More poking around in the garden

I gave in to temptation a couple weeks ago and splurged on two annual cineraria at Bi-mart. The blooms hadn’t quite opened yet, so I ended up buying both of the blue options. Now that they are open, I much prefer the one on the right, which has that ethereal, mesmerizing, deep, dark, pulsating, ultraviolet purple-blue quality that is so rare in the flower world.

This bedraggled bit of green sticks is an Ephedra nevadensis that I grew from seed. I’m a little grumpy about it, though, because I noticed it was covered in scale insects the other day. I’m not sure how they got there as this pot was separated in space from all of the other plants in the greenhouse, a practice I use to prevent infestations from spreading covertly to healthy plants. I stuck the plant outside a couple weeks ago hoping that a couple frosts would kill the scale, but they still look plump and healthy. Probably time to just toss the whole thing.

Green sticks of Ephedra nevadensis seedling sitting in a pot on a stump

I cleaned up last year’s old vines off of the side of the wood shed. leaving the Aristolochia californica up. It’s blooming now. I also ripped out that misidentified pale yellow clematis that I grew from seed (here). I decided I’d much rather have something more vibrant and didn’t want to waste the space. There’s already a much nicer, deeper yellow clematis a couple panels over anyway.

Spiraling stems of Aristolochia californica climbing up twine.
Bare vines of Aristolochia californica covered in drooping, yellow pipe flowers
The hooked, pipe-shaped yellow flowers of Aristolochia californica

The Azara microphylla by the side door continues to look sad. There were barely any chocolatey-fragrant flowers this year. It’s got to come down soon.

Bare branches of Azara microphylla dying from drought

I planted a flat of Pacific wax myrtle (Morella californica) along the road to replace the row of young arborvitae that died due to drought. Greg at Xera Plants was saying that I better protect these from deer for a year or two, so I made some chicken wire enclosures last weekend. And, I had a couple left over to plant between us and the neighbor. I hope these little guys grow quickly. First priority this summer will be making sure they get the water they need to survive in their new home.

A flat of young, green Pacific wax myrtle shrubs.

A flower of western skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) and the leaves of water parsley (Oenanthe sarmentosa) and coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) recently emerged out of the creek.

Yellow spathe of western skunk cabbage

I’ve been working in the deer garden next to the road. This garden is planted with all of the evil, prickly, toxic, and fuzzy plants I can find to see how well they hold up to deer browse. It’s designed to be a very low maintenance garden, one of the last to get weeded (if ever) each year, and this is where the mulch gets dumped and the branches for chipping get piled. So, it’s truly an unsightly mess. Anyway, there were several shrubs here that were damaged by drought and several others were too large, too rangy, or otherwise looking decrepit and past their prime. I know the photo isn’t the greatest, but trust me, they looked terrible.

Shrubs dying from drought and old age

The first task was to rip out the Ozothamnus ‘Silver Jubilee’ with extensive dieback (larger gray shrub) and to trim back a smaller lavender plant (left). Doing so revealed the ceanothus and California laurel (Umbellularia californica) that were behind them (right).

Ozothamnus shrub dying from drought with lots of dead, grey branches and leaves
Empty space left in the garden by cutting out a dead shrub

Next to go were an overgrown rangy Leptospermum rupestre and an old rosemary bush. Before photo on the left and after photo on the right. I’m tackling the dying Hebe cupressoides ‘Boughton Dome’ in the middle next.

Overgrown, rangy Leptospermum that is going to get cut down
Empty garden space left behind by cutting out overgrown shrubs

That’s as far as I got, but this has left a significant amount of space for something new.

Lots of empty space in the garden from cutting out old shrubs

Oh, look! The Eryngium paniculatum that I thought had died over the winter is resprouting!

New grassy sprouts of Eryngium paniculatum emerging from the ground

Pausing to admire the yellow flowers and lustrous, dark green foliage of Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium). It seems to me these should be fragrant, but they’re not.

Yellow, popcorn-like flowers and lustrous green prickly leaves of Mahonia aquifolium

And, look! Surviving its second winter along the creek is the gunnera, a gift from Loree at danger garden. It’s nice to see  it survived the winter, though its leaves are currently smaller than the Pacific waterleaf (Hydrophyllum tenuipes) growing around it. I fertilized the heck out of it, hoping to push it along to the giant monstrosity stage.

