Into the hills

I'm continuing the Brookings Saga that I picked back up last week. Spring has definitely arrived in my garden and a lot is happening, but much of it is still a bit on the subtle side. I'm sort of waiting for a more dramatic revival, but for the most part I just haven't been taking my camera with me when I walk through the garden. I'm usually not just walking, but working on pulling weeds and adding or moving plants. I'll try to take the camera out with me and document some of the spring emergence, but until then readers will just have to be satisfied with this:

A word of warning before we get farther into this post. If you don't REALLY love Arctostaphylos, this post may become a tad monotonous. There were simply so many variations, even if some of them were rather minor looking back, that I found myself unable to control my shutter finger in the moment. Luckily I found a good stopping point, or this could have been an obscenely long post, instead of just a long one. I'm going to have more trouble with the next installment, both in finding a good stopping point and editing my choice of photos to make a "reasonable" post. "Reasonable" is no fun, anyway, right?

I had decided to explore further up the river, just driving, not really knowing where I was going, not a practice I usually follow or recommend, but there's only one main road up the river and I couldn't see myself getting lost. I just knew I wanted to explore what I could of the Siskiyous. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture, but when I reached a fork in the road, with a sign pointing to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, my heartbeat quickened and I knew which way I had to go. I followed the sign and headed up into the hills.

I'm not very good with my evergreen oak ID. Quercus chrysolepis, perhaps? I love it, whatever it is.

Is there anything better than peeling Arbutus menziesii bark on a rainy day?

This was my first sighting of Woodwardia fimbriata, the giant chain fern, in the wild. I did see a few larger ones further up the road, but none approaching the 9-foot long fronds that this native fern can reportedly attain. Wouldn't that be something to see?

The bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum) were beautifully golden, creating a glow in the fog. (Thinking back, this was also a remarkably smooth section of road. It's a bit of a rough ride for the most part).

I started spotting a handful of Arctostaphylos here and there, some of them in a surprising amount of shade. This has led me to attempt a few Arctostaphylos in a very dry location with a few hours of morning sun and bright/dappled shade the rest of the day. The rest of the bed is filled out with Vaccinium ovatum, dwarf Umbellularia californicum, native mahonias, Frangula californica 'Eve Case', and various other plants that should be able to handle the poor, dry soil.

As I continued climbing into the hills, I suddenly reached a corner where the canopy opened up and there was a near-solid mass of Arctostaphylos! Of course I had to pull over to investigate. I take it back. This is better than madrone bark on a rainy day! I'm sure I looked like a giddy loon as I ran from one plant to the next, examining the leaves, stems, and fruits of each plant.

This one looks so tidy and compact, but there's actually a long stem climbing up the slope off the side of the road to reach this point.

I thought it was a rather attractive, and spotless, blue-green, and I liked the pink flower buds.

The texture created by the upright, bright green leaves of this plant drew my eye.

I did manage to notice other plants even while I was captivated by the masses of manzanitas, like this Lupinus albifrons, another first sighting in the wild for me.

Beautiful berries.

Even more beautiful blue leaves.

Arctostaphylos as far as the eye can see, though I couldn't see as far as I might have if the fog had lifted.

One more photo from that stand.

I got back in the car somewhat reluctantly, though I knew this was just the beginning. It just got better the further up I went. Just look at the blue of the current years growth on this gorgeous specimen!

You might think that the arctostaphylos were the highlight of the trip, for me. I thought they would be, too, until I came across my first Chrysolepis chrysophylla. Words simply can't describe the beauty of these plants. They took my breath away.

Just look at those golden undersides! You could see flashes of gold as the wind blew through the trees. That is their showiest feature, but I also loved the glossy, rich green tops of the leaves, the shape of the individual leaves, the texture of the leaves together... suffice it to say I loved everything about them. You'll see more in the next installment of the Brookings Saga.

Back to the arctos, for now. Blue and green! The russet of the dead bracken ferns behind and beneath them just serves to highlight their beauty even more.

