What's springing up around here

Events in the garden happen quickly as spring advances, even in the cool springs of the Pacific Northwest. Let's see some of what's been happening at Bean Acres.

Rhododendron 'Bob's Blue' against Viburnum davidii. The bees have been all over these flowers.
Spring is prime plant shopping season, even in climates where fall planting is more appropriate. My plant shopping season really kicked off with a trip to Little Prince of Oregon in March. Below are some of the plants I purchased there, Berberis Mahonia nervosa and Carex platyphylla, two evergreens that tolerate dry shade once established. Piling them into my flat at the nursery, I noticed the purple winter foliage of the mahonia and the blue of the sedge worked very well together, so I knew I had to find a place for them together. This corner in the new shade garden has been a problem since its inception, being rather dry compared to the rest of the bed.

Scattered throughout the bed, Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' is waking up. I love this grass, but I do need to introduce some more evergreens to this bed.

It will look much better as the Fatsia japonica, camellias, mahonias, Asarum caudatum, and Rohdea japonica fill in, but I think it needs a few more low evergreens toward the center. Ideally, I could find three Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata' but it's hard to find in nurseries in the PNW. Microbiota decussata may be an alternative, though that one doesn't show up a lot, either, and can spread to 10 feet. Hmm, kinda big, though I could just plant one. Native Cascade mahonia may be what I end up using, continuing the planting on the corner to run into the middle of the bed. Or perhaps this is the spot where I will finally plant some Soft Caress mahonia. I'm a little concerned about it getting too tall. Some reports say it can reach 4-6 feet. How likely is it to get that tall and how long does it take? Are three kinds of mahonia too much for this bed? B. gracilipes, nervosa, and Soft Caress?

On another corner of the bed, Bergenia 'Silberlicht' is blooming with nearly white flowers on red stems.

I have yet to complete the fence post border I started on this bed last summer, or any of the others I started, for that matter.

But I did transplant the Sedum 'Angelina' from the deck boxes to the edge of this bed. Hopefully it helps keep the weeds out.

It makes a nice combo with Lonicera nitida 'Twiggy' and Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae.

Waiting in the wings are 5 Beesia from Little Prince and 3 Wulfenia x schwarzii plus one Romanzoffia californica from a recent trip to Xera. I think these will all be going in the palm bed-to-be, but I want to get the larger plants in before I plant these smaller ones.

The Romanzoffia is so cute.

Also from my recent trip to Xera, Borinda angustissima.

I'm so happy I decided to get this. It's so pretty! The delicate leaves give it a very graceful air.

 Only one problem. I just planted it and I already want to move it. Does that ever happen to you? Plant something and the next day you decide it would be better in a different spot? As illustrated in the photo below, I'm debating moving the bamboo (blue) further into the center of this bed and the Pieris japonica 'Valley Valentine' (red) out to the corner. I think it will work better to have the taller bamboo filling up the center of the bed under the dawn redwood. Of course, said dawn redwood has to get tall enough for the bamboo to be under it, first. Until then, they'll simply be next to each other.

Speaking of that pieris, it's still getting established from being planted 2 or 3 years ago, and then moved last year, so it has rather small flower clusters. But the color! This is not pink. This is a deep ruby, almost garnet. It will be amazing if I ever let it settle in long enough to produce full-size trusses of blooms.

While I was at Xera, I also picked up my first Magnolia laevifolia. I know, took me long enough. It's already in its new home between a cordyline and the Heptacodium miconioides.

The flowers are shedding their furry brown bud scales quickly, just in time for a late wind storm. Please, storm, leave me a few flowers.

Thankfully, the wind wasn't as bad as predicted here. Both the above M. laevifolia and the M. stellata, which reached just about peak bloom this past week, were able to hang on to their petals.

Paul very kindly saved me the last Berberis x lologensis, which I planted in my torture bed an area of dry, dappled shade with morning sun. It now keeps company with Vaccinium ovatum, Berberis aquifolium, Arctostaphylos stanfordiana 'Twin Valley', and Grevillea miqueliana, among others.

Fargesia dracocephala 'Rufa' got shifted a few feet away from Rhododendron sinogrande, to give both more room to grow without one suffocating the other (translantion: without the bamboo suffocating the wee rhododendron).

It barely noticed the move. Dozens of shoots are now poking up through the soil. These excite me so much. I've gone full bamboo nut.

I always like it when I notice a new vignette develop in this young garden. Here you look through the branches of Clethra barbinervis, tipped with new growth, to Helleborus 'ABCRD01' (PENNY'S PINK) and other plants in the next bed.

New fronds on Polystichum x dycei. These have really started taking off since moving them from the dry shade bed they were in.

In the greenhouse, a dwarf red epiphyllum is loaded with slowly expanding buds.

Back out in the garden, the bracts of Euphorbia rigida are aging to orange.

I think the ramp could use a few more of that euphorbia to fill it out.

I added divisions of Juncus patens to various areas, particularly where the Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus leaves big holes in winter.

The bronze Carex comans in one bed was getting overwhelming, crowding out other plants, so I moved a few to the southwest corner, shown below, and a few to other beds. I think these will work well with the shrubs already growing in this bed. This area still has some work to be done.

