Between March 1 and June 13 we have had 15.25 inches of rain. We experienced the wettest April on record at 5.75 inches; the average is 2.89. The average annual rainfall total is around 37 inches. We've already had 47.27 inches for the Portland area and we still have four months left in the "water year," which starts October 1. We also enjoyed at least a dozen days at 15 degrees below average temperature. Oh, and remember the 8 inches of snow we had in mid-April? Another record. 

Where's the sun? 

This is the third wettest period on record for our region ever, so says our local meteorologist. It's cold and wet, sure, but this time last year we were dealing with record high temperatures and continued drought. Last April was the driest on record. As frustrating as it all is, the pattern of extremes seems to be the normal course these past decades. All I can do is observe and report on the garden while propagating the toughest of the plants that can handle extremes. Here's a snapshot of a few observations at Chickadee Gardens where we pray for dry weather and golden sunshine.

Tetrapanax, rudbeckia, Solidago 'Fireworks' and more have a lot of foliage going on. This is a theme right now, i.e., lots of foliage and not so much in the way of flowers. This area, however, has many late summer blooming plants.

The vegetable garden is pretty much non-existent. That is, until we have some decent sun. Two tilled areas, this one and one in the distance plus four raised beds in between have been planted with starts from the greenhouse as well as seeds directly into the soil. The corn is up but not much else. My cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage starts had to be replanted because they perished in the cold, wet mud. Onion and shallot seedlings are also struggling while the few tomatoes we have laugh at us as they die. Still, I press on hoping for sun. The artichokes that usually have dozens of flowers by now have three, and three of the six plants have yet to emerge - likely dead from root rot. Lettuces are on fire, though, and despite the slugs, the radishes were abundant.

The orchard is an unknown at this point. Our Bing cherry had great new leaves then when the April snow hit, they all curled up and went black and died a few weeks later. Now there are replacement leaves, but I don't know if the tree is on its way out. The Van cherry next door looks fine. Apples and pears seem to have suffered from April snow showing little signs of fruit. Our raspberries are completely dead although they may have something happening in the soil - some pathogen or just too wet too heavy too cold soil. FM is building raised beds and we'll fill them with fresh clean soil that is well-drained and try again. Food crops need sun and are, in a word, suffering. The gooseberries look great, however. Also, I think I harvested three ripe strawberries today.

A favorite evergreen shrub (silver foliage) for full sun and hot hot hot south facing reflected heat, Atriplex halimus, went belly up. This is the area it filled up until February. We cut it back super hard, that stump is what remains.

A difficult to see image because the leaves are so miniscule, the Atriplex halimus has life despite appearances. I hold out hope. A fool's hope but it's hope. That was one huge shrub so I am hoping the roots are alive. This past 12 months it feels as if I am observing my garden die little by little. So much of my time spent is fixing problems, taking out dead material, cleaning up fallen tree debris, cursing slugs. The joy, to be honest, has been hard to come by. So I cling to a little bit of hope here and there for a few favorites that have seen better days.

The "lawn" is simply too wet to mow so it all looks shaggy. That's ok, the least of my worries.

Buddleia globosa has grown considerably and has blooms this year. It didn't mind the rain at all.

Calycanthus 'Hartlage Wine' has more buds than ever, also appreciating extra moisture.

A dwarf form of Pinus strobus, these have a forest of new growth. They definitely responded well to extra rain.

Lupines in general have fared well and are looking fine. I particularly like this color. Speaking of pinks, another observation is that some plants that bloom white have started out pinkish this year. Two examples are Dianthus hispanicus, a reliably white species carnation started out pale pink this year, fading to white. Another example is Spiraea betulifolia 'Tor'. Is the rain to blame? I have no idea.

In the center of this garden there is now a stump of what was a Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys'. It up and died within the span of a week. I don't know for certain what caused its decline but I suspect borers of some sort as there were no signs of blight or critter damage at the roots. Not a huge loss as these surrounding shrubs will fill in quickly and obscure the hole in the center. 

A lot of green, not a lot of bloom. Usually this is a sea of flower color this time of the year. Limnanthes douglasii (Douglas' meadowfoam) are the white and yellow flowers in the foreground, center which have been in bloom for weeks, literally. They have never gone this long for me - and it's not just this location, they are all over the garden just beginning to wind down. The creeping thyme along the edge of the path on the left looks good, however there is a rather larger area of it just out of shot on a slight slope that is struggling, barely pushing out green. It does that every year, going semi-dormant in winter then about April it fills out nicely as this one pictured has. It will be fine but it's probably six weeks behind where it usually is this time of the year.

