March Meh-dness and April Fools

Spring panic has set in after a long bout of the meh’s in March due to weather. So much weeding to do, but still mostly cold and wet. Just got back from the spring Hortlandia plant sale on Friday and individual nursery visits on Saturday. I don’t know if it was the cold, blustery, wetness or if selection was poor, but there just wasn’t much that caught our attention. My friends bought a record low number of plants – only 2, that’s right 2 plants, after walking by dozens of vendors at Hortlandia and visiting four nurseries. Too many of the same old annuals, run-of-the-mill perennials, overly large plant sizes (I prefer 1 gallon or smaller), and some very high prices. Up to $13-25 for small 3.5″ pots or $65+ for 2 gallon size, even when planted with puny, deformed, or sickly plants. The sticker shock was real. No thanks. But, it was most excellent to see friends at Hortlandia. I wish there was more time to chat, but everyone is in a rush to find those few rare plants before they disappear. I did end up buying a few things and will maybe write an update about that next time. Today, I’m going to post about several things I saw around the garden last weekend, when it was SUNNY and WARM! It seems like a distant April Fool’s prank now. What a difference a few days makes.

Our Geneva Mirabelle and Seneca plums are blooming for the first time since we planted them in 2018. Hope we get some fruit.

Our Asian pears, also planted in 2018, have been a major disappointment. We think one of them was mislabeled, as the fruit are the traditional pear shape (not round), and are bland and tasteless. The other one is just limping along, not fruiting at all. Frustrated, I grafted the mislabeled pear with apple scionwood last year (here). And guess what? They took! The funny thing is that I labeled these grafts as Honeycrisp…, but last year the blog says they were Gold Rush. Hmmm. Something is amiss with my memory banks obviously. Regardless of which apple it turns out to be, it will be a far sight better than an insipid pear if I can get them to fruit.

My absolute favorite flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica ‘Atsuya Hamada’, for it’s deep cherry red flowers (and not the locally common sun-bleached orangy-pink grossness that I dislike). It hasn’t grown fast enough since being planted in 2021. The rabbits dinged it good, so I should probably fence and fertilize. Gosh, this color makes me happy – absolutely thrillingly bright in the sun and moodily appropriate rich maroon when it is cloudy. This is what a flowering quince should be.

Tiny, tiny little fragrant Narcissus wilkommii popping up in several places from the back rock garden. So happy I chose this one. I think it will do well in years to come. Mushrooms are popping up from the rotting roots of the Doug-fir we cut down years ago. I would love some time to sit down and identify them, but it won’t happen this year.

I keep remembering this as Cynoglossum, but now it’s been renamed Adelinia grandis. A tough native, dug from the clearcut out back before they oversprayed herbicides. Happy and starting to seed around.

I decided to do more grafting on our apple trees. We were dumb when we first did this years ago, grafting too far out on the branches and not closer to the main trunk. I am attempting to rectify some of that now. A little worried it’s too late in the season, too warm, too far along. I should have done this back in February. But, we’ll see. Doesn’t hurt to try.

I had forgotten how the petals of Trachystemon orientalis curl into little spirals. It has a very short bloom season, just a couple weeks, though the rest of the growing season it has large,clean green leaves. I really should try to remember to take a picture. Such an excellent, tough plant. A very, very happy find from Dancing Oaks Nursery. It didn’t even blink at 3.5 months of drought last summer.

Also extremely pleased with this variegated woodrush from Xera Plants, Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’. They said it would thrive in dry clay in the shade, and they were right. It is really starting to take off.

It has been an excellent Narcissus bulbocodium year. They are really thriving in the side rock garden planted into gravel + sand. These are doing much better than the ones planted into clay elsewhere. There’s some N. wilkommii in there too. For some reason, both species bloomed better than many of my larger varieties, many of which put out only a few or no flowers at all.

Yuck, rot starting on one of the leaves of Agave parryi ‘J.C. Raulston’. The happiness of the Narcissus bulbocodium and N. wilkommii is evident in the abundance of seedlings popping up everywhere in the background if the photo. I need to pick the seed off this year and send to the Pacific Bulb Society, if they even take these more commercially available, common bulbs. I haven’t been a member very long, so I don’t know what they prefer for their exchanges.

A nice little clump of Ranunculus ficaria ‘Flore Pleno’. Cautiously optimistic it won’t become invasive. I’ve had it >12 years and this is it so far.

