There is life out there, despite April being the sixth straight month of winter. I'm not exaggerating! Things began chilly and wet in November, and we've struggled to reach 50 degrees since then. Most days have been in the mid 40's, nights in the 30's. Plenty of snow and nearly daily rain. No wonder I'm drained and frankly, a little depressed. Soon I'm sure we'll flip the switch and it will be not only NOT winter but full-on summer, hot and dry, soil turning hard overnight. 

Okay. Sigh. Rant over. The reality is that it's turning into two seasons and it's beginning to impact my mental health. Thank goodness I still have the driving desire to go outside even in crummy weather for at least I still get some vitamin D. Anyhow, yes, gardening goes on, life on the farm goes on and I still take pictures of plants, so here's a look at Chickadee Gardens this week:

The sun came out for an hour or so; I was bedazzled.

Here's an Arctostaphylos 'Sentinel' and its weird, curly limbs.

A wider shot with the arcto on the left.

I have a love/hate relationship with this Douglas fir tree smack in the middle of it all. I love it in summer when it's 98 degrees and it provides a little relief. I love its beautiful shape and that it's a native tree to this region. I hate it most of the rest of the year for the millions of pinecones and needles it sheds, plus branches galore in storms. There has been an exceptional amount of tree litter the past two years, beginning just after Heat Dome in 2021. It hadn't been that bad before that stressful weather event. The birds love it, so it stays as long as it's healthy.

Dramatic lighting

Before: The meadow area has been a regular hang out for the wild birds. I leave it standing as long as possible, delaying clean up until the last minute. I've started cleaning it up now that it's April as hopefully all those perennials tucked in there will soon emerge and the light will do them good.

After: We had a nice hour or two without rain, an opportunity to clean this up. It will fill in quickly once the soil warms up (apologies for the shadows/lighting).

Arctostaphylos pumila, which usually blooms in February, has not bloomed yet. Still, it's lovely and sparrows have made it their home.

Erica 'Rosalie' is finally showing me its rich color. This too usually blooms like this in February, a full two months late this year.

A second Arctostaphylos 'Sentinel' that is smaller than the one pictured earlier but was planted earlier, too. Interesting. Also it's blooming more profusely. I wonder if they are both indeed the same plant now that I compare them.

Sedum spathulifolium 'Purpureum'

Jovibarba heuffelii (I think), I bought this years ago and never recorded its species. It sits in this little pot year after year. Perhaps I should divide it and plant some in the garden.

Native deciduous shrub osoberry, Oemleria cerasiformis, is one of the very earliest plants to bloom in late winter. It is just now getting going. It's a lovely multi-stemmed shrub, especially in hedgerows and for habitat gardens.

Carex conica 'Snowline' sends up its flowers this time of the year giving a spiky look which catches the light. This is such a useful little evergreen grass for part shade, it stays fairly small and gradually increases its size by growing in a larger clump. It doesn't run or set seed. It never complains about the weather, either (unlike yours truly).

Hacquetia epipactis (apologies for the fuzzy photo, it's in a lot of shade and wouldn't focus) is a sweet little woodland plant I bought as Joy Creek Nursery was closing with Maurice's recommendation. I'm thrilled to see it emerge and look forward to it growing in my garden.

Finally, my Garrya elliptica, silk tassel bush, has flowers. Hooray! Only a few but I'm thrilled. This large, evergreen native shrub is probably in too much shade to ever be a prolific bloomer, but it's happy otherwise so it stays.

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' emerges which makes me happy. Our Podophyllum pleianthum, on the other hand, has no sign of life and I fear it died. Time will tell. FM is more hopeful, saying it's just really late.

Pachysanthum macrophyllum growing up through the Oxalis oregana. It's finally, in the last week or two, grown and bloomed. This is usually in bloom by February. The basal foliage is evergreen, however its new foliage in late winter freshen it up an add to its woodland charm, though the foliage is obscured in this example by the oxalis.

