Cool July

"Cool July" has an unsettling ring. July is summer and is usually quite warm, if not downright hot in the Pacific Northwest. This July, however, is reminiscent of childhood summers when it was much cooler in Portland. Well. As I write this, it's raining, a very unusual weather pattern for us, but I'm not surprised. Nothing is "normal" any more. At least the water loving plants have been luxuriating in this weather, so why not have a look at a few hydrangeas, fuchsias and others this week at Chickadee Gardens, plants that are saying "thank you" for the rain.

A lovely blue hydrangea (one of four) that was actually already on the property. I don't know who it is, a macrophylla mophead of course. That's all I know.

Hydrangea aspera 'Plum Passion' (thank you Alan and Matthew for the positive i.d.!) has amazing foliage. A Dan Hinkley introduction, this will eventually reach about 6' or so tall, much smaller than the towering 15' straight species that we have growing in the gardens at Joy Creek Nursery. 

Hydrangea serrata 'Little Geisha'  will reach a petite 3' or so at maturity. It was a throw-away from work and I was determined to save the poor little stick in a pot. It took a long time to grow just this big, a mere 12" or so, and this, its first year of flowering, is quite remarkable.

I think my favorite hydrangeas are the quercifolia species, oak leaf hydrangeas. This is the straight species, H. quercifolia.  

 This is Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers'. These lovely white blooms will age to a deep pink color, hence the name. At only 3' or so high, they fit into most gardens much better than the 8' or so species seen in the photo above.

 Love those flowers.

One last quercifolia form, H. quercifolia 'Snowflake'. I love the name. Its double white sterile flowers really make the whole plant sparkle. This too is in a tough spot with nearly full sun. These hydrangeas, the oak leaf types, are more dry tolerant than any others I know. They do need water, just not as much as the macrophylla forms, especially the mop-heads which are murder on the water bill.

Another throw-away from work, Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa'. The serrata or Japanese forms also have the advantage of lovely autumn color on the leaves if they are grown in sun. This little one is in a tough spot, far from the house and hence the hose, so should be much larger in height and flower size, but it is actually looking better this year than it ever has.  

Hydrangea m. 'Fuji Waterfall' has a graceful cascading look to it and these flowers are so elegant.

We also have four paniculata-types that were here when we moved in, I have no idea what they are. In addition, I have H. paniculata 'Kyushu' and a large number of H. serrata 'Shiro-gaku' in the shade garden. I never thought of myself as a hydrangea fan, but there are some really interesting species out there worth adding to the garden, I have learned from working at Joy Creek Nursery. OK, moving on:

Hardy fuchsias are another genus I never imagined myself embracing. I have many sprinkled throughout the gardens. Most are not pictured because they have yet to bloom and get up to size. They all receive tough love from me as they tend to be on the perimeter of the property and therefore out of reach of the hose (not really, but it's a pain in the ass to schlep 100' of hose uphill). Anyhow, a few actually are blooming this year, so here they are. Pictured is F. 'Lechlade Magician', a large very hardy plant with cool blue pollen.

One of my favorites, delicate F. magellanica 'Alba'. Despite its name, the flowers are the palest pink and when seen from afar read as twinkling stars in the shade. The magellanica types are the hardiest for my zone and this has bloomed for me reliably since it was planted in 2016. 

This is either F. 'Golden Gate' or 'Aurea'. Either way, the foliage should be a golden yellow in more sun, but the several planted in a woodland-type swale are in a lot of shade. They look lovely, though, and do read as golden compared to the surrounding greens of hazels and ferns. 

There are 17 varieties of fuchsias in the garden. How did that happen? Some selected favorites not pictured (not in flower yet) are F. speciosa with electric orange-red flowers, F. magellanica 'Hawkshead' with pure white flowers in the same form as F. m. 'Alba', F. 'Globosa' which is a drought-tolerant fuchsia, a funny little groundcover fuchsia is F. procumbens - definitely worth tucking into the garden to let ramble along, and of course, F. 'David', a magellanica form that I planted for my Facilities Manager. 

 Aquilegia formosa, our native columbine took last year off but reappeared this year in the shade garden. It must appreciate the moisture and cooler weather.

Astrantia major 'Alba' is another favorite in the white section of the shade garden. The flowers last for such a long time, it really is a powerhouse of a perennial for shade or part sun.

 Francoa sonchifolia, an unusual perennial for evenly moist soil was a plant a former colleague urged me to add to the garden. I'm glad I did.

Hosta 'Guacamole' has performed quite well and is getting pretty large. 

 Podophyllum plieanthum in the shade garden.

Adiantum aleuticum, western maidenhair fern. 

