Brookings, Part 1

I spent last week in Brookings, Oregon, way down on the southwestern corner of the state, right next to the California border. I'd been tempted and tortured with wonderful stories of the magical climate that surrounds the southern Oregon coast, and it was finally time for me to see it for myself. These posts are going to involve a lot of photos, so I won't jabber too much.

I made a little side trip up Langlois Mountain Road, on the recommendation of a friend. It was very windy, and the road was very winding, but it was worth a little detour. This whole section of the coast seems much drier than most of the coast, and becomes even more so when you drive up into the hills.

This old snag atop the hill caught my attention. I wish I'd had a longer lense.

The town of Langlois claims to be world-famous. I'm really not quite sure why, but I suppose the views from Langlois Mountain Road could be one reason. They're quite a bit more impressive on a clear day, when you can see the ocean better.

After Langlois, I continued my journey south. As soon as I got around Cape Blanco and into Port Orford, I started noticing more tree-sized cordylines and other indicators of the milder winters of the southern Oregon Coast.
Looking back at Port Orford. Yeah, it wasn't a very clear day.
 And as soon as I got south of Port Orford, I started noticing the change in native vegetation, too. I started seeing Lithocarpus densiflorus and Umbellularia californica in increasing proportion to the rest of the trees the further south I drove. Though both occur further north, they become much more prevalent at this point, at least along Highway 101. Of course I didn't stop anywhere along the road where I actually saw them. That would make too much sense.
Ok, so this photo mostly just shows the regular old shore pine, and doesn't really have anything to do with the two species mentioned above. I just liked it and happened to turn around and snap the shot after I looked back at Port Orford.
 After over 7 hours on the road, I made it to camp. I had a yurt reserved at Harris Beach State Park, only about a mile outside of town. These yurts typically have to be booked at least a month in advance, if not more, but they're very affordable. I had reserved mine in August, long before I had any idea what the weather would be like that week. October in Brookings can often bring beautiful weather. Sadly, I missed out on that. But here's a brief tour of the yurt.
The full-sized bunk on the bottom was nice, but too short for me. I'm not that tall, barely reaching six feet (on a good day).

The futon, which also folds down into a bed, was long enough for me to sleep on without hanging over the end.

It seems like a given, since the yurts have electricity and heat, but I wasn't sure before arriving if there were any outlets in the yurts. I was happy to find I'd assumed correctly.
 After arriving, I went to the grocery store for a few provisions and settled in for the evening. After a day of driving, I wasn't too chipper the next morning, but I did eventually make it out to explore. The town is nothing to speak of. It lacks the charm of some coastal towns and is really just like any other isolated small town. You don't go to Brookings for the town, though. You go for the plants, both native and cultivated. Sadly, Brookings is a bit of a horticultural waste, considering the amenable climate. There are a few exciting plants here and there, but much of the plantings in town consist of standard big box store-style Escallonia, evergreen azalea, and the like. One major exception is the Brookings Botanical Garden, where you'll actually see some of the gardening possibilities of the southern Oregon coast.

One of my first stops was the Brookings Botanical Garden, managed by the Harbor Garden Club. It occupies a tiny triangle of land just north of the bridge spanning the Chetco River between Brookings and Harbor. Walk a few hundred feet along the road and up a hill and you arrive at Azalea Park, but that's another post.

A large section of this small garden is dedicated to native plants, including this little swale designed to capture runoff from the parking lot. I enjoyed the rest of the native section as a preview of what I would see when I went up the river the next two days, but my photos of the natives in the garden didn't turn out as well as the photos I took upriver so I'll leave most of the natives for a later post.

I did like this little vignette of Lithocarpus densiflorus var. echnioides (blue leaves on the left) with native carex, fescue, and bleached wood.

I think this bark belongs to a young Quercus chrysolepis, the canyon live oak. I rather liked the shades of gray to white.

I love heaths, and the most spectacular members of that genus are the many South African species. This swath of Erica mammosa, or nine-pin heath, just about made the entire trip, at least for me.

Seriously, look at those flowers! One of my favorite plants of the trip. I'd love to be able to grow South African heaths outside, in the ground.

