An exciting shrub/small tree with paddle shaped blue evergreen phyllodes for foliage and in late winter to early spring a massive display of luminous yellow flowers. I’ve always loved Australian wattles so it was with great excitement that we decided to grow this striking plant. Moderately fast growing to 16′ tall and 8′ wide forming either multiple or a single trunk. The bark is chocolate brown and smooth. Very few Australian Acacias will thrive in Portland, its just about 5 degrees too cold in our coldest years. This one is different, (a few species will live for 4-6 years before they finally succumb to Jack Frost. Acacia pravissima etc.) This, however, is the cold hardiest that we have grown. It is hardy to just below 10ºF for brief stints- good enough for long term survival. This is a rare limited endemic to the high mountains of New South Wales but is popular as a garden subject the world over. The small, fluffy, balls of electric yellow flowers foam among the blue leaves – incredibly pretty. Full sun and a protected location – against a south facing wall is ideal for a very pretty fun to grow tree. Once fully open the flowering stems may be cut for long lasting bouquets. Blooms on wood from the previous season, prune if needed after flowering has ended. Light consistent water to establish . Not fussy about soils and happiest in full, all day sun. Protect from subfreezing east wind. Bloom time is concurrent with several earlier Ceanothus (‘Blue Jeans’, ‘Dark Star’, ‘Concha’) and creates a vivid early spring yellow and blue display not soon to be forgotten. Drought adapted when established. Not bothered by deer/elk- not entirely sure about rabbits- if they are profuse in your neighborhood it wouldn’t hurt to protect the plant with chicken wire when young. Beautiful year round and spectacular in bloom. AKA Blue Bush.
Moroccan Pineapple Broom is a splendid, hardy NON-INVASIVE tree that we adore for its silver foliage and spicily scented cones of brilliant yellow flowers. Fast growing tree which may also be maintained as a shrub. In our climate with more rain than its native range it usually achieves tree like proportions. To 16′ tall by 10′ wide most often with one to three trunks. Best in poor to average soil with as little irrigation as possible once established. You must treat this plant with a bit of benign neglect. Overly enriched soil and too much supplemental irrigation leads to a rank growing and usually unstable plant that can go over easily in a wet gale. The flower fragrance is definitely pineapple with somewhat salty notes. Blooms appear May-July and are born on wood from the previous year. Prune-if needed AFTER flowering has ended. Full sun is ideal. Wonderful small tree for rough sites- compacted awful droughty soils. Almost always deciduous in our winters and surprisingly hardy taking temperatures just below 0ºF with no ill effects. Moderate deer resistance. Absorbs the blasting heat of south facing walls. Wonderful small tree. Beautiful espalier subject- see pruning above.
Bird of Paradise shrub is an incredibly showy flowering plant that is surprisingly adaptable to the Willamette Valley. Native to Argentina/ Uruguay the exotic large yellow flowers in whorls each with 3″ strings of blood red stamens protruding. Each flower lasts but a day but a truss carries many individual flowers. Fine divided foliage is light gray green and a great foil for the exotic flowers. Full hot, all day sun in a hot site. Ideally, it should be located against a south facing wall- this heat lover is slow to break dormancy in spring and doesn’t normally begin flowering until mid-summer and continuing until cool weather. To 8′ x 8′ drought adapted but water speeds growth. Deciduous. Spectacular. Non-blooming youngsters may need a year or two in the ground to commence blooming heavily. Patience is all that is required. This shrub loves the hottest spot in the garden. Pick a place that would be unbearable on a hot day and you’ve found the home for this sun lover. Bipinnate leaves close with darkness. Each flower opens for just one day but a procession of buds releases them over a period of many weeks. Blooms on new wood, growth from the current season.
Western Redbud is a wonderful showy spring blooming tree that gets by on no summer water. Native to California also Utah, Arizona this is primarily a large shrub in the wild. We have found in our climate with a longer rainy season it forms a small tree. In April this entire tree comes to life smothered in tiny but profuse magenta pink pea flowers. They line all the stems and even appear on the trunk. After three weeks of glory the handsome new leaves appear. Round and blue green they have a slight rubbery texture. To 14′-18′ tall and forming a spreading crown. Fall color is orange to yellow but not reliable. Large purple colored seed pods are showy and persist after the leaves have gone. Moderately fast growing (2′-3′) per year when happy. Full sun and well drained soil of average fertility. Water through the first summer to establish then no summer water in subsequent years. Thrives in our climate.
