Blimey! My seeds arrived today  and I am dead chuffed!

I mean, just look at them all. I’m picturing all the bloom and things that buzz.



These are all native wildflower and grass seeds so they’ll go straight onto the soil.

There’s Roemer’s Fescue, Tidy Tips, and Baby-Blue Eyes.

Blue Gilia, and California Poppy  (orange, red, and white).

And…two new books courtesy of Amazon Christmas gift card.
img_4003 2

Who’s a happy girl?

Giddy with excitement here!  (can you tell?)


Native plants in the neighborhoods

Recently I was perusing through some of the land use and planning codes for the City of Vancouver.  I was reading up on adding street trees and vegetation to the street side of one’s property and I saw that the inclusion of native plants was advocated in the body of the codes. (Section 20.925.010 paragraph B and Section 20.925.090 on Re-vegetation).  I have observed native plants in many of the new commercial developments here. I see lots of Mahonia and Vine Maples used, as well as a variety of grasses which I’m glad of as vine maples are my old friends and they seem to do so well where ever they grow. Native plantings are also beneficial for our native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

I wonder when this inclusion will trickle down to planting in the older neighborhoods, especially those with dry sunny exposures.  As property values go up in Vancouver the older neighborhoods will go through a renaissance. For example, I was driving around the west-side Rose Village neighborhood.  Much of the neighborhood was platted in the early 1900s. It is flat and the lots are typically in the 5,000 s.f. range, many with a south and west exposure, meaning lots of sun and dead lawns.

California poppies

In my mind’s eye I began to see weary parking strips and browned out ‘street’ side yards filled with plants that can take our July – September heat, not strictly native plants but xeric as well.  Recently I saw a manzanita planted in a wide Portland parking strip. It was healthy and quite lovely and I realized it could do well here.

In my garden the natives are swishing through this extended dry heat. The Golden Current (Ribes aurea), the elderberries, and Pacific Wax Myrtle are thriving as are the annual wildflowers.

Imagine manzanitas with poppies, salvias, and ornamental grasses or for a shady spot vine maples, ferns, wild ginger, and our native columbine, gracing urban gardens.

Contractors working on a large project can obtain these plants through a wholesale nursery but where is the average DIY home gardener to source these plants locally?  Portland Nursery has a limited native plant selection. Watershed Gardens in Longview carries a large selection of native plants as well. The conservation districts have an annual bare-root sale of native plants. I buy a lot from Xera, Cistus, Garden Fever, and Joy Creek, in Portland and Sauvie Island areas.

Canada Goldenrod

Here in Vancouver we have some fine nurseries but I do not see much in the way of native plants offered in their inventory.  I’d like to see that change.  I’d like to see our nurseries partner with the City,  the County, our Water Resources Center, PUD, our WSU Master Gardener extension, Backyard Habitat, and the neighborhood associations to make climate-friendly native plants available to those who want to water less, provide for our native pollinators, and have attractive curb appeal in the summer.

We have successful campaigns for tree planting and for community clean-ups, how about a combined effort for enhancing our neighborhoods with native plants?

If you agree consider asking the buyers at your local nursery and garden center to offer more native plant options. If the demand is there they will respond.

Further reading:
Gardening for Our Friends. 
Gardening with Native Plants poster
City of Vancouver Native Trees and Shrubs list
Clark County Green Neighbors
Habitat List for Residential Landscapes
Landscape Design for Wildlife



The Dog Days of Summer

Whew, well we’re in it well and good now. Technically the phrase ‘dog days of summer’ refers more to the rising of the Dog star but it also coincides with some of the hottest days of the year in July and August. A quick look at AccuWeather indicates it’s going to be hot and dry well into August.  Oh joy.

I spent this last weekend traversing open gardens in the heat. Saturday it was The Garden Conservency/HPSO Open Days in north and northeast Portland. Sunday was Clark County’s annual Green Neighbors Natural Gardens Tour. A friend and I worked as greeters the first half of the day at one garden then split up to take in what we could of other gardens.  Thankfully, the last garden I visited (the Heldreth Garden) was blissfully shady and even had a misting system going. It was late afternoon and the temperature was 96 degrees at least. The layers of green plantings spiked with white flowering plants was very soothing. Here are just a few photos.



