The Oddballs

Perhaps "oddball" isn't quite fair to describe this group of plants that are really better described as uncommon. Not necessarily flashy, these are some tried and true tough plants that really perform for me. Based on the response I receive from customers at the nursery, several of these are virtually unknown. Many of you dear gardeners are way more hip than I, and have known about these for a long time. In that case, then, let's call it revisiting a few hard-working, cool plants I love that we happen to be growing at Chickadee Gardens. 


 Artemesia frigida, also known as prairie sagewort. It is drought-tolerant and cold-hardy, I have two in my garden as I thought I lost one and purchased a replacement. They are both really stunning low-water plants, the one with more water looks a little larger.



 This little ceanothus is known to many, but even if every single gardener knew about it, it would still be worthy of sharing. Ceanothus griseus var. horizontalis 'Diamond Heights' is an evergreen sparkler of a ground cover. At only one foot high x three feet wide, it's a great small-scale trailer.


 This beautiful hydrangea was given to me from a fellow blogger at a plant swap. The tag simply said Hydrangea aspera. I think it must be some cultivar of H. aspera, but whatever it is, it is stunning. The underside of those giant fuzzy leaves is purple and it bloomed for me for the first time this year. I got it as a little 3" cutting in 2015. The specimen in the gardens at the nursery is easily 12' high, so I gave this one plenty of room to grow.


 Another gift from a garden blogger, Berkheya purpurea or South African thistle. Someone told me that I had to have it and I listened. When I got it, it was just a few leaves in a pot. Imagine my surprise when this violet daisy-like flower appeared.


 I've shown this before, but its clouds of spent blooms are certainly worthy of being called "oddball" as they really resemble clouds. This is the evergreen shrub Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver' that reaches 4 - 6' tall and wide. This particular shrub came from, you guessed it, another garden blogger at one of our swaps. It was a mature shrub when I got it, so it sulked for a year before it took to my soil and started putting on new growth. I love the wild look it brings to the outer edges of the garden. Very drought tolerant and longer lived in poor soil.



Here's its cousin, Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius 'Silver Jubilee' purchased from work, Joy Creek Nursery. When seen side by side with the former Ozothamnus, this one is much more silver with truly white flowers. In fact, this is what our website says about this fabulous evergreen shrub:

"Many Australian natives are hardy for gardeners in the Pacific Northwest. Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius 'Silver Jubilee' joins the company of plants like Grevillea victoriae and Callistemon 'Woodlander's Red', evergreen shrubs that have become popular in local gardens because of the beauty of their bloom and their textural foliage. As the species name indicates, 'Silver Jubilee' has narrow leaves that are reminiscent of rosemary. The undersides of the leaves are silver and because of the angle at which they are held on the whiteish stems, the shrub looks silver. This was grown from seed that was collected in the wild in Tasmania and raised by a Mr. J. May in the United Kingdom. The flower buds are pink in color and persist for a very long time before they open. The white flowers are held in tight corymbs at the top of the stems. Because of of the silvery cast of its leaves, this is easy to use as a background plant in a full sun, drought tolerant garden."


 I have many manzanitas or Arctostaphylos species in my garden, but this one is one of the more exciting and odd ones. It's known as ghost manzanita, Santa Cruz manzanita and also Bonny Doon manzanita, formally Arctostaphylos silvicola. As I once lived in Santa Cruz, it is a very special one to me. It's quite rare in the wild but apparently has been cultivated somewhat. I purchased this from Little Prince of Oregon last spring. Evergreen, eventually 8' tall with really well-drained soil and no summer irrigation.


 Dianthus simulans, yes, that's a carnation! Low, evergreen mound that likes it dry. It has yet to flower for me but who cares! That's such a cool mound of green goodness.


 Drimys winteri, a small evergreen tree that I am babying. It has a somewhat sheltered location, but can apparently take full sun to light shade as long as it's not in a windy site. Give it consistent moisture when it's getting established, too.


 Probably a fairly well-known shrub to many, but worthy of inclusion on this post. Rhamnus alaternus 'Variegata' is another evergreen selection with beautiful variegation on the leaves. From the Mediterranean, it likes it hot, gets about 15' tall and is dazzling on a dark winter's day.


Ceanothus cuneatus 'Adair Village' from Xera Plants, a Willamette Valley native. It is on the outer edge of the garden that receives virtually no supplemental irrigation and is tough as nails. Since we're so extremely dry right now, I appreciate plants like this more and more.