How's this for a surreal combination? A variegated agave with Woodwardia orientalis draping a frond over it.

I love the texture of this Melaleuca squamea.

Agave bracteosa waving its tentacle-like arms at the edge of a sea of orange Calluna vulgaris. This, at least, is a pairing I could attempt in my current garden.

It's not a great picture, but I had to share this Leptospermum 'Dark Shadows'. It's one of those plants that we in colder zones lust after while we plant our hardier, though usually poor, imitations.

Salvia gesneriiflora has beautiful red flowers emerging from black calyxes on black stems.

Obviously I didn't catch it at peak bloom season, but look at that plant! It's as big as the Leptospermums!

Seeing Desfontainia spinosa planted in a garden has me sadly disappointed with it, just a little. The faded flowers and old foliage both seem to stay on for awhile, making it a bit messy and tatty in appearance. Perhaps it's just not in quite the right spot.

This was not the only Aloe (arborescens? not sure) I saw in town, or even the most impressive, but it's the only one I took a photo of. There was a more impressive planting of them under the eves of a restaurant just a little ways back up the highway into Brookings. But I didn't feel like stopping to take a photo and never made it to that end of town on my walks from camp.

I'm not sure what this is, but I love the seed pods. Certainly it's related to tea trees.

Big, beautiful Banksia integrifolia, with its wonderful silver leaf reverses.

And its yellow bottle brush flowers.

Another Melaleuca, I think. This one wasn't labeled, but I loved the texture.

Another aloe, which I'm even more uncertain of in regards to species (possibly 'Johnson's Hybrid', thanks Kris!), but this one is blooming! Behind it is a large clump of Puya chilensis. Brookings receives over 70 inches of rain per year, at least according to U.S. Climate Data. But these raised berms of gravel and larger rocks makes it possible to grow an incredible array of succulents.

I didn't know the common name of Puya chilensis was "sheep-eating plant." Apparently it also eats labels.

This is an aloe I would go to the trouble of providing adequate drainage for, if my garden was mild enough.

A purple Dyckia and a flowering Crassula falcata (I think).

Succulents aren't really my forte. Is that a euphorbia?

This luxuriously prostrate, fuzzy gray plant was unlabeled, as far as I could see. I want it.

I was little disappointed, yet simultaneously a bit gratified, that Raoulia australis doesn't seem to do much better in Brookings than it did in my garden, though there's is still alive whereas mine was killed in the winters of 2008 or 09. Before that, the deer would always walk across it, especially when it was frozen, killing patches of it. Maybe I should try it again now that the deer are banished beyond the fence. Just find a spot with VERY good drainage.

This Raoulia, not quite as silver as australis and of even finer texture, seems to perform better. I didn't see a label, unfortunately.

At first glance, I thought the spiky-leaved plants behind the Raoulia were Dyckia choristaminea, but closer inspection showed they were something else. A label revealed their name: Stylidium graminifolium, an Australian native in, wouldn't you know it, the family Stylidiaceae.

Another South African heath. I'm not particularly fond of pink flowers, but it's still a South African heath! With aloe accompaniment.

Another aloe, this one was over a foot wide. Probably Aloe striatula. Thanks again, Kris!

Close up of the pink heath.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, at first glance, I dismissed this plant as a discolored mugo pine. When I got closer I could see it was something else, and the label showed it to be Calothamnus gracilis, I plant I would love to be able to grow.

Here you can see a bit of the red and orange foliage for which this plant is known. It's extremely vibrant on young new growth, and a Google search reveals an image of this self-same plant in full flush. It also has intricate red flowers.

That seems like a good place to end for this first installment. At least, I don't want to make this post any longer than it already is. I'll try to finish covering this garden in the next post.


  1. "You don't go to Brookings for the town, though. You go for the plants" made me laugh.

    OMG, that Erica mammosa is a beauty! But you didn't mention that squat little Tetrapanax by the sign for the garden, it looks so short to have that much big bloom business. The Woodwardia and variegated Agave together...ya, that's crazy. And hey, if you check out my Agave post today ( you'll see my version of the A. bracteosa and Calluna vulgaris combo, mine's not orange yet though.

