Coming off three days of dry weather above 50 degrees, I'm happy to have spent real time in the garden last week. Of course, the rain and cold quickly returned, so the exuberance of April is not quite here but the signs are in the right direction, albeit several weeks later than normal. 

In looking at photos from March 2021 compared to what I see April 2023, the garden is very similar. It's still winter out there despite plants pushing forward very slowly. Once we reach a whole week of 60-degree weather I believe the garden will burst with exponential growth. It's under the surface now waiting to emerge. And as far as the weather patterns are concerned, I understand we're on the tail end of La Niña and beginning an El Niño year very soon, which tends to result in drier weather in the Pacific Northwest. 

The tough plants that've managed to pop up despite the weather deserve a spotlight and a round of applause. Here they are this week at Chickadee Gardens:

Cardamine trifolia in bloom with Carex conica 'Snowline' on the right and Ophiopogon 'Nigrescens' on the left. This is the edge of a border in the shade garden that is looking lovely right now due to abundant winter and spring rain.

Fritillaria meleagris and its single bloom. How lovely it would be if this seeded about, but after six years it has stayed put. Likely due to the tough conditions in which it is planted, a lot of tree roots and competition as well as surrounding groundcovers.

Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle' in bloom.

Aruncus dioicus, goatsbeard, shows signs of growth. This stunning native herbaceous perennial gets quite tall at about 6' or so and better every year. I have many of these throughout the shadier parts of the garden, and they each seem to have a differing time of emergence.

I have several large clumps of Epimedium 'Sulphureum' in the shade garden. I had not cut them back until this year when I decided to experiment and see if I liked the results. I hadn't done it before because the foliage always looked good so decided to leave it. However, I like being able to clearly see new flowers and fresh new leaves, plus it seems to bloom a little earlier by doing it this way. I may continue to give an annual late winter haircut to this plant.

Veratrum, though I'm unsure of the species, as it was given to me years ago. It may be V. nigrum but it has never bloomed so I am unsure. Slugs do love it but have oddly left it alone this spring. I don't think slugs can swim!

Unfurling fronds of our native Adiantum aeluticum, maidenhair fern.

Jeffersonia diphylla, such a sweet woodland ephemeral. I had to save it from getting swallowed up by larger plants and move it to a more open locale so it can be seen.

This sweet little bundle is Chamaecyparis 'Treasure Island', a gift from Jerry of the blog Botanica Chaotica. He met me at the Corvallis Evening Gardening Club event in March and gifted me a few choice plants. I encourage you to read his blog if you aren't familiar, he's a wealth of knowledge.

Here is a mature example of Chamaecyparis 'Treasure Island' not far from its new little brother.

Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus' has gorgeous golden foliage when new; it eventually turns green. The flowers that shall come on in a month or so are white and the most fragrant of many philadelphus I have encountered. It is in part shade and seems quite content.

Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena' is blooming, all my arctos are blooming at the same time right now. The bumble bees are happy, it's a superhighway of bumbles around here.

Facilities Manager says while there are a few honeybees about we shall have a new hive of our favorite pollinators in mid-May. The April delivery date is delayed due to the poor weather in California. 

Foliage of Sidalcea campestris, one of our native checker mallows is quite handsome. Soon its tall stalks of pale pink flowers will be blooming and well-visited by pollinators. It's a seeder, which is perfect for the meadow garden area where I have it. I introduced this clump to a secondary area to try to get it established elsewhere.

Rhamnus californica 'Seaview' is a gorgeous native broadleaf evergreen shrub. It is smaller at a couple of feet tall and 5 or so feet wide. I have had trouble with some rhamnus in this area, however. Two Rhamnus purshiana, our native cascara trees, died and second 'Seaview' died, this particular specimen also had a large amount of branches die. I was told that rhamnus is susceptible to verticillium wilt, which seems the likely culprit, though I am certainly no expert. As long as this one's healthy it stays.

Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' and its whispy branches on the edge of a woodsy area.

New foliage of Lonicera involucrata, our native twinberry. One of the first shrubs to produce leaves in late winter (or in this case spring).

Here it is from a wide angle. It is a multi-stemmed rather large shrub for sun to part shade and is low maintenance for me. It's kind of non-descript in summer but its dark berries with red bracts are attractive to look at and food for foraging birds. I've cut this back/thinned it out a couple of times with no ill effects. By the way, the chickadees and other small songbirds enjoy hanging out it in year-round, berries or no berries, leaves or no leaves.

Cheerful new foliage of Sedum 'Winky' - it eventually loses the pink blush and turns fairly solid green.