The moss is happy with the cool wet weather. I'm happy with the moss. Silver lining.

Edgeworthia chrysantha blooms made it through winter, a small miracle. Still a fairly immature plant in my garden, I look forward to a plethora of flowers as it ages.

Foliage of Asphodelus albus has been up for several weeks. Soon it will have spikes of white flowers a few feet tall. From the Mediterranean, it likes sun but will tolerate part shade. It goes summer dormant. From the Missouri Botanical Garden's website, an interesting bit of history: 

In Greek mythology, the asphodel flower (species decisions were not made in those days) was associated with mourning, the underworld and death. The souls of most deceased people went to Asphodel Fields which was the resting place for the mass of ordinary individuals who lived average lives. Asphodel was once believed to be a favorite food of the dead. In a more modern vein, Professor Snape informs Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that powdered root of asphodel is an ingredient in a sleeping potion known as the Draught of Living Death. 

Good to know.

I realize this Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' is not much to look at but the remarkable thing is that when it loses its leaves in winter, almost immediately new ones appear. It has been at this stage for many weeks, so it wins the award for cheering me up and looking forward to the eventuality the weather will catch up and spring really will be here. Plus it's so forgiving, adapting to sun or shade and has fresh, teeny white flowers that are just beginning to bloom. In more sun its foliage takes on a golden cast and it really brightens up this corner of my garden.

Agave parryi ssp. parryi, one of a few in the garden. Even with excellent drainage and planted on a slope most of these have at least lower leaf problems, some have rotten leaves throughout. They will grow out of it when it warms up but it's been a brutal winter for agaves in general around here. I'm lucky, Portland friends had it much worse than we did.

Aaannnnd....cue the daffodils. Finally.

Helleborus foetidus flowers. I am excited to see seedlings at its base this spring, as I want to distribute this tough and lovely plant throughout my shade garden.

Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' all look pretty good despite the weather. I think now that their trunks are getting to a certain size, they are far enough from the ground to avoid pathogens splashing up onto the leaves when it's really wet and cold. That's my theory.

Hooray, the Ribes sanguineum, whose flower buds have been tightly closed for six weeks, is opening up.

Now for some ugly bits caused by another super wet, long and cold winter. My Agave bracteosa has been pretty much spotless until this winter. I've since cleaned it up a bit and look forward to it (hopefully) recovering.

Grevillea 'Neil Bell' had a branch split at the trunk. It didn't rip apart, rather just leaned down. So, my experiment is to leave it be and see what happens. My first instinct was to cut it off but that would leave an open wound to try and heal in the worst weather, so I opted at the very least to leave it for protection until it warms up. Now, since the leaves are still healthy and it's blooming on both sections, I'll wait and see. I will report back in a few months.

I have two Fatsia japonica 'Spiders Web' - this one was more exposed to snow and looks terrible. The other smaller one is under the canopy of fir trees which I believe kept it fairly snow free (a light amount compared to this one). It looks beautiful. Hardiness is somewhat dependent on specific conditions within a garden, it seems. Plants are endlessly fascinating.

Most of my Rosemarinus 'Huntington Carpet' looks like this. Darn. I have to think about this one. Similar damage has occurred in the past which it grew out of. This feels worse, so I'm leaning towards removing them, but they're pretty established, so it would be a huge job. Plus, they just might bounce back.

OK, now onto FM chores. Here is my hero, hanging out with the hens. He lets them out of their (third of an acre, mind you) pen at least once a day to get some fresh grass in the orchard. You'll notice the attire, dressed for the Arctic. Yes, it's been that chilly here.

Hens! We're up to 18 these days and they keep us on our toes. And keep us in eggs, too. Hooray!

One of our Acer macrophyllum had a large branch break and get stuck in the canopy. FM managed to get it down safely, now I'm going to use the largest bit here, some 10' long, in the shade garden and plant ferns all over it. How cool is that?

He was able one dry-ish day to add these brick steps to a little slope that has been the source of potential injury for some time. Thank you, FM, I love it!

