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.

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Acer circinatum

Vine Maple is perhaps our most beautiful native maple. Found from SW British Columbia to Northern California in the Shasta area. Its a pervasive understory tree throughout the western part of the state. It derives its name from its almost vine like habit in shade. This winding and sun seeking component leads to the most graceful natural forms. In full sun it is a compact, multi-trunked shrub. In both habitats it turns to shades of fiery orange and yellow and red. Vivid against the pure green trunks and stems.  One of the most dramatic places you will see this shrub is at 4500′ on Belknap crater on McKenzie Pass where it lives among the lava. In early fall the brilliant colors of the maples contrasts wonderfully with the black lava. Its very hot and very dry but  its also very high in elevation. The symmetrically serrated round leaves rival any Japanse maple. In shade established trees get by with little summer water. In the sun irrigation is welcome. Rich to average soil with regular applications of mulch. To 16′ tall in shade and again quite a bit shorter in full sun- very wide in shade. Avoid the reflected heat of south facing walls. This shrub/tree belongs on the north side or under substantial shade. Some deer resistance. Excellent underplanted with native ferns and Gaultheria. A common native that should be a more common ornamental. Tiny red flowers turn into sunny orange samaras by autumn and persist past the leaves.  Avoid very dry shade of un-irrigated over hangs. This is a semi-mesic maple.  Oregon native plant

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Geranium oreganum flower

Not many gardeners are aware that we have our own native hardy Geranium. And its a really good garden plant. Bushy herbaceous perennial that displays nickel sized magenta/blue flowers in late spring to mid summer. It peaks in June and is quite a display. To 2′ x 2′ and completely deciduous in winter. Excellent in manicured borders or areas that receive a bit of extra irrigation in summer. Adapted to clay soils it improves considerably under cultivation. Mix with native Sidalceas for a bonafide native combination. Native throughout western Oregon but also native in the Rocky Mountains. One of our finest natives that should be used more often. Fall color is yellow before going cleanly away. Not bothered by slugs or snails (!) but not entirely deer resistant. Full sun to light shade to very high overhead shade (a tall tree canopy). Best in enriched soil with consistent summer moisture. Associated plants in the wild are Sidalceas, Achillea. Very good performance in rain gardens. Oregon native plant. 

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Dodecatheon hendersonii flowers

Henderson’s shooting star or more appropriately foothill shooting star. Thats where you see them in meadows and glens usually underneath or near Oregon white oaks. Common composition of the flora seen with this plant are giant baby blue eyes Nemophila m. ‘atomaria’., Ranunculus occidentalis – western buttercup as well as  Lithophragma- Prairie Stars. Rubbery near round leaves emerge in mid winter and persist as rosettes for months until real heat pushes them into sleep. The charming flowers rise up to 14″ on tall straight stems. The nodding flowers gives away its familial association with Cyclamen and Primrose and reflexed magenta purple petals shoot straight up. The interior of the flower is a spike decorated like a single cake with a red brick a brack design  if you look closely. Great cut flower and where ever  you throw the spent flowers they will still ripen and set seed and quickly a new patch will be created. Full sun to part shade in clay soils that dry in summer.  No water once established. They quickly go dormant and disappear to escape summer heat and dry. Relatively easy native wildflower to grow. Deer resistant. Native from northern California north to  SW British Columbia.  Found throughout the western half of the state. This wildflower made extensive colonies around my childhood home near Eugene. It always bloomed around my birthday and over the years I built up huge colonies. It was so charming with Erythronium oreganum- Oregon fawn lily- they grew side by side.  In  our ‘backyard’ there were huge colonies of native Dodecatheon. I would pick bouquets of them from the backyard and when the flowers were spent I would chuck them off the front deck into the woods. Over time I realized they were still setting viable seed as we had a huge population in the front in a few years, .  Blooms late March to early May. Oregon native plant. 

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flowers and foliage of Ribes sanguineum

Flowering Currant. One of the most conspicuous flowering shrubs over the western half of Oregon. From extreme Southwest BC to northern California. .This v shaped and arching shrub protrudes from highway plantings like a chandelier of pink flowers. Each chain of flowers is a slightly different shade of pink to white on this batch of seedlings. To 9′ x 9′ forming  somewhat open shade. Blooms on old wood, prune if needed AFTER flowering has ended in late spring. Fall color ranges from pink to orange and quite often yellow. We had several shrubs of this plant where I grew up. We randomly harvested the branches for cute flowers for almost two generations and none of the plants suffered. They were wild plants and as good as any named variety. Blooms March to April and then maple shaped leaves unfurl and are a quilted nice texture. Full sun to quite a bit of shade at the expense of flowering. Dusty blue fruits cascade in chains as the leaves drop in fall. These are immensely sour fruits.  Best on hillsides poking through the rest of the underbrush. Flowers which have a  slight skunk funk force easily if brought inside. One of Oregons greatest native flowering shrubs. Moderate deer resistance. Water to establish then only occasionally. Oregon native plant.

