Summer Garden

The highest temperature ever measured in the Portland area was 107 degrees. Was. Last weekend we not only reached 116, we are now in a stretch of several 90+ days in a row. For June, historically a mild month, this is a blow. While many states regularly reach such temperatures, we haven't, nor are our plants acclimatized to these temps. Coming off of an historically dry spring, it's a double-blow. A silver lining is that we had our open garden last weekend, sandwiched between a cool rainy period the weekend before and now this, one week later. 

 I am grateful most of my garden is drought tolerant, although in such extremes we need to water. We watered everything thrice over before this hit to give plants the best possible chances, but still - high heat like that causes transpiration in plants to shut down and they just can't take it. Things are wilting that one would never expect to wilt such as ceanothus. What? Those sun lovers? Yes, they are drooping. Many will recover but it will be an experiment to see what is resilient. Good to know in these ever-increasing temperature shifts and drier seasons. See what survives and plant more of that.

Before the peak of this historic heat wave took over I grabbed my camera and took as many shots as I could. I thought I should document what it looked like before and evaluate the aftermath in the coming weeks and months. With that I give you June at Chickadee Gardens, pre-heatwave.

First up, a look around the labyrinth garden. A vignette with Teucrium chamaedrys lining a gravel path, Miscanthus sinensis 'Cabaret' adds a sparkle of variegation and drought tolerant shrubs on either side.

Marrubium incanum, horehound with Nepeta 'Dropmore' in a rather dry area. Both do well with little to no summer water thus far.

Hebes and Hylotelephium 'Stardust', (syn. Sedum 'Stardust'), a bed on the reverse side of the area in the first photo.

Ceanothus 'Marie Simon' has filled in nicely after looking rather ragged this winter and is in full light pink bloom. 

On the outer edges of the labyrinth garden is Agastache 'Kudos Red' beginning to bloom.

Hebe 'Quicksilver' at the corner of a bed in the labyrinth garden. The funny thing is that several years ago I was pruning another 'Quicksilver' and thought I'd stick cuttings right on the spot in various areas for fun to see what happened. This is what happened. They proved to root very easily.

In a more yellow and purple bed, Santolina 'Lemon Queen' and Santolina rosmarinifolia (syn. Santolina virens) are incredibly drought tolerant.

Asclepias speciosa, showy milkweed with a visiting honeybee. This has formed an impressive patch, in fact it goes well beyond its designated spot in the garden. That's ok, I just diligently pull up strays. All the time. Every day. Joking aside, it's a fantastic pollinator plant as well as the host plant for monarch butterflies. It's native and it smells good, too. Asclepias for the win!

Tetrapanax papyrifer wants so badly to form a colony. OK, I'll let a few stick around, but if I did not stay on top of it this whole corner would be this plant alone. Still it makes a striking contrast to lower shrubs below.

A wider shot of the edge of the labyrinth and Himalayan mounds with Agastache 'Kudos Red' on the right in front of Arctostaphylos pumila.

Clematis durandii winding through Salix eleagnos var. angustifolia.

Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver', an evergreen shrub from New Zealand that is on the outer edges of the labyrinth and basically receives no summer water. Sedum album and Penstemon pinifolius at its feet to the right.

Moving on to scenes from the gravel garden, a garden that connects our deck to the labyrinth and the meadow. Flowers of Eryngium bourgatii. This sea holly has been with me a long time, in fact I moved it from the old garden. It reliably blooms every year and has given me a few seedlings. I notice honey bees really go for eryngiums.

Dierama 'Plant World Jewels' was a half-price plant years ago. I bought it not in bloom and the description of the flower color was dark pinks so I was surprised to see a light pink flower. While I would have preferred something richer, it's a charming plant and it stays.

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape' is everywhere this year and I'm most happy about it. The heat, however, has caused all petals to drop. I'm hopeful a few more will bloom in cooler weather and that they will form seeds to keep the cycle going.