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' edged by Ophiopogon p. 'Nigrescens' and Carex c. 'Snowline' 

Carex siderosticha 'Variegata' edges a path in the shade garden.

Beesia deltophylla upper center, Hosta 'Wolverine' on the right.  

Hosta 'Blue Angel' with Podophylllum 'Spotty Dotty' making another appearance.  

Uvularia perfoliata has that "stiched" look to the leaves. In spring, it has lovely pendulous yellow flowers.

A new-to-me epimedium, E. 'Amber Queen' is surprisingly still blooming and hasn't stopped since April. 

Itea ilicifolia I've noticed has responded quite well to additional moisture.

A parting shot of the newly claimed shade garden extension, happy with mossy paths and lots of green.

There really have been sun breaks this summer, despite the cool weather. I choose to just enjoy it while it's here because surely the infernos of summer are just around the corner. We also enjoy a break from watering. I'm sure everyone in this area does.

Back to sunnier photos next time, for there is much to see in the gardens of Chickadee Gardens this time of year. Stay tuned! That's a wrap for this week, as always thank you so much for reading and commenting, we do so love hearing from you and hearing what your own gardening adventures are like.


  1. I envy you your shade and water-loving plants. I had a couple of Hydrangeas and many Fuchsias in my former tiny garden in a local beach city that benefited from the westerly ocean breezes my current garden lacks. I'd give up on both until my husband build me my lath (shade) house - I now have a few in pots there. However, on a whim, I planted Fuchsia 'Hawkshead' in a shady area of my main garden last year and, thus far, it's thriving. But then, we've had an unusually cool summer so far too. The weather forecasters tell us that that's about to change, however. Best wishes for a continued stretch of pleasant weather for you!

    1. That's right, you have your shade house! How lovely. Hawkshead is one of my favorites, I hope that it continues to do well for you. I notice that California has received much more rain than usual this spring, how wonderful! I hope your weather stays mild for at least a little longer.

  2. I and my garden are both appreciating how much the rain has extended its stay into July. I'm not a sun or summer worshipper. I like oakleaf Hydrangeas best too, I think, although I could see maybe adding that 'Plum Passion' to my garden.

    1. Oh,'s been lovely. I think Plum Passion is a great hydrangea so far - and much smaller than the regular aspera types. Aren't the quercifolia hydrangeas the best?

  3. I am definitely appreciating the cooler weather. Definitely more like what I remember growing up. Your oakleaf hydrangeas are so far ahead of mine, maybe because most of mine are in pretty dry spots. Most of my fuchsias were delayed, too, by that freaky late frost I had in March. 'Aurea' and regia were the first to bloom. I thought 17 sounded like a lot, but then did a quick count of mine and realized I'm up to 14! Half of those were just added this year. Your shade garden is looking wonderful!

    1. Aaah, I thought of you Evan with this cooler weather! It's been easier to garden in, that's for sure.

      It seems like a lot of plants were delayed, I had the same late frost. Ha - I have to laugh that you are up to 14 fuchsias! How does it happen to us, Evan? We start with one, then another. And with you and your crazy great propagating skills...!

      How is your garden doing this summer so far?

  4. I wish we were having a cool July. It is hotter than hot, here in Ohio, with no end in sight. Please send some of that coolness our way.
    You can tell from your photos, that everything is thriving in your cool weather combined with rain. Everything is absolutely beautiful!

    1. Oh, Cindy, that sounds sorry! I wish I could send the cooler weather to you.

      Thank you for your kind words and I hope you get some relief soon.

  5. Anonymous3:23 PM PDT

    The Joy Creek influence has fuchsias and hydrangeas showing up here in surprising numbers as well. Alba, the Magician and Golden Gate are three of my favorites. The hydrangeas tend to be NOID throwaways that I am too ignorant to identify even when they bloom.

    1. Yes! The Joy Creek influence is very evident to those of us who work there. Hydrangeas and fuchsias? Who knew we would ever embrace these things? And sometimes it's best not to bother with plant names after all, as long as you are enjoying them.

  6. You are a magician with the cast-offs, Tamara! They all recover and become beautiful under your loving care. (Ha! They should be so lucky in my garden. I need some of your voodoo...) I only have one Hydrangea, but good dog - I got bitten by the Fuchsia bug badly last summer... I love that little Lechleade Magician, and Alba is certainly growing on me - in a big way!

  7. We too are enjoying(?) a very wet and cool summer so far. Everything seems stalled except the abundant growth of weeds. As always your garden looks lovely. I love the magellanica fuchsias but have to treat them as annuals here. A recent trip a beautiful garden in Victoria BC had a whole smaller section devoted to various fuchsias which you could do too.


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