Golden Hour

 I cannot recall a busier garden season than this year. Open gardens, visitors and consultations, it has all been wonderful and non-stop. The moment the last guest left from our most-recent open garden FM reminded me it was the golden hour, the time in the garden that no one really gets to see unless you stay after 6 pm. The time when lighting makes magic. 
So, in an effort to balance our hectic schedule with a bit of calm, I took FM's advice and spent a couple of evening hours taking in this creation with camera in hand. Since visitors rarely see it this time of day I thought I would share my very personal golden hour.

Around the barely used fire pit, foliage rules. Between grasses and a now huge Azara microphylla (upper right), the shades of green alone are enough to keep this gardener happy.

Evening sun catching blossoms of Cotinus 'Pink Champagne'.

Penstemon 'Firebird' looking rather more pink than firebird cherry red. I find it quite charming.

Alcea rosea 'Nigra' was sown from seed years ago. It has been in this spot for at least five years when I expected it to last only a year or two. It never flowered last year (perhaps also in 2021) and it has had rust before, but when it blooms it is something to see.

This one is for my mother. She gave me Oscar the Agve parryi subsp. truncata, which I feature regularly on the blog. I don't know that I've ever featured Oscar's pal Felix the opuntia (unsure of the species). Here he is blooming, Mom, and quite happy.

Stachys 'Hummelo' is so good in my opinion. I love the way it has seeded itself in a cascade down a steep bank in the berm garden.

Digitalis parviflora at the edge of the labyrinth garden. This is its first year blooming. I hope for seedlings where it is sited at the edge of a hot and dry area in full sun.

Santolina 'Lemon Queen' simply luminous in angled evening light.

Ceanothus x pallidus 'Marie Simon' had a lot of dieback - many bare and dead spindly branches this spring having been hit hard by winter weather. I pruned it back significantly and it has responded with vigor. This semi-deciduous ceanothus actually likes a bit of a spring haircut, I should do it yearly.

Mystery hebe from Joy Creek Nursery - a rescue. My guess is H. 'Heidi' or  'Autumn Glory' I think perhaps for the former for it's blooming now, not in autumn. Whatever it is, I stuck it in the ground in the open next to a rustic log bench not expecting it to survive, it was literally a stick. It not only thrived it also rebounded after a nasty spring. 

Lowly Verbascum thapsus glowing in the evening sun. I generally yank these, letting a few bloom here and there, but definitely removing them before they go to seed. In moments such as this I'm happy I leave a few.

Here is a new-to-me plant, Mirabilis multiflora. The FABULOUS Mary Ann Newcomer of Boise horticulture fame mailed me seeds a couple of years ago. I grew them on, planted out the best one last year and it sort of disappeared while forming a tap root. Completely deciduous, I wasn't even sure where I had planted it and hoped it would come back. It did, with gusto! In her words:

 THIS PLANT. Amazing. It will develop a tap root the size of a person's arm. I am not kidding. Mirabilis multiflora or desert four o'clock. I first saw it 10 yrs ago in a garden in UT. Knee high, very little water, and in no time (2 yrs) it will be 6 to TEN feet across. I repeat, very little water. 
It will be a player in the revised back garden. New rules: it must be able to survive 10 weeks with very little intervention.

She lives in the very tough climate of Boise, Idaho, and if it survives for her, then it's a winner for me. Thank you, Mary Ann (who by the way is the most fabulous house guest ever!). She gave me more seeds recently, I plan on growing more.

Veronica longifolia, Amsonia hubrichtii and Nassella tenuissima mixing in the meadow area.

Knautia macedonica has seeded itself nicely in the meadow garden. Long wiry stems hold dark crimson flowers bobbing along, flowering periodically through summer. I have it paired with Allium sphaerocephalon, drumstick allium that echoes its colors, and it holds its own for months with practically no supplemental water.  

Tritelia laxa (syn. Brodiaea laxa), a native bulb of Oregon and California appreciates drying out in summer. 

Lupinus albifrons was a gift from a friend who grew them from seed. She came to my garden in early spring and pricked them out as we planted them - she says she gets the highest success rate that way and as all of the seedlings we planted are thriving I would agree. Thank you, Meagan!

Another friend gave me two sweet peas she grew from seed (I have the best friends!). This one is planted in the veggie garden and has the most divine scent. Sweet Pea 'Old Spice'.

Calycanthus (either occidentalis or floridus) continues to bloom prolifically. If anyone out there can positively i.d. this one way or the other for me I would appreciate it.