This is at the base of the deck with sun lovers galore. It does get a good amount of sun as it's south facing, but it falls into shade for a bit when the shadow of a large Douglas fir tree floats past.

You can just make out the deck under the umbrellas. This path leads from the driveway up to the deck, although this year it's a bit obscured by not only Papaver 'Lauren's Grape" but Eryngium giganteum:

The pavement on the right is our driveway, the gravel on the left is the path. The obstruction in the middle is a sea of sea holly, Eryngium giganteum. I did not plant these. Funny how those things work out. I tried to get it to grow for years at the old house with no luck.

The Atriplex halimus, an evergreen shrub that is not only edible, but a great cover for birds (finches seem to live in it) and is super drought tolerant. You'll notice our home has metal siding and this is south-facing, so it gets HOT. No problem with this plant. I do cut it back a bit in spring to keep its size down, it can get rather large.

More Papaver 'Lauren's Grape' in my way.

Yes, I work at Joy Creek Nursery and, yes, I've fallen for (some) Clematis. I mean it's not that I ever disliked them, but they seemed so high maintenance. One learns that some are worth the effort and they really aren't that much maintenance at all. Clematis 'Romantika' which can read as nearly black in certain light which is why I fell for it. This color is pretty lovely, too. I actually took this for dead after a mole attack uprooted it and killed it for the season last year. It has rebounded nicely.

Moving on to the Western swale (or shrubbery/golden woods as I call it), Itea ilicifolia is getting ready to bloom. We'll check in on this evergreen stunner after the heat wave to see if the buds are damaged.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers', a dwarf oak-leaf form, looks fantastic this year. This is another to watch after the inferno goes away.

The sky blue hydrangeas (unknown variety) are suffering this year. Here they look fine, but we may actually lose this year's leaves and flowers it's so bad out there right now (it's 113 degrees as I type this, hydrangeas are among the first to suffer in any kind of heat). I don't have the heart to look at them out my window.

Moving on to the berm garden at the top of the driveway as it wraps around the front of the house, it's a full-sun extravaganza in there. 

Itea 'Henry's Garnet' is a three season plant - great spring green leaves, these pretty flowers in summer then blazing red and orange foliage in autumn. I have several of these planted in the berm garden.

The other end of the berm garden that is mostly whites and silvers.

Hebe 'Western Hills' is one of my favorites, not for its flowers (which are lovely) but for its silver blue- tinged foliage.

  Bupeurum fruticosum, an evergreen shrub that tolerates sun or shade, is the most visited plant by pollinators when it's in bloom. A very useful shrub, it can be pruned hard to keep it smaller. It hasn't quite bloomed yet this year, it will be interesting to see how it fares in the heat.

Thymus 'Silver Posie' is a sweet mounding thyme with silver foliage and slightly pink flowers.

Gaura 'Belleza White' which seeds all over the place. Still it has its place in the white end of the berm garden and adds a bit of movement with its wands of flowers dancing in the breeze.

Agave neomexicana is quite happy in the heat.

The berm garden looking westward.

Achillea 'Terra Cotta' seedling which is noticeably lighter in color than its parent.

Sedum album has spread to gravel paths along the berm retaining wall and I enjoy how it softens the edges.

I never noticed the variety of colors on this sweet little flower as the blooms are quite small (glasses, anyone?). Androsace lanuginosa, also known as rock jasmine is a Himalayan native at home in a rock garden.

Diascia 'My Darling Tangerine' has been such a sweet little bloomer for me for several years. I always thought they were annuals but I learned from work where we sell many varieties that they are indeed perennials here.

A parting shot of the berm garden with many whites in bloom right now.

The shade garden has not been included here, I think that deserves a separate post in the future.

As this is a "before the inferno" post, plants look pretty happy. The aftermath will be in the next post, which will be at the very least a good way to assess what is resilient and what we should let go of for I doubt the inferno we just experienced will be the last. Because of the craziness of it all, and because we are exhausted and tired of watering 10 hours a day every day, we decided to cancel our next open garden which was scheduled for July 10. We apologize to anyone who was planning on attending and we hope you understand. It's all just too much right now. Give us a few weeks and if you are interested in visiting, get in touch and we can work something out. 

