Sambucus mexicana ssp. cerulea

Our locally native blue elderberry makes a good very large shrub or small garden tree. It has beautiful pinnate foliage, large fragrant umbels of white flowers followed by large clumps of edible blue fruit.These appear in May/June quite a bit later than the red druped species S. racemosa.  Incredibly fast growing in youth it responds in a robust way to extra water in summer. Adaptable to nearly any soil type. And very drought tolerant as it matures. Fall color is often yellow but also lacking. Birds feast on the berries through winter. Otherwise they hang ornamentally on the bare twigs- also very showy. To 14′-18′ tall and naturally forming a vase shape. Lifespan is typically less than 30 years. Give it room to spread. Edible real fruit set occurs in more well established plants. Widespread throughout the west. Spreads liberally by bird droppings.  Oregon native plant.

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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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Sarcococca orientalis

We think this is the best Sarcococca or Christmas box. A nice little 2′ x 2′ slow growing evergreen shrub with a formal air. In January to March relatively large white petal free flowers emit a sweet perfume. Best in part shade and rich, well drained soil. Light summer water when established. Always looks good. Can turn yellowish in full sun. Long lived trouble free shrub that delights in winter. Mass for a great perfume effect during the coldest days of the year. Moderate deer resistance. Long lived and always good looking. Flowers are large for the genus.

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Sarcococca ruscifolia var. chinensis ‘Dragon’s Gate’

Graceful and formal at the same time. This low arching form of winter box is wonderful with uniform thin, deep green pointed foliage on arching stems. In mid-winter to early spring the undersides of the stems are clad in fine powerfully FRAGRANT white flowers at every leaf axil. The fragrance spreads for quite a distance on mild winter days. Following the flowers are berries that turn black and arrive at red. Handsome low shrub to 2′ tall and 3′ wide suckering to form patches with time. Moderately fast growing and easy to establish shrub in the BUXACEAE which means that this boxwood relative is also deer resistant. Excellent performance in part shade to shade but not low dense shade. Massed it performs as a large scale ground cover. Light consistent summer H20 for the best looks. Takes dry conditions in shade once established- especially if you apply mulch liberally. Unlike the species it does not lose leaves in bloom which is an important difference. Finds a home under dark stairwells and foundation plantings. Impressive relatively new selection. China.

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Schefflera (Heptapleurum) delavayi

Big bold evergreen shrub that deserves a place in every garden. Tall growing cold hardy shrub with leaves that can be up to 18″ across- all five leaflets. New growth in spring emerges slowly clad in a showy taupe indumentum that clings to the new leaves for quite some time. The ultimate leaf color is deep green with a matte surface. To 12′ tall and branching. Moderately fast growth in rich soil that is well drained with consistent summer moisture- to speed growth. Otherwise established plants are remarkably drought adapted in part shade to shade. Takes full sun but leaves are smaller and the plant grows more slowly. An open north exposure is ideal with cool roots and the tops in the bright sun but not reflected heat. In autumn 3′ long pale yellow flower spikes appear and persist until frost. Excellent, refined shrub that has been perfectly hardy to cold for us for the past decade. Much more heat tolerant than other members of this genus.

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Spiraea betulifolia var. lucida

Underused native Spiraea from the western United States and native in Oregon including the immediate Portland area.  Low mounding deciduous shrub to 2′ x 3′. This is the locally native form. Often the straight species is for sale- its from Asia and is 4 times the size of ours. Pink buds open to foamy white flat clusters of flowers appear in late spring. In autumn it turns amazingly vivid colors of red/orange/gold and it holds its color for weeks. One of the most drought tolerant of the genus requiring light summer water to very little. Full sun and rich soil. Spreads to form patches. Locally native and plentiful near the Columbia Gorge and throughout the mountains whose diminutive habit means that pruning is seldom necessary. Blooms on wood from the previous season. Long lived and an excellent landscape shrub. Birch Leaf Spiraea or glossy leaved Spiraea. Native in the Portland city limits. Oregon native plant.

