived the winter from hell and is growing quite well, thank you very much.

Metapanax davidii, a shade tree I had not been familiar with. Pretty cool evergreen tree, I might have to pick one up next time.

Xera is known for crape myrtles. As the sign says, three reasons to love them - flowers, fantastic bark and fall color. They have, in my mind, brought crape myrtles or Lagerstroemia species to the forefront of gardening minds in Portland. Thank you, Xera. These trees are awesome. I love seeing them as street trees in Portland, they are a great alternative to many other impractical choices.

They have so many to choose from.

Another specialty of the house are manzanitas or Arctostaphylos species.

Nearly every one of mine, some 20+, have been purchased at Xera. These guys know their plants and for the Pacific Northwest, this tree/shrub cannot be beat if you have a hot dry location with great drainage. Evergreen, exfoliating bark, leaves of all shapes and flowers that bumblebees love (in February, too!) . . . and a West Coast native plant. No water on hot days, thank you very much.

Here's that amazing silver oak or Quercus hypoleucoides that I bought at Gossler Farms earlier this year. An amazing evergreen tree, this thing sparkles in the sunlight. I'm so glad to see that Xera is growing it, too. If you are not in Xera purchasing distance, you might be able to get it at Gossler as they are also a mail-order nursery.

Knipfofia 'Timothy'

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Somerset', a form of our native Lawson's cypress, caught my eye with its bright green new foliage. Grows to 9'. Looks like a keeper to me.

Hakea microcarpa is something I have never seen before. See, this is why I love Xera. "A prehistoric Proteaceous shrub that is pure architecture . . . full sun, to 8' tall and 4' wide."

Oregon natives! They not only grow them, they grow them well and offer many cultivars. Xera Plants are champions of a great selection.

Here's a cool grass - Sesleria nitida 'Campo Azul'. Tufted moor grass, from Italy, loves full sun to light shade.

Just a general shopping scene at Xera. So many groovy plants!

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Munchkin' - a favorite shrub of Xera (and me). "Bred by the National Arboretum that is a true dwarf to just 3 x 3' in 5 years. Incredible bloomer with huge 10" white cone flowers in summer. Fall color is maroon, burgundy. Full sun to part shade, regular water. From the Southeastern part of the U.S."

Last but not least, the bottlebrushses or Callistemons. Another heat-loving, evergreen shrub. We have about four in the garden, all from Xera.

When I think of Xera, I immediately think of hardy evergreen shrubs. I think of unusual genera that I may or may not have been familiar with, and I think of the many (many!) Xera plants I have in my garden that are true stalwarts. They hold the garden, they are the big boy shrubs and amazing grasses. They are the drought-tolerant and also shady wonders. Basically, I think of die-hard but oh-so-interesting plants. I only wish that everyone had their own Xera Plants to visit. We are so very lucky here in the Portland area to call Xera our own.

If you are in Portland, they are open Thursday - Sunday on S.E. 11th and Clay. Stop by and say hello, you won't be sorry.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening and plant shopping, too!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Let's Go! Mount Saint Helens

For those of us who lived in the Pacific Northwest on May 18, 1980, the date is embedded into our collective consciousness. That is, of course, the day that Mount Saint Helens blew its top. It was huge news in Oregon and Washington, as well as across the rest of the country and world. This is Facilities Manager writing. Master Gardener Tamara needs a break from time to time so when that time comes I like to share my adventures. Of course, flowers and plants are included in my ramblings. Last Saturday I hiked near the north side of Mt. St. Helens, as pictured below. The mountain used to look a bit like Mount Hood, but now it has its own special topography. This was my first visit since it erupted all those years ago.

 This is looking south from the Johnson Ridge Observatory, which is 51 miles east of Interstate 5. Turn east at the town of Castle Rock (Exit 49) and cruise the hour up Highway 504 to the observatory and be prepared to be amazed. Shame on me for having waited all these years to go. Bad FM! Bad!

 Boundary Trail No. 1 headed east away from the observatory's vast parking lot. We walked to Harry's Ridge, which you can see just to the right a bit from the center. It is lower than the ridge deep in the background. We enjoyed an elevation gain from 3,200 feet to 4,750 feet. Not too bad on the lungs. Took about two hours and we enjoyed many native flowers and shrubs along the way. Very few trees as all of those were blown down during the eruption. I think some landed in Tacoma!

Looking north from the trail. That knob in the upper right is Coldwater Peak. Yes, a person can hike to it. Not sure about climbing it, but there are many trails I plan to explore. All of this is much closer to home than Mount Everest in Nepal, which I visited in late 2014. See that here. Master Gardener Tamara is much happier with me nearby. I could have used a yak, though, to carry my water and pack! And my beer and pizza, of course! Go, yak! Go!

