So, here we are 2.5 months after the storm. How are things looking now? This is the South Stream Garden, where most of the damage occurred. My focus in this area is on shade and clay tolerant herbaceous perennials that can take a heavy blanket of leaves over winter and a periodic beating with falling branches. Many of these plants were below ground in February, dormant and safe. Things are looking pretty good, minus some major damage to one shrub and minor damage to a few others in this area. I stopped planting more delicate shrubs underneath the poplar a few years ago after some previous experience with falling branches. Another reason to avoid shrubs in this area is that when we do get snow, it tended to get hastily thrown into this area onto whatever plants were next to the driveway when it got shoveled. That only led to further damage. Better to just have herbaceous perennials or bushes that resprout easily after a hard prune.
The poplar itself (Lombardy poplar or Populus nigra ‘Italica’) probably lost about one fifth of its mass in February. This also happened to it about 6 or 7 years ago in another snow/ice storm that came in October or November while it still had all of its leaves. That was when I really learned not to plant anything too special underneath the tree that couldn’t take a hammering. Based on past experience, I expect the poplar will look almost normal by the end of the year. They can recover fast as long as they are healthy. Unlike our native black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa), the leaves from this poplar take forever to decay. Those are the brown leaves in between all of the green plants above. They create a thick, wet and cold suffocating environment over our sopping wet clay in winter. Perfect for smothering delicate plants. I’ve lost quite a few under there over the years. So, whatever is planted here has to be able to survive a lack of air exchange and be robust enough to grow up through the leaves in spring. Anything that thrives here is a plant superhero.
Our formally 4 foot diameter Pacific Wax Myrtle (Morella californica) is now just a couple of branch stubs and some small twigs. No sign of buds pushing out from the stubs yet. Still, I hope this is one of the plant species that will recover from a hard prune. Only time will tell. It was a nice broadleaf evergreen for this area of the garden with dark green leaves and was due for a light pruning anyway to keep it in check, but this was a bit harsh.
Giant larkspur (Delphinium trollifolium) grows along the stream in this garden. It is beautiful this time of year. Not much else is this shade of blue. In a few weeks, after it sets seed, it will die back and go dormant until next spring. I started this one from seed 3-4 years ago from some plants on the north side of our property. Giant larkspur loves clay and loves wet, so this is a perfect spot for it.
Other plants are doing well here too. I’ve transplanted a lot of natives here because of the harsh conditions. I planted wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) here last year to see how it does. It made it up through the leaves this spring and even decided to bloom, so I hope it stays happy. Now it depends on how well it does with our summer dry period, and this year a scarily dry spring. I don’t do a lot of supplemental watering except for the first year the plant is in the ground and for a couple special garden areas. After that, most of the plants are on their own.
False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum). I really dislike this name because of the negative connotation I associate with the word “false” and that it is a lesser version of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum). Other common names include feathery false lily of the valley (too long and just as bad as the first one), false spikenard (again with the falsehoods!), treacleberry (implying that it is overly sweet?) and Solomon’s plume (meh). The genus name, Maianthemum means May-flower, the specific epithet, racemosa, refers to the flowers that are held in clusters. But, unfortunately, another plant already has the common name Mayflower. Plus, my plant started blooming way back in April. So, maybe I should just call it Aprilflower (don’t like) or Spatterberry after the spattered paint appearance of the berries later in the year (or what happens later if you eat too many of them). But, in all honesty, as much as I dislike the name, I will probably keep using it and will just tell anyone who asks that it is false Solomon’s seal (or -gasp- accidentally forget to say the word “false” and just say Solomon’s seal), even though it will make me grumpy to do so.
The other Maianthemum in the south stream garden, Maianthemum dilatatum (false lily of the valley – sigh), is an assertive wanderer and likes to poke its nose into other plant’s business. This species has an annoying habit of intertwining itself into the rootball of other shorter plants where I don’t want it. I actually had to move it from another bed where it was too assertive and drowning out other plants that I liked better. So, I transplanted it here into the mucky clay. Seems to have slowed it down a little – this is a three year old clump. This species wasn’t in this area of the valley when we moved in 13 years ago, but I bought it as an Oregon native and it has certainly done well since. It does go dormant by midsummer as the clay dries out, so it definitely leaves a blank spot behind. I’ll have to plant something else here that can stand being its nosy neighbor. There is a third Maianthemum (stellatum) that is also native. It’s sort of in between the false Solomon’s seal (or feathery false lily of the valley) and the false lily of the valley in terms of size. And guess what? It’s known as starry false lily of the valley. So, technically, I guess we have three false lily of the valleys (flotv! – pronounced flotive like in votive candle) – feathery, regular, and starry. Maybe I will just call them feathery flotv, regular flotv, and starry flotv.
The understated western meadowrue (Thalictrum occidentale) has a delicate ferny texture from a distance but holds up well to our dry summers. You have to really get up close to enjoy the understated flowers. I personally find it enchanting when a light breeze goes through and the little anthers (dangly male bits) dance around in the breeze. Like a bunch of little kicking legs. Love it.
Look at ’em go!