More foliage textures near the fire pit while the evening sun catches the grasses of the orchard in the distance.

Muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass) and Festuca rubra 'Patrick's Point', two West Coast-native grasses surround the fire pit. I love the color combination and the durability and ease of both of these drought adapted grasses.

Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver' in bloom.

Amsonia hubrichtii in a sea of creeping thyme.

Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin' just beginning to bloom. Creeping thyme is the best groundcover, I use it in many places in full sun.

Anaphalis margaritacea, pearly everlasting, pops up in many places in the western woodland garden on its own.

Aquilegia formosa, western columbine, also pops up in the shade garden on its own.

Kniphofia thomsonii backed by Verbena bonariensis.

The edge of the meadow garden with Amsonia hubrichtii, Digitalis ferrugineaAchillea millefolium, Epilobium 'Solidarity Pink' and Nepeta 'Walker's Low' mix with grasses such as Carex testaceae and Anementhele lessoniana.

Astrantia seedling in the shade garden.

A creeping groundcover rose I took cuttings of from my mother's garden last year. We bought it at Heirloom Roses years ago and have long since lost its tag. It's a beauty though and a prolific bloomer.

Sempervivum in one of my favorite containers (purchased from Danger Garden years ago) with a seedling of Petrohagia saxifraga.

I love the combination of dark navy blue with fresh white of Sedum album in a pot on our deck.

My replacement Atriplex halimus is doing well now that we've warmed up considerably since May when I was getting worried it wouldn't make it.

Evening light catching the tops of large shrubs.

Evening light across the orchard and the now tall orchard grass.

Digitalis lutea pops up in random places having traveled on soil from the old garden where it was prolific.

In the heart of the veggie garden, we do use this area as a resting place. Often in the evening with a glass of something yummy. It is especially lovely with the scent of sweet peas so close by.

Agastache 'Kudos Red' now relocated to the new gravel area near Oscar the agave is much happier.

Eryngium giganteum - Miss Wilmott's Ghost - continues to hold court at the edge of our driveway. The clump of plants is easily 5' across and 2' deep - it's massive and would be even larger if I didn't keep it in check. A beauty, though. I wouldn't be without it.

This summer has been really quite lovely. A few hot days but nothing extraordinary. I think this has allowed for many stressed plants to have a bit of a rebound, although damage from the last couple of years certainly took a toll. Holes from the damage are filled in quickly from neighboring plants and the push/pull continues on. As the garden evolves into a more mature setting, those glimpses of what the original vision was are sometimes revealed to me in moments like golden hours when I can simply take it in. Sharing the garden with others is something we truly enjoy and hopefully some of that vision is apparent to our visitors. It's hard to tell, really. I wish people could see it in the early morning and evening hours, the golden times but alas, that is rarely the case. That's why I do posts like this one.

Thank you to all the folks from the two Corvallis Evening Garden Club visits and everyone else who came over to spend a little time with us this past spring and early summer. We appreciate you all! More open gardens on the horizon, to be sure.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing what you are all up to. 


  1. You made great use of that golden hour - or two! It's amazing how light contributes to the overall picture. I really need to get up earlier to catch the early morning light as there always seem to be conflicts with using those early evening hours. Of all the plants you featured in this post, I'm most envious of the Astrantia - I've repeatedly failed in attempts to get it to grow here. I'm glad to see your garden has bounced back so well after the difficult weather extremes you experienced earlier too.

    1. I wish I were more of a morning person, Kris. I just have never been. I love the light that time of the day. The astrantia, that's amazing because really they seed all over the place. Just goes to show that I should be appreciative of what I have. The garden has bounced back a lot though like so many of us there are still gaps. Time....tick tock....

  2. Those evening hours can be some of the best in the garden. It's usually more relaxed and you spend time observing vs rushing about. Lots of beautiful areas and plants in your garden to enjoy. With all the wildfire smoke over the past few years our fire pit is never used any more. Kind of find the idea of intentionally sitting around a fire repugnant now. So, looking at your barely used fire pit area I thought the pit itself would actually make a lovely small reflecting pond.

    1. They really are the best, Elaine. You are so right - I really try not to pull weeds or "work" while strolling in the evening but it's hard! I like your idea for the fire pit, I'll run it by FM and see what he thinks. Good thinking! If anything it's a nice focal point even if it is never used.

  3. Beautiful! I am taking out some dead plants along my driveway and looking for sturdy no-care fillers... lots of notes to take in this post!