Western wild cucumber (Marah oreganus) seedlings are coming up everywhere. These are surprisingly deep rooted. More than a foot deep already. I have a hard time imagining a little chipmunk or jay burying them. The fruit is so bitter! But, these were at least 50 feet from any nearby vines, so how else they would get here? They always germinate in clusters, which is what makes me think the entire fruit gets buried.

I’m a little sad that we’ve been growing catnip (Nepeta cataria) for years, which our previous cats always enjoyed. Linnaeus, however, seems mortally offended when I offer it to him, either fresh or dried. His lips curl up in disgust and his face scrunches up as he backs away while glaring at me. No reason, I guess, to keep this around anymore. After five cats, I guess we finally ended up with one of the persnickety 20-30% that don’t like it.

Seedlings of Marah oreganus, wild cucumber, popping up in the garden
Marah oreganus
Catnip plant growing in the garden
Nepeta cataria

Santolina chamaecyparis ‘Little Nicky’ suddenly died, three months after January’s winter nastiness. Too bad, as it seemed to do really well in the rock garden. I had several plants, and I still might be able to take a decent cutting or two off the more protected plant in the front yard.

An example of the weedy mess that is our gravel pathway between the perennial beds on the left and the side rock garden on the right. Thinking I might do a modified version of the concrete flagstone path I made last year by spacing the stones a few inches apart and then growing creeping thyme in between.

Clean, almost completely weed free, new flagstone path off to the right of the rock garden. All we need to do is blow the leaves off with our electric leaf blower.

Stupid Clematis armandii bit the dust. Second time this was winter killed in the garden, and the last. Time to try some other vine. I am desperate to hide the view behind it, but none of the evergreen plants I’ve planted along the fence have cooperated so far – either too slow or too dead. Obligatory photo of the shiny, emerging leaves of Podophyllum pleianthum. I need to cover up the new irrigation line with mulch.

Shiny green leaves of Podophuyllum pleianthum emerging for spring
Podophyllum pleianthum

Hacquetia epipactis is at its prime, the official plant mascot of Botanica Chaotica for three years now. Stoked that H. epipactis ‘Thor’ appears to have made it. Variegated flowers and leaves – I can’t wait until it fills out. Gosh, I love this plant, thus the enclosure to protect it from marauding rabbits.

Polygonatum macranthum seedlings, a gift from Bruce Wakefield and Jerry Grossnickle. I am thrilled these survived. The seedlings died down mid-summer and I didn’t want to poke around to see if they were still there. Really nice light green stripe running down the center of each leaf that will probably disappear in a week or two. Yes, I see the shiny geranium (Geranium lucidum) and cleavers (Galium aparine). Those weeds will always be here somewhere, lurking, along with the hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta).

Finally got Corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’ to survive the winter. There are some C. solida ‘Purple Bird’ (background left) and Primula veris there too.

Green, yellow, and purple mottling on the leaves of Geranium phaeum ‘Shadowlight’ and Podophyllum delavayi ‘Spotty Dotty’. This appears to be an optimum spot for the latter, which is struggling in another part of the garden. There was an abundance of Spotty Dotty at this year’s Hortlandia sale. Now, I wish I had bought a few more.

Mottled yellow and purple leaves of Geranium phaeum Shadowlight
Geranium phaeum 'Shadowlight'
Mottled leaves of Podophyllum delavayi 'Spotty Dotty' emerging amongst some bleeding hearts
Podophyllum delavayi 'Spotty Dotty' and Lamprocapnos (ugh - I miss Dicentra) spectabilis

Yay! My first photo of silvery, fuzzy Syneilesis acontifolia leaves emerging out in the perennial bed. A gift from Jane over at MulchMaid. Also a first, my Oxalis oregana must be happy because it is beginning to spread around. First time I’ve ever been successful with this plant after trying maybe 4 or 5 different times.

Emerging silvery fuzzy leaves of Syneilesis acontifolia
Syneilesis acontifolia
Oxalis oregana beginning to spread around
Oxalis oregana

Primula ‘Gold Lace Hybrid’ and Viola sempervirens, a cute native violet.

My trout lily, Erythronium revolutum, made it. Some of the best variegation, just wish it wouldn’t go dormant in the summer. I just learned from several gardeners that these are apparently delicious to rampaging rodents. Uh oh. I have been warned.

We’ll end here, with a glorious pairing of blue and purple Trillium kurabashii with a golden-leaf form of common columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris).

