Nursery Visit: Xera Plants, Spring Edition

Xera Plants is open for the year! Also, they just launched a new, fantastic website. To celebrate, let's go shopping, shall we?

A recent trip into Portland brought me to my (other) favorite retail nursery, Xera Plants. I have blogged about them many times (you can visit those posts here, here, here and here). A wholesale nursery, the owners decided to open a small, retail location about five years ago. They close for the winter season, as do many growers and nurseries, but as co-owner Paul Bonine told me they had to open early because so many things are in bloom. Therefore, I invite you to sit back and enjoy a visual tour of the tiny but fantastic nursery Xera Plants.

The Hamamelis or witch hazels were on fire. Here, several large trees at about $150 each are ready to go. That is a very good price for these beauties. They are so stunning I thought I'd feature them first.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' in front of the office window.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'

Let's take a look around the different vignettes throughout the nursery and then feature individual plants. Moving along to the shade pavilion, it is evident they have been busy. Already in late January/early February the selection is fantastic.

Perennials for sun.

Some featured plants and a little shelter for the Xera employees.

Shrubs for sun, especially manzanita or Arctostaphylos (which we shall get to shortly).

Nearly the whole scene. It seems small but there are so many fantastic choices.

More perennials, grasses and shrubs for sun.

Here is Hebe albicans 'Pink Elephant' - This is what their website says about this:

One of our favorite Hebes. This dome shaped dense plant has new foliage that goes through some pretty showy transitions. Emerging tinted pink it takes on coral and light blue as well as pink before ultimately settling down to soft gray. The transition begins in early spring and lasts for months. In June small spikes of violet blue flowers add contrast. Cold hardy and a low water shrub for full sun and well drained soil. To 2′ x 3′ in 5 years. Give it good air circulation with little crowding from other plants. Avoid watering when its blazing hot. Perfectly hardy to cold.

Cupressus glabra 'Sulphurea', a form of Arizona cypress. Oh, this is a beauty.

Xera co-owners Greg and Paul are champions of native plants, understanding the role of natives in not only in a balanced environment, but also their amazing contribution to gardens. Greg and Paul have contributed many varieties and cultivars to the marketplace, and I for one am most grateful. 

Just one of the many worthy natives, this one for shade, Polypodium glyceryrrhiza or licorice fern. 

Our native Licorice Fern that has a backwards season. It emerges all fresh and happy with the first cool weather and rains in autumn and persists that way until hot weather takes hold, then it quietly (and cleanly) disappears. Forms spreading colonies on any light surface including the vertical slopes of rocks and trees. The base of the plant forms an interconnected series of rhizomes that cling to anything. It escapes all drought and heat by summer dormancy. Neat trick. If you detach the fronds and bite into the base of the petiole it delivers a strong anise/licorice flavor. This remarkable plant should be common in living walls and green roofs that would require no supplemental irrigation- and actually thrive and look healthy. Excellent performance in the ground in rich, well drained soil. Water as they say is irrelevant. Highly deer resistant. Oregon native plant.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Fastigiata' - I seem to have an affinity for Osmanthus lately, so pardon the three in a row shown today.

Fastigiata is very much a misnomer in the case of this excellent hardy Tea Olive. After growing it for 15 years we can tell you that it in fact forms a perfectly round dense ball. After all that time it is just 4′ x 4′ and perfectly round. In October-November tiny fragrant white flowers crowd the stems. Full sun to part shade in any well drained soil that does not harbor standing water in winter. Very drought tolerant when established. So useful as a NO PRUNE hedge. Perfect size for small gardens. Hardy below 0ºF. The leaves change from prickly to smooth and entire with age.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Rotundifolia'

A really cool looking broad-leaved evergreen shrub with thick glossy leaves that are essentially square with undulate (wavy) margins. Dense growing shrub that can get quite large without pruning intervention. In October to November masses of tiny white flowers cast fragrance in the autumn air. Full sun to part shade in well drained soil of average fertility. No summer water necessary when established. Excellently adapted to our climate. Makes a novel hedge or a pretty specimen. Extraordinarily cold hardy – below 0ºF. 8′ x 8′ in 10 years

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Sasaba'

We adore this wickedly armed evergreen shrub. Its a piece of pure architecture. The sharply pointed leaves jut out like blades and are deep glossy green year round. Excellent, interesting evergreen for screen or specimen. Totally cold hardy- excellent performance in blasting subfreezing winds from the Gorge. Rounded, upright shrub to 9′ tall and 6′ wide in 8 years. In autumn the stems of older wood are crowded with tiny white flowers that emit a sweet perfume. Bloom Sept.-Nov. and sometimes later. The fragrance carries quite a distance on mild days. Light water to establish then completely drought tolerant in average, well drained soil. Also accepts the regular irrigation of borders. Good bet where deer are a menace. Full sun to quite a bit of shade. Great barrier hedge.