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Spiraea splendens (densiflora)

Subalpine Rose Spiraea is native to the higher elevations of the the Cascades. Above 4500′ in sunny, moist glens it makes carpets of deep rose pink umbels from low rounded shrubs. To 30″ tall by 4′ wide in garden conditions, Rich soil with regular irrigation. Moderately fast growing to this dimension. The emerging soft green leaves take on hints of blue as they mature. Bloom at low elevation is May-July but in its highest native haunts bloom can be delayed to late summer. Deciduous shrub with wonderful orange/ red fall color if brief. Easy to grow native garden plant with regular irrigation. Established plants can take deep watering every two weeks. Remember that this as with all Spiraeas have little tolerance for drought and they don’t necessarily wilt going straight to crispy (a look not as fixable as wilting). Mulch heavily for the first few seasons. Avoid blasting, reflected heat and and hot dry situations. Wonderful combined with Rhododendrons and Azaleas for similar cultural conditions. In its native haunt it can be found with Pacific Rhododendron, Helenium, Delphiniums and Veratrum. I’ve never seen it afflicted by disease. Watch for aphids, hose those off if they appear. Beautiful in bloom. Very cold hardy. Oregon native plant.

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Spiraea thunbergii ‘Fujino Pinky’

This is a charming hardy, deciduous shrub with quite a few fine attributes. In late winter to early spring red flower buds line the arching fine stems and open to white/light pink. The effect is a classic apple blossom scheme. The fine leaves are thin and and a pleasant fresh green in summer. I think its finest hour is autumn when the whole shrub becomes a glowing ball of red/ orange/ pink. The chemical that causes the the pink in the flowers is most evident in the fall color. Tough rounded and then arching shrub of fine texture. Blooms on wood from the previous season, prune directly AFTER blooming if necessary. Size is somewhat dependent on irrigation. To 4′ x  4′ in 5 years in rich to average soil with regular summer water to establish. Then just avoid severe aridity. Long lived, cold hardy plant that is best with a hard pruning every 6 or so years to refresh. Good for wild areas, not deer resistant but admirably adapted to dryness. Excellent performance in the Columbia Gorge and east of the Cascades. Mix with Spiraea betulifolia var. lucida for summer bloom but a simultaneous spectacular long show in fall. Native to Japan.

 

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Spiraea x pyramidata

This is our local form of the Pyramid Spiraea an attractive naturally occurring hybrid between two local species. Spiraea douglasii (dark pink flowered) and Spiraea betulifolia var. lucida (white flowered).  Its a larger plant and much more controlled than  its parent S. douglasii and it inherits some of the drought adaptation of Birch leaf Spiraea. To 5′ tall and 4′ wide this upright growing shrub produces pyramid shaped inflorescences of the softest pink- intermediate between the two species. This form was found just east of Portland. Full sun and occasional deep soaks in dry summers. Tolerates part shade at the expense of a tidy, upright habit. Blooms on wood from the previous season, prune if needed after flowering. Adaptable to wild areas. Deciduous shrub that turns to tones of yellow and flaming orange in mid autumn. This twiggy shrub would make a great hedgerow plant. Blooms late May to early July. Flowers turn to tan seed heads that persist on the plant. Cold hardy and not difficult to grow. Not bothered by pests or disease. Not fussy about soils adaptable from sand to clay. Oregon native plant.

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Symphoricarpos mollis

Creeping snowberry is widespread in western Oregon and indeed throughout the state. Its a low suckering deciduous shrub that can occupy large areas. To 30″ tall spread is indefinite in rich to average soil with regular water for the first year to establish. Mulch is extremely beneficial and will suppress weeds for the first few years which can arrive in the middle of a patch of this spreading plant. Leaves are fresh green in spring turning blue green with the heat of summer. Small pinkish flowers occur in late spring and morph over the summer into plush white squishy berries. They line the bare stems and are showy until birds make off with them or they remain and rot. The berries are toxic for humans. Fall color is light yellow to very little. Common on undisturbed slopes on the edges of the valley and in the eastern foothills of the Coast Range and western Cascades. Snow berry is often afflicted with powdery mildew in the driest parts of summer. No harm will come to the plant. A wonderful habitat plant. Oregon native plant.

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