Now, to the plants (with Tamara's help): This is Fragaria virginiana  Rhubus lasiococcus (thank you Evan Bean!) or wild strawberry bramble. Did not see one berry. And while I noted many huckleberry bushes I did not see any of those either. Berries, I mean. Huckle or otherwise.

Lupines and Castilleja or Indian paint brush. Some of these were dark red. Very pretty. I must apologize here because I took my little camera on the hike, and it does not do close-ups of flowers. Mountains? Yes! Humans? Yes! Individual blossoms? Ah, not so much. Sorry. (Bad FM...bad bad)

 There's my old trekking partner Scott. This is just before he got lost. Haha, how he did that . . . well, you can see Spirit Lake way out there (looking southeast) and you can see the huge log raft from the eruption. Imagine those logs have been floating and bobbing about for nearly 40 years now!

 Castilleja hispida or harsh Indian paintbrush. I would love to have some of these here at Chickadee Gardens. I grew up in Idaho on the Nez Perce Reservation and we enjoyed these plants, there, too. Tamara here - well, they are tricky to grow and require very specific conditions - they need to grow with native lupines and blue-eyed grass as they have a symbiotic relationship. Sorry, FM - maybe we'll try next year.

A field of what Master Gardener thinks is Arnica lanceolata. (Tamara here - OK, I hate that term. I'm just a plant floozie, really.)

 Calyptridium umbellatum or pussypaws. This plant was at the top of Harry's Ridge. A cool breeze was a perfect relief for we hikers, but I think these plants lead a harsh life in the bright sun and, in the winter months, cold and wind.

The path leaves Harry's Ridge and courses down to the lower part of the ridge. But it goes no further. Johnson Ridge and Harry's Ridge took the main shock of the eruption. I wonder what it looked like the day before the event itself. I plan to return and hike over to the mountain base to an area called the Blast Zone. I will be walking across the Plains of Pumice! Way cool!

Likely broadleaf lupine or Lupinus latifolius.

 Although difficult to distinguish in this photograph, I think this is Penstemon euglaucus or Penstemon serrulatus (thank you Evan for the correction!).

 Another Calyptridium umbellatum or pussypaws.

Hiking friend Bobby is just underway from the parking lot (note the asphalt). Bobby is from Michigan where there are very few mountains -- much less volcanoes -- of this scale. He was sufficiently humbled, and is quick to add that he loves living in the Pacific Northwest.

 If you ramble yourself to the Johnson Ridge Observatory or elsewhere on or near Mount Saint Helens you will find plenty of this stuff -- light, dusty pumice material -- everywhere. This is one of those places, i.e., Crater Lake, the Wallowa Mountains, Steens Mountain, that is a long drive but totally worth the trouble and effort. Plus, the observatory itself is quite a place. 

If I might take a moment and add a few more lines: I recall that morning in May 1980 living 300 miles away and hearing a light boom in the distance. It could have been the eruption. But then later in the day a dark, black cloud crept closer and closer and finally dumped four inches of ash on my town in Idaho, and even more in other areas east of the Cascades. I recall also driving through Portland in July that year and seeing vast clouds rolling out of the mountain as it continued to spew off and on.

Tamara here - I remember it too, born and raised here in Portland. My older brother was supposed to have a Boy Scouts outing on Mt. Saint Helens that weekend but it was cancelled. We watched in horror as the sky darkened and ash fell all over, carpeting our little neighborhood with what resembled gray snow. I think my little brother still has a jar full of ash knocking around Mom's home somewhere. That was a sad but incredible day. Sad because many people, animal and whole ecosystems perished, incredible because...well how often do you get to see a mountain blow up in your backyard?

I will also add that no one knew what would happen as far as life returning to the mountain. Soon they discovered life. Mosses, gophers, ants all began showing up and that led to other critters and other forms of flora. Today it has changed tremendously and as you can see many of our native wildflowers have returned. It's a fascinating look at what nature can do if you are interested in learning about these things.
Back to Facilities Manager: Saturday's trip put a bookend to this for me, and I enjoyed it immensely. I look forward to returning and see what I see, AND taking my good camera and lots and lots of water. Where's that yak?

To learn more about Mount Saint Helens wildflowers, click here.
For a link about hiking Mount Saint Helens, click here.

That's it from Chickadee Gardens this week. Sometimes it is good to leave the gardening behind and see a volcano from a high ridge-top. Have a great day and happy gardening (and hiking).