Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree)


Richard discovered a Katsura in a friend’s yard in NW Portland. It had everything he was looking for in a tree: slow-growing, with a graceful shape and small, heart-shaped leaves to provide dappled shade. When the leaves fall, they do not compact into a solid, soggy mass like the maple leaves do, but float delicately to the ground and quickly decompose with no need for raking.

from afar

I love the way it glows against the background of the dark cedar trees.

looking up

Looking up, it shimmers against a blue sky.

heart-shaped leaves

Looking for more info for this post, I discovered that the botanical name for the Katsura tree is Cercidiphyllum japonicum, it likes moderate watering during dry spells and it emits a smell most often described as caramel in the fall. I had to squash the leaves to get any hint of scent, but then my olfactory sense is not the greatest.


We haven’t much in the way of fall color around here, now that the sourwood bit the dust, but this week’s favorite is doing its best to make up for that. Learn more at Great Plant Picks and then pop over to Danger Garden to see what Loree has in store for you this week.

? Heptacodium micionoides ?

I am not questioning my choice: those question marks in the title were supposed to be hearts, but got lost in translation. Anyone know how to access symbols in WordPress?

Heptacodium micionoides

The tree itself is not so very special, but the charm is in the details.

peeling bark

Shaggy, peeling bark bears closer inspection.

blossoms for bees

The lightly fragrant blossoms are beloved by bees. Our tree comes alive with them between showers.


This tree has been blooming for almost two weeks and there are still many tight buds, promising more to come.

overwhelming neighbors

Here you can see that it is overwhelming its neighbors: a crape myrtle on the left and Viburnum ‘Blue Muffin’ in the middle. Guess some targeted pruning would be in order.

upper branches in bloom

In most venues the blossoms are not even mentioned and featured photos are invariably of the russet calyxes that remain after the flowers fade. You can see them here in the Great Plant Picks listing. Plant Lust has minimal information but does list sources. Most listings seem to regard the Seven Son Flower (that’s its common name) as a shrub and that was what I was expecting when I planted it. As you can see, it has far exceeded my expectations. To be honest, overplanting is a common problem around here.

Don’t forget to see what the Danger Garden is featuring this week. Follow the comments to other plant faves and join in if you like.

Romeya coulterii, my fave this week

Romeya coulterii close-up

My first encounter with this beauty was the very first HPSO open garden I visited, that of Jeanne Graham. What a great ambassador she was (and is). We sat and chatted in the shade for a while, and then she took me down the street to see her daughter’s Matilija Poppy. It was huge, tree-like and spectacular.

Roneya coulteri shrub

After several failed attempts to get seeds and transplants to take, I came across a nice little plant at a HPSO plant sale. The vendor assured me that it was a garden-worthy plant, not that much of a sales pitch was needed. Here it is after three years in the ground.

Romneya coulteri

Quoting from the Sunset Western Garden Book “White flowers up to 9″ wide; five or six petals with texture of crepe paper surround a round mass of golden stamens. Fragrant. Blooms May-July, on into fall if watered. Flowers handsome in arrangements.”

Romneya coulteri buds

I do water, but sparingly, and all of those fuzzy buds will open over time.

more Romneya coulteri

Again from Sunset: “Use on hillsides as soil binder, along roadsides and in marginal areas, in wide borders. Invasive, spreading by underground rhizomes; don’t plant near less vigorous plants. Tolerates varying soils (including loose, gravelly soil). Withhold summer irrigation to keep growth in check. Cut nearly to ground in late fall. New shoots emerge after first rains in winter. Although easy to grow once established, the plant is very difficult to propagate. Easiest way to grow more plants is to dig up rooted suckers from spreading roots, but you can try taking cuttings from thickest roots. To make seeds germinate, mix them with potting soil in a foil-lined flat, burn pine needles on top of flat for 30 minutes, water, and hope for sprouting.” In other words, no wonder I had no luck until I found a good healthy plant, well on its way. It’s native to California, and I have found none of the invasive tendencies described here, but consider yourself forewarned. Other stats: full sun, responds to water, tolerates aridity.

