Flowers of May

 We are back with a plethora of flowers. Not a very inventive topic. However, in the last seven days we have had two open gardens and a wildflower road trip some 300 miles away in northeastern Oregon (stay tuned for next week's post). We're pooped! Beyond that it has been a sad, challenging, and tiring year considering world events. I have been exhausted and frustrated - even with the garden. So many plants are suffering at what I assume are the results of heat dome and a record cold, wet spring. Plants that have no business dying are doing just that, i.e., willows, for crikey sake. Really? Did you read that, willows? Record wet? And aphids on viburnums have me down (a new plague that we haven't had the joy of experiencing before) and so many plants are not only behind schedule but perhaps dead. OK, fine. There are plenty of other plants that are doing well, so how about we focus on those beauties at the end of what has been a hell of a wet, cool May. I think flowers might just help to fuel the joy inside.

As I explain to visitors to the garden, the farther away from the house you go the hotter the colors. This is near the southern edge of our garden in the dry labyrinth area. I know, I know, orange and hot pink and red aren't supposed to go together but I love the clash, the banging on the eyes, the vibrancy.

Geum 'Totally Tangerine' is on fire this year looking better than ever, just in time (whew!) for the open gardens. At least something was blooming!

My style of gardening is often sticking extras or bits that break off in whatever spot is available nearby. This is a perfect example. I stuck a sickly little twig of Heuchera 'Firefly' in a nearby bed and it now looks like it has been there purposefully all along. I do that a lot with sedums, especially. One little bit breaks off and if I love the sedum I save and stick it elsewhere.

Helianthemum munnularium 'Fire Dragon' in the labyrinth garden, planted in 2020, is finally blooming and looking great. It seems it liked the wet spring which is counter to what I thought these wanted - sun and dry. At any rate, it's one of three helianthemums in the garden and all look fine.

Here it mixes with Eriogonum heracleoides, a native parsnip flower buckwheat.

Helianthemum 'Cheviot' is a sweet color of peachy sunset orange.

The brightest of the three is Helianthemum 'Henfield Brilliant', a vivid red orange.

A creamy yellow-white California poppy graces the edges of the labyrinth. 

Halimium lasianthum ‘Sandling’ with a bee of some sort visiting the center flower. This is a relative of cistus and is an evergreen shrub covered with cheerful yellow flowers. None of my cistus (save one) have bloomed yet, a full month behind schedule. 

Penstemon davidsonii has had a long, spectacular bloom this year. This is a native of rocky sunny well drained areas here in the Northwest and is an evergreen mat of tiny dark green leaves. It was one of the plants most asked about at our recent open gardens.

Another native, this one a self sown iris is Iris tenax that we will leave right where it wants to be, thank you very much.

Another native, Eriophyllum lanatum, Oregon sunshine is a tall groundcover for super well-drained sites in full sun. It is awfully cheerful, I have to admit.

Yet another native Northwest plant, Penstemon cardwellii, an evergreen shrublet that is spectacular in bloom. It is a few weeks late this year and just started blooming a few days ago, so our open garden visitors missed it. 

A cistus that was a throw away at work a few years ago. I am not certain which one. The blooms are a pretty color and the shrub itself is small at only 24" or so tall. If you know, please chime in.

Aquilegia 'Black Barlow' seedling, one of many. I allow it and our native columbine to stick around, otherwise I tend to yank them out.

 Erysimum 'John Codrington' 

Geum 'Cosmopolitan'

Sibbaldiopsis tridentata, a small evergreen shrublet/groundcover that I have in shade and sun, both do well.

The Limnanthes douglasii, Douglas' meadowfoam was the second most talked about plant for our open gardens. It is a native annual wildflower and I have clumps of it everywhere. The foliage pops up in late autumn, surprisingly, then blooms its head off in mid-spring. I take old clumps that have gone to seed by summer and place them where I want more to grow next year. Easy and charming, the small pollinators are all over this one.

It's everywhere and we love it.