Green, dissected leaves of waterleaf surround a prickly leaf of gunnera

Obviously, I missed one of the rhizomes of the fernleaf bamboo I dug out a couple weeks ago and it’s trying to make a comeback. Need to get back out there and dig up the rest. I am so glad I decided to take it out before it got much larger.

Here’s a very nice surprise. Big, fat, green buds on the Taxodium distichum ‘Peve Minaret’ that I thought I had killed in last year’s drought. Yay!

Let’s see what is going on in the seedframe. Four pots Delphinium trollifolium germinating in the middle. These will get planted along the creek.

I was also happy to see these two natives doing well in the rock garden, Sedum spathulifolium ssp. purdyi on the left and the fern Aspidotis densa emerging from underneath a juniper on the right. I don’t usually have success with the dryland ferns, so this is a win.

Oh my gosh, and more Marah oreganus seedlings are coming up everywhere in the garden. These are such a pain to dig out. It must have been a banner year for seed set in 2023.

I decided to wash them off and more closely examine their root system. Interesting to note that the shoot emerging from the large brown seed first grows downward to form the tuber (the thicker root at the bottom of the photo), and then splits off and begins growing upward to emerge from the soil as the vine. The bottom of the tuber was already 8 to 12 inches deep at this stage. No wonder they are so hard to pull out.

The last few photos are from my plant haul at Hortlandia and a few Portland area nursery visits a couple weekends ago. I was disappointed that Windcliff and Far Reaches didn’t make the trip down. It is a long way for them to go, but those are two long-standing favorites for some of the more rare plants.

  • Adromischus marianiae f. herrei
  • Akebia quinata ‘Variegata’
  • Allium ‘Millenium’
  • Anemone multifida
  • Fritillaria affinis (x2)
  • Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’
  • Notholithocarpus densiflorus var. echinoides
  • Polygonatum kingianum
  • Penstemon hybrids ‘Evelyn’, ‘Purple Bedder’, ‘Raspberry Wine’, and ‘Red Trumpet’
  • Ruscus hypophyllum
  • Saxifraga oregana
  • Tanacetum densum ssp. amani

I had to laugh when Nanthawat from The Other Side Nursery saw my flat and commented that it looked a lot like what I had purchased in 2023. Now how on earth did he remember that?! In the moment, I certainly couldn’t remember what I had purchased a year ago. It was only coming back home and looking through my database that I saw, sure enough, I had bought a Polygonatum kingianum and a Notholithocarpus densiflorus last year too!

I am particularly fond of this little treasure, Adromischus marianiae f. herrei from Rancho Cacto, which made its way to my home greenhouse. It is so, so, so cool, with those nubbly, wrinkly cone-shaped leaves. A big thank you to Molly for coming to Hortlandia for the first time this year!

Wrinkled succulent leaves of Adromischus marianiae f. herrei

I was also thrilled to find a couple Fritillaria affinis, which I’ve wanted to find ever since my California botanizing trip in 2022. Several nursery people warned me that these are candy for rodents and deer, so I’d better build a fortress…

Although deciduous, I bought a variegated Akebia quinata vine to try out on our southwest fenceline. I wasn’t able to find many photos or information about it online, so I have no idea what to expect. I’ve given up on some of the evergreen vines like Clematis armandii and Trachelospermum jasminoides, which don’t like the winters here at Botanica Chaotica. I noticed a lot of the Trachelospermum up in Portland looked pretty terrible too. Normally, they do fine amongst the warm concrete, but this winter was just too much.

I’ll end with some daffodils I took into work, where their cheer colors and sweet scent brighten up my day.

Just for fun, comparing the tiniest flower of Narcissus wilkommii to the largest of Narcissus ‘Cornish King’.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Tracy

    Now that is a satisfying amount of work to get done. The cineraria’s are so blue, lovely. Your new Adromischus is a cool bumpy plant!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It was nice to get all of that done. Clearing the slate for the next set of plants!

  2. danger garden

    I’m so glad the gunnera is still alive! That little Aspidotis densa is a charmer, and re: your Hortlandia haul. Are the plants from last year (how did Nat remember that???) still alive and you’re adding more, or did winter do them in?

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I had just completely forgotten what I had bought last year. Nat’s memory is much, much better than mine if he is able to keep track of what everyone else is buying too!