Leptospermum namadgiensis, also from Xera Plants. Another full-sun, low-water evergreen shrub, but this one is from Australia. Here's what their website says:

"Rare shrub that is destined to gain popularity. From the highest elevations of the Australian Alps this large evergreen tea tree is beautiful in all of its parts. Known locally as alpine downy tea tree the fuzzy silver small leaves crowd the stems densely. In early summer masses of 1″ white flowers deck the boughs like snow. To 8′ x 8′ quickly it can also be trained as a small tree which highlights its incredible exfoliating trunks. Silver, copper, green and tan are all present after the bark sheds in mid-summer. Full sun and virtually any soil. Totally summer drought tolerant when established. Great hedging candidate. If sheared it becomes immensely dense. And cutting does not mangle the tiny leaves. Moderate deer resistance. So far undamaged at 5ºF."


 Parahebe perfoliata looks a lot like eucalyptus, but is an evergreen shrublet with panicles of small purple flowers. I clean it up in early spring, but really, it's evergreen. 


 This little deciduous groundcover is Scutellaria orientalis v. pinnatifida, also known as Eastern skullcap. It has pretty yellow flowers on silvery, divided foliage and even its seed heads (pictured) are interesting.



 I have shown Grevillea x gaudichaudii before, but I don't think in its large entirety. It has grown significantly since I planted it in 2016. It has proven to be totally hardy, surviving the terrible 2016/2017 winter with multiple freezes, much snow and ice. From Australia, it likes it sunny and dry. It's very flat, so perfect for spilling down a slope as I have it doing here. No fertilizer on this one.


 Another evergreen shrub (is there a pattern here?), Itea ilicifolia or holly leaf sweetspire. When this is mature, it will reach 10 - 15' and is, in a word, stunning. Those foot-long racemes of white flowers will cover the thing like a Christmas tree with too much tinsel. I love it. 


Veronica armena, a small evergreen plant that shines in a rock garden. This is it now, long after the flowers have come and gone.


Here is the tail end of its flowers earlier this summer. 


An uncommon but beautiful evergreen viburnum, Viburnum foetidum var. quadrangularis. It has bronze tints to the new growth, red fruits in fall, beautiful white flowers in spring. To about 6 x 6', it's a tough and beautiful small tree or large shrub. Full sun to part shade and average summer water. I'm told it's a rare one in the world of viburnums, but we have bunches at Joy Creek and it looks great.


Another native evergreen shrub for sun and tough spots, coyote brush or Baccharis pilularis has never received supplemental irrigation from me. It's great for fence lines and hedges, is apparently somewhat deer proof and is also a pioneer plant. It's sorely underused and probably hard to find. I purchased this from Bosky Dell Natives a few years ago, planted it and forgot about it. Great background or edge of property shrub. Gets about 6 x 6'.


Lupinus albifrons or silver bush lupine. I purchased the very last 4" pot from Xera Plants last year and it has been steadily growing for me since. It's a West Coast native, has very low water requirements, has gorgeous foliage and spikes of purple flowers in spring which I have not experienced yet. I actually grow it for the foliage. According to Annie's Annuals, it is a host for the endangered mission blue butterfly.


Viburnum rhytidophyllum or leatherleaf viburnum, a (mostly) evergreen small tree or large shrub with just super cool corrugated foliage. It has white flowers that eventually form berries, grows about 6 - 10' tall.


An oldie but a goodie that many at the nursery have never heard of but swoon when it's in bloom, Kolkwitzia amabilis. It's tiny here, but it will soon be 10 x 12'.


Here is a photo I took of it at Joy Creek Nursery well into its five-week show. It's spectacular and sorely underused these days. 


Finally, although not that uncommon, it's just about my favorite hardy fuchsia, Fuchsia speciosa. We sell a lot of hardy fuchsias at Joy Creek (we grow over 100 varieties!), this one always tops my list. Fuzzy leaves, orange flowers, what's not to love?

Whew. Well, that was quite a list we went through. There are many others, but I'll save them for another day. For now, just enjoy those uncommon plants out there. We've been told at Joy Creek Nursery that we grow many plants that were once considered old fashioned, but are no longer grown by large nurseries. The big deal is patented plants, fluffy hydrangea balls and multi-colored echinacea. Those are all well and good, but we risk losing many fantastic plants out there that are so garden-worthy if we don't share them. I hope that by spreading around a few photos that I can at least keep the conversation going. There are small nurseries out there that grow these beauties, I am officially encouraging you to seek them out and support them.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, I love hearing from you all! Happy gardening and to all of you who came out for our open garden August 4th, thank you so much, it was a thrill to meet you and see familiar faces. You are all welcome to my garden any time, just send me a note. Cheers!