Sidalcea campestris, our native checkermallow, is a perennial with spikes of flowers in a variety of shades of pink.

Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' is finally blooming. Usually by this time of the year it is finished up, but this year it is only starting to bloom the last week of May.

Even though it is not blooming, this is the most asked about plant at our open gardens. It is Clematis recta 'Purpurea' - an upright clematis with small white flowers. The foliage eventually fades to green but in its early stages it is a stunning deep purple.

Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing' has dark foliage as well with umbelliferous flowers in white. The foliage is fine and fern-like, commonly called chevril or cow parsley.

A NOID bearded iris that I keep because it's so dark and sexy. It reads much darker than this in person, the photo makes it appear more purple.

I cut my Parahebe perfoliata back hard this spring because it suffered so much but the new foliage makes up for it. This evergreen shrublet resembles eucalyptus but is, in fact, in a completely different genera. Its pretty purple flowers are just coming on and are lovely in bouquets.

Native Antennaria rosea, pink pussytoes is an alpine plant with a mat of silvery green leaves that persist through winter. In spring the common name is evident.

A wide shot of the top of the driveway with a very unhappy (dead?) Grevillea gaudichaudii on the far left. The cambium is still green, so . . .. Everything else looks pretty good, so I won't complain.

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' was another popular plant at the open gardens. The shade garden has appreciated the extra rain, so there's that for being positive.

Saxifraga x urbium 'Aureopunctata' - basically a variegated 'London Pride'.

Leucothoe 'Rainbow' flowers in a lot of shade. These evergreen shrubs might appreciate more sun than I give them. However, I like where they are so they stay.

A white flowered astrantia seedling in the shade garden.

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' is a handsome geranium with dark purple chevrons on its leaves and pretty dark maroon purple flowers. It does especially well in shady areas.

A second geranium that also likes shade, Geranium phaeum 'Margaret Wilson' has pretty variegated white foliage and bright purple flowers.

An evergreen shrub for shade, Helwingia chinensis holds its flowers on the leaves. A most unusual trait. Here you can see the flowers about mid-way up the leaf. 

A native groundcover called Siskyou vancoveria, Vancouveria chrysantha has evergreen foliage (mostly) and sweet yellow flowers. It is reported to be more drought-tolerant than our more common Vancoveria hexandra. 

A parting shot of the entrance to the labyrinth garden. The continus or smoke bush with the reddish foliage in the center is behind schedule, a few hebes have chunks out of them from incredibly late spring snow damage and the Ozothamnus 'Silver Sussex' died by half, but those imperfections are being swallowed up by the greater good. It is with that spirit, the glass half-full, that I leave you until next time when we explore the amazing botanizing trip we had with fellow Joy Creekers up at Growiser in northeastern Oregon.

Hopefully these bits of nature's miracles have cheered us all up and we can go on appreciating nature, despite the setbacks. There are many more flowers than this right now, but these happen to be the beauties that caught my eye this week.

Until then, happy gardening, and thank you for reading, hug your loved ones. And thank you everyone who came out to our open gardens! It was a treat to meet you all (and visit with friends) and we appreciate that you made the drive out our way. Thank you again.


  1. Anonymous7:57 AM PDT

    What winter damage? Everything looks wonderful!
    "orange and hot pink and red" go beautifully together in your garden: if it were a pattern on a dress, I'd wear it to a garden cocktail party:-D
    It's very cool you can plop clumps of Douglas' meadowfoam as a way of repeating elements in your meadow: the advantage of a large garden.
    I have to cut back Penstemon cardwellii every other year so it fits the space in the front garden. When it blooms, it's magical.
    Helwingia chinensis blew my mind!
    Sounds like you had a successful open garden! I'm looking forward to reading about the Creekers trip.

    1. Thank you Chavli, and the dress image of orange and hot pink and red has me wanting to seek out said dress. Nice!

      I have never had to cut back Penstemon cardwellii, but perhaps might someday - it is getting rather large. It is magical, good word for it. Helwingia is a very interesting plant, check it out if you come across one. This one is a propagule from my former boss' plant in his garden.