The Arctostaphylos 'Ghostly' foreground right has thrived with an abundance of new growth. In fact, all of my arctostaphylos have responded positively to the weather, which is quite a surprise. This particular plant also responded with rapid growth during the heat dome last year - that is to say it seemed happy in both extremes and looked terrible during our average weather. 

There are three gigantic plants in this shot - Melianthus major, front and center, behind it a Romneya coulteri and behind it a cardoon. All three are far behind schedule and are 1/4 the size they usually are this time of the year, but they are alive and growing.

Arbutus menzesii, our native madrone tree (this was a volunteer), had lost many leaves and was looking rather scrappy this winter, but it loooves this rain. Look at all this new growth.

The dry garden has fared okay, all of these Mediterranean and locally native summer dry plants have put on a lot of foliage growth and are having a delayed bloom time. Baptisia australis on the right just began blooming. Santolinas in the background are covered in buds and floppy new foliage, I am glad I cut them back fairly hard in early spring.

Salix repens var. argentea, as with most salix in the garden, is quite happy about all the rain.

Sedums in general seem fairly unchanged. 

Phlomis russelliana is finally blooming and rather bountiful this year.

Kniphofia thompsonii has settled in and is sending out very tall flower spikes this year, which is great because the surrounding foliage is pretty tall right now. Other tall spiky plants such as eremerus are very late and have not started blooming yet, but soon.

Teucrium chamaedrys, the three small green shrubs on the left are still one of my top 10 favorites for ease of care and beauty. They were not visibly changed at all by the cold wet spring nor heat dome. They have been consistently handsome evergreen small shrubs and when they bloom the bumble bees are a little crazy for them. While they receive no extra water from me in summer, they did not mind the water that fell from the sky. The only maintenance is pruning them in late winter to shape them, but that's not entirely necessary but I like to do it to maintain a compact form. The Cotinus 'Pink Champage', the purple leaved shrub in the center, had several branches that either did not produce leaves at all or the leaf nodes are sitting in a suspended state. It grew leaves very late this year but it has since nearly caught up with where it usually is this time of the year. Just barely visible on the far left center the peach-colored Helianthemum 'Cheviot' along with the other helianthemums loved the extra rain and had a banner season for flower number.

Besides flopping open a little, Nepeta 'Dropmoore' is right on track. Easy and rewarding perennial for pollinators.

Parahebe perfoliata was a terrible mess a few weeks ago so I cut it back fairly hard. The new growth is fresh and lovely, looking better than ever.

A relatively unchanged scene, Acanthus mollis looks about the same if not larger than normal.

There are several species of artemisia in this garden and all have suffered this spring. This, A. frigida finally emerged and I think will be okay, although would appreciate some heat. 

Kolkwitzia amabilis (now Linnaea amabilis) is appreciating the wet spring and is blooming prolifically right now.

For an old fashioned flower floozy shrub, it is elegant.

Geum 'Totally Tangerine' has flopped over but it's still blooming its heart out. The cool weather has preserved many flowers, making them last much longer than if it were hotter. A silver lining for sure.

Philadelphus lewisii, our native mock orange does not like the wet cold weather at all. It is susceptible to fungal diseases in a good year so I'm not surprised. I find it does rather well in hotter years.

Succulents, sedums and the like didn't really miss a beat.

This is the best that Eucomis 'Oakhurst' has ever looked, apparently appreciating the extra moisture (geum stem in the foreground, photo bombing my eucomis shot).

At our front door, lots of new foliage growth is most welcome, although late. My "fern table" in the background, made last autumn, has filled in nicely.

From under the porch overhang you look out to a sea of foliage.

Carex flacca behind the chairs, although drought-tolerant, have easily doubled in size this wet spring.

The scene at the top of the driveway has many shades of green, not so much on flower color yet. I cut back the Grevillea x gaudichaudii under the arcto on the far left a little to clean it up and help stimulate growth. Hopefully. It's still alive but looks awful. The Arctostaphylos 'Harmony' had a lot of lanky growth and was growing downwards so it got a bit of a trim last week. Speaking of trimming plants, I gave many ceanothus a good haircut last week as they were incredibly floppy after the heavy April snow and never righted themselves.

Our native Pysocarpus capitatus, Pacific ninebark is late blooming but covered in buds.