I gave up on Leptospermum lanigerum [silver form] after it died nearly to the ground last winter. It's not the first time it's suffered heavy damage since I planted it in 2015. It's been replaced with a Leptospermum namadgiensis I had planted in the hedgerow along the fence. The resulting space in the hedgerow was then filled with a Quercus agrifolia.

When I finished the garden expansion in 2016, clover seedlings started appearing everywhere. I decided to leave them to fix nitrogen in the soil and cover the ground while the other plants grew. This winter, I had enough of the messy look of the clover and started pulling it out to allow more desirable evergreen ground covers to fill in, like the Asarum caudatum. I could probably leave the clover and let things develop naturally, as I had originally planned. The rabbits have been beneficial in this respect, keeping the clover trimmed down and not touching the asarum. The big leaves of the asarum are capable of shading out the clover, mostly. But the clover is ugly with the rabbits chewing on it all the time, so I'm going to expedite the process by helping the asarum and other ground covers a little.

Here the clover was crowding Blechnum penna-marina ssp. alpina.
Good thing that pot was free. I neglected to bring it inside this winter and it is most definitely not weather-proof.

I would definitely rather have the blechnum covering the ground than the clover. Thus far, the rabbits have never touched it. (Hopefully rabbits don't have internet access to read this.)

Every time I look outside now, the garden has changed. It's a busy time of year and hard to keep up with everything, but it's also deeply satisfying and entertaining to watch everything grow.

Taxonomic Note: Yes, I have chosen to adopt the change from Mahonia to Berberis. I don't like particularly like it, as I love my mahonias, and I know many who feel the same. But I also want to get myself used to the updated nomenclature. I will still use mahonia as a common name. I've been informed of a new, more comprehensive phylogenetic study done on Berberis and Mahonia, which reinstates Mahonia as a distinct genus and proposes the new genera Alloberberis for the species formerly in Mahonia section Horridae and Moranothamnus for Mahonia claireae. These are proposals only, and I find no references to the study that say the proposals have been accepted. At the very least, though, it sheds doubt on the merging of Mahonia into Berberis, so call them whatever you want!


  1. The daily new arrivals during the time of year are what makes spring such an exciting season, even here where the shift in weather conditions is less dramatic than it is in your area. As usual, you're adding a lot of intriguing plants to your garden. I laughed (in fellowship!) at your struggles with the clover. I've had masses of clover pop up in one area in particular, possibly brought in with one of the shipments of topsoil I hauled in to berm up the area after we tore out the lawn there. I too let it stay because it was a good temporary filler and helped fix nitrogen in the soil but it's gotten out of control this year, mostly covering one of my flagstone paths, and I finally went to work on it yesterday. The bunnies have discovered my garden this year but, if they've touched the clover, it's not evident to me - they seem to prefer my Gazanias and the new foliage of Lotus berthelotii.

    1. I'm not alone! Lol. The clover has really gotten carried away in some places. In others, it's not so bad and I'll probably leave it. Ouch. Sorry to hear about your new garden residents. They were quite pesky here a couple years ago after finishing the garden expansion, but seem to have been settling down. They still occasionally find something to clip that makes me want to tear my hair out, but it has gotten better. Hopefully it does for you, too.

  2. Seeing your post has made me Beesia high up on my want list this spring, must buy several, just love this plant!

    1. They are even better in person! The colors and sheen of the leaves is almost like an oil slick.

  3. I also have a torture bed! Dry shade, except sometimes sun - seems to me one of the hardest areas to make happy plants. I've been thinking of arctostaphylos, but am having trouble finding them. Anywhere you'd recommend? (I'm in Seattle). Other torture bed recommendations? Currently mine is basically ribes, euphorbia, and foxgloves.

    1. Unfortunately, I don't know nurseries in the Seattle area very well. You could make a trip to The Desert Northwest in Sequim, if you make an appointment with Ian, the owner. Or mail-order from The Desert Northwest or Cistus Nursery. Little Prince of Oregon is increasing their line of Arctostaphylos, so anywhere you know of that sells Little Prince of Oregon plants may carry them or could order them. My torture bed is fairly new in its latest incarnation. Previously, it was home to struggling rhododendrons and other plants that need shade AND moisture. So most of what I have growing there is still getting established, but here are a few recommendations: Vaccinium ovatum, Oxalis oregana, Vancouveria planipetala, Vancouveria chrysantha, Iris foetidissima, Helleborus foetidus, Oregon grape, Luzula sylvatica, Gaultheria mucronata, Grevillea victoriae, Grevillea miquelliana, Garrya, Gaultheria procumbens (slow, but it seems happy enough), dwarf Umbellularia (Cistus has several selections from 4 feet to 20 feet tall), Frangula californica, Carpenteria californica, and of course sword ferns. These are all plants that I am trialing in my own torture bed that show promise.

  4. "It's deeply satisfying and entertaining to watch everything grow.." this is the understatement of the season. I'm positively giddy with joy when I see how things change day to day. Or weekend to weekend in my case.
    In my garden, Pieris japonica 'Valley Valentine' seem to bloom well every other year. On the off years it's rather sparse. On the other hand, new leaf growth in most Pieris is so rewarding I don't mind it at all.
    More Euphorbia rigida is a good thing. Especially as you are waiting for things to fill in some.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts