Pittosporum tobira ‘Wheeler’s Dwarf’

Useful somewhat formal looking ground cover shrub that is always good looking . To 2′ x 3′ slowly the dense deep green foliage is arranged handsomely. In May/June clusters of off white fragrant flowers appear- Not as heavily as the species but pretty none-the-less. Excels in hot dry situations- including the reflected heat of walls. Hardier to cold than generally thought. My 10 year old plants have never been damaged by cold- down below 10ºF. Avoid freezing cold exposed sites, however. Useful as a massed weed smothering ground cover. Deep green uniform appearance of foliage is just what many people are seeking. Drought tolerant. Evergreen. Hardy to 5ºF when established. Excellent appearance year round.

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Polypodium glyceryrrhiza

Our native Licorice Fern that has a backwards season. It emerges all fresh and happy with the first cool weather and rains in autumn and persists that way until hot weather takes hold, then it quietly (and cleanly) disappears. Forms spreading colonies on any light surface including the vertical slopes of rocks and trees. The base of the plant forms an interconnected series of rhizomes that cling to anything. It escapes all drought and heat by summer dormancy. Neat trick. If you detach the fronds and bite into the base of the petiole it delivers a strong anise/licorice flavor. This remarkable plant should be common in living walls and green roofs that would require no supplemental irrigation- and actually thrive and look healthy. Excellent performance in the ground in rich, well drained soil. Water as they say is irrelevant. Highly deer resistant. Oregon native plant.

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Pratia (Lobelia) pedunculata ‘County Park’

Everyone is familiar with blue star creeper. Well what if one replaced the light blue flowers of that small plant with dark blue stars? You would get this magnificent small scale ground cover. Dense prostrate growth is a veritable pool of deep blue in May and June. Sporadic bloom until late summer. Just 1/2″ high at most it will spread to 1′-2′ in rich, aerated, well drained soil with regular summer water. Best performance is in part shade. Avoid the hottest driest sites. May be used among pavers. Dies out in heavy compacted soils- provide a top dress of compost annually to avoid this. Syn. Isotoma.

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Reineckea carnea

Ribbon lily or ribbon grass. Creeping evergreen perennial with ribbon like arching leaves arranged in fans. Spreads rapidly in rich, moisture retentive soil with protection from hot sun. To 8″ tall. In autumn, among the deep green leaves pink spikes open to white flowers. Not conspicuous but cute when you notice. Even more showy are the bright orange berries that persist through winter Great tough, low maintenance ground cover for part shade to shade. Accepts no summer water if there is protection from the sun. Great winter appearance even after the repeated arctic blasts and ice and snow of winter 2017. This tenacious plant has a real will to grow. It should be used everywhere. Not bothered by gastropods- surprisingly.

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Rosmarinus (Salvia) officinalis ‘Hardy Prostrate Form’

You might be surprised to find that some Rosemaries are tender to cold. In general the clones of prostrate forms are less hardy. This is cuttings from a low growing plant that has weathered the coldest winters of the past 10 years- so we’re confident its reliable. Mounding evergreen shrub to 2′ tall x 6 wide in time. The branches closely follow the contours of anything in its path and is fetching as it trails over rock walls, boulders, anything that gets in the way. Soft blue flowers almost year round but peaking in the winter. Little water needed once established in soil that drains. Water to establish or to speed growth. Wonderful herb for cooking. Takes the hottest, most blasting sites with no stress. Moderate deer resistance. Excellent on steep slopes as it will root where stems touch the ground- important for erosion control. Very pretty planted with yellow flowered Grevillea  juniperina ‘Molonglo’. Similar cultural conditions and concurrent bloom. Syn Salvia rosmarinus). Full hot sun.

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This Californian Sage is extraordinarily vigorous and spreads by underground runners to colonize large areas. That is if winter does not knock it back. Large quilted soft green arrow shaped leaves appear in early spring, by late spring 28″ tall chalice’s of rich red/pink (Raspberry) flowers erupt from dramatic and well spaced whorls. Rich to average soil that drains well. Water well in the first season to establish then very light to none in subsequent years. A Salvia of southern and central California  it has a distinctive aroma that is loved by some, despised by others. Mulch with dry leaves for the first winter or two. Doesn’t like wet plus subfreezing cold. Good, and restrained in a container. Protect containerized plants from extreme cold (below 20ºF). Nice and very dramatic cut flowers. Blooms March repeatedly until June. Great for hummingbirds, butterflies, and pollinators. Semi-deciduous in winter.

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Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna

A superior Christmas box – purple stem Sarcococca is a slight improvement on this useful, fragrant, and durable evergreen shrub. Fine white flowers emit a strong sweet fragrance from late December to March. Slow spreading shrub that travels locally by suckers to form patches. To 2′ tall and up to 4′ wide if soil is rich, well drained and summer irrigation is reliable. Tolerates dense dry shade well. Black/red berries can follow the flowers into spring. Cold hardy to 0ºF. May burn in full sun- best with shade or at least protection from reflected heat- like an open north exposure. A member of the boxwood family that gives it high deer resistance. It can be slow to establish without regular irrigation in the first season. Water well and apply mulch. Though tough it pays to treat this shrub well from the beginning. Cut twigs that are blooming can perfume a room in winter. First and second year stems are deeply blushed purple- very pretty in contrast with the deep green simple leaves. Combines well with native ferns and perennials like Vancouveria and Epimedium. Native to S. central china.

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Scutellaria suffrutescens

Texas Cherry Skullcap is a wildflower with a mission. To bloom – not just a little but in sheets for all of summer with no supplemental irrigation. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t do that. Forms lows domes to 5″ high by 1′ wide and is smothered in cherry pink flowers from June well into autumn. Rich to average well drained soil and occasional  summer irrigation. Cut back in spring after new growth has commenced. Full all day sun, reflected heat and not much else. Long lived and virtually carefree. One of the best surprises in my garden of the past 10 years. Excellent perennial that survives, grows and blooms prolifically with no summer water. Even in the drought and heat of 2021. Extraordinarily adapted to baking hellstrips.

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Sedum confusum

Useful and pretty evergreen Sedum that thrives in diverse biomes but always looks good. In dry dappled shade it will create a dense spreading deep green colony. To 5″ tall by several feet wide. In full sun it will grow a little slower but regular water will speed things up. The bright green rosettes of leaves are perched atop stems. In early spring the whole plant is awash in gold flowers and attending pollinators. Rich, well drained soil with light but consistent summer water. The more shade the less water is required. Nice ground cover for small areas. Dense and evergreen. Surprisingly cold hardy and amenable to life in our climate. Mexico.

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Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Immensely useful, if rambunctious sedum that glows in vivid gold to chartreuse. The needle like leaves are vivid and line trailing stems. The stems root where they hit the ground- good local solution for erosion. Fast growing plant that spreads indefinitely in sun to quite a bit of shade. So easy to grow that I suggest you plant it in AVERAGE well drained soil. No need for amendments because the truth is once you have this plant you will always have it. Evergreen. Easy to remove from unwanted places. Simply pick it up off the ground and dispose. Or move it. I use this plant as a fast low water place holder when I’m deciding what to put in next. To plant simply toss it on the ground and water. You can bury it a little but its really not necessary. Avoid strongly compacted soil. Yellow flowers in early spring. Nice ground cover under trees. Hardy. Oh, so hardy.

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