End of August Favorites

I debated whether or not to write a post about the garden this week. I'm hosting an open garden here next weekend and I want to leave my guests with some surprises. With such a large garden, though, I don't think I need to worry about that. There are more important things to worry about, like finishing the bed edging, weeding, general tidying up, the lack of more attractive bed edging, the sad state of the paths that should have had more chips spread over them... I'm glad I'm just opening the garden to friends. I don't think I could handle strangers seeing this place.

But on to the subject of this post: my favorite plants this month. Actually, some of these plants have been favorites all summer, looking lush and green as so much else turns brown and crispy. I'm a little late to the party, as Loree at The Danger Garden hosts the end of the month favorites on the last Friday of every month. At least it's still August!

Resigned to life in a pot, so it can be protected in the greenhouse over winter, Lapageria rosea bears plenty of these heavy, thick-petaled blooms to delight.

While I wait longingly for the huge grey leaves that Macleaya microcarpa 'Kelway's Coral Plume' produces when happy, these fuzzy panicles of almost ruby-red seeds are a nice consolation prize while my plants settle in.

The photos in this post were all taken in the evening, around 7:00pm. It's one of the best times of day in this garden. The temperature is a little cooler and the sun, where it shines through the trees, lacks the intensity to make one uncomfortable. And then there are all the plants that catch the late sun beautifully. While I would love to have people see the garden at this hour, everyone would have at least an hours drive home afterward.

Artemisia abrotanum has gold tones among the silver that really come out in the evening light, and with my camera's over-yellow white balance...

This is more accurate, from the back side. Almost completely deciduous in this last, harsh, winter, they've grown back with gusto.

I can't tell you how invaluable the various Epilobium or Zauschneria are in this garden. Some grow as thick, weed-suppressing carpets. Some handle soggy clay in winter with aplomb. All tolerate hot conditions with no supplemental water. I had intended to take cuttings to propagate more for a rather bare part of the hell garden, but my window is closing as they all come into bloom. I missed my chance with those cool days a week ago!
Epilobium septentrionale 'Wayne's Silver' is almost red in the evening light.
 What would these views be without the silver foliage and orange flowers of California fuchsias?
'Wayne's Silver' in the foreground along the dry creek bed. UC Hybrid on the other side of the path.

The only rosemary to survive this past winter here was 'Foxtail'. It's growing next to a downspout that runs under the bed and path to empty into the dry creek, but there were several times this winter when the pipe was clogged with fir needles, snow, and/or ice and the water spilled into the bed. This is a tough, fantastic rosemary with a really interesting, arching growth habit.

I had hoped to find more of these for sale in spring at Tsugawa Nursery in Woodland, where I purchased my first plant. Unfortunately I either missed them or they weren't in stock this year, so I took cuttings of my own plant! Until then, I wasn't going to grow more plants from cuttings for this garden, but the rosemary set off a cascade of cuttings and now I'm back to propagating.

Dasiphora fruticosa 'Summer Dawn' has bloomed nonstop all summer, looking fantastic with the blue foliage of Agropyron magellanicum and the various grey-greens in this bed. Many of the plants I grew from cuttings last year have also bloomed this year, grown remarkably for such tiny starts planted last fall.

I love these pale yellow blooms.

Also blooming constantly, at least since I purchased and planted it in July this year: Nerium oleander 'Hardy Red'. I can't remember ever having a shrub continue to bloom so prolifically after planting it in summer. Hopefully it does indeed prove to be hardy, even if it is blooming like an annual.

The blooms aren't quite red, but I'm not complaining. Something, most likely earwigs, has been chewing on these blooms, but they still look fantastic.

My favorite Arctostaphylos by far, at least in this garden and this summer, has been Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Blue Tip', a Cistus Nursery selection. It didn't get spots or even lean in the snow this winter. I was so impressed, I dug it up from its first home in the screen planting along the road to a feature position in the hell garden, where a small 'Hood Mountain' had failed to survive the cold winter. It wiggles a little now, but hopefully it will regain its sturdy footing in short order. I'm just glad I didn't kill it by digging it up!

It's grown so well this summer, and even at this size the bark is gorgeous.

And then there's the fabulous, large blue-green leaves, held on bright cherry red stems!
Cistus Nursery description: "A very pretty blue-leaved manzanita from Northern Lake County, California, to about 10' to 12' with a pyramidal shape. Light blue leaves contrasting well with orange-red stems and bark. One of our earlier flowering selections, this one is often showing small chains of large white flowers early to mid December. Easy in cultivation given mineral soil and bright light, tolerating occasional summer watering if needed. Frost hardy to USDA zone 7."

