My brain declares that nothing is happening in the garden in the cold, wet, dank days of March. Ah, but the brain can lie. After taking a couple hundred photographs this weekend I see that. Buds are swelling, bees are out, birds are collecting nesting materials and it really and truly is spring. The exciting time is nearly here! A spell of unseasonably warm (and very welcome) weather hit us last week and prompted the garden's wake up. OK, let's explore the March garden.

Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle' with a visiting bumble bee. The arctostaphylos have also had a lot of visiting bumbles recently.

Ribes sanguineum has been blooming for a couple of weeks and is at its peak.

The rather lovely Arctostaphylos 'Harmony' is loaded with flowers this year.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ gets a little better every year, especially with a light background from the flowering cherry to show off its dark color.

Pachyphragma macrophyllum is a shade-loving evergreen perennial that blooms earlier than most other perennials. It seeds around locally and is quite charming. I am grateful for its early flower show.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi spilling down a retaining wall. Its flowers are coming on strong. Evergreen, native, compact, kinnikinnick as it's commonly known deserves a better reputation than that of parking lot plant. I suppose it's a parking lot plant because it's pretty tough.

A mossy path and the freshness of Oxalis oregana, two differing shades of green, is one of my favorite areas in my garden. Sometimes simple is better.

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' is having a good day, coming up with vigor.

Lonicera nitida 'Lemon Beauty' while not a flashy plant is incredibly resilient. Evergreen, frost hardy to zone 6, kind of low at about 3' high and wide and prune-able, it lightens up darker corners of a shady area. The extreme weather we've had, both hot and cold, did nothing to dampen its glow and health.

Berberis thunbergii 'Orange Rocket' and its new bright leaves with contrasting dark stems. Eventually the leaves turn more green then brilliant autumn color follows. It's about 4 - 5' tall and smallish for a berberis. 

Wider view where Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena' and Hebe 'Karo Golden Esk', the evergreens pictured, hold it all together. In front is the meadow area I just cut back this week - full of grasses and herbaceous perennials. Already I see new growth pushing up and little native wildflower seeds germinating.

Beauty and the beast - the former being Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' and the latter the poor Phormium tenax 'Atropurpurea'. The phormium is alive and well but badly tattered from extended cold. The strawberry tree isn't concerned in the least with cold weather.

Another Lonicera nitida, this is 'Briloni', a smaller brighter box honeysuckle for the shade garden. It is about 2 - 3' tall and wide with a cascading habit. It too brightens up shady corners and does prefer shade in hot afternoon areas. Evergreen and petite, it really sparkles against solid greens.

Two Lonicera nitida 'Briloni' in front with Fatsia japonica 'Spiders' Web' and Mahonia x savilliana, a rather silvery specimen given to me by Evan. All are evergreen and have a presence in winter but this time of the year when the soil warms up a bit everything seems to perk up and grow.

Ribes x gordonianum, a cross between our natives Ribes sanguineum and Ribes odoratum, has a peachy coloration to its flowers.

Lowly Forsythia viridissima var. koreana 'Kumson' is so springy and cheerful that I can say I really love it. Plus, it has the distinction of having some light variegation on its leaves. It is well-suited in a slightly wild area behind the greenhouse where it blends with a diverse group of hedgerow plants such as Oemleria cerasiformis, Populus tremuloides, Polystichum munitum, Mahonia nervosa, Osmanthus 'San Jose', a couple hardy fuchsias, Gaultheria shallon and others.

Wide shot of a rather wide Grevillea 'Neil Bell' that was completely unaffected by our January cold and kept on blooming right through it, actually.

Drymis lanceolata (syn. Tasmannia lanceolata), Tasmanian pepper bush putting on a fresh flush of flower buds, the most I have ever seen on this particular plant. This evergreen shrub with reddish bark and handsome leaves has been very resilient for me; however, I have heard garden friends in Portland had some damage from recent cold weather.

Saxifraga 'Primuloides' with rather sweet bright green new growth. This workhorse is evergreen, handles a lot of shade, is easy to grow and hasn't had any die-off from extreme weather.

Agave parryi subsp. neomexicana

Chaenomeles 'Hollandia' and those saturated, juicy flowers.