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Ann

    Sweet stuff. So many favorites!

  2. Kris P

    Lots of good along with some headaches but that’s the norm with gardening, isn’t it? I love the red quince, the Ranunculus with tiny flowers, and your plant mascot. Your new flagstone path looks great.

    I’m sorry to hear that the Hortlandia sale was something of a bust. I figure that plant prices and pot sizes will come down eventually – I have to wonder if, because garden center traffic dropped during the pandemic, growers held plants back that they normally would have offered in smaller pots at lower prices. I await a normalization but perhaps I’m just an optimist.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Well, the sale wasn’t a complete bust. I did walk away with a good half a flat of plants for the garden, including a bulb that I had been looking for, for a long time. I do hope prices and sizes come down soon. I’m not yet willing to pay big bucks for a huge plant that might kick the bucket during a freak winter cold spell or a long, hot, droughty summer. I agree, though, it is just a matter of patience.

  3. Carolyn

    Love the Chaenomeles.
    We bought 4 plants….two were just pocket sized house plants 🪴
    You must have missed us running off with them.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I forgot about the two houseplants you bought at Cornell. They must have been tucked away in a secret compartment afterwards.

  4. S


    I’ve had that L. sylvatica variegata for, ummm..a good 10 years or so. Always looks good, hard to kill. A winner in my book. If you leave it alone it will just keep getting to be a bigger and bigger circular clump. It takes being hacked back when necessary as well. It’s fairly determined but not deeply rooted. It will grow over or through whatever it comes across, but it’s not mean about it. Easily controlled, really.

    I’ve killed the primula. Decided not to replace as the color wasn’t working as well as I’d hoped.

    I’ve also killed the clematis one of the sudden cold years, never replaced as I didn’t love it.

    I finally have h.epipactus again-I found a spot it likes. Now I want to add ‘thor’. Wherever did you find it?

    Ahh, Hortlandia. I didn’t hang with the cool kids and go Friday night. I hadn’t been in many years but had been hoping Windcliff and Far Reaches would be there. It didnt seem worth the $25 without them. I was also not impressed. It seemed much smaller than the last one I went to. Back then it was very difficult to stay in budget (or within shouting distance). I was significantly under this year. Even though I was also surprised at some of the prices. I did save money on some things I was thinking about ordering online, though. I kind of regret not looking closer at the various plant cloches/cages. I hope I run across them elsewhere.

    I also regret not grabbing another Spotty Dotty…

    In a desparate hunt for privacy (I’m on a city lot) I’ve tried a lot of vines. Have you considered Holboellia Angustifolia? pretty leaves, evergreen. I have one that grew out of its band pot into the pot it was sitting on and has survived two winters without any protection. (Trellis replacement got delayed, didn’t want to shock it and plant late before winter). It got down to 13° here in the ice storm. It’s actually blooming better than last year, go figure.
    Also maybe Euonymus ‘Wolong’s Ghost’, another DJH introduction? It looks like a more vigorous Trachyspermum ‘Theta’, not a typical euonymus (yawn)

    I had a variegated porcelain berry for a long time. It’s deciduous but vigorous. Very pretty plant, pretty durable. The berries are turquoise/purple. It does set seed and it’s worth keeping an eye on seedlings but it wasn’t invasive for me. I dug it up when we had to replace our fence and it hasn’t had a zombie resurrection so it counts as manageable for me.

    How is your Aristalochia doing? I’m considering adding one or two.

    1. S.

      omg, this is so ridiculously long, I’m sorry, really shouldn’t do this while half-paying attention to other things too.
      Also, sorry for the misspellings, I was being a bit lazy (see above) and didn’t double check them (otoh, I’m not being a “grammar nazi”, so that’s something😆)
      L. sylvatica ‘Marginata’
      Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Theta’
      Aristolochia, and I’m going to try them…

      1. Botanica Chaotica

        Ha! I don’t mind ridiculously long. I’ve done the same thing myself when the wind gets in my sails and I have a lot to say in response to a blog post.