Woodwardia unigemmata 'Ping Wu' has shown its gratitude for being moved from the terribly dry bed where I had previously planted it to this more fern-friendly spot by putting out 6 fronds, each bigger than the last.

It didn't have much foliage to begin with before last winter, languishing in a poor site. The snow and cold smashed or froze most of the remaining foliage. But look how it's come back! And each of those fronds has a little ball near the end that can form a new plant. I am eyeing that patch of ground cover Sasa, I think it's Sasa hayatae, in the lower right corner. I think I should move that clump to delay it overtaking the fern.

Looking like an especially tropical bamboo, Iris confusa is also a spreader, and I'm eagerly watching the new rhizomes spreading from the base of these stems.

This plant, too, was smashed by the snow last winter, but has recovered well and is growing happily. I love the lush, exotic foliage.

This small form of Iris japonica from Far Reaches handled the snow better than the taller Iris confusa. It, too, is starting to spread, and I plan to help it out a little by moving pieces around to other shady beds.. The slugs chewed on it a little in the spring, but the iris outgrew them.

I really need to move some pieces to places with shorter ground covers, so the beautiful purple bases are visible, as in this photo from February (they're still that color, just buried).
A little flat, but still green, unlike the Iris confusa which died to the ground over the cold winter.

Of some excitement to rhododendron nerds will be the first blooming of this Rhododendron faithiae, purchased from the Rhododendron Species Foundation where it was (I believe) grown from seed.

The novelty of having a rhododendron blooming at the end of August is more exciting than the blooms themselves, though they do smell wonderful. As you can see, the dry heat of a summer in the Pacific Northwest quickly turns the flowers brown. If I had a more sheltered garden with a canopy to reduce wind and increase humidity, or a garden closer to the ocean, the flowers would probably last longer in good condition.

But they would still be under the big leaves, because the buds develop on the previous seasons growth and are then covered by the current seasons leaves. This species can grow into a small tree in time (possibly rather quickly, given how fast mine has grown) so maybe it would be interesting to stand under a mature specimen and look up at the flowers under the leaves.

I have three species of Fargesia, and rufa is by far my favorite. The other two, nitida and robusta(pretty sure, though I did manage to pick one without a tag), curl in the sun. This one laughs and continues to look wonderful. It's also grown the most this year, more than doubling in height with the first crop of new canes in spring.

It has such a wonderful texture. I need more bamboo in my life.

It's even putting out a second flush of canes! You might just be able to make out the darker, skinny young cane poking up along the middle of this photo. The only problem with this plant is that it is spreading a little faster than I anticipated (but still a clumping bamboo, so we're talking inches, here) and there is a small Rhododendron sinogrande on the other side of it. The bamboo helps to shelter the young rhododendron from the drying wind, and probably protected it a little over the winter, too. Eventually, the rhododendron will grow much taller than the bamboo, becoming a small tree (maybe even a large tree, given lots and lots of time) but there may be some refereeing occurring until then to keep the bamboo from overtaking the little rhodie. Just because one has a large garden doesn't mean one doesn't indulge in a bit of cram-scaping here and there.

Bamboo also pairs well with castor beans (Ricinus communis)! And that's the segue into my final favorite this month. I rarely plant annuals, except for self-sowing wildflowers and summer flowers for the deck, much less feature them as favorites, but these little castor beans deserve it.

They're only a couple feet tall, but their big, purple leaves do add to the garden. I wanted something to help fill in the big leaf bed and had these castor beans from about 5 years ago. Yes, 5 years! I kept meaning to grow them, but for various reasons never did.

So this year I finally sowed the seeds, in June. Imagine how big they would be now if I had sown them in April when I probably should have?

As much as I dislike heat, I'm a little bit happy that this week is a warm one, as I'm curious to see how much the castor beans will grow. During the last heatwave, they nearly doubled in size and started blooming. Another doubling, or more, would be nice before the open garden.


  1. I grew Castor Beans in Alabama and they were usually around 7 feet tall by now. I have not tried them here. I love that Foxtail Rosemary. We have it at Yard n Garden.

    1. Mine may have reached those heights if I hadn't started them in June. So late! I was looking for that rosemary months ago! I wonder if I should buy those and grow my cuttings on to sell...