Salix elaeagnos subsp. angustifolia, commonly known as rosemary willow is an upright deciduous large shrub to small tree. For a salix, this particular species has proven to be very drought tolerant in my sunny, dry labyrinth garden. Its tiny flowers, pictured here among emerging narrow leaves, is a surprisingly attractive plant for pollinators and is buzzing with the tiniest of insects right now.

In orchard news, the only thing that is currently blooming (though many cherries and apples and pears are close behind) is this frustrating necatplum. Frustrating because it does this beautiful thing every spring then goes into "I'm going to give you a peach leaf curl defoliation" then later in the summer kind of grows out of it. I've threatened to take it out several times and this will be the year if it does end up with the dreaded curl.

Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon', a super early flowering deciduous shrub that has golden tinged foliage (more golden in more sun). A very rewarding and easy care shrub.

Erica arborea 'Golden Joy' does have warm yellow tones to the foliage, though for some reason this photo doesn't pick up that coloration. In any event this sweet tree heath is about 4 feet tall and a couple feet wide. 
A new-to-me plant Circium occidentale, cobweb thistle, is a native biennial to California and southern Oregon. It has dark raspberry pink flowers and is excellent for pollinators. I'm hopeful that it will give me seedlings.

Another tree heath, this is Erica terminalis. Now that it is firmly established it needs no supplemental water. It is about 3 - 4' tall and a little narrower than that in width, has pink flowers and its fine texture catches the light beautifully.

Wide shot with the neighbor's fruit trees in the background.

Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus' is another plant with golden foliage that turns more green as the season progresses. Its white flowers are incredibly fragrant and my favorite of all mock oranges. It is in a fairly shaded spot in summer, right now having a lot of light before surrounding trees grow their leaves for the year. It really lights up the shade garden.

Wide shot with rather soggy/shaggy grass. The last touches of winter are beginning to lift.

Pteris cretica 'Mayii', ribbon fern in a pot by the front door.

Now for a few winter damage updates. This is Olearia 'Dartonii', a large evergreen shrub with narrow, silvery foliage. It totally defoliated this winter for the first time but is rapidly recovering as illustrated in this photograph. New leaves are growing quite quickly - I am very happy about this as it's a rather large central shrub in my garden. I have three total and all are rebounding nicely.

Baccharis pilularis, coyote shrub, turned entirely black from January cold and also defoliated. It is rapidly growing out of this phase with bright new leaves.

Hebe 'Red Edge' had another branch die off so rather than remove it all together (it was also getting in the way of the path, nearly touching the other hebe), I decided to do this - remove the funky branches. We'll see how long I like this look. I may remove it all together, but the rest of it is healthy so I'll give it some time. Plus, it's weird. I kind of like that.

Oh, Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' how I want to love you and give you a chance. These (there are two) have gotten so open in habit (rather than dense) and have been so damaged from winter cold that they really don't do much for me any more. Nearly the entire shrub is black and just this past week new green emerged only on the top most branches. Can I wait for it to rebound? I honestly don't think it will ever be happy or healthy here. I think it's time to remove it, sad to say.

Two small late-winter/early spring projects by FM. The retaining wall along a portion of our veggie garden had been bulging out, so FM rebuilt it complete with a structural wood fence behind the metal facade. Wires will be stretched across connected at either end on the vertical wooden posts so I can grow vines such as sweet peas and cardinal climber.

He also built the overhang above this door and a second over the other on the opposite side of the chicken coop. This is to help keep rain out when we want to keep the doors open for ventilation.

Lastly, a future project! This wood pile, one of a few, was created when we moved here and had to have a row of Douglas firs removed to put in a deer fence. It has become a sort of critter habitat and we like that. But it's got to go. We're going to move it, recreate this as much as possible, in the chicken garden where it can continue to be a critter habitat full of I'm sure insects but also our little native Douglas squirrels and chipmunks, snakes and who knows what else. What we are going to replace it with is put down a gravel floor and FM will build a small wood deck over that. Then he'll build a slanted roof to keep it dry. Add a couple of chairs, a small table and we'll have a new seating area for us to actually stop and enjoy the garden. Hooray for that.