Cool misty oasis on a hot summer day






As for my garden…this weather is the test to see how my new plantings from last year hold up. Last year I decided to forego the mostly foliage/Asian style garden and go with pollinators and more drought hardy plants.  I planted several Salvia ‘Caradonna’, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’, Phlomas fruticosa, Mexican Feather Grass and other grasses.  I kept the Hydrangea ‘Limelight,’ I had also planted a couple of California Wax Myrtles to train up a fence and they are doing wonderfully so it all seems to be very successful. None of the plants have been lost, in fact I shall soon have to edit some plants out.

In early June, after returning from California, I planted some Globe Mallows from Xera which are doing extremely well. I also bought some horned poppies at Garden Fever (from Annie’s Annuals) and they are having a grand time in the heat. Their orange petals go beautifully with the ‘Electric Blue’ Penstemon. The lighting in the photos below do not show the vividness of the colors.

Horned Poppy


Electric Blue Penstemon

Earlier I had scattered seed of California poppy, Baby-Blue-Eyes (Nemophilia), and Blue Gilia. These have done well in boarders and on a slope adding a cheerful look. The Baby-Blue-Eyes finished off two weeks ago but the poppies and Gilia are still going strong.  Looking at them all one morning it occurred to me that I had my own Fiestaware theme going in the garden. Those who collect Fiestaware will know what I mean.

The poppies are always closed in the morning before I leave for work and are again closed when I return. This morning I witnessed some fuzzy bees trying to force their way into the closed poppy petals in search of pollen. They finally gave up and moved on to the hardy geraniums.


The Limelight hydrangea is just now beginning to blossom along with several Conca d’Or lilies and the Regale lilies are just finishing up.


Limelight Hydrangea hedge with Japanese Forest Grass ‘Aureola’


Limelight Hydrangea, Conca d’Or lily, and Nicotiana
Regale Lily 


Star jasmine


Oceanspray just finishing up after being in bloom all June

In spring I picked up a ‘Samantha’ Campanula to give it a try. I’m pleased it is doing so well and is a workhorse similar to Geranium ‘Rozanne.’


Campanula ‘Samantha’


Geranium ‘Rozanne’


Oak Leaf Hydrangea with Delta Sarah hardy fuchsia at bottom left

Here are some Goldenrod plants I put in my ‘experiment’ bed. They are doing very well and I’ll move them in the fall to the slope.



I inherited lots of these common day lilies from the previous owner. I used to chuck them out but now I quite like the salmon orange color and have decided to keep some.


Common  day lily

Finally,  here is a sweet ground cover: Modiolastrum lateritium (malvaceae family) is something I’ve grown for decades now. I first purchased it in Berkeley. I saw it just once for sale at Portland Nursery around 1995 then never again. The plant is originally from South America (Brazil, Argentina). It grows best in full sun, in gravel or well draining soil and spreads by trailing stems. The leaves are maple-like though you cannot see them in the photo. The leaves showing are from a Zauchneria that is mixed in with the Modiolastrum.


Modiolastrum lateritium 


That’s all for now. I hope you are all staying cool in the heat and not working too hard in your gardens.  Here is one last shot taken early this morning.


Private Garden in the northern California hills

This is the third and final post from my trip to the Bay Area and the gardens I visited in May,  This was the garden of Mr. and Mrs. Watson who are the parents of my brother-in-law.

The Watson garden is located on 40 acres up in the chaparral hills near Vacaville CA. Mr. and Mrs. Watson are retired educators and purchased the property decades ago. The property had originally been part of a ranch which was divided and sold.

Mrs. Watson mostly gardens around the perimeter of the house in borders using a blend of natives and drought tolerant plants. There are 360 degrees of borrowed views from the natural landscape. Due to an early spring the hills were already turning gold in mid-May.

View from the driveway

Here are a few photos of the views around the house.




Patches of green quickly changing to gold




Cistus skanbergii

Cistus, a wonderful choice in the borders, has that lovely fragrance from the leaves which the heat seems to bring out.

Unknown cistus with a lone flower on it



Our hostess could not recall the name of this plant. I want to say Grevillea of some sort but the flower does not match. Any ideas?



Mixture of grasses and small shrubs in a border.







A variety of salvias were used though many were just finishing up their first flush.


Blue Oak ( Quercus douglasii)

The landscape was dotted with several of these small oaks. Mrs Watson called them Blue Oaks and stated that they were volunteers.  I very much like the blue color of the leaves.




