Great Camas is the larger and some say showier cousin to common Camas (Cammasia quamash ssp. maxima). Its found throughout the western valleys of the state. Rising to 2′ tall in mid spring the petals of great Camas are not only larger they are stiffer as well. The large star shaped flowers open from the base to the top. They range greatly in color from pale blue to the most common dark blue. Its a luminous color that beckons pollinators. Small black hover flies gather on the flowers to collect pollen. Forms increasing colonies in rich soil that retains moisture. Its often seen in winter submerged areas and is common in drainage ditches and vernally wet meadows along streams. It grows and blooms simultaneously with its common associates, Sidalcea malviflora ssp. virgata and occasionally even with Iris tenax (Oregon Iris). Its most striking neighbors in the wild are wild Parsnip (Hieracleum maximum) as well as Ranunculus occidentalis (Western Buttercup). Leaves precede the flowers and the whole plant goes cleanly summer dormant after seed set. Very adapted to heavy soils. No supplemental irrigation is required once established. Oregon native plant.
Cheerful perennial Geranium that comes from tubers. This vigorous, undemanding plant spreads liberally, even in difficult sites. April to June a continuous display of frosty purple and blue striped flowers. The mass of flowers wave above 20″ stems and create a haze of purple. The deeply divided leaves are typical Geranium. In summer heat and dry forces the entire plant into dormancy. Therefore, this plant can subsist on only what falls from the sky once established. This plant can increase rapidly in rich soils, err on the side of average to poor fertility. Nice cut flower. Not bothered by slugs or snails. Mix with other mid-spring flowers for a cottage garden effect. Each flower is nearly 1″ across. Mild deer resistance.
DESERT CANDLES. This fascinating annual thrills us. Most often seen in the wild in its native California, and is commonly seen in the wildflower mecca of Carrizo Plain. Poppies, gillias, Brodiaea accompany this relative of brassicas. A small rosette of fleshy leaves gives way to an extending inflated hollow spike. Its colored bright yellow/chartreuse and glows from a distance. The MAROON flower not only cluster at the top they symmetrically line the tall stems. All together a glowing sentinel of a plant that is almost never seen for sale. The period of exceptional showiness is brief – 4-6 weeks but it such a bizarre and showy display that we wouldn’t be without it for early/mid spring containers. Might self sow in open disturbed sites. Better to save your own seed. Such a cool west coast native it needs to be appreciated for its unique and luminous beauty. To 30″ tall. Draws native insects including hover flies. Sets seed and dies in early summer completing its life cycle.
This is one of the best flower colors that we’ve encountered in a Salvia in quite a while. Always on the lookout for blue flowered Salvias this beautiful sage fits the bill. Upright growing semi-woody Salvia that produces a non-stop supply of sky/ to periwinkle blue flowers. The spires of flowers rise to about 20″ tall forming a rounded sub-shrub as wide. Flowers begin in May. Long blooming perennial for hot, sunny spots. This Salvia would benefit from the added heat of reflected walls and sidewalks. Great near the curb in rich soil with regular water in summer. Flowers take a break in extreme heat but as soon as a cool down they begin again in earnest. Cut back hard in spring AFTER all danger of frost has past (mid-April) and no sooner. Excellent in containers as well. Easy, bloomy, lovely blue. Hummingbird favorite as well as a butterfly magnet. A xera favorite. Moderate deer resistance.
Cat’s Ear’s or furry mariposa. This bulb is exclusive to the west side of the Cascades from central Puget Sound south to northern California. In Oregon it occupies a host of biomes. Most commonly its seen in grassy places or steep rocky slopes. On our property near Eugene it was primarily a woodland plant with forays out into the sun. We shamelessly picked this delicate flower for short lived bouquets. Picking it snuffs out the plant. To 8″ tall and sporting multiple flowers on a divided stem. The flowers have a peaked sweet fragrance that gives away the species. A fascinating flower for pollinators. Three rounded petals with a sharp tip are layered in purple to white to blue fur. This is imposed over the base color of the petals which is often white shading to purple. When planting from a container water when you plant it and then nature takes its course. It quickly goes summer dormant after setting seeds in downward shaped capsules. Do not disturb once established. Plants can put up leaves for several years before bloom commences. Patience. No summer water. Protect from deer who will snack on the flowers. Native associates are Sanicula crassicaulis, Dodecatheon hendersonii, Lithophragma parvifora, Nemophila menziesii and Iris tenax. Emerges quickly in spring- does its thing and then goes back to sleep. Charming. Oregon native plant.