    2. Botanica Chaotica

      Great news on the Luzula, looking forward to years of premium performance.
      The color combination on the Primula is a bit hard to match with everything else, but I haven’t been very good at pairing and blending. I end up with a lot of clashing visuals sometimes. Luckily, bloom season is short.
      Thor – I found it last year at Dancing Oaks.
      Lots of folks missed having Windcliff and Far Reaches at the event. They are usually the two nurseries we would head to first. It is so nice when they make the trip down here. I wish there was a way to tempt them back down! Still sore I didn’t buy a flat of Spotty Dotty.
      I have tried Holboellia, but have had three young plants die during the winter. I just managed to get one to survive last winter, so hopefully that’s the ticket to an evergreen wall. Euonymus ‘Wolong’s Ghost’ hasn’t been vigorous enough to do much. Grows maybe 3 inches a year in my yard. Trachelospermums struggle. We have a hard time getting them undamaged through winter, usually ending up with a lot of dead leaves and vines to prune out.
      Aristolochia is doing really well, I’m ready to try other species. I just need to find plants or get the seeds to germinate!

  5. Anna K

    Sorry you lost your Clematis armandii. As you saw when you werr here, mine gave up the ghost last year. I thought it was a fluke then, but seeing yours now makes me think these plants might have to be relegated to years past. Oregon is simply getting too extreme, weatherwise.
    Glad your Syneilesis is up and bringing you joy! I got mine from Jane, too. She is so nice!!

    Sorry to hear Hortlandia didn’t meet your expectations. I didn’t bother going this year.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      The extremes certainly leave us with a smaller selection of plants. It takes a special blend of cold hardiness, winter wet endurance, heat resilience, and drought toughness to allow a plant to thrive in my garden. I had forgotten about your Clematis armandii. I really like that plant a lot, but I am happy to say that the Akebia you gave me, although deciduous, has been a real trooper and made it through the winter. Looking forward to some aggressive, view-blocking enthusiasm from it soon!

  6. danger garden

    I am sorry to hear I missed you at Hortlandia on Friday night! I came away with a flat of plants (9 plants + one I bought at Blooming Junction beforehand), pictures on Wednesday’s post.

    My experience with Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’ was great to start with, but quickly went downhill when I discovered it was basically a glorified slug breeding ground. They loved that thing and multiplied within it something awful. I always think of you when I see Hacquetia epipactis now… (not a bad thing).

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I figured you maybe raced through in record time, though it is hard to pay attention to the crowds and chat with friends all the while looking for that next, cool, new plant. Yuck on the slug magnet – my Luzula has been in a dry bed. We’ve been thinking of adding irrigation there, but your comment has me rethinking that strategy.

      1. S.

        (OTOH, if you know where all the slugs are, you know where to dump the sluggo…I imagine being out of town near forest (and the clear cut) you’re pretty infested with slugs no matter what, anyhow? ) I’ve kept mine pretty dry, they do fine. (I think my property must be dryer than Danger Garden, our experiences with plants seems to differ a lot.)

        1. Botanica Chaotica

          We do get a lot of slugs, but I don’t tend to do much about them. If a plant needs constant protection and coddling, it isn’t going to last long out here. So far so good on the Luzula. I’ve never had major slug damage. The trick, as you say, must be to keep it dry.

  7. hb

    Spot on comments on that Quince. Breathtaking color!

    Always fascinating to see what grows in a very different climate–love the Trillium and the HaQuetia and of course ‘Spotty Dotty’.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I am a sucker for those deep reds. I want more of that in the garden. I do love this time of year when so many things are emerging and at their best!

      1. S.

        (Paul B of Xera just posted an impressively dark red Camellia on insta)

        1. Botanica Chaotica

          I know. It is a beaut. If only our water wasn’t pH 10, I would gamble on trying one.

          1. S.

            Interesting. I’m on ground water as well, my ph is usually between 8.5 and 9-ish. Neighbors have 2 large happy camellias. I’m guessing they don’t use a lot of supplemental water, or that next jump you have to deal with is just too much.
            I think that the disparity with supplied hard water and the “organic” soft water/acid soil adds yet another environmental complication to manage.

          2. Botanica Chaotica

            Interesting about your pH being that high, but no issues. Maybe it is about how much supplemental watering gets done after all.

  8. Chavli

    Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’ has been happy in my garden for many years. It grows in dry shade with summer water and created a nice mat.
    Hacquetia epipactis, your beloved mascot, is so sweet. What’s the tiny groundcover to it’s right?
    Trillium kurabashii is stunning! Wow! A definite show stopper.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      That little groundcover is our native Montia parvifolia. I picked it up from Dancing Oaks, I believe. It is politely assertive and has stuck it out for a few years now. I was pleasantly surprised by the T. kurabashii. I forget it is there sometime in midsummer. Now I can’t remember if it goes dormant and disappears or if the leaves aren’t as flashy later on.

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