Manzanita, variety unknown



The tall spikes of purple in the background are Woolly Blue curls (Trichostema lanatum) I believe. I saw it used in many gardens.  I’ve tried it up in our area but it has never wintered over for me.



Final and parting view. How lovely is that?  That said, I was beginning to miss the vernal lushness of home and was anxious to see what was transpiring in my own garden in the week I had been gone.

Each trip brings fresh ideas for not only my own garden but for planting in general for our urban area.  I’m compelled to add more of our native plants into the landscape.

Native Plant Garden at Tilden Regional Park

Entrance to the native plant garden at Tilden


Located up in the Berkeley hills is Tilden Park, a great place for hikes and picnics.  The ten-acre garden is nestled in the park and provides a glimpse at several different California native plant communities, some of which cross over to the PNW. There are gravel trails which are fairly walkable though non-slip, sturdy shoes are recommended.  Here is a map of the garden.


Map courtesy of Regional Parks Botanic Garden


Fremontadendron at entrance


Deer Brush (Ceanothus integerrimus)


Pacific Coast Iris



Carpenteria californica (Bush anenome)



Ooh, I want one of these.


Ceanothus foliosus x C. griseus ‘Joan Mirov’


Hairy Manzanita (Arctostaphylos columbiana)


Native iris in a scree area


Carpet of Oxalis oregana in Redwood section





I like this carpet of Oxalis and am attempting to achieve the same under my Coastal Redwoods.


Rhododendron macrophyllum (Pacific rhododendron)

Onward to Manzanita territory.  The trunks were so dark they looked black at a distance and I thought there might have been a fire. Upon closer inspection they were a deep burgundy color.  This area was packed with Manzanita varieties.









Moving towards desert area.



Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).

I am smitten with this Apricot Mallow.  Xera Plants carries a variety that does better in our climate.




Channel Islands area



I neglected to write down the name of this little plant. UPDATE: I’ve had two emails stating this is a variety of the California fuchsia (Zauschneria or Epilobium). Narrowed it down to Epilobium canum ssp canum.


Prickly poppy








Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea)


Fremontodendron, cacti, and red monkeyflower (?)

This brings us to the end of our walk around the native garden. While many plants were still in bloom it seems we had just missed the main flush due to an early spring. Plan to spend at least 90 minutes or more to walk around and view the plants. There are lots of benches are available to rest and take in the views.

If you go:

Admission is free

Location: Shasta Road, Berkeley CA 94708. (Type in Regional Parks Botanic Garden for Google Maps). Parking lot is at the intersection of Wildcat Canyon Rd. and South Park Drive.

Hours: 8:30 AM – 5 PM (in summer the garden closes at 5:30 PM)
Closed January 1, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day.

Cell phones do not work in that area.
Not great for for baby strollers – baby backpacks best.

Plant Sales and Seed information here.
For detailed information visit the garden website.

Consider making a day trip and include visits to the Berkeley Rose Garden and the UC Botanical Garden ($12 fee per person).

Next post will be on a private native/drought tolerant garden in the hills between Vacaville and Winters CA.


Ceanothus ‘Victoria’

Sometimes I get a plant-thought on the brain and it won’t leave me alone until I do something about it.  This week it is Ceanothus ‘Victoria.’  I know…you can find it just about everywhere, from garden centers to big box stores to speciality nurseries. It’s a tough ‘common’ plant, but I like it.  I’ve grown it before when I first moved up from the Bay Area. I mixed it with Cistus x purpureus because it reminded me of ‘home.’

It did really well and after a few years I ripped it all out because I thought I wanted to go with more of an Asian style foliage garden, only that didn’t work out as I’d hoped. So back to the drawing board.

Anyway, I think C. Victoria is a brilliant plant to use around here. The deep blue blossoms are electrifying, and as for the bees, well, belly up to the bar boys!

I have no photos of my own but  Plant Lust does. If you haven’t yet spent some time on Plant Lust, you really need to. Plant Lust is a wonderful resource for our area.

Here is what Great Plant Picks has to say about Ceanothus ‘Victoria.’

“This selection is simply the hardiest of the California lilacs available and the most reliable for our climate. The brilliant bright indigo blue flowers are an absolute show stopper in the spring and look great against the shiny and dark evergreen foliage. This tough shrub is extremely drought tolerant once established and is a fast grower and will quickly fill an empty space. ‘Victoria’ was one of the best rated Ceanothus in the GPP trials.”