Ribes aureum, another native currant, has a lovely clove-scented flower. From the website: Flowers provide nectar to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Birds, bears and rodents eat the fruit. Special Value to Native Bees (Recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bees.) We have several of these in wilder areas of the garden and they are finally reaching a decent size.

The loquat or Eriobotrya japonica is a broad-leafed evergreen tree to about 20' tall. It produces small orange fruits; however, my specimen is immature. It fared fairly well through our crummy weather so I am hopeful it has a good future.

A scene at the base of a tree. I am at the point in this garden where I can afford to pay attention to details rather than the larger scope.

This was given to me as a seedling of Paeonia ruprechtiana. I think it's synonymous with Paeonia caucasica but am quite confused knowing nothing about the genus. In any event it's new to me this year and if its foliage is any indication of how cool this plant is I'm hooked.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' is just now blooming, two months late. It is in a good canopy of shade and is one of the only daphnes I've seen around that did not defoliate from this past winter's fury. That may be due to the canopy of mature trees overhead that gave a wind break as well as snow.

Daphne bholua on the other hand is quite sad looking. Its cambium is green, it might live. Updates to come.

Trachelospermum jasminoides has been totally hardy and trouble free for us for years. This year, however, nearly all of them (5 or 6 in the garden) show signs of decline. I think this might be winter wind damage. Surely they will recover however they look quite unhappy at the moment.

Ardisia japonica should be an evergreen woody groundcover, however it completely defoliated as well. I have been told it will likely recover and this probably occurred due to extremely low temperatures.

Last time I showed Agave bracteosa and its winter damage. I've since pruned it:

A little smaller but healthy bits remain.

Soooo....Oscar. Oscar is not happy. I know I said he stays no matter what, but I might move him. He was once at an angle to help water drain away but has since grown upright due to the pups at his base. He was also on a rather tall mound of gravel but his weight has seen him sink down several inches. Surrounding shrubs are beginning to fill in so not quite as much air as before.

As an alternative, I may move him here. This patch of Ceanothus gloriosus hasn't been happy for a couple of years. I'm going to take it out. Elsewhere this same plant is quite happy and healthy, I am unsure why this particular patch is troubled. At any rate I'm going to clean this out, add a ton of crushed gravel and give Oscar the space and slope that will do him justice.

In this photo behind the agave used to be a Yucca 'Blue Sentry' that I had moved from a crowded position to an airier one. Sadly, this winter and the constant rain and cold did it in. I know yuccas can be quite root hardy so I left the roots in the event it regrows. In the meantime I've added a penstemon and a Displacus 'Jeff's Tangerine' in its place to help brighten up this corner. The garden constantly changes. Oh, and there's a little potted Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' in there, I'm looking for the best spot for it. A recent purchase from work (Cistus Nursery), I am so excited to add this one to Chickadee Gardens.

Also last time we saw this Grevillea 'Neil Bell' in a split open situation, though branches are alive and healthy otherwise. I've since pruned it too to help lighten the load:

I think he will pull through fine. A little ratty on the silhouette however healthy and producing flowers. I am quite surprised and delighted how hardy this shrub has been for me.

My newest garden bed area planted with Teucrium chamaedrys, Doryncnium hirsutum, Eriophyllum lanatum and Madia elegans. It has been, up until now, a scrubby dusty area with no plant life once the clover goes dormant. I'm keeping the weeds mowed down between the plants for now until they are established and fill in. If it warms up above 50 degrees I think they will all grow quite quickly. For now everything is suspended in a six-month bout of winter.

The same area as seen from the other direction. This new area is a triangle-shaped area that extends the labyrinth garden. I like that it can be seen from our living room and will add extra dimension and texture to an otherwise flat, and in summer, a brown area.

That log from the last post has been successfully moved uphill to this location. It took FM and me (and a large farm cart courtesy of The Practical Plant Geek) to get this bad boy in place. We only smushed a dozen or so plants and am happy it's in place. It can decompose in situ. Whew. That was SO heavy.

There are lots of craggy holes to plant ferns! Exciting times!

The meadow area, now cut back, is seeing growth of a variety of perennials and grasses. Beyond in the labyrinth garden the no i.d. phormium and Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn' are at a size that they can be seen from a distance.

A wider shot from under the oak tree with Lucy's grave.

Another wide angle shot with my blue shed where I keep dry goods, tools, seeds and the like.

Out of our front door the fern table is the first thing we see. It's a woodland in miniature and is so delightful to see it fill in with mosses and other shade lovers.

