Agave parryi ssp. truncata

Agave parryi ssp. truncata

Consistently one of the most successful Agaves for gardens in our region. Soft gray rosettes have leaves with a distinct upright habit. At the tips of the wide leaves is a single (deadly) black thorn. Very nice. Full sun and very well drained soil with little to no summer water when established. This Agave requires soil that is never soggy- amend heavily with pumice and gravel to create air pockets. Plant this (and all) hardy Agaves in our climate on a tilt. The tilted rosette sheds rainwater and it keeps it much drier in winter. Ideally, this Agave should be sited on a hot, south facing slope. In autumn deciduous leaves from (everywhere) seem to blow into the rosette and collect. You must remove these immediately so that they do not rot the center of the plant. A shop vac works wonders…so do bar-B-Q tongs. Excellent in containers. Its best to plant hardy Agaves in early spring to early summer. They require a long season to develop a tap root which in turn ensures that they are cold hardy. No tap root and not so hardy. Hardy below 0ºF when dry. Highly deer resistant.

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Allium acuminatum

This delightful onion has a wide range in our state. Primarily you see it in dry, exposed sites a little way up from the bottom of the Willamette Valley. Mid green slightly fragrant grassy leaves give way to an 8″ stems in May-June with a chalice of multiple pink/lavender pink upward facing flowers. Full sun to part shade and adaptable to many soils as long as there is a dry rest in summer. This onion quickly goes summer dormant directly after seed set and disappears entirely by mid summer. Great pollinator bulb for Willamette Valley meadows. Its nearly always on a slope where it is found. Replicate this and give it only the rain that falls from the sky in subsequent years. In time the bulb multiplies and it can also self sow. Leave a disturbed area around the plant and keep it free of weeds and they can mature and bloom in several years. Light deer resistance. aka Slender leaved onion. Very attractive food source for butterflies.  Oregon native plant.

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Allium sikkimense

Allium sikkimense

Blue is an elusive color in Alliums but there are several that achieve that hue. This small bunch forming onion is a delight with clusters of nodding blue flower in mid-late summer. To 10″ tall a multiplying clump will spread to 1′ wide over time. Rich, well drained soil with regular summer water. Excellent in rock gardens, the front of borders and even hellstrips. Very easy to grow herbaceous perennial that blooms for 4-6 weeks. Cute little cutflower and loved by pollinators. Winter decidiuous for full sun- no fudging here. Long lived and hardy in containers. Moderate deer resistance.

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Amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii

Threadleaf Bluestar is a fantastic native North American perennial with many seasons of interest. To 4′ tall this strongly clump-forming perennial has thread-like green leaves that line the sturdy, very vertical stems. Upon rising in late spring they host clusters of star shaped, fragrant (yep) blue flowers. Very pretty. The green, fine-textured foliage holds space as a blowsy presence in borders, gravel gardens, hellstrips. In autumn the entire plant turns shocking yellow and stays that way for weeks. Fall color at ground level and it rocks. Light but consistent summer water to aid in establishment. Very drought tolerant then. Full sun in any soil type but for permanently boggy. Good deer resistance. They will try it once but not again- for what it’s worth. Completely deciduous in winter.  Emerges mid-spring. Very long lived, no-fuss perennial. Mix with ornamental grasses, cacti, just about anything.

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Anchusa azurea 'Dropmore'

Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’

Alkanet, Italian Bugloss- neither name is very appealing but I’m here to testify that if you are a connoisseur of the color blue this big showy perennial is for you. To 4′ tall multiple spikes bear rich, deep, true blue flowers in one bodacious cloud. This form is not only a superior blue, but its a more reliable perennial. Most live 2-3 years but this often persists for longer. This borage forms a basal rosette of rough leaves- this is important to identify the inevitable seedlings- they are dark, dark green and spiny. Blooms first year from seed. A Spectacular plant for a young garden, a dry garden, wild border or in its most classic home the cottage garden. Full sun and average to enriched soil that drains quickly. Light consistent water to establish then drought adapted. Long, long blooming plant that often has bumble bees fast asleep in the cup shaped flowers. Very cool. Obvious pollinator gem. Very climate adapted plant.