We have Loree to thank for getting us talking about favorite plants in our gardens. It’s not unusual to find a new favorite of your own after hearing someone else rave about a plant you have never noticed, or maybe even heard of. Do drop on over to Danger Garden to see what Loree is favoring right now, and why not join in the fun?

when is a bargain…not

NOID Deodora cedar

You may recall my excitement over the sale at Means, where we picked up this Deodora cedar for a mere $9.99. R is the tree planter in the family. When he came in from planting this, he was worried. The root ball, he said, was quite small, with evidence of some hacking off of large roots. Now this tree comes in dwarf, upright, towering, sprawling and probably several other varieties I don’t even know about. Often when we buy something from Means it takes some time to recover from transplant shock. If this is one that eventually reaches mammoth proportions, I would not be at all sorry for it to take its time.

fave tool for weeding

Nothing beats a hefty screwdriver as a weeding tool. You know how it is with tools: they keep wandering off. So…off to Home Depot for yet another replacement.


But did I stick to the tool department? Heck no! What’s a trip to Home Depot without a stroll through the garden center? I spotted these lush, healthy looking Agapanthus ‘Frederick St Park’ on sale for $2.98 (there’s two of them there).

rootbound Agapanthus

I had to cut them out of the nursery pots, and then cut away a lot of the roots wound around and around. This was not easy to do without losing a flowering stalk.

Agapanthus flower

Which I did, but waste not want not…it made a nice focal point in a little posy of sweet peas.

potted Agapanthus

All potted up, they continue to put on a show without missing a beat. I’ll move these onto the porch when cold weather returns. I’ve tried Agapanthus in the ground a couple of times and lost them. We shall see.

Cotinus coggyria ‘Golden Spirit’

Another Means purchase, the Cotinus coggyria ‘Golden Spirit’ in the back pot set us back all of two bucks. What do you think? Do these plants qualify as “bargains”, or have I been played for a sucker? My own thinking runs along these lines: even if every one of them were to conk out by the end of this growing season, I would feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth and then some.

Zantedeschia aethiopica, my fave right now

Zantendeschia aethiopica

In my book, nothing quite equals a single unfurling Calla lily (Zantendeschia aethiopica) for pure elegance. She has many relatives, some with spotted leaves, some with interesting colors in the flowers (I quite like the nearly black one), but in this spot, with the dark foliage background, white is by far the most dramatic choice. I keep transplanting more of these in hopes of one day getting a full bouquet of them. There was a scene in the movie Frances where Jessica Lange (Oscar winner for this role) came in with an armload of white Calla lilies, just the flowering stems, no leaves, and put them in a tall glass vase…sublime. The movie was difficult to watch, dealing with a famous actress and her spiral into madness, but I would almost watch it again just for those lilies.

That Loree…first she got us all interested in spiky plants and now she has started a hard-to-resist meme featuring a favorite plant in the garden. It’s loosely organized: you can post weekly, monthly or follow any schedule that suits you. She doesn’t have any widgets, but you can link to Danger Garden to join in the fun. If you happen by on a different day, it will be easy to find her most recent “favorite” post in her archives, as she posts one weekly. I’ll be curious to see what your favorites are.

foliage follow-up: Stachyrus salicifolius

Stachyrus salicifolius

I was faced with a delightful dilemma: how to use a generous gift certificate at Portland Nursery. We should all have such problems, right? Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. I wanted it to be something really special, and it took three trips before something finally clicked. On the day that the stars aligned, I had spent the early part of the day on the ANLD pre-tour. Showy tall pots had been a theme running through all of the gardens, and a plant that had been on my want list for ages showed up looking every bit as seductive as the photo I’d been carrying around.

new pot grouping

I started with the plant: Stachyrus salicifolius. It’s hard to capture in a photo, but the growing tips of those long, willowy leaves have a reddish tint. When I spotted this pot, the first thing I noticed was how the color matched those growing tips. It wasn’t until I got it home and started potting it up that I noticed how the carved relief of the pot echoes the leaf shapes. Then I started finding other pots to add to the grouping.

Drimys lanceolata

Terra cotta pots mix well, especially this one containing Drimys lanceolata with deep red bark.

the collection

Stepping back, I’m really liking the whole collection. Thank you, Marilyn, for the wonderful gift. Putting this all together is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

succulent bowl

Another gift (can you believe my good fortune?) We had a Dads’ Day BBQ, and this was a hostess gift. We really should entertain more often. Some of the plants I recognize and others are new to me. I love the crowded composition with many textures and colors. It’s a look I only rarely come close to accomplishing, and then only after the arrangement has had a chance to grow into lushness.