Bog deer vetch is a beautiful native perennial found in wet to seasonally wet sites throughout Oregon, but primarily Western Oregon. This rhizomatous perennial erupts from the ground in early spring with pinnate leaves that are deep purple. As the plant extends it changes to dark green and begins to bloom in crowns of pea flowers that are yellow and white. Very pretty. The symmetry of the flowers is especially attractive. To 2′ tall x 3′ wide. Blooms April to June. Lovely native perennial for boggy sites. Amenable to average culture in rich soil with regular H20 in summer. Easy to grow long lived perennial for meadows, swales, vernally wet sites. Excellent perennial for a rain garden. Takes dry conditions when established and goes deciduous with summer heat. Competes well with invasive grasses. Possibly deer resistant. Often seen along streams in NW Oregon. Riparian perennial. Oregon native plant.
Chinese Indigo is one of our favorite perennials/subshrubs. Arising from the ground in late spring the arching stems to 3′ support 6″ long pendant pale rose pink flowers for months and months. No intervention needed from the gardener. In time it suckers to form 4′ wide patches. Regular water to establish in average to rich, well drained soil. Full sun. Freezes completely to the ground in winter- cut back defunct stems from the previous year in early spring. When it does emerge its a very quick trip to up and blooming. Incredibly drought tolerant when established but light consistent watering seems to encourage new flowers- as it grows it blooms so you want to keep it growing. Incredibly elegant but tough plant that asks for so little but gives so much.
A very beautiful and obscure shrub that I obtained from Heronswood in the 90’s. Difficult to photograph this is one of the most spectacular False Indigos. Not entirely cold hardy it requires a warm location but is worth it. Soaring to 12′ tall in a single season in rich soil with regular water the tall wand-like stems support pendulous strings of rose pink flowers that extends to 2′ long or longer. Blooming all the way to the tips. As this shrub grows it continually produces these amazing flowers which are both graceful and somewhat modern. Loved by butterflies and bees. Seldom sets seed in our climate. Full all day sun. Excellent in large summer containers. Locate in a warm, protected location- against a south facing wall for instance. Prune back hard in spring after new growth commences. Often loses about 1/2 its wood during a normal winter. Cutting it back also results in more stems to display the fascinating and groovy flowers. Native to SW China. We grew this great plant years ago and have decided to bring it back into production. Cold hardy to 15ºF. Very difficult to photograph as the pendulous flowers are so long. VERY FUN to grow.
Our locally native silver leaved lupine. A wildflower that beckons gardeners with incredible metallic silver foliage and spires of blue and white flowers from late spring into summer. It has some exacting requirements. Its best to know where you find it in the wild. Steep, steep cliffs and steep open road cuts. What do they have in common? Excellent drainage and little summer water. Spreading almost shrubby evergreen plant to 2′- 3′ wide on average. The very pretty fragrant flowers rise up to about 3′. It seems to resent a lot of competition from other plants- give it room, its own space and again, perfect drainage. Highly deer resistant also not as attractive to rabbits. Oregon native plant.
Dwarf Lupine or Pacific Lupine is a widespread small hardy annual that is found all along the west coast from British Columbia to Mexico. In the Willamette Valley its most conspicuous home is along the disturbed soil and gravel of highways/roads. Thats where you see masses of this diminutive lupine that rises to just 1′ tall. The intricate flowers erupt from the top and are mostly blue with purple and the bottom has a white lip. These are displayed above very furry palmate leaves. It forms a small rounded plant. Loved by all pollinators this tough little plant can inhabit the worst, shallow soils and still thrive. If given richer conditions this nitrogen fixer will soar to 1′ tall with a much larger flowers. Excellent in annual containers – it blooms for a long time April-August or until the ground goes completely dry. Horizontal bean pods hold three seeds each. Self sows in open disturbed sites with little competition from other plants. Only water if it is planted from a container otherwise no supplemental irrigation necessary. Very beloved by hummingbirds and butterflies. Mixes well with other long blooming hardy native annuals such as Madia elegans or Clarkia amoena. Seed that is released in summer germinates in autumn with the first fall rains. Easy to spot the palmate leaves. Oregon native plant.
Large leaf lupine. This is the form that is native to the western part of the state. There are 5 other subspecies, this is the Willamette Valley form. A large bushy perennial famous for the most showy flowers in the genus. This is the direct descendent that forms the colorful clumps along our freeways. A great large garden plant and not a long lived plant. Generally 3-5 years is antiquity for this species. The large palmate divided deep green leaves are coated in fine fur. This makes raindrops turn to pure mercury as they balance on the leaves. The most commonly seen flower color forms in the Willamette Valley are generally blue and purple and solid colors. The multi-color vastly larger selections are just as adaptable as the species. Large rocket like flower trusses rise to 3′ tall in late spring to early summer. Loved by insects the foliage is often fodder for native fauna. Excellent pollinator perennial or cut flower. Large peapods stick out horizontally from the spent flower stems. Reliably self sows if you contain the competition from foreign exotics and turf grasses. Potted plants should be watered regularly through their first summer. In subsequent years it can rely on natural rainfall. Very deer and rabbit resistant. To 3′ wide when happy. Protect from slugs/snails. Oregon native plant.