Comments

  1. Great post! There are so many cool plants. I'm thrilled to see that your Berkheya is standing up tall and straight, they always flopped for me, but of course I never did try them in full hot western sun. The Dianthus is definitely an oddball, and I really should think about adding some Artemisia to my garden.

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    1. Thank you Alison. Oh, the Artemesia is a great one. I like many different species of Artemesia. I could see some in your garden, definitely!

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  2. Great plants! I see Kolkwitzia amabilis in some old, sometimes abandoned gardens around and am lucky to have one in my own space that I planted 20 years ago. Seems like, with so many urban gardens getting smaller and smaller with the infill movement, smaller plants are more popular. Love so many of the plants you've shown and your post reminded me that I need to try Grevillea x gaudichaudii agin. It's such a gorgeous thing!

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    1. I think you're on to something Peter. Gardens are getting smaller so those big ol' shrubs like Kolkwitzia a. have no place in tiny spaces, for sure. I'm lucky enough to be able to give one a home. Oh, and Grevillea - yes, you do need to try it again. I assume you had one and it died?

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  3. While I have some of these plants you always show me more plants that are new to me. I enjoy seeing them all especially those that will grow in my zone 6 garden. They give me a bad case of the wants.

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    1. See...I knew readers of this blog would be familiar with many of these plants! Kudos to you! A bad case of the wants...I hope that's a good thing.

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  4. Wonderful! I want them all, and I want the room to have them. [sigh] : )

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    1. Aah, the room to grow them in. That was the dilemma in the old Portland garden, with a 100 x 50' lot. Feel free to come out here and play in the dirt with big shrubs any time! :)

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  5. That's quite an extensive collection of "oddballs"! I've killed both Ceanothus 'Diamond Heights' and Lupinus albifrons a few times but even so I'm tugged by their siren call whenever I see them. I've been meaning to try Berkheya for some time as my Long Beach blogger friend Denise has grown it - of course, while close in terms of geography, our climates are actually different so there's no guarantee of success there. I'm going to have to look into that Ozothamnus too - it's a beauty!

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    1. Of course you know most of these, Kris! Hmm..try that Berkheya - it's so unusual and cool, it's worth a shot. The Ozothamnus, those are beauties and I bet would grow for you.

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  6. I really like your beautiful 'oddballs', except the Viburnum rhytidophyllum, I hate that plant with the drooping leaves, so despressing.

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    1. Oh, interesting...I didn't notice that - the drooping leaves. I'll have to watch for it. Glad you liked the rest! :)

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  7. Lots of good stuff there! When I first bought Ceanothus griseus var. horizontalis 'Diamond Heights' everyone I mentioned it to warned me that it would be dead with our first cold winter. Well it was knocked back, but it didn't die! Love seeing your Grevillea x gaudichaudii, which looks fabulous! And *sigh* isn't Lupinus albifrons so gorgeous? I got a couple of plants from Xera this year because my older plants (one of which did live through 2016/17's winter) died this last winter.

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    1. Good to know about the Ceanothus. I was also told it's not hardy for us, but so far it has been. Lupinus a. IS amazing...I found out about it because of you!

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  8. Those are some beautiful oddballs! 'Diamond Heights' ceanothus has so far been too touchy to thrive here -- could be time of planting, drainage. I know it likes it in the Bay Area. The ozothamnus are great plants here too, and berkheya has had a half dozen bloom trusses this summer -- that all eventually fall over!

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    1. Ah, well - Ceanothus 'Diamond Heights' likes the SF climate, right? the name is a neighborhood in SF I used to roam in my early 20's. Likely it prefers a bit of cool evenings and some coastal fog.

      Good to know Ozothamnus is hardy for you too...and that the Berkheya may topple over one day soon...Hee hee

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  9. Great cross section of lesser-known plants! A few of these are favorites in my garden, too. The leptospermum, arctostaphylos, parahebe, and itea all are particular favorites of mine. 'Silver Jubilee' ozothamnus is so beautiful. I need to find a spot, or several, to grow it.

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    1. Thank you Evan! I too adore all that you list here. You can tuck in a Silver Jubilee, me thinks ;)

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  10. You may have just sold me on Fuchsia speciosa. I love that color!

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    1. Wonderful! It's a great fuchsia...a favorite of many gardeners (and hummingbirds).

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  11. I am just amazed at all that you have done here, just since I have been following your blog. Your thumbs are certainly the right shade of green. Perfection!
    Connie :)

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    1. Thank you, Connie, I am humbled. Truly. My thumbs right now are actually quite brown and tattered, but I appreciate the compliment ;)

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