OK, now for business! I'm donating a bunch of plants from my greenhouse to the House of Dreams cat shelter's local plant/bake sale.  It's next Saturday the 29th, just over a week away.

There will be 'Hood' strawberries, some annual flowering vines, perennials, shrubs, succulents and more from me. Plus, others will be contributing MORE plants, house plants, vegan baked goods, garden art, decorative pots and more. You never know what treasures you might find!

If you are in the area I hope you can stop by and shop for some goodies!

Details: Apr 29, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
7634 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97215, USA

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you so much for reading and commenting, we do love hearing from you! Happy spring (eventually?)!


  1. Anonymous8:41 AM PDT

    The most difficult part of my comment is trying to keep it short :-D
    I was wowed by the first photo: Cardamine trifolia, Carex conica, Ophiopogon Nigrescens... a most perfect ground cover combination, I couldn't get tire of looking at it.
    The clove scented currant is lovely, as long as no bears show up for dinner.
    I'm itching to see the new planted triangle coming alive... the wait is challenging for me.
    New log placement is awesome. Nice of The Practical Plant Geek to assist. (I miss updates of his massive garden).
    Lucy's grave is lovely and a touching tribute.
    Good luck with the sale, wish I lived closer.

    1. You are very kind, Chavli. I too love that shade combination, the carex blends in with so many shade loving plants, a grass I would not be without. Yeah, let's hope no bears find the berries. Oy. Could you imagine? We could have them here, I suppose but hopefully not. The critters we do have are quite enough, thank you very much!

      Waiting is sooooo challenging for me. Patience. Not my best virtue ;) At least we're all waiting together.

  2. I LOVE the white-flowered Ribes and the Epimedium, which I can't grow. I ignored my Sunset Western Garden Book and tried growing an Epimedium once in no former, kinder garden but no miracles occurred. I wish I could attend the cat shelter event and pick up some plants in the process but, until a bullet train is available, that's not a possibility.

    1. Me too, Kris - the 'White Icicle' ribes - so pretty and finally blooming generously. While you may not be able to grow these, your garden is STUNNING without them.

      Aah, a bullet train? Could you imagine? Like so much of the rest of the world being able to travel like that? Sadly, not here.

  3. Let the spring explosion begin! Next week's forecast is looking so good! Poor Oscar, I am thankful that you're dedicated to making his situation better.

    1. Woo hoo! The forecast (did I see an 80 in there?) had me thinking of you immediately. Well, and me. OK, wish me luck with moving Oscar. I mean he could pull through, right?

  4. Spring is such an exciting time even when it's delayed. Even though there is lots of damage there is so much more that is doing well and thriving. Loved your comment on 'how you are now at the stage where you pay attention to small details". Kind of feel that's where I am at too.

    1. It is exciting and it does change, so that's comfort - there are silver linings. Like the branch from the maple tree - it cracked during a windstorm this winter and gave us a great nurse log!

      Yes, it's so rewarding to have put in (most of) the bones to the garden to be able to fiddle around with little vignettes. That's the creative stuff I love, sounds like you do too :)

  5. An inspiring post of spring progress (mostly). Your Daphne bholua looks about like mine. I do have kale for you, by the way.

    1. Let's cross our collective fingers, Linda - it looks like spring might actually arrive this week. Thanks for the kale, Maurice is delivering it tomorrow! Woo hoo, THANK YOU!

  6. Lots of thoughts on this post. 1. I like that combo of Cardamine, Carex, and Ophiopogon - I can see how the different forms, textures, and colors complement each other and give more than one season of interest - something I need to get better at in our garden. 2. The boxy shape of F. mileagris reminds me of origami. 3. Oh! and thanks for the shout out! Wasn't expecting that. 4. I haven't ever heard of Verticillium being a common problem on Rhamnus. If this R. californica 'Seaview' starts looking poorly, let me know. We can test for verticillium and I'd be curious if that is the actual culprit or not. 5. That fern table is amazing - I don't recall seeing one with that many different plants before. 6. I haven't been brave enough to prune any damaged succulents/cacti out in the garden yet - I am sure I would jinx the weather and get another month of cold and wet. Hoping Oscar likes his new digs.

    1. OK, it's a deal with the rhamnus. I am so confused what it could be but am grateful you're willing to have a look. I'll let you know. Thanks for the comments and the fern table comment, it turned out to be a pretty good one! I think the Sedum oreganum is planning a takeover, however.

      Oh, the damaged succulents....what a dreary task. We moved Oscar yesterday, it's in the hands of the garden gods now. Wish us luck.


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