Fatshedera x lizei 'Variegata'

Bold sprawling shrub or vine that is a hybrid between Hedera and Fatsia. This form has large leaves outlined in cream. Evergreen that seeks shade but is surprisingly sun tolerant too. It may be grown as a free standing shrub, bold ground cover, or trained as a vine. Very nice in winter containers too. Well drained soil  average to rich fertility. Light water. White flowers in autumn never set viable fruit. To 4′ tall and sprawling 8′ wide. Moderate deer resistance.

Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans'

One of the cold hardiest blue flowered cultivars and one of the earliest to bloom as well. An open spreading shrub with prickly deep green leaves. In March/April the whole shrub is obscured in violet blue clouds of flowers. Its amazing. To 6′ x 6′ quickly in any well drained soil with little to no summer water. One of the toughest cultivars that also takes very well to pruning that should be done after blooming to increase density if needed. Take blasting reflected heat and is great in hot urban situations. Moderately deer resistant. Cold hardy to 0ºF- useful in the coldest gardens.

Phlomis aurea

Wow, a species with golden leaves. Not variegation. How cool is that and it is a cool old gold color that the felted thick leaves glow. Rounded evergreen shrub to 30″ tall and 3′ wide forming a dome. In summer whorls of large yellow flowers surround the stems and kind of blend in with the foliage. Wonderful year round appearance. A plant I nominate as #1 Hellstrip plant of the year. It thrives in the heat reflected off the asphalt and it requires absolutely no water whatsoever when established. Plant for foliage and the flowers will follow. Glows in the dead of winter. Moderate deer resistance

Metapanax delavayi

Such a cool tree for small gardens. Upright growing and then branches that also turn vertical fairly quickly- kind of like an upside down candelabra. The lush evergreen foliage is composed of palmate divided leaves which droop gracefully and give the plant a lighter mein. In summer masses of orbicular off white aralia flowers appear en masse at the branch tips. They are pollinator heaven. And they turn into clusters of black berries consumed by birds. To 16′ tall and half as wide. Perfectly hardy to cold, but can become semi-deciduous below 10ºF. New leaves come quickly in spring. Fast growing tree for rich soil and regular summer water in full sun to high overhead shade in woodland conditions. This pretty tree has a promising future.

Callistemon viridiflorus, one of my favorites, too.

One of our very favorite shrubs that combines unusual foliage, beautiful bark, and a great flower color. Upright growing with small scimitar shaped forest green leaves that  line the wand-like stems. In cold weather this unusual shrub takes on maroon and purple tones, a great foil to the very light tan stems and trunk. In May 4” long by 1” wide chartreuse/yellow bottlebrushes protrude from the tips of the branches shoot out at every angle. In Tasmania where it is native it follows cold air drainages, proving that it requires at least some cold for good flower set. This clone is from a specimen that survived 0ºF in 1989. FULL sun and any soil with occasional summer water. My own receives no irrigation and performs beautifully. Hardier to cold in full sun. Unusual shrub that seems to bridge the aesthetic gap between broad-leaved evergreen and conifer.

This fabulous olive almost came home with me. It's Olea europea 'Frantoio', a cold hardy olive. A beauty indeed.

The rather "wow" cones of Cupressus sempervirens 'Glauca' or Italian cypress.

Another Italian cypress, this one just 10" wide and 18 feet tall.

Cunninghamia lancelota, one I had in the old garden. It is a beautiful tree, ours was approximately 8 years old when we left and it was about 20' high. If you have the room for it, it's a beauty.

This is one of the many reasons I love Xera Plants. They know their stuff and want us gardeners to be successful, while using the smallest amount of resources to keep our plants healthy.

A beautiful Xera introduction of a flowering currant - Ribes sanguineum 'Xera's Lime Punch'. 

As luck would have it this lime/chartreuse foliage variant of our locally native and cherished flowering currant appeared at our nursery. We’ve grown it for years now and it is so much tougher and more reliable than the closely related R. s. ‘Brocklebankii’. Hot pink flowers contrast in a great way with the lime colored vivid foliage. To 8′ tall and 4′ wide in 7 years. Part shade and regular water to establish the first year then none in subsequent years. Adaptable to many types of soils. Will not burn in full sun but isn’t as happy. Add pep to wild areas. Brighten up shady environs. Blue, very sour fruits appear in early summer.

And now for the manzanitas or Arctostaphylos: A wonderful shrub, tree or ground-cover native to the West Coast. Xera is known for their amazing selection (that sells fast), Paul tells me they are one of their most popular plants. I know when I've gone to shop for arctos here I've often left empty-handed, being too late in the game.

Why are they so great? Wonderful dark exfoliating bark, evergreen, they bloom in winter, they are architectural, they are adapted to dry hot summers and wet winters and thrive in ordinary soil. Mostly, they are simply gorgeous.

Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths'

This is probably one of the very best garden manzanitas in general. Large growing shrub with sage green foliage, copious, large clusters of pink flowers in winter, and the tell tale famous mahogany peeling bark. To 9′ x 7′ wide in 6 years, fast growing and well adapted to most well drained sites, including heavy clay soils on slopes. Little to no supplemental irrigation. Very resistant to black spot a leaf disease that can afflict Manzanitas. Specimen, or small garden tree. Good looking year round. Flowers appear in late December and are effective through February- not at all affected by cold. Anna’s hummingbirds are immediately in attendance. Provide a wide open exposed site with excellent air circulation. A wonderful garden shrub.

Those flowers. A feast for Anna's hummingbirds who reside here year-round as well as many species of bees.

I don't know which one this is, but I love the look of the whole thing.

For shade: Clematis and camellias, ready to go into your garden.

Spring, indeed! It sure feels like it around here with our super mild winter. Some people call it a "non-winter" - besides our one little bout of snow at Christmas, it has been a non-winter and I am pleased.

To round things out, here are a few hellebores (all are the Winter Jewels collection from the O’Byrnes). This one is Helleborus x 'Blue Diamond'

H. x 'Apricot Blush'

H. x 'Cotton Candy'

H. x 'Golden Sunrise'

Yes, indeed, that's Xera Plants. Such a happy place.

Thank you Xera for being open and for offering an amazing variety of climate-adapted plants for our region and beyond.

There were many other plants I wanted to feature, but this post was getting long enough as it is. If you can buy Xera products at your local nursery or here at their shop, lucky for you! If not, you'll just have to check out their website for not only window shopping but amazing and very useful information. Many of these plants would thrive in other parts of the world, California especially so it's nice to have such a thorough resource.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you for reading and commenting, it makes it all feel like a larger world community of gardeners. Happy gardening and, hopefully, happy spring!


  1. This does get the gardeners heart pumping.

    1. Doesn't it? Oh, so many wonderful choices!

  2. Thanks for the great tour -- before reading further I thought that hebe was some new euphorbia. Stunning plants.

    1. That's a good observation, it does look like euphorbia. Apparently it's the "it" hebe these days.

  3. Pure eye-candy for this winter weary zone 4 gardener. Thank you!

    1. You are so very welcome! I'm glad you got some enjoyment out of it, for that was my goal!

  4. Glad to have seen Xera in the flesh last year, and meet its owner Paul.

    1. Oh, I'm so glad you did meet Paul - did you meet Greg, too (hopefully)? I'm still very disappointed I missed your visit last year...damned migraines.

  5. I planted a Cupressus glabra 'Sulphurea' in fall 2016 and I love it! Plant it in front of something dark and it just gleams. And I agree - Xera is the best. Last fall Paul helped me pick out plants, including a Callistemon viridiflorus, for a "hellstrip" wedge next to the driveway and it turned out so well. Fingers crossed for a bottle brush display in May!

    1. Oh, Colleen, I think I might need to go back and get one. Good to know, and a lovely description. Fingers are crossed for you! Those bottle brush flowers are so cool!

  6. It'd be heaven to shop there, even if many of those plants would turn up their noses figuratively speaking at SoCal's climate. I love that Hebe. I've wanted a Callistemon viridiflorus for a long time and have been unable to find it. Your plant summary that refers to it needing cold to flower well may explain that difficulty.

    1. It IS a bit of heaven! I think much of what they grow *could* do well for you, maybe? So many are West Coast natives, some super heat tolerant, drought tolerant.

      Yes, wasn't that interesting about the callistemon? I had no idea it needed a spot of cold to flower. Those Xera boys, they have the best information!

  7. That Austin Griffiths, holy cow!!! I love it so much. Your post was kind of tortuous, Tamara. But in the best way possible. So what did you buy?

    1. Yes, how about that Austin? Amazing. Sorry for the torture, you'll just have to come on up and shop with us! I bought Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena' (my third), a Pennisetum spatheolatum and Grevillea x 'Neil Bell'.

  8. Spring has definitely arrived early this year. Thank goodness Xera is open to supply gardeners with their favorite drug! Love that hebe!

    1. Oh, yes it has, Peter! I for one love what Xera is serving up! Yes, that hebe is something special. I think you need one.

  9. What a great little tour and thanks for plugging the website! That Arcto 'Austin Griffiths' is such a knockout - I have got to get down there and see that one before it finishes.

    1. You are welcome! I am assuming that you had something to do with the redesign of the website? :)

      And oh, that Austin IS spectacular. I hope you get to see it soon.

  10. Having so much fun catching up on your posts. Dear lord, you and FM work hard!

    1. Aaw, thanks Patricia! We do work hard, but it's a labor of love. We reap the benefits every time we look outside and it will (hopefully) only get easier.


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