Deerbrush is a widespread species in Oregon favoring areas with extensive summer drought. Its found primarily in the southern 1/3 of southwest Oregon and the north central part of the state into southern Washington. A wide spreading semi-deciduous to deciduous shrub with young stems that remain green. Locally it is most common from about Dog mountain in the Gorge to the east and is extensive throughout Hood River and Wasco counties. This is an ideal shrub for revegetation areas, it naturally responds to fire, in fact the seeds must be exposed to boiling water to germinate. This species comes in a very wide range of colors. from clear white to deep blue and occasional shades of lilac pink. It may only be raised from seed so flower color is naturally variable. The plumes of flowers are large and airy displaying the color of the flower vividly. The most common flower color in Oregon is light blue. In late May and June a wonderful wildflower drive is up the Hood River Valley. This frothy blue to white flowers literally foam out from under native oaks and conifers. Its very conspicuous at that time too on the Rowena plateau. A word of warning not only does this shrub encourage deer browse it is also the unfortunate home of many deer ticks. Photograph carefully. Here it is found with such associates as Holodiscus, Toxicodendron, Symphoricarpos and Arctostaphylos. This brushy plant derives its name from the familiar site of black tail deer breast height chomping away in extensive groves. Not a long lived shrub 7-10 years but it fixes nitrogen efficiently and improves the soil for successors. Full sun to very light shade, best on a dry slope. Water to establish then only what falls from the sky in subsequent years. Very hardy to cold enduring subzero temperatures. Beautiful pollinator heaven in bloom. To 3-7′ tall and as wide in several years. Oregon native plant.
Oso berry is a classic west coast shrub. Its one of the earliest shrubs to burst into leaf and flower long before anyone else- often as early as early February. Exceptionally fresh green leaves emerge vertically and for a time appear as rabbit ears lining the stems. On female plants fragrant chains of white flowers are showy in a very spring like way. Following pollination chains of charming fruit (the berries or plums)first turn yellow then red/orange and arrive at deep purple. They are reputed to be good. And even though I’ve known this plant my entire life i’ve never tasted a ripe berry. Seems like they disappear to wildlife very fast. There was a thicket of this early spring shrub near the bottom of our long driveway and it would leaf out and bloom in February and March. When I spotted those acid green leaves I knew that winter was over. To 8′ x 8′ quickly from a massively suckering central shrub. Branches soar up and arch out. All the better to observe the colorful fruit. Native, often under Oregon white oaks and in dry woods with Holodiscus discolor/ Ocean spray, Corylus cornuta californica /Western Hazel. By late spring this shrub has all but faded into the background. Often it will lose many or all leaves in a very dry summer, but its drought tolerance is phenomenal. Fall color is soft yellow and shows up nicely on the dark forest floor. Its natural range is from the N. Bay area in CA north to extreme SW British Columbia. Always on the west side of the mountains. Stems force well when brought inside in December- January. Deer resistant and possibly rabbit resistant. This is a very wild looking shrub, goes well with other plants of that mein. Stirs early pollinators and even Anna’s Hummers. These are unsexed seedlings. Best in part shade to shade though it will tolerate full sun with a less refined overall look. Water lightly but consistently for the first summer then none in subsequent years. Virtually any soil type including heavy clay. Simultaneous bloom with flowering currants (Ribes sanguineum). A great garden pairing. Oregon native plant.
Great Hounds Tongue or Giant Pacific Forget-me-Not is one of our most remarkable native perennials. On the property where I grew up near Eugene it was native. There was a clump of this majestic perennial that was there for nearly my whole life. Unfortunately, we sold the property but this plant was still there last I checked. In the Willamette Valley and out into the Columbia Gorge you see these enormous blue flowers on a sturdy spikes in the dry areas under oaks. Often seen with Wyethia -Mules ears. Large fleshy leaves form a substantial clump. In early to mid spring 2′ spikes reveal outrageously large versions of Forget-me-nots. Established plants will then go dormant with summer drought. Adapted to xeric clay soils that dry in summer. Not only does it not require water established plants can resent it and rot. Place in a wild, unwatered part of your garden. Amend the soil lightly with compost and water in well. Pairs well, of course with other native perennials such as Sidalceas. In the wild it is accompanied by Erythronium oreganum , Lathyrus nevadensis, Fritillaria lanceolata, Dodecatheon hendersonii, and Ranunculus occidentalis. That is what grew with our patch, under white and black native oaks, with a madrone here and there. Impressive native perennial whose intense blue flowers are hard to convey in a photograph. Oregon native plant.
Lovely ubiquitous woodland flower that brings waves of glorious airy stars for weeks in late spring to mid summer. Occasionally pink the flowers most often are white. Handsome somewhat bold foliage provides a plant that is more than suited to competition on the forest floor. Often self sows and this is welcome. Plant containerized plants in spring and water faithfully through the first summer- but never boggy. Then it is yours. Let it romp among ferns, Hosta, Japanese Forest Grass for a sparkling NATIVE treat. Mix with other natives such as Vancouveria and deer fern. Very easy to grow. Blooms for a very long time and longer if we have a cool beginning to summer. AKA Candy flower. To 10″ x 10″ on average. Summer deciduous and emerges early in spring. Not bothered by pests. Forms spreading colonies in rich, humus enriched soil in part shade to shade. Locally native in the Portland city limits. Oregon native plant.