One final housekeeping note - the email notification of blog posts will end in July due to Blogger's decision to end this service. I am frightfully sorry about it. You can go to my Chickadee Gardens Facebook page and follow me there, I post links with every new blog post.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you. A special THANK YOU to all of you who drove the distance to be a part of our open garden. We had a wonderful time and were thrilled so many incredible gardeners came out to share their afternoon with us.


  1. Your pre-heatwave garden was spectacular, Tamara. I have to look for that Ozothamnus and the silver Hebe. I hope the damage caused by the hellish temperatures weren't too destructive but I know from personal experience how difficult even a limited number of losses can be. We've never hit 115F here but we've had sustained heatwaves at 110F. Some things that look like goners may surprise you by coming back given time - they do what they have to do to survive. I thought for sure our lemon tree at the bottom of our back slope was near death when it dropped all its fruit overnight but I've learned that's just part of its normal survival strategy. However, I won't even try to grow hydrangeas anymore.

    1. As always, you are too kind, KRis.

      I'm telling you the Ozothamnus is a winner all around. Never water them (I have three), in full sun, poor soil and wow - they just keep on going.

      I will wait to see the long-term impact of the heat on many broadleaf evergreens - time will tell but I'm not ready to yank anything out yet.

      Plants are amazing (your lemon tree) - they know what to do whereas I run around with my arms in the air. Helpful, right? :) ha ha...

  2. All your plant selections absolutely thrill me. The saltbush thriving even in reflected heat shows what a smart choice you made there, and it's such a cool looking plant to boot. The self-sown eryngium are jaw-dropping -- I love that the pathway is allowed to accommodate such seasonal exuberance. I know for you it will be painful, but it's going to be interesting to see what made it through the cursed heat dome.

    1. That's high praise coming from the Goddess of Gardening, Denise! Seriously. THANK YOU for your kind words. The saltbush = joy. That thing didn't skip a beat in this heat - I was looking at it this morning and it looks - if possible - even better. Meant for that kind of weather, I think. People of hot dry climates - plant an Atriplex halimus.

      The pathway and seedlings - the seedlings always have the last word around these parts ;)

  3. It all looks so lovely, at its springtime peak, I figure. I dread to see the damage done, though I'm guessing, as smart as you are, it won't be too horrible. Pretty horrible over here. But, even so, few if any actual losses, just a bad current case of the uglies! ; )

    1. Oh, the damage....indeed. I saw your pics on FB and I am sorry, Stephen. BUT they will recover in time. Hydrangeas are the hardest hit overall, even at Joy Creek. FM and I are rethinking our hydrangea situation. Some may have to go :(

  4. It's been really hot here too with Sahara-like winds accompanying the high temps. I think you are right in that there will be more of this to come. Your garden looks so lovely in all of your photos but events like this will determine who is tough enough to make it through. In my garden the penstemon have been rock stars through all of this.

    1. Oh, winds are a whole new hell. I am sorry. Sheesh - they sure do dry out leaves, don't they?

      Yes, tough wins this time. No more fancy pants plants that can't handle the heat. Penstemons were all rock stars for me too! P. pinifolius forms and our native ones, especially (P. cardwellii for example). Yay for penstemons!!

  5. Your gardens are stunning. I believe your Hydrangea is "Nikko Blue." I predict that it will be okay after the heat wave. I will really miss getting your posts in my inbox; I'm not on Facebook

    1. Ah, it could be Nikko Blue indeed. Good guess, I'll go with that ;)

      Well, I'm thinking of migrating all emails to - if I am successful I'll do a post about it. You can always bookmark I and another thing to do. Darned Blogger. I wish they would have left it as is. Anyhow, thanks for your comments Judith!


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