    70 inches of rain per year? Oh my. So much for my moving to Brookings, as tempting as you've made it look, and you really have shown us some fabulous plants.

    1. Well I don't want to make it seem too nice, now do I? Then again, I tend not to go anywhere for the town. I did forget to mention that Tetrapanax. I actually took the sign photo much later while touring the garden, but put it in out of order for this post. It struck me for being so compact but with so many flower buds, too. I'll cover it later when I get to that part of the garden.

      70-80 inches is pretty standard for the coast. Brookings is special in that the Brookings Effect can bring sunny, 70 degree days in the middle of winter. Bandon is a little drier, at 60"/yr. Of course, moving up the river valleys anywhere along the coast decreases the rainfall, but also means a bit colder winters.

  2. It was cool to see Aloes in the ground in Oregon, I didn't realize that was possible. What a fun trip! And you stayed in a yurt!

    1. The yurt was nice and cozy, though very loud in the rain. I had read about some of the things growing at the Brookings Botanical Garden, but was still amazed to see them, especially the aloes.

  3. Sounds like a fun trip, Evan. In September I also stayed overnight in a yurt. I really enjoyed it. The mattress was quite comfortable. As a lover of pink flowers, I'm swooning over that pink flowering heath. I tried Raoulia too but lost it the very first winter it was in the ground. Darn it. Looking forward to the second installment.

    1. Raoulia would be great if it wasn't so finicky in our climate.

  4. I enjoyed accompanying you virtually on this trip, although I admit that my brain short-circuited when 70 inches of annual rain was mentioned. The Aloe with the Puya looks like 'Johnson's Hybrid' to me and the foot-wide Aloe looks like A. striata.

    1. Sorry about the precipitation shock. I wouldn't look up the annual precipitation of somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, like Forks, if I were you. Thanks for the aloe IDs!

  5. Wow - some interesting stuff down there. Raoulia doesn't last long for me either :(

    I have not been down the coast that far for some reason in the 20 years I have been in Oregon, but looks like a place I need to visit.

  6. I've never spent any time at that part of the coast. Looks fascinating.

    1. If the weather had been better, I would have spent more time actually on the coast, exploring the beaches. Next time.

  7. Not sure how far Brookings is from Bandon where we spent a week this summer, but I sure would love to be able to grow some of the things that grow there. That Erica is marvelous!!! We went to Bandon for the rock formations. Much to my dismay, every evening the fog rolled in, which I guess is common that time of year. So, I didn't get any of those coveted sunset vs rock photos. All of this to say that I think the wet stuff is a bit more spread out over the entire year down there, than up here where it seems to be wet half the year, and dry the other half. Looking forward to the second installment! :)

    1. Brookings is another 2 hours, about 80 miles further south, than Bandon. I love the coastal fog. It's one of the reasons I want to live along the coast. The rain is maybe a bit more spread out, but there's also more rain at the coast. Bandon is actually one of the driest spots right on the coast, as far as I've been able to determine, at about 60"/yr. But the coast often sees stretches of warm, sunny days randomly through winter, so you get breaks. This, opposed to our usual sunny breaks in winter which are typically accompanied by freezing temperatures.

  8. Such a majestic landscape - and some really awesome plants!

    1. There are some really great plants there.

  9. I've wondered what a yurt looks like; thanks for the inside view.
    At every NW Flower&Garden show my heart aches when I see South African Heaths: I know they wouldn't make it in my North Seattle garden and I so wish they did! Those orange flowered ones are fantastic!

    1. There are a handful that are supposed to be hardy to zone 8. I have an Erica oatesii that I grew from seed which is supposed to be hardy to at least zone 8, but so far I've kept it in the greenhouse for winter.

  10. Wowza, Evan - those landscapes look gorgeous! Incredible coastal landscapes...looks like I need to head down to Brookings next time I'm in the PNW.

    1. It's worth seeing, especially if you can venture up the Chetco River into the Siskiyous.

  11. I'm loving all of those plants being hardy in the ground! Seventy inches of rain a year does seem like a bit much but not having to water anything would be nice too. Real estate looks fairly reasonable in Brookings. Hmmm...


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