Viburnum japonicum ‘Variegatum’

Unusual and actually superior form of this species with large glossy evergreen leaves splashed with yellow. In spring flat corymbs of flowers appear and remind me of lace. Red berries follow but are consumed by birds. This form is not prone to mildew which can afflict the green leaved form. So, we love it for it’s bold leaves that look good year round and easy demeanor. To 8′ x 8′ in 10 years. Full sun to quite a bit of shade. Doesn’t burn in sun. Adaptable. Light summer water once established. Very old specimens get by with no summer water. Excellent year round appearance. Take out  green reversions if they occur. Blooms on wood from the previous season- prune if needed after flowering. Specimen. Nice shrub.

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Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell’

Really there is nothing like the clove/carnation/sweet fragrance of this shrub in late winter to early spring. The large clusters of flowers begin as pink buds and open to white. Nice bicolor effect along the way. Blooms 3-4 weeks. Evergreen to semi-evergreen to deciduous in arctic places. Large growing shrub that can attain tree like proportions with great age. To 8′ x 4′ in 7 years. Full sun to quite a bit of shade in rich to average well drained sites. Light consistent summer water speeds growth and increases spring flowering. Otherwise relatively drought adapted, especially in shade. Tolerate the most obnoxious sticky clay soils- especially on slopes. Plant where you can pass by the flowers and take a big ol whiff. Very easy to grow. Prune AFTER flowering.

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Viola odorata (Parma) ‘Alba Plena’

This cool cultivar of Parma violet can be difficult to stumble upon. We love the plush double white flowers that sends its sweet perfume on the breeze in late winter to mid-spring. Parma violets are basically the Sicilian version of the common sweet violet (Viola odorata). They are not nearly as cold hardy or pernicious as the species and they tend to have much larger more opulent and fragrant flowers. Also, their leaves are distinctively glossy as opposed to matte. This little sweetie forms spreading patches and the long stems are a bit weak for the large double white flowers- they tend to bend. Excellent for small bouquets that you can sniff and sniff. In the garden they need a sheltered position away from the freeze and thaw and harsh conditions in the open. Instead coset them under large shrubs and among ephemeral early perennials such as Anemones, and small bulbs like species Crocus. Part shade- they bloom best with a bit of sun. Regular summer water encourages them to spread. This form seldom sets seed- I don’t think I’ve ever seen seed in fact. Pity. Rare plant.

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Viola odorata (Parma) ‘Duchess du Parme’

There’s nothing like the smell of sweet violets in late winter and early spring. But the regular species in our climate is nothing less than a thug. It seeds and grows where you really would rather not have it. Well, forget that. Enter this exquisite fully double flowering Parma Violet. The rich violet blue flowers appear on long stems from January to April. Parma violets are the Mediterranean form of V. odorata and they are less hardy to cold and not so rampant. This form we have never seen set seed- but there are always exceptions. Very glossy green foliage frames the flowers well. Excellent in containers in an unheated greenhouse, conservatory. In the garden choose a protected spot (under evergreen shrubs for example) and give this violet rich soil with regular summer moisture. Tolerates full sun but looks better with some shade. Flowers tend to lean horizontally, they are great for cutting and making little fragrant winter posies. Spreads by runners to form a nice patch in time. Tolerates summer drought when established.

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Whipplea modesta

Yerba de Selva or whipple vine, a wonderful small scale evergreen native ground cover. Related to Hydrangeas but this trailer is actually very aromatic with a sweet penetrating aroma if you disturb the foliage. In late spring clouds of small white flowers have  the same perfume. Scrambling plant to about 8″ tall and 2′ wide. Full sun to considerable shade. From Portland south this is a common understory component of the herb field. It grew happily in our back 40 where I grew up. There it made pretty scrambling patches between Vancouveria, snow berry and hairy honeysuckle. Often you would see our native columbine ( Aquilegia formosa) as an associate. Its very drought adapted when established but it improves with a few soaks over summer- never perpetually wet and never hot and wet. Otherwise an easy native that should be grown a lot more. Just the fragrance of the foliage endears it to me. For use as a small scale ground cover plant on 10″ centers. It will also gracefully trail over rockeries and walls. Butterflies adore the flowers. Competes well with invasives. Some deer resistance. It may be cut back in early spring to refresh. Once native in the Portland city limits. Oregon native plant.

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