I’ve always seen it grown in its natural shrub form although in the UK it is often shaped into hedges, as a tree, or as an espalier on a south-facing wall.


Ceanothus Hedge, photo courtesy of Paramount Plants

I stumbled on to this photo from the Paramount Plants blog on Blue Flowering Shrubs.  Serendipity! Yep, that’s the ticket!















On the Road Tour – April

This month’s Master Gardener’s “On the Road Tour” was a local excursion to the north of Vancouver.

We began on a fine sunny morning driving up to Longview WA to visit Watershed Garden Works. It was surprisingly cool and breezy with the smell of the ocean lingering in the air when we arrived. We were greeted by the proprietors Scott and Dixie Edwards.

Watershed is actually a working farm in addition to being a nursery specializing in native plants. The nursery and farm consist of seven acres located at the base of Mt. Solo on the outskirts of Longview.

Greenhouse with Mt. Solo in background

The nursery originally was a wholesale business and added the retail sales last year. The farm side of the business produces vegetables and herbs for a local CSA and farmer’s market. Dixie also has a side business creating and selling organic jams and jellies under the name of Columbiana.

Our group was given a tour, given tips on growing natives, and then was able to purchase plants and jams. I picked up some Smilacena, Licorice Fern, Vancouveria, Western Azalea, and some Pacific Dogwood seedlings.

Retail Sales area

By the way, Watershed Garden Works is at the Clark County Home and Garden Idea Fair this weekend so look for their booth if you go.

Second stop was Kigi Nursery located up in the hills above Kelso. This home based mail-order nursery specializes in conifers of various shapes, sizes, and colors. They also sell live moss which is used in many projects. Kigi Nursery ships all over the country.

Demonstration Garden at Kigi Nursery

After lunch we drove through Yacolt, and then up into the hills of Dole Valley to our third and final stop; Silver Star Vinery, which specializes in clematis and is open by appointment only. Here we were given a demonstration on pruning clematis by owner Deb Fischer.

Trellises and birdhouses

Sadly, in late April only a few of the clematis had come into bloom. To view the demonstration garden in full bloom one needs to visit during the Silver Star Vinery’s Annual Open Garden and Clematis Sale, July 14 – 15, 2018.


This will soon be covered in clematis blossoms


Bird house with clematis vine 


Another bird house with clematis


I was enthralled with the birdhouses and look forward to seeing them when more of the clematis is in bloom. It was a satisfying day though it was quite warm and by late afternoon I was ready for a nap!

Day One at Hortlandia

I returned this afternoon from the first day of Hortlandia, feeling like the cat who got the canary. Yep, I’m pretty chuffed with my plant purchases.

Getting there was a bit of a nuisance this morning for some. Turns out EXPO center is hosting a gun show, a hemp show, and a quilt show, in addition to our annual HPSO plant sale this year. Several people complained about the long line of traffic waiting just to enter the parking lot. So if you go tomorrow take that into consideration.

I noticed a lot more native plants this year. A very welcome addition, since I was able to purchase some Trilliums I had been looking for.

Here are just a few photos of the event. It was very busy and we had quite a lot of people with questions at the reference table. By early afternoon some of the vendors appeared to be cleaned out. Most have extra plants set by for Sunday.

Humble Roots Nursery had mostly native plants.


Eastfork Nursery from LaCenter WA specializes in Japanese Maples.


Joy Creek and Windcliff, both popular vendors, had lots of customers.



Our reference desk was right next to Xera Plants. They had a type of native Aster called “Sauvie Sky,” the seed collected from Sauvie Island .


What did I get?  Trillium, Asters, our native Rhododendron occidentale, “Merrybells” (Uvalaria grandiflora), and a super cool Woodwardia Chain Fern.

If you like plants it really is a treat to have all these nursery folk come together like this. It would take hours and miles of driving to visit each of them individually. Tomorrow is Day Two and there are free classes!

April Garden events

The garden season is in full swing!  Get out your calendars – if you can’t make one event there are plenty of others. Click on the links below for detailed information.  And, check the resources page as many local nurseries are now offering  classes on the weekends.