  2. I've been wondering about the wet tolerance of helianthemums too, and I bet with cistus it just shortens their already short lives, so why not? I remember trying to grow that clem years ago in zone 10, a selection called 'Lime Close,' probably from Heronswood. What a beauty it is in your garden! I know the losses hurt but it all looks really splendid to me, because it already looks like a mature garden, a teenager getting into occasional trouble maybe, but making some wonderful magic too! I'm seeing the Douglas meadowfoam in neighboring gardens, some of which is seeding further out into the semi-public areas...yes, I am not above purloining some escaped seedlings! That TT geum I moved up from zone 10, where it never bloomed, and it's the one plant that so far looks like I fulfilled its ultimate destiny by bring it north!

    1. Yes! Wet tolerance of helianthemums! So, they have always been in the "hot and dry" cistus kind of category in my mind, but clearly they LOOOVED the water. Has me thinking. Anyhow, they have never looked better.

      Yes, the losses hurt but you are right, a teenager in occasional trouble but overall magic endures. Good analogy. I bet that geum Totally Tangerine would be fabulous in your coastal Oregon garden. It's a winner. And if you aren't successful with your purloining efforts, I'd be happy to mail you some Douglas meadowfoam seeds. ;)

    2. The cistus looks like Cistus x bornetianus 'Jester' to me.

    3. Hmmm...could be Boognish. Looks similar - it's the size that's throwing me at only about 2' tall. But the flowers look right.

  3. While acknowledging the weather-related challenges you've experienced over the past year and the unfortunate impacts on many plants, I have to say I'd be in hog heaven in your garden, Tamara. I think I need to try Helianthemum again, although I probably won't be doing much planting until fall even though our temperatures are on the cool side at the moment. I've put that Clematis on my wish list, even though I've only managed to keep one member of that genus happy in my current garden. I think your noID Cistus would be 'Grayswood Pink'.

    1. You keep me real, Kris. Yes, still we have it pretty darned good in the Pacific Northwest, all things considered. Hmmm....maybe the Clematis recta would be worth another go. It's really good. And thanks for the cistsus i.d., that's it, I'm pretty sure. Mystery solved.

  4. Fabulous, as always. I love the warm/hot colors together, too. Hey, miss seeing you. I stopped by the "Dirty Diggers" plant sale last week and bought a few of your Hood strawberry plants to add to the ones I got last year. Love them!
    Was really nice to see a couple JC colleagues. Take good care. Your garden is mighty and beautiful.

    1. Aw, thank you Miss Yohanna! That's so cool, I'm glad you got some strawberries! They originally came from Nathan, so the JC love is being spread.

      Take care yourself, thanks for checking out the sale and checking in on the blog!

  5. Lovely flowers, most unfamiliar to me. Really enjoyed this post.

    1. Yay! I love sharing what's out there, most plants come from my former employer, Joy Creek so it's a revolving array of plants around here. So glad you enjoyed it!

  6. I bet the tourists were super impressed by your garden. There is so much happening that the occasional unhappy plant isn't too big a deal. The Helianthumum combo is out of this world. Love it. We too are having a weird Spring. Trees just starting to leaf out now while others are flexible but budless still. Such is the nature of gardening. Some thrive others not.

    1. Thank you luv2garden, you are most kind. I am honestly not sure what the tourists/visitors thought, some come and smile and look around and leave without saying a word so I never know. Some are very kind and generous with their appreciation - most are, actually.

      Weird spring indeed! Us too. It feels like the never ending winter.

  7. Anonymous6:35 AM PDT

    I was so used to the Hellenium, I was startled to see the lovely new banner. (Do you even grow Hellenium anymore?)

    1. I was wondering if anyone would notice! Yes, I do still grow that Helenium (it's 'Mardi Gras' by the way) - but that part of the garden has changed so much that it doesn't look the same any longer. Time for a change! Thanks for noticing!


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