There is something cool about the darkest flowered Mourning Widow Geranium. This tough and graceful spring blooming perennial creates dark downward pointing black/maroon flowers for months beginning in April. To 26″ tall and creating spreading colonies. The flowers appear in air sprays and float about the maple shaped leaves. Part shade to high overhead shade in woodlands, Lightly irrigated borders. Often if you cut back spent plants it will send up a second though less showy round of flowers. At the very least it will refresh the foliage. Light consistent summer water. Blends wonderfully with Pink and white flowered narcissus for deep contrast. Not bothered by slugs. Winter deciduous, emerges early. Long lived, sturdy perennial.
Common Camas one of the wests great wild flowers. ‘Maxima’ is the form that is most common in the Willamette Valley. In April to June meadows, glens, and floodplains turn sky blue. Occurs natively in vernally wet sites, that means that part of the winter it is submerged or very saturated. However, it does thrive in upland situations in heavy clay soils that are sodden for at least half the year. Prior to European development first nation people relied on this starchy bulb as a food source. They managed it by low intensity fires which cleared away the competition but did not injure the deep bulb. In turn the Camas thrived. They ate it baked or steamed like a small potato. An important pollinator plant that also attracts some critically endangered Willamette Valley butterflies. Nice cut flower. The spike of flowers opens at the base and moves to the top. To 20″ tall in bloom. The whole plant goes quickly dormant with summer heat. Leaves emerge in early spring and precede the flowers. Full sun. Common associated plants are Ranunculus occidentalis and Hosackia gracilis. Oregon native plant.
OOKOW. The common name for this wonderful native bulb. A naked lily closely related to Brodiaea. Also, referred to as cluster lily though that isn’t even remotely as fun to say as OOKOW. Stems to 22″ tall support 6 to 15 showy purple flowers clustered at the stem tip. Dry sunny hillsides in clay soils to meadows throughout western Oregon. Its native range goes a bit to the north into Washington and south to California but its primary populations are in our state. This happy bulb spreads to form colonies in time. It will also spread by seed. An integral part of Willamette Valley meadows. Excellent cut flower that lasts a week in a vase. Water to establish when planting from containers. In subsequent years it will rely only on what falls from the sky. in habitat it can be found with native clumping grasses such as Koeleria and Festuca roemeri var. roemeri. Sisyrinchium idahoense is a frequent associate. The flowers nod slightly at the end of the stems. Smalll grassy foliage appears in early spring and disappears cleanly following bloom. Adapted to heavy clay soils that are wet for 6 months of the year that dries in summer. Full sun. Loved by Hummingbirds and butterflies. Oregon native plant.
Henderson’s Fawn Lily or Pink Siskiyou Fawn lily is one of our most beautiful species. Native from the Siskiyous in southern Oregon into extreme northern California. Of the eleven Erythroniums that are native in Oregon this is by far our favorite. In late March to late April umbrella shaped luminous pale pink petals reflex on 10″ stems. The interior of the downward pointing flowers shows markings of yellow and deep maroon. Surprisingly FRAGRANT and the perfume is noticeable at quite a distance in mature stands on warm spring days. Wonderful native bulb that must be grown from seed. The tiny bulb which is no bigger than a very small bean sinks lower into the ground each year. By blooming size the bulb may be 1′ below the surface. It takes approximately 3 -4 years to bloom from seed. Forms open colonies and spreads in the wild and garden by seed. As the bulb enlarges multiple scapes will appear from a single clump. In late winter a basal rosette of mottled leaves appear at ground level. Protect newly planted Erythroniums from slugs. Established plants seem to escape their damage. Best in unamended average soil on a slight slope. In habitat they are almost always under oaks and madrone. So, light shade to afternoon shade. Very light water after planting then none in subsequent years. Rock gardens, dry woodlands. Exquisite fawn lily. Goes quickly summer dormant. Oregon native plant
Fragrant hardy Abelia is just that- not only is it ultra cold hardy, it possesses as far as we can surmise, the best fragrance of an already fragrant genus and basically a spot on redux of citrus blossom sweetness. A long procession of pink buds that open in clusters to powerfully fragrant white flowers. The fragrance carries for quite a distance on the summer air. Blooms June-Sept. Full sun to very light shade in rich soil with regular summer water. Not entirely drought adapted pair with other summer water cohorts. Forms a vase shaped twiggy deciduous shrub to 4′ x 4′ in time. Blooms on wood from the previous season prune after flowering if needed. Usually pruning is limited to tired non blooming wood which is self evident. Cold hardy to below -20ºF Fall color is often dark red with pink tints and often lacking Beware this shrub if drought stressed goes straight to crispy. Establish well before setting it free. One of the most fantastic floral fragrances. Deciduous shrubs are not a hot category for several reasons but the fragrance of this ultra hardy shrub should be enjoyed everywhere. Delicious flower fragrance.