Canary violet or upland Violet has many subspecies in the PNW and west in general. This is our own Willamette Valley form of this intriguing handsome perennial. Large spoon shaped leaves have an underside with conspicuous hairs. The top of the leaf is glossier. In April-May bright yellow flowers appear. The bottom petal has conspicuous black whiskers. In our region this violet is local in the most undisturbed sites but it shows very good persistence in competition with non-native introduced grasses. My experience is that it favors rocky and scree sites that remain somewhat cool- for instance the north side of a steep slope. To 6″ tall and forming expanding plants. Winter deciduous. Arrives early in spring and can go summer dormant with high heat. Excellent planted in fall or winter and left to its own devices. Average to enriched soil yields the best results. This is one of the showiest violets native to the Willamette Valley. Fairly long lived. Little deer resistance. Some associated plants are Olysinium douglasii, Sedum spathulifolium, Dodecatheon hendersonii. Oregon native plant.
Biome: Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast is a great place to garden but it has distinct differences from our inland gardens. More than 70″ of rain a year, the modifying influence of the water with less arctic cold and almost no true heat. Most of the coast is Zn8b-Zn9b- we’ve amassed a large collection of plants that thrive on the mild and wild Oregon coast. Lack of summer heat means that some plants are not as hardy to cold- Camellias and Loropetalum are examples. Locate these plants in the warmest possible locations. Wind is a perennial issue too Remember that exposed gardens will be impacted by N/NW winds in spring and summer but the biggest windstorms arrive from the SW.
Salt spray and sandy soils
Salt spray is an issue very close to the strand. Salt tolerance is part of the perameters when we list a plant for the Oregon Coast. One of the boundaries to gardening close to the beach is soil. Sandy soils that drain instantly, lack nutrients are are almost always acidic. Its best to stick with plants that are adapted to these challenging substrates. I list individual plants that are recommended for sand. Two groups of plants that deserve greater recognition on the coast are Callistemons (Bottlebrushes) and Grevilleas. Both are adapted to very poor soils but don’t flinch in more well developed soils. They also sport considerable deer resistance and that includes elk.
Hard freezes are rare but cold near the coast range
Beach side communities hardly ever see a very hard freeze and highs below freezing are very rare. Just inland it gets colder quite quickly. Remember this when planting closer to the coast range. Often it can be one zone colder as well as lack heat for plants to harden for winter. On the ocean most gardens are zone 9a or warmer within 2 miles of the beach.
Less drought, more cool and wet
The season of real summer drought is somewhat muted on the coast. The rainy season begins earlier and ends later. Consistent low temperatures and high humidities mitigate the lack of rain. Also, the coast can be slow to heat in spring time, often lagging behind hotter inland gardens. Heat waves on the coast can be intense but they seldom last more than a day and often only several hours of one day if offshore flow is brief. Somewhat backwards cool air advects north during and after a heat low moves inland. That is the coastal fog moves from south to north at the end of a coast heatwave. These brief soaring temps and low humidity are seldom harmful to plants and cause more worry for the gardener than plants.
Climate Adapted Plants for Gardeners in the PNW
Viola x cornuta ‘Xera’s Mix’
We’ve had a really good time selecting the most distinct flower colors of this mix of Violas. Brown, taupe, blue, gray, purple, are among the colors in this vigorous strain. These reseed with abandon and will occupy all kinds of niches in a garden. Containerized plants seem to cast seed when you are least aware. They generally germinate in winter and bloom in spring before setting seed and going to sleep for summer heat. Fragrance is another aspect in our selection. You can’t have Violas without fragrance. In autumn our winter mix has been chosen to handle the very worst cold and snow. Full sun to very light shade. Very easy and satisfying spring and autumn/winter extravaganza. They make sweetly scented, delightful bouquets. Xera Plants Introduction.
A true red flowered Watsonia and one of the hardiest of the genus. Wide green spikey leaves rise to 2′ tall in spring. In late spring to early summer 3′ tall spikes of tubular true red flowers line the stems. Loved by hummingbirds and cut flower aficionados alike. Rich soil in full sun in a protected position- a south or west facing wall is ideal. Freezes to the ground below 20ºF- re-sprouts in spring. Forms an expanding clump to several feet across. A fun genus to experiment with in our climate. Rated as zone 7 in its native high elevation South Africa. We think its more like 10ºF in our climate. Plant with royal red Lobelia tupa and Rosa ‘Bengal Fire’ for a red extravaganza. Excellent performance at the Oregon Coast. Somewhat deer resistant.