  2. I appreciate your favorites posts, Evan, as they always provide ideas for additional plants I might be able to try in my climate. This month that's the Macleaya. As to the California fuchsias, I don't know why I've had such difficulty with them but perhaps if I plant them in the fall I'll have better luck getting them established. The 'New Zealand Purple' castor bean is already on my "must plant" list - I just have to find a spot for it.

    1. You should definitely try planting Cal. fuchsias in the fall. Even in my much colder climate with small cuttings just rooted that summer, I've had great success with fall planting. Good luck!

  3. Taking your photos so late in the day certainly makes everything look magical!

    I'm quite jealous of your Woodwardia unigemmata. All mine were severely knocked back over winter, only emerging in July. The fronds are so small! Also coveting your Iris confusa. Anna gifted me a few way back when and they've all died.

    Speaking of death. I've got some sad news about the Lupinus arboreus. I'm now officially forbidden to try that one again.

    1. Morning and evening really are the best times in the garden, and evenings are best here because there's more light. My woodwardia started out as a good-size plant, so maybe that's it? I got my confusa from Anna, too. Maybe the snow protected them. We don't usually get snow when it's that cold.

      I didn't know you had Lupinus arboreus. You don't mean Lupinus sericatus?

    2. Yes I did. Duh. But I did have L. arboretums once upon a time as well. Now it's dead too.

    3. I assumed you'd grown both. Did you see my giant weedy lupine in the bed with all the Hakonechloa? I assume it came in with the compost and other stuff from Swanson's Bark and Wood Products in Longview. It's huge! And then there are the smaller ones I think could be Lupinus rivularis from Silver Fall Seed Company.

  4. California fuchsias are a tease, its not zone appropriate for me. So is the Oleander which I love. I'd like to give Agropyron magellanicum a try. That blue hue is wonderful and maybe less messy then blue fescue, which neighborhood cats like to sit in!
    Fingers crossed for your castor been to double again in size, so you can show them of during the open garden.

    1. Are you in a cold area? My California fuchsias all came through 11 degrees Fahrenheit this last winter. The only one that struggled was my original plant of 'Catalina' next to the dry creek bed. That cultivar likes better drainage and did fine in spots that weren't saturated.

      I think doubling in size was asking a little much, but they have gained another foot!

  5. You always have such interesting favorites and informative things to say about the plants that we both grow.

  6. A rhododendron blooming at this time of the year? That's just crazy talk, mister. Does Rhododendron faithiae's fragrance waft or does one have to bury his nose in the flower to enjoy it? Looking forward to seeing how hardy your oleander is as I've been tempted by them but was unsure if they'd make it through winter.

    1. I had to stick my nose pretty close to the flowers (wedging my face though the leaves in the process) to enjoy the scent. I'm hoping as it grows and produces more blooms at once it will be more detectable without such contortions. It probably would carry further in a more sheltered, humid garden. I'm looking forward to seeing how hardy that oleander is, too! lol. Specimens down in Portland made it through this winter unfazed. It didn't get as cold there as it did here, but the east winds there can take at least 10 degrees off whatever the thermometer says, making it comparable in places to my location, since I don't get those winds. We shall see!

  7. So many drool-worthy plants! Iris confusa - a new must-have for me. Just added it to my Annie's Annuals shopping list :-).

    I couldn't agree more with you said about California fuschias. They're indestructible, need almost nothing, and flower all the time it seems.

    1. And you won't have to worry about Iris confusa being slightly tender, as it is here!

      The Cal fuchsias mostly only bloom in the fall here, stopping when it gets too cold. There are some cultivars that start blooming in summer, but I don't have those yet.

  8. TanglyCottage referred your blog to us, Evan, spotlighting the R. faithiae -- wow, that's wonderful. Fragrant and jul/aug bloomer! We'd love to have a cutting to add to the collection. Subscribed today, love the blog.

    1. Thanks for reading, Steve! It would probably be easier for you to order faithiae from the Rhododendron Species Foundation, if they have it in their fall catalog. I think it's out now. If not, I might be able to select a branch from my small plant to take a cutting.

  9. That's amazing about your castor bean seeds, but it's true that the larger the seed, the longer they last. And I didn't know potentilla had a name change! I'm giving that agropyron a try this summer too. That's a great planting you've made with it.

    1. Shrubby potentilla has gone through several name changes, but I learned them as Dasiphora when I was in college, so it's been more than 8 years.


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