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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.

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An incredibly widespread North American wildflower that is known by many different common names. In our region the preferred common moniker is Low False Solomons Seal.  This rhizomatous perennial forms expansive colonies when happy. It appears as strongly arching stems clad in alternate wide green leaves. In late spring to early summer and dependent upon altitude small, white, starry flowers appear at the tips. After bloom they slowly morph into black berries. These can easily be dispersed by birds. Part shade in naturally mesic sites, that means woods on the north side of a slope in the Willamette Valley in shade beneath Douglas Firs and often consorting with sword ferns. To 10″ tall and forming expanding colonies. Winter deciduous, fall color is often a lingering gold before the whole plant disappears. Tellima grandiflora (fringe cups) and Claytonia sibirica ( candy flower) are also common associates. Part shade to shade in humus enriched soil with regular summer water. VERY established clumps can get by with natural rainfall. Avoid, hot dry sites, and stubborn dry clay. Mulch heavily after planting. Moderate deer resistance. Oregon native plant.

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Delphinium trolliifolium

Giant Larkspur or Cow Poison, I prefer the first common name for this stunning large growing native Delphinium. In vernally wet sites to moist upland sites  it forms large spectacular colonies. In late spring and early summer stems that soar to nearly 4′ tall are loosely decorated with marine blue flowers with a lighter central bee. In habitat its common associates are Oregon Ash (Fraxinus latifolius) and Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) where it can be found in the shade of these deciduous trees. The one variable with this Delphinium is that it is found in cool places- never hot and dry. These shadowy environs can make this plant hard to spot even in full bloom.  Often they will be in standing water during the winter months and they are adapted to very heavy wet clay soils. In cultivation the need for moist conditions continues and it does appreciate at least an application of all organic fertilizer and compost at planting time. Keep it well watered through its bloom cycle, then it can go drier but never dust dry- in time it can handle much less irrigation. An annual mulch is beneficial. Wonderful, bold cut flower , but its loved by pollinators as well ( what is it about blue flowers? ). Forms spreading colonies in time. Give it room to stretch out. Its often found with our native Cow Parsnip (Hieracleum maximum) and great Camas ( Camassia leichtlinii) in habitat. This could easily be replicated in a garden. Native to the Willamette Valley into the Columbia River Gorge. Once widespread in the Willamette Valley its territory has shrunk precipitously. Long lived perennial. Very good deer resistance. Extremely showy in bloom.   Oregon native plant.

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Digitalis ambigua (grandiflora)

Digitalis ambigua (grandiflora)

If you are a victim of deer and rabbits let me introduce you to the vast world of Foxgloves beyond the weedy bi-ennial purpurea. They are all supremely deer and pest resistant in general. This relatively long lived perennial sends up 20″ spike of the softest yellow tubular flowers. They appear in late May- July. If you remove the spent spike often more flowers will occur. This soft color – staunchly in the realm of pastel goes so well with other colors. Its a harmonious hue and this is an adaptable plant. Rich to average soil- go for rich, with regular summer water. Requires FULL SUN to bloom its best. Excellent cut flower. Winter deciduous but it returns very early in spring. Plant with Euphorbia ‘Dean’s Hybrid’ for a close tone on tone color scheme. Very pretty with Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Electric Blue’. and purple/blue Salvia cohuilensis ‘Nuevo Leon’. Very cold hardy and easy to grow.

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Begonia sutherlandii

Begonia sutherlandii

One of our all time favorite Begonias that is surprsingly hardy when established. Soft green angel wing shaped leaves fan out and are the great backdrop to masses of small, single soft orange flowers. Blooms continuously from late June to frost. Rich soil that drains in part shade to high overhead shade is ideal. Protect from blasting sun. Exquisite container subject that mixes well with other plants and adds a saucy orange to shade plantings. In the ground this plant requires a little more care. Rich soil in  protected location – under shrubs or near the house and a little patience. Returns slowly in the ground- not usually showing its face until Mothers Day or later. Once growth proceeds it goes quickly. Nice self cleaning  blooming plant. Spent flowers simple tumble off the plant and are replaced by a massive continual display. To 8″ x 8″ and wider with time. Winter deciduous. For plants growing in containers you’ll need to protect the container from excess wet and freezing. The best way to overwinter it is to put it under an eave or an unheated garage or greenhouse. Add organic fertilizer with the onset of growth. Lovely perennial that we adore at Xera.

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