So it turns out there is a lot going on in the garden after all. At least we had a lovely warm spell last week which we so appreciated, now we're back to cold March drizzle. But we're still going at it - the chores and work, that is. I'm starting all kinds of veggies in the greenhouse, we're doing a bit of early spring clean up and we're planning our summer projects. Weeding continues and improvements which will hopefully make our time in the garden more efficient. Day by day the sun is out longer and my mood improves. Plus it's almost April.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, we do love hearing from you! Happy spring, happy gardening!


  1. I really loved this post, it's like walking through your garden. My phormium looks just like yours. It does not help that it is front and center of my garden ;)))
    Thank you for sharing your Pachyphragma macrophyllum, it is thriving in my garden this year.

    1. So good to hear from you Svetlana! Oh, those poor phormiums. Well, it's been a doozy of a winter. I hope yours pulls through soon - being front and center and all. I'm thrilled your plants are thriving, thank you again for all the wonderful goodies you guys gave me last year, they are all doing well! xo

  2. Happy Spring! Your garden is coming alive and looking lovely.

    1. Thank you so much! I am so happy we're full speed ahead with spring.

  3. Lots to love out there Tamara! Things are definitely looking "springy". Just yesterday I marked my Lonicera nitida 'Lemon Beauty' dead (on my blog plant list). Winter was too much for it here. Looking forward to this next sunny dry spell, so much to be done in the spring garden...

    1. Oh my gosh, dammit! I can't believe it. I mean of course I believe you I'm just surprised. I know they defoliate sometimes when really stressed but you had a doozy of an extended cold period. I am so sorry. But yes, me too as far as looking forward to the dry spell we're in. SO MUCH clean up to do. Ugg...also, do you want another Lonicera? Probably not but if so, let me know.

  4. Your spring garden may trail mine in coastal SoCal but this post shows it's well on its way, Tamara! Your photo of the Lonicera nitida 'Lemon Beauty' had me wondering if I should try it again after losing it twice but my Sunset guide suggests it needs regular water so maybe that's a no-go. I'm hopeful that the Ribes sanguineum I planted last year will make it this time (assuming the gophers don't bother it), even if I don't expect to see flowers from it this year. Thus far, the only Ribes that's been happy here this far is Ribes viburnifolium.

    1. Spring is well on its way and I am so relieved. As far as the Lonicera needing regular water, for the record I never water mine. I mean never. Now of course I'm in northern Oregon and the soil it's in is heavily mulched with wood chips so it retains water, but it's worth a shot in my humble opinion. And the Ribes s. - I hope it does well for you!

  5. Anonymous7:19 AM PDT

    I would have been perfectly happy if this post had a single photo: your stunning Cham. lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ backed by the flowering cherry! Another photo I appreciate is Arctostaphylos uva-ursi "spilling down a retaining wall": it's a lovely way to display this little ground cover and almost worth building a retaining wall just for.
    I popped my Phormium into a large pot and rolled it off to the side. It's unbearable to look at it for months till (or if) it recovers, not in a smallish garden bed anyway.
    Great projects accomplished by FM. Good to do in the cooler weather of the off season. Though there isn't really an off season for hard working gardeners, is there...

    1. No off season for us, for sure...I bet you are the same! Thank you once again for your lovely and thoughtful comments, Chavli. I hope your phormium recovers, I have had good luck with them thus far but it was a rather brutal January storm, so who knows. FM is hard at work on even MORE projects, how lucky am I? Cheers!

  6. That mossy path lined with Oxalis oregana is enchanting. Looks like I may have finally gotten Oxalis oregana to take in one part of the garden after three or four tries. It's starting to send up new shoots off in several directions. I can hardly believe it. Our Neil Bell didn't fare nearly as well as yours. It's lost about half of its leaves and is looking rather sparse. I am tempted to look for Erica terminalis this year, though I don't know where I would put it. such a pretty shrub. You've got a nice start on projects this year. I will be interested to see how the wood pile project goes.

    1. Ah, enchanting, I like that word so much. Thank you Jerry. It's definitely its best look right now when the Oxalis o. is lush and bright green. I am thrilled you got it to finally take. If you're ever in need of a few more starts, let me know. I bet your Neil Bell will rebound, and if not then there's a place for an Erica terminalis ;) Stay tuned in for wood pile project updates. I'm so excited.


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