You may notice as we go along that I really liked specimens like this one with very blue leaves on the current seasons growth contrasting with the green of the older leaves.

I should mention that everything from the Chrysolepis on was within about a hundred feet of each other, maybe two hundred. I had stopped at another fork in the road, this time splitting into the roads to Quail Prairie Lookout and Vulcan Lake. I got out at this fork and explored, not sure which direction I wanted to go. That would require some research and a return trip the next day.

So we'll keep exploring around this fork. Look! This blue-leaved beauty has slightly rounder leaves than the other blue-leaved beauties! And lovely orange bark.

A palette cleanser of Chrysolepis to break up the Arctostaphylos. Check out the mottled white and grey bark through the foliage! Another feature to love about this gorgeous evergreen. Chrysolepis chrysophylla occurs in both a tree form, as seen here, and a shrub form, which I would encounter the next day further up. These trees look so lush, almost tropical, to me. It instantly became a dream of mine to have a grove of these in my garden someday.

Back to Arctostaphyls again. There were blue-green leaves with pink stems...

And green leaves with red stems...

And green leaves with even redder stems.

Some were dripping with showy fruit.

Others had sparse fruit, but when their leaves look like this, the fruit isn't missed much (at least by humans).

More beautiful fruit.

I liked this one for the texture and color of the foliage, as well as the overall habit of the plant.

That foliage.

Relatively large, very blue leaves.

A nice, compact plant with good color. I might have had more to say if I had written this post in a more timely fashion after my trip, or I may still have let the pictures do most of the talking.

The next few photos were actually taken on the way up to that fork in the road, but I kept them for last to end on something different. The vistas were absolutely beautify, wisps of clouds moving across the tops of the trees in the distance. I rather liked this view with a madrone in the foreground. This is also my Wednesday Vignette this week, hosted by Anna at Flutter&Hum.

More madrone and evergreen oaks. I really fell in love with the range of evergreen trees and shrubs in this region. So much more interesting than the acres upon acres of Douglas firs that feed the timber industry in southwest Washington. So much more beautiful in winter compared to the broad leaved deciduous trees here in the north. So many more broad-leaved evergreens to break up the conifers, even though conifers still dominate large areas, as you can see in the photo above.

And I'll end this post with this photo, which I used in a previous Wednesday Vignette, but I don't think anyone will mind if I show it again.


  1. The next best thing to being there, is seeing it through your photos. Magnificent landscape. The Arctostaphylos 'dripping with showy fruit' is one of my favorites, and all the panoramic views, of course.
    Congratulations on the new look. It looks pretty and streamlined. Are you by any chance left handed?

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Chav. Thanks. I am left-handed. What gave me away?

    2. The greenish/blue archive column moved to the left :-)

  2. You can produce as many of these posts as you'd like, Evan. I find it amazing that just viewing the photos brings down my blood pressure.

    1. They have the same effect on me. I love looking back at these photos. Instant happiness.

  3. It will be a long, long time before I can tell Arctos apart... I love their bark, and their tidy, blue foliage, but I'll be damned if I can tell them apart. The bark on the Madrone is spectacular, as is your Vignette. A very lovely shot in a beautiful setting!

    1. I could only begin to tell you what species might be present there, though I'd be hard pressed to say which is which. They're mostly hybrids, anyway, I think. Arctostaphylos are quite promiscuous.

  4. What an amazing assortment of Arctostaphylos, I wish I had been more selective in choosing which plants went into my front garden. Oh and now I'm dreaming of Chrysolepis chrysophylla as my street tree replacements...

    1. I would think it would be able to tolerate street tree conditions, but you could ask Sean what he thinks. It's hard to find, though. Sean might have some, but I think he's focused on the shrub form. The Desert Northwest and Forest Farm are listed on Plant Lust, but I don't know if they have any available. The tree form can get quite large, too. Not sure what the restrictions are for street trees.

  5. You found a magical place. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  6. Color me grateful for your forays into the wild.


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