Physocarpus 'Diabolo' (for the longest time I read that as 'Diablo' but Joy Creek Nursery set me right) is strangely smaller than it has been in the past and the flowers are smaller, too. Pretty and healthy, just smaller.

Clematis recta 'Purpurea' has an amazing amount of flowers this year and is taller than it's ever been. Its purple foliage is extra electric this year.

I enjoy the colors in this shot, the dark foliage and oranges in this part of the garden with a heuchera flower in the foreground.

Sedum kamtschaticum 'Variegatum' has really grown with the extra rain. 

A native annual wildflower, Gilia capitata, is happy.

Sedum album 'Murale', a dark foliaged and less aggressive album form looks rather lovely this spring. I don't believe I've ever seen it bloom, this could be the first year.

Silvery flowers of Stipa barbata are beginning their amazing bloom. 

The elephant in the room is this little problem. The moles have been SO ACTIVE it's really overwhelming. A good 15 large mole mounds every morning (that we can see). I just scoop the soil aside, make the "repair" with more gravel and curse. A lot. The lawn is bad enough but they are venturing into formerly untouched areas of my gravel garden. Extra worms under there this year?  

Our native sword fern, Polystichum munitum, are HUUUGE this year. It's a Jurassic forest in these parts.

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' is gorgeous. In fact, the whole shade garden is loving the extra moisture, it's the most they have experienced since we moved here and it's as if they had been just waiting for a good soaking as the fir trees tend to soak up all the surrounding moisture. The shade garden therefore has always appeared a little stunted in growth to my eyes - everything is very slow to get established.

Our native goat's beard, Aruncus dioicus appreciates the extra moisture. Last year a few of the several I have barely reached 3' tall when this monster is easily 9' tall. Plus, last summer they fried in the heat.

Hydrangea aspera 'Plum Passion' has gigantic leaves this year. I pruned this pretty hard in late winter as it was flopping forward, so to correct its shape. It clearly loves the rain.

More observations: 
      • Millions of ants are appearing in the gravel. They show no signs of stopping. Very unusual, never happened like this before.
      • SLUGS!
      • Ozothamnus have had a rough year, I've pruned out about 2/3 dead material but the shrubs still live.
      • A few die hard plants - spiraeas for example - were fully leafed out when we had April snow and the leaves are now black and falling off - new ones coming but not a pretty sight.
      • Every day pine needles and debris from Douglas firs and other fir trees is overwhelming. I think this is due to heat dome last year, they are still stressed.
      • Every day a ton of debris from the native white Oregon oak trees falls. This is 10 times what is normal - branches, living leaves, moss, twigs, oak apples.
      • Prunus avian, the wild cherry trees are dropping black leaves every day as well as a myriad of other debris including branches, unripened fruit, dead blossoms and more.
      • Some heat-loving plants really suffered while others loved it. I think part of what makes a plant survive this wet is if it has excellent drainage.
      • Salvias and agastaches in general are either being eaten by slugs or are super late to emerge.
      • SLUGS!!
The observations shall continue. As much as we don't like this eight-month rain period, we do need it, I realize. There are many friends in California, for example, who could really use it. I wish we could blow some down your way. I can't change it so to maintain sanity I will simply try to accept what is and make observations, hopefully making good choices for the garden moving forward. And scream a little from time to time. Oh, and propagating the plants that thrive in both extremes. 

Also, to all of you who came out to my latest plant sales, THANK YOU for your support and for braving the rain! I got to see some old, wonderful friends and meet new ones. I appreciate you all.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you for reading and commenting, we do love hearing from you and what you are observing in your own gardens. Happy gardening, be it in heat, rain, snow or hail.


  1. Your garden has certainly experienced a lot of extremes within a relatively short period, although I couldn't help admiring its overall beauty from one shot to the next. Scientists have predicted that we can all expect more extremes due to climate change so tracking what survives and what doesn't is a useful exercise, even if the timing of those shifts is frustratingly unpredictable. Like you, I'm trying to take the positives as they come without letting the negatives keep me down too long (which can be difficult!). I found myself rejoicing over a tenth of an inch of rain on Monday, provided courtesy of a heavier-than-usual marine layer (which scientists are also predicting will disappear altogether as another victim of climate change).

    1. You always see the silver lining, Kris and for that I'm grateful. Yes, it can be difficult but hooray for your tenth of an inch of rain - may you have much much more. I hope the marine layer sticks around and scientists are wrong.