  3. Kris P

    Nice job on the deer area cleanup! It also appears that you had more positive finds than negatives overall, which is always a good thing. Your Hortlandia haul is impressive too. That Adromischus is VERY interesting – and unlike any other plant I’ve ever seen.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It is nice to see how resilient many plants are. A good reminder after a tough winter.
      Hard to believe that the Adromischus is real. It is an odd one for sure.


    So much growing and thriving there. Isn’t the new life inspiring and hopeful? 🙂 I really like both of your Cineraria, and the Fritillarias are fabulous!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Spring is a wonderfully hopeful time of year. My favorite season by far. The patterning in the Fritillarias is mesmerizing.

  5. S.

    I so like the tiny narcissus. I like them best when they’re also short, just tiny little delights. I tried ‘Xit’ this year.(finally found it before it sold out!) Beautiful tiny white blooms, but about a foot tall. But so far good long lasting bloom, yay!
    Very cool fritillaria! Wish I could keep them happy. Every time I’ve tried Fritillaria they’ve disappeared. Bulbs eaten? Just don’t like me?

    I hope you will do a “how did my new plants fare’ post in the fall. I’m also interested in an Akebia, would like to know how big it gets for you and if it’s happy.

    That’s probably the nicest Adromischus I’ve seen. They’re definitely more interesting the bigger the clumps get. The tiny ones barely clumping don’t really look like much.

    (oh, you’ve gotten me paying attention to dark red due to your last post. Check out tulipa ‘sarah raven’. lily-flowered and a superb deep dark red- not purple, not orangey-red, deep red, enough to make a vampire drool. )

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I’ve also had fritillarias disappear. I’ve tried dozens of F. meleagris before I finally got one bulb to take. I suspect somehow it is a combination of disease, pests, and finding the right spot. Definitely seems to be one of the pickier genera. I have similar problems with Calochortus though they grow wild in the clearcuts across the street.
      Anna at Flutter and Hum warned me Akebia can be quite aggressive. I’ve got the regular green-leaved species from her last year and it is starting to push new growth. At this point, I am so desperate for something to block the view, that I don’t really care if it becomes a monster. Certainly (hopefully) the variegated one will be a little more refined.
      Great find on Sarah Raven. True blood reds are a rarity.

  6. Chavli

    I love it that Taxodium distichum ‘Peve Minaret’ is bouncing back! Astonishing. You must be thrilled you didn’t toss it in the recycling bin.
    The two Allium ‘Millenium’ I planted last year returned after winter. Waiting on blooms. Their seeds are supposedly sterile, which I find a Plus.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Sometimes I actually have the patience (and space) to wait out a plant going through a serious case of the uglies. I didn’t exercise much restraint this last weekend and cut out a fairly large Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’ that had lost about 2/3 of its leaves. It was starting to put out new growth, but I decided I’d rather have something that stays smaller and plays better with the neighboring plants.
      I had heard so many great things about Millenium that I wanted to give it a go. I’ve got many other types of allium that I need to deadhead because of their propensity to reseed prolifically. It is a little intimidating to see a sea of allium seedlings sprouting up where there were none just a few months before.

  7. hb

    A whole different level of gardening challenges you have with your winters, and deer–your efforts are impressive even if winter and deer interfere.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It makes a big difference to have a fenced area where the deer (usually) can’t get it. Then, the deer garden becomes sort of a fun challenge to see what they will and will not eat. Of course every year is different. I am glad it is spring.

  8. Anna K

    Adromischus marianiae, huh? What an interesting and unusual plant… Never heard of or seen before – very cool!

    This past winter was brutal for so many plants. I have almost given up on Trachelospermum as well. Mine, which has been in the ground for around 15 years, requires a lot of de-crisping. Still haven’t gotten to that. My banana plant shows no sign of life whatsoever, and I finally took out the corokia that partially died last year. And so many other things. The only remediating factor is all the new open space I have at my disposal…

    Good for you for getting so much work done. It looked rather backbreaking to me, but now you have space for all your new goodies!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      We had a Trachelospermum on a trellis near the front door for about 5 years now. It is very protected, facing east. Warms up quickly in the summer. But, the Trachelospermum always struggled every winter and lost 1/3 to 2/3 of it’s branches by March. Finally ripped it out last weekend and replaced it with Jasminum officinale. Now comes the hard part of figuring out where I want to site all the shrubs I have sitting around waiting to be planted.

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