Master Gardener Foundation Educational Meeting
April 3, 7 PM
CASEE Center, Bldg B
11104 NE 149th St. Brush Prairie WA 98606
Topic: Integrated Weed Management

Vancouver Farmer’s Market
Open every Saturday  (9-3) & Sunday (10-3) through October
6th & Esther, by Esther Short Park, downtown Vancouver WA

Rhododendron & Daffodil Show and Sale
April 7 – 8, 9 AM – 5 PM
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
5801 SE 28th Avenue, Portland OR

Saturday, April 7, 8 AM – 4 PM
FirPoint Farms, 14601 Arndt Rd., Aurora OR 97002

Hortlandia HPSO Plant & Garden Art Sale
April 14-15, 10 AM – 3 PM
EXPO Center, Portland OR
Admission free, parking is $8 per car

Leach Botanical Garden Plant Sale
Saturday, April 21, 9:30 AM – 2 PM
Floyd Light Middle School
10800 SE Washington St., Portland OR
(near Mall 205, free parking)

Auduban Society Native Plant Sale
April 21 -22, 10 AM – 4 PM
5151 NW Cornell Road, Portland OR 97210

Clark Public Utilities Home and Garden Idea Fair
April 27-29
Clark County Event Center
17402 NE Delfel Road, Ridgefield, WA 98642

Container Gardening
April 28, 2 PM
Camas Public Library, 625 NE 4th Ave. Camas WA 98607
Join Laura Heldreth, WSU Clark County Extension Master Gardener and winner of the 2016 Fine Gardening Magazine container contest for an inspiring and educational experience. Free. Click on link for more information.

Naturescaping of SW Washington Bare-root Trees, Shrubs, Perennials Sale
April 28-29, 10 AM – 3 PM
11000 NE 149th Street, Brush Prairie WA 98606
(CASEE center students will be selling NW native plants)

Vancouver School District Plant Sales
Some are in May but you might want to get these down on your calendar now.
Fantastic place to pick up veggie starts, Mother’s Day baskets, etc.  and support the  students’ FFA programs.

Columbia River High School, 800 NW 99th Street
April 28, 9 AM-5 PM , April 30-May 4, 8:30 AM- 2 PM

Hudson Bay High School, 1601 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
May 2, 7 AM – 7 PM
May 3, 7 AM – 7 PM
May 4, 7 AM – 5 PM

Ft. Vancouver High School, 5700 E. 18th Street
May 2, 3, 4, 7:30 AM – 7 PM

Vancouver Flex Academy, 2901 General Anderson Avenue
May 10 and 11, 4:30 PM – 7 PM
May 12, 9 AM – 3 PM

Battle Ground School District Plant Sales
Battle Ground High School, 300 W. Main St. B.G
May 5 and 6, 9 AM – 2 PM
Over 15,000 pots including over 1000 hanging baskets, perennial flowers, bedding plants, vegetables, berry plants and nursery stock.

Cash or check only.

Prairie High School, 11311 NE 119th Street
May 5, 9 AM – 2 PM
Hanging baskets, vegetables, flowers, grasses, herbs, succulents




Bare-root Natives

Every winter the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) of Portland has an online native plant sale. The plants are bare-root and fairly small, about 1-2 years old, but extremely well priced. The plants are sourced from local Willamette Valley nurseries. They can, and should be, planted straight away into the ground.  It’s one way I’ve been able to increase my plantings without breaking my plant piggy bank. I’ve had good luck with what I planted last year. Only one plant died which was my own fault. I trounced on it and broke it down.

In mid-January the sale is open for business. The selections get picked over quickly. Pick up is mid-February and today was the day to pick up purchases.  The venue was held in the EMSWCD parking lot on N. Williams Avenue. There was no waiting when we got there and checked in at a table alphabetically by last name. The order was located and given to a runner who retrieved the order and handed it over at another booth. The order had already been checked and double checked. Pretty efficient system.

A friend and I went over together to pick up our plants, and then came back to Vancouver for a chinwag  about plants and life over coffee.

Bare root natives

This is what the plants look like. A few have small buds on them.  The two plugs to bottom left are baby Madrone trees.

Here is a list of the bare roots plants I purchased.

Bare root list

I was able to plant the ten Oceanspray and five Golden Current plants when I got home. The rest I’ve heeled into a bucket of dirt (not potting soil), wrapped with plastic. I’ll plant those tomorrow.

If you’d like to get on the notification list for the annual sale click here and scroll down to the bottom and click on “join our email list.”