    1. Woo hoo! Glad you found some good ideas, Daphne! If you search for "toughest of the tough" on my blog there are lists of plants in each post that highlight the easiest plants that have not suffered with our crazy weather extremes. Easy care plants - evergreens, perennials, etc. Cheers!

  4. Anonymous9:46 AM PDT

    I hovered over the first photo for a while. Not only is it a magical photo, but that Azara really blew me away: its huge! I bet it smell delicious when it blooms (to me it smells like baked sugar). I'll have to keep an eye on my young tree, lightly prune it as it grows so it doesn't overwhelm my back garden.
    Alcea rosea 'Nigra' is beautiful. I also thought it a bi-annual. Last year's plant got devoured by rabbits. I dropped a cloche on it, it survived and is now ready to bloom. Very exciting :-D
    How tall is your Digitalis parviflora?

    1. Ah, the Azara m. is very large. It is about 6 years old for reference. It does smell SO GOOD when it blooms, the first year I thought every neighbor in the area was baking brownies.

      Oh, the rabbits! I have so many friends in Portland that have had such issues with them, you too? That is the worst. I'm sorry. But glad you saved it. To answer your question, the Digitalis parviflora is surprisingly short this year - only about 3' tall at the most.

  5. How lucky we are that you decided to share this golden time in your garden with us. magical indeed.

    I am thrilled to learn that Oscar has a pal named Felix, and an opuntia no less! That container with the sempervivum was obviously meant to be yours, you have made it a subtle star.

    1. Thank you Danger! You know you are welcome out here any time to enjoy golden hour with me. Yes, Oscar and Felix, that's my mother for you. She bought both at Cistus years ago when I have her a gift card for her birthday and it's kind of ironic that they both came to me in time. The container? I LOOOVE it. It gets a lot of attention from visitors. I have to keep my eye on it or I fear it will walk out the door ;)

  6. I am such a fan of golden hour .. it happens in early morning as well, for me. Your plants are so fascinating ! I found the foliage of Mirabilis multiflora , the look so familiar to some other plant and of course I can't remember the name. Knautia macedonica that tiny explosion of deep rose colour .. how gorgeous is that ! and Miss Wilmott's Ghost one of my very very favorites ! I grew her once and loved her far too well .. she left me and I still haven't gotten over it ! LOL
    Beautiful post in perfect light !

    1. Woo hoo for golden hour! The Mirabilis multiflora is so wonderful, in fact it bloomed for me today for its first time. The Knautia m. is a lovely plant too, a drought adapted filler that pays the rent, so to speak. I'm sorry about losing Miss Wilmott's Ghost, I'll send you seed if you want ;) Email me your address at
      Cheers, thanks for the comments!

  7. Oh no! I've missed the open garden - need to keep a better eye out on HPSO!
    What a beautiful time of day to wander through the garden - I love the way the creeping thyme is spreading out from the fire pit like molten lava. Penstemon 'Firebird' is on my list to propagate when I get back as I also like its cherry red flowers more than the pinker tones of some of the other hybrids. I haven't been able to prevent the rust from ruining my hollyhocks. I saw they were trying to bloom before we left for Mexico, but it looked to be a meager effort at best. Marie Simon reminds me a bit of some of the spiraeas in form. Can't wait to see your Mirabilis multiflora in bloom. If it does well for you, it might be something to try out in the deer garden. Love that single red rose - I've been looking for a disease resistant, low-growing, fragrant, single red variety like that for a while now. It's one of those flowers that reminds me of some of the old towns in the mountains of the Southwest. And, oh my gosh! - I also love that footed pot with the Sempervivums! Hmm - Your Atriplex halimus is looking good. I've been thinking of trying one of our native Atriplex in our garden. Not sure it would like our wet clay in winter. I sure am tempted to try though.

    1. Oh, Jerry, you can come visit me another time. Just send me a note! Yes, evening is about my favorite time in the garden. If you want cuttings of penstemon or anything, really - I'm happy to share. Oh, a hollyhock tip from my friend Mary Ann - hack them back hard when they are young - the secondary growth is rust-free for her. Worth a try. The Mirabilis is in bloom now - starting to - I'll post pics soon. I can send you seed if you like! And cuttings of the red rose - so happy to share, it's really disease-free and so pretty. My mom's is beautiful with a ton of neglect! Tell me which atriplex are native here? I'm interested! Cheers, Jerry! Thanks for your comments. I hope Mexico was fun, I want to hear more!


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