  2. Same here in Corvallis: Ferns are AMAZING this year, some things are really going to town and others are either just chilling, waiting for the sun, or dead. I have had TERRIBLE luck with seeds this year, not even lettuce seeds! I'm probably going to give up on lettuce this year, although I'm tempted to give it one last go with some starts or maybe heat-tolerant seeds when it finally turns warmer. The tomatoes are languishing. Still, I appreciate the green and although the weeds are daunting this year, taking heart by imagining all the trees soaking up all the delicious water. I'm kind of enjoying this old-school Oregon spring, but ready for some summer days. Thanks for the beautiful photos and reminder that it's not just me: it's been a wet, cold, slow gardening year so far! Consolation: I am behind on setting up my irrigation system that I planned to put in this year, but we haven't needed it!

    1. Hi Daphne, sorry about your lettuce! Seeds are hard this year because once they do finally germinate, it seems a slug is watching and waiting.

      The green on the landscape I do certainly appreciate and am so happy for the larger trees that have been so stressed by drought these past several years, perhaps this shall put a dent in that and help them.

      It's not just you, no way - we're all collectively experiencing extremes from one end of the spectrum to the other, it seems. And hooray for not having to water, that's a great point to remember. This time last year it was a mad dash of four hours of watering per day to prepare for heat dome. Thanks for the reminder.!

  3. First off, thank you for doing this! I know it's a miserable task to tally losses and survivors. But it's such a help, e.g. I didn't know helianthemums could take this amount of moisture. I've seen them flourish in Manzanita too, but there the soil is much more free draining. Good to know the arctos are doing OK too. All that strong green growth looks so lush and pleasing to my eye, but I know you're sadly aware of how late flowers are this year. I did notice looking over a neighbor's fence that his peas are amazing, over 6 feet high! So I'm going to find some seeds and start some, even this late. (Peas are a winter/early spring crop in SoCal.) Other than leaf crops, that'll be it for veg attempts this year. Hang in there! You've made a wonderful, resilient sanctuary. Looks like unpredictable extremes is the new normal, so all our gardens will be laboratories going forward -- looks like you do have a lot of successes to build around.

    1. You are welcome, I am happy it is helpful to you! Late flowers are ok, but I swear, it feels like they just won't do anything this year - as if the warmth will never come. Peas - yes, great idea! Plant away. Peas, lettuce, kale, if you have no critters then broccoli and whatnot do enjoy this weather.

      We're all little laboratories for climate change, for sure. I think together we can distill down to the survivors and still enjoy gardening.

  4. Anonymous10:17 AM PDT

    I enjoyed looking at all the lush green in your garden. If we grow both shade and drought tolerant plants, I suppose there's always something to be less than satisfied when the weather shifts drastically. I too experience a lot of rain in Seattle and just marvel at how our gardens cope with the swings in the weather: while some plants barely miss a beat (sword ferns are fabulously "Jurassic"), others are miserable.
    I always liked Phlomis russelliana - yours is looking grand! - maybe this is the year I'll finally buy this plant.
    What's the conifer-looking potted plant by the front door (left side of the photo)?

    1. Hi Chavli, it is indeed marvelous how most plants cope. Phlomis has proven to be not only resilient in both extremes but thriving and prettier than ever. The conifer looking plant on the left side is FM's little Douglas fir seedling he potted up years ago and sort of Bonsai pruned it, although he's sort of forgotten that was his goal. Even still, it's his little plant and it loved the rain, by the way.

  5. We are all experiencing an ongoing unknown. Here in my Zone 5 / southern Wisconsin garden, we had a drought year that ended in a winter with no snow coverage. Temps in the 90s last month and this. Everything is a week or more behind schedule. Lost two 20 year old trees and half of a big Pagoda Dogwood. You are right that about all we can do is observe.

    1. Indeed we are, Linda, thank you for sharing your Wisconsin experience with us. No snow coverage seems very off track for your part of the world, and 90? Wow, that's warm for not even summer.

      I'm sorry about your trees, they can become like old friends and it's difficult (for me, at least) when we lose them. Observe and report back, that's my new mantra.

  6. There are times you wonder why you bother. If it's not weather extremes it's wildlife ruining carefully constructed pathways and borders. Though there are some who are unhappy a lot of your plants are looking really good. The garden looks so lush. Last week there was talk of another severe drought this summer, however, this week a record rain event now has everyone worrying about flooding. The after effects of our severe drought last year are the vast numbers of seedlings everywhere. Again, do have to wonder why we bother.


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