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Anemanthele lessoniana

Anemanthele lessoniana

Pheasant Tail Grass is a clumping large arching grass with colorful surprises throughout the year. To 30″ tall and a little wider the army green arching foliage takes on dramatic orange and red tints if given just a little stress. In summer fine tawny orange/brown glossy seedheads arch gracefully within the foliage. Full sun to very light shade in rich, well drained soil with consistent summer moisture- a little dryness and wham! You get those fiery tints. Requires a protected location in gardens, avoid full on exposure and cold winds. Its best application though is as a large graceful container subject. And the drainage adds to cold hardiness. Remove seedheads before they mature as it does like to seed around. Mulch for arctic weather. Moderate deer resistance. New Zealand.

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Anthyllis vulneraria var. coccinea

Anthyllis vulneraria var. coccinea

Kidney Vetch is a playful, short-lived perennial with shocking red flowers that come in clusters much like clover. Low, spreading plant that hugs the ground, all the better to see the piercing red flowers on this form. Seeds prolifically, and the seedlings are both easy to identify as well as move or dispatch. To 3″ tall by 18″ wide, when very happy. Loved by pollinators. Forms a vivid patch of color in the most unlikely places. Seeds germinate in autumn and bloom commences in spring. Excellent little nitrogen-fixing temporary plant for new gardens. Enriches soil in a wonderful way. Light to little summer water.  Mediterranean.

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Spreading Dogbane is a pretty semi-shrubby native perennial that is found in every biome in our area. David Douglas mentioned this billowing perennial with clouds of light pink/white bells. Mostly he hated tripping over it in the Willamette Valley. This very permanent plant spreads to form big drifts in the wild. Streambanks, prairies, alpine meadows it can appear. The rounded downward pointing leaves emerge on semi-woody stems. In June-August clouds of flowers appear for weeks. Loved by pollinators and birds specifically attractive to native hummingbirds and butterflies. To 2′ tall and spreading by stolons to a wide area. Water to establish then none in subsequent years. Mulch after planting. Virtually any somewhat rich soil type including amended sand. Full sun to part shade. Wonderful plant and floral texture for meadows. I have great childhood memories of this plant in July in full bloom perched with our huge native black bumble bees. Very convenient bloom time- it begins to bloom just as most other natives are finished.  Dogbane is toxic when consumed by humans or animals- hence the common name. When stems are broken a milky sap is exuded. Moderate deer resistance.  Distantly related to milkweed. Once very common in the Willamette Valley its territory has shrunk. Great performance in hellstrips and verges that are lightly or completely non-irrigated. Give this plant room to spread and plan ahead. Limited availability. Oregon native plant

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Aquilegia chaplinii

Native to the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico and extreme west Texas this adorable columbine enchants us with its whimsical soft yellow flowers and fine blue foliage. To 18″ tall in bloom the petite flowers have long fantastic tails. They appear from April-June, and occasionally again if you remove spent flowers and prevent seed set. This smaller plant has wonderful finely divided blue green foliage that forms a fountain before and after bloom. Often self sows in open sites. The original plants live about 5 years but the distinctive leaves will give away the seedlings. They seem to favor cracks in pavement, stones. Full sun to very light shade in rich to average soil with regular summer water. Mix with our native Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) for a color echo on the yellow perianth of both. Very popular with pollinators including native pollinators. Winter deciduous.  Moderate deer resistance. Charming and easy to grow wild flower.

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Arctostaphylos silvicola ‘Ghostly’

Ghostly white  fur covered foliage is almost too pale to believed and ‘Ghostly’ is an apt name. A distinctive  Manzanita to 8’ tall and 4’ wide in 5  years. Fast growing in our climate. Do not be afraid to cut back lanky new growth for a more upright and sturdier plant. Tends to send out a lot of vertical stems, those may be cut to initiate denser branching.  Prune in July. In late winter and early spring clusters of white urn shaped flowers appear at the branch tips and delight hummingbirds. There is no more silver/white foliaged Manzania that we have seen. Truly spectacular in well drained soil with good air circulation and little summer water once established. From a species native to the Santa Cruz Mtns. in California and surprisingly cold hardy.

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