And the coolest thing is this! We got a cistern. Of course, we are going to make a shell of the same siding material our house is made of so it matches. It's 2500 gallons and is now officially hooked up to our downspout that handles runoff from the west side of this part of our home. 

We are super-excited for a little relief in the way of water for summer irrigation. It will take some time to pay for itself but it's something we've wanted to do for a long time, especially as it's only getting drier in the summer months. Makes sense to try and capture some of that winter runoff. Oh, and Annie is photobombing the shot for size reference. FM had to remove three rather large shrubs and a patch of asters to make room, but it's worth it. The shrubs were all replanted in other areas of the garden, more on that another day.

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! Let's all collectively cross our fingers for kinder weather this spring. I'm ready.


  1. A 2500 gallon cistern! I am SO envious. In recent years our rainfall was too low for me to bemoan the fact that I can store only 475 gallons but this year I could've captured much more had I a place to store it. I can appreciate your frustration about the slow start to spring but your garden is still looking beautiful to my eyes.

    1. Still, 475 is decent. It's tough if the infrastructure isn't there to store enough, but increasingly I think it will be necessary to do so. Thanks for your encouraging words as always, Kris! :)

  2. No matter where you live these days, the weather is confusing and frustrating. Two weeks ago we had our biggest snowfall of the season and next week it's supposed to be in the mid-70°s. Where is my long, slow spring where the ephemerals slowly come into bloom and last? I planted Spirea 'Ogon' last fall and am excited for it to bloom. And my Helleborus foetidus died but left a lot of babies. I am thinking of using them to create a ground covering swath. The foliage is so beautiful.

    1. You are so right, Linda. I am certainly not alone. I see the national weather map and that arctic low plunges quite far south these days. I can't imagine 70's, it feels really foreign. I know....long, slow springs haven't made an appearance in the last few years.

      Ogon is so good, kind of underrated in my humble opinion.

      Baby Helleborus foetidus for the win! Fab foliage, indeed.

  3. The daffodils are in full force finally here in Corvallis, and things are thinking about emerging. My Daphne is in bloom (yay!) and one of the good things about the later spring is that I'm just now thinking about doing some container potatoes and I might actually be right on time. Nothing else in the garden is growing. I was over-eager and put in some chard seeds and cauliflower starts, which are totally stalled. The kale starts in the house are getting bigger -- I'll try hardening them off in another week or two. Going to wait until mid-April at least for lettuce. The ground is just too cold, although I'm seeing signs of life (leaves on the raspberries! The native Golden Currant I just planted is sprouting! Lungwort is blooming!). We are getting depressed here but trying to hold on another few weeks... May looks lovely... if you trust the weatherman....

    1. Hooray for daffodils! Silver lining with the timing on the potatoes, I think we'll all need to pay attention to these. Our ground is also too cold and wet, no way I can get the veggie garden planted until we have at least a few dry days in a row. Hooray for the raspberries!

      Yes, we're all in it together, getting a little depressed with the 6th month of winter. I feel like we've been in the dark all this time. But, hopefully a break in a week or so.

  4. It's always hard to wait for Spring to arrive when you have such a crummy winter. Rest assured it will arrive at some point and everything will explode. Our snow is just melting now and a tiny patch of yellow snow crocus immediately popped up and are blooming. That little bit of colour gives me hope that winter is almost done. In the meantime am running a heater in my little greenhouse to keep my seedlings from freezing to death at night. Happy Easter!

    1. It's so true, Elaine. It will arrive, certainly. The explosion, FM jokes, will be audible - hear the leaves growing. They are ready. Another silver lining is that while trees and shrubs aren't leafed out yet, if there is another cold snap they won't be cold damaged. I think everything is afraid to emerge after last year's April snow!

      Keep those seedlings warm and Happy Easter to you as well!