This is one of the hardiest species of Watsonia Lily. It forms large evergreen clumps of spikY foliage to 3′ tall. In early summer 6′ spikes of tubular brilliant orange flowers are stunning. They bloom for weeks. A protected location such as close to a south or west facing wall. Capable of freezing to the ground in extreme cold (below 20ºF) but regrowing vigorously and still blooming in late spring to early summer. Rich, well drained soil with regular summer moisture. If allowed to go completely dry in summer this as with other Watsonias will go dry dormant. It returns with the first rains in autumn. Amazing cut flower. Mulch your clump in autumn. Wonderful South African perennial that is glorious at the Oregon Coast. To 3′ wide eventually.
Watsonia x pillansii ‘Coral and Hardy’
We love Watsonias but the most successful climate is truly on the coast. This form is seed from a persistently hardy, well blooming plant that has survived in Portland. The majority of these seedlings will be coral/ orange/ light pink. To 20″ tall forming clumps in RICH, well composted soil in full sun. Regular summer water increases both the growth rate and the cold hardiness. Larger more established clumps are hardier to cold. Amazing cut flower that will produce several dozen spikes off of one good clump. Mostly evergreen. Foliage looks burnt below 20ºF and can freeze to the ground. This winter growing bulb is also immensely drought tolerant with a period of summer drought inducing dormancy. Place in a warm, protected location Near a south facing wall or fence. Mulch for the first few winters with dry leaves. Place in a location where summer dormancy is not an issue. Very fun to grow South African bulb. Excellent performance at the Oregon Coast. Not bothered by deer or elk- well the elk might step on them but they won’t eat them. Fantastic cut flower and clumps become huge there.
Xera Plants Introduction
Yerba de Selva or whipple vine, a wonderful small scale evergreen native ground cover. Related to Hydrangeas but this trailer is actually very droughtadapted.e In late spring clouds of small white flowers , 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. 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. This is a great native understory for Arctostaphylos, which is frequently seen in the wild. Oregon native plant.
Our native Giant Chain Fern that occupies specific spots in seeps randomly from CA to BC. Large pendant and trailing 3′ long glossy fronds form huge rosettes. Usually occupying permanently wet seeps on shady hillsides in cool places. The entire plant may be up to 5′ across. Evergreen but it benefits greatly from some early spring tidying of spent and aging old leaves. Part shade to shade in rich well drained soil with regular consistent moisture for the best look. Highly deer resistant. We’re honored to grow this, one of our most spectacular native ferns. Oregon native plant.
Relatively new fern with a great future ahead. Large growing evergreen chain fern from Asia with new growth lavishly dyed red- it settles to soft green with time. To 3′ across the fronds are held atop relatively long stems. The rubbery green leaves are finely divided with surprisingly soft lobes. Rich, moisture retentive soil in bright shade to shade. Spectacular plant at all times we have observed it. So far it has not suffered damage in my garden below 10ºF and appearance following a rough winter was good. Highly deer resistant. Spectacular.
Wulfenia x schwarzii
Obscure perennial hybrid that has yielded a wonderful perennial. Evergreen rosettes of fleshy scalloped green leaves look good year round. From February to June (yep.) 10″ spikes are covered in violet blue tubular flowers. The display is continuous for months. Part shade in rich, well drained soil with regular summer water. Mass for a stunning effect for months. A natural for PNW woodlands. Cold hardy and easy to grow. Not bothered by slugs or snails. Excellent perennial that has amazed us with its long, uninterrupted bloom period which is continuously showy with no intervention from the gardener. Mix with spring blooming perennials. Mine makes its life with regular old wild Primula vulgaris. I love the soft yellow flowers paired with this violet-blue hue. Easy, showy, and carefree perennial. This plant has everything needed for greatness. Too bad its so obscure. We intend to change that.
Calla Lily- the dream of many gardeners and an heirloom perennial that has been grown in our region for eons. Large clump forming perennial with dramatic pure white flowers with the familiar form. They begin in early spring with a large flush of bloom and then sporadically until frost. The large boisterous foliage is mostly evergreen and rises to 2′ tall with flower spikes twice as tall. Deer resistant. In cold gardens it is traditionally grown agains warm foundations. But I have seen it thrive in the wide open in the coldest parts of the Willamette Valley. Amenable to saturated soils and can reside as a marginal plant in a pond. Rich, well drained soil is ideal. Water VERY heavily the first summer to establish- then light consistent water in summer. Full sun to quite a bit of shade but at the expense of flowering. Can be a little tricky to establish and ironically it can be a little hard to get rid of once you have it. Lives for many decades. South Africa.