  5. Jeanne DeBenedetti Keyes4:54 PM PDT

    Seems like everything is a month and a half late. Cherry blossoms, PNW native plum, daffodils, arctostaphylos, all should have bloomed in mid to late February. Seems like we have had 3 months of February! I don't blame you for grumbling. I am too! Wishing and hoping for a mild May and June!

    1. It certainly does, Jeanne - seems a month and a half late. No cherry blossoms, no fruit tree leaves or blossoms at all yet. Three months of February is a PERFECT description. I think us gardeners are allowed to grumble to one another - we have earned that right and we support one another. We live it. Here's to an amazing May and June for all of us.

  6. Anonymous5:10 PM PDT

    Keep your chin up...things can only get better. Maybe a "Draught of the Living Dead" could put us to sleep until then(?) That photo of the Ribes sanguinium is killer!

    1. Aw, Rickii, I can always count on you for a bit of a laugh and a reality check. Yes...draught of the living dead...isn't that the most? Crazy. xoxox

  7. Anonymous7:43 AM PDT

    Your garden photos are far better than your mood, it seems :-D
    Erica 'Rosalie' magenta in full bloom is a most cheerful vision and should help elevate your spirit.
    One cannot have too many Helleborus foetidus, congrats on the seedlings.
    A large broken branch off an Acer can be devastating, but planting it up with ferns is SO cool!
    Hanging out with the hens out of their pen is great, but how do you get them back in? Easier than herding cats, I hope. (By the way, the brick steps are quite fabulous FM).

    1. Aw, Chavli, you are too kind. Yes, my mood is grumpy, for sure. I think more depressed than grumpy, but I take your point. Rosalie is a pretty one and does cheer me up as I can see them through the windows and they are so bright!

      I can't wait to get that giant branch in place, we'll have to figure out how to transport it 300 feet uphill...it's heavy. OK, hens - how do we get them back in....good question. In the evening they naturally migrate towards their coop and go in on their own. But earlier in the day it's like a Three Stooges movie, only 18 Stooges. FM has two bamboo sticks that he uses to keep them from going in a certain direction (which oddly they obey even without touching them), and guides them towards their pen after 20 minutes or so. He's literally a chicken shepherd. Sometimes a few hide to get a little extra on the worm front, we just have to go back and pick them up and bring them in. Bad hen. It's a zoo sometimes and a lot like herding cats.

  8. I don't know if I've ever felt as represented in someone else's words as I felt reading your post. It's so dreary out there! Once I've processed the dead and mushy plants my eyes have now turned to all of the evergreens that have lost their leaves. Are they alive? Will they leaf out again? Will it ever get warm enough to know? Ugh.

    FM's brick steps are marvelous and that cistern, wow! I look forward to seeing your Acer macrophyllum branchery (kind of like a stumpery) develop. Fun project!

    1. Danger, we're in the same boat. Processing dead plants is heartbreaking. It's messed up! You are an extremely experienced gardener who knows her garden better than anyone and you still lost treasures that should have been ok. It's changing, the climate. We rely so much on the few warmish spring days we usually have to get out there and be reconnected to our gardens after long PNW winters; to be denied that small pleasure is like suffocation in a dark room.

      I hope there are many successes and wonderful surprises of your evergreens that have lost leaves! It will warm up, probably quickly as it has the past few years. Bam. Summer in one day.

      Thanks for your kind words, FM will be pleased about your brick steps comment. And the branchery (I like it!) will be cool. Now if we can only figure out a way to get it uphill....

  9. I see Spring colors beginning to emerge in your pictures. The greens are more vibrant, pops of pink, sunny yellows. Almost there. I am tired of having frost every other week though. Love the picture of the meandering mossy path in amongst the trees. Hacquetia is a favorite.

    1. You are correct, Jerry - there are spring colors emerging and even more so this past week. Almost there, yes (impatient me, I know). The moss path is a favorite garden feature - I didn't do much to make it, but it sure is rewarding several years in. I look forward to the Hacquetia spreading a bit - it's so charming! Glad it gets your seal of approval.


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