Pam Pennick at digging gives us all the gift of a forum for foliar appreciation mid-month, each and every month. Thank you, Pam.

garden tour giveaway

floramagoria art

Interesting plants, garden art ranging from whimsical to totemic, all arranged in inspiring ways by members of ANLD (Association of Northwest Landscape Designers). The seven gardens on this tour will get your creative juices flowing. I was fortunate to be invited to the pre-tour for a sneak peek at what is in store, and part of that was a pair of tickets to give away. So here’s the deal: leave a comment at the end of this post and I will put your name in the pot. One lucky person will be awarded two tickets on June 20 for the event to take place June 22, 10 am – 4 pm. I took so many photos on this tour that it will take some time to sort through them, but here are a few to pique your interest:

floramagoria lantern

floramagoria greenhouse

Common Ground raised beds

Common Ground shelter

Plant Passion fountain

Plant Passion pot

Paraiso pot

Paraiso scene

Leon scene

Leon totem

elemental sculpture

elemental paving

Cedar Mill path

Cedar Mill table

Each of these gardens has a distinct personality. I fell in love with two of them, but there wasn’t a one that failed to spark an idea or two to take away and store in the old memory bank for future use. I’ll do expanded posts on each of these gardens at a later date, but for now I wanted to get something out and give you time to get in on this drawing. Tickets, at $20 each, will be available through the ANLD website right up to the day of the tour. Proceeds will benefit design student scholarships.

tis the aquisition season

Acanthus sennii

Hortlandia gets the buying season off to a flying start. I had a cold. This is where gardening buddies are invaluable (as well as in many other ways). Loree asked if she could be on the lookout for anything for me. I immediately thought of a plant I’d been admiring in her Danger Garden, Acanthus sennii, above. True to her word, she looked, and she found. Woo hoo…add another star to Loree’s crown.

Means plants

Means Nursery is so nearby that I can easily pop in whenever I have a special need. Two ipomoea batatis ‘Mardi Gras’ and one Coleus ‘Chocolate Drop’ filled the bill…

red pot with Means plants

to fill this red pot that had been standing empty.

Daphne odora ‘Mae-jima’

When it comes to plants, I can never stick to a list. I’ve been wanting a daphne, so Daphne odora ‘Mae-jima’ came home with me too.

blogger swap1

Next up: the Oregon Bloggers’ Swap, with the welcome addition of several Washingtonians. Starting from the top, let’s go clockwise, skipping the two pots disappearing from the bottom of the photo. A nice flaming Euphorbia whose name I can’t remember…maybe Dixter?; Rubus lineatus; Pacific Coast Iris; Polypodium scaulen; Dicentra spectabilis

more swap plants

Sorry, that big pot still fails to show off Iris confusa, but believe me, it’s a beauty; Arum ‘Jack Sprat’; Pulmonaria; ‘Ron Davidson’; and a pretty little frosty Heuchera whose name escapes me (it’s ‘Snow Angel’. You guys are so good!). The bloggers are all true plant nuts, and they bring fabulous stuff to our swaps. By the time someone has spieled about a beloved plant, I’m a convert even if I never noticed that plant before. What a fabulous way to introduce new material into the garden. Somehow I failed to get photos of the nice big clumps of Polygonatum and Convellaria majalis, but they’ll be showing up in future posts, you can be sure.

plants from Linda

Last Sunday, Linda and I met up at Joy Creek to wander the display gardens and shop for plants. Linda never arrives empty handed. This time she brought me a couple of primroses I had admired in her garden and a Hellebore to try. She says to plant it in sun, so that may be the problem with those I have (all in shade).

porch pots

Heading to meet Linda, I stopped by Means to get a few things for porch pots: upright Fuchsia ‘Firecracker’ to put in a cachepot; two Impatiens and Lysimachia ‘Midnight Sun’ to spill from a wall pocket.

plants from Joy Creek

And finally, here’s my haul from Joy Creek: center front, Erodium chrysanthum; front left and right, Zauschneria ‘Everett’s Choice’; top left, Phlomis italica; top center, Oxalis ‘Klamath Ruby’ with purplish undersides to the leaves; top right, Oxalis oregana. I probably should have waited for cooler, overcast days to do the planting, but I’ll just have to be a diligent waterer until we get back to some Oregon weather. We will, won’t we?

a new bed is born

With the last stretch of nice weather, I was finally able to address the issue chronicled at the end of this post.

digging out

Digging out the area and storing the soil in wheelbarrows and tarps was the hardest part.

straightening the wire screen

Meanwhile, I unrolled the wire mesh and weighted it down with rocks to help it uncurl. The plain old garden dirt was mixed with 1/4-10 gravel and dark hemlock mulch before returning it to the screened bed.

Itea ilicifolia and Acorus gramineus variegatus

Several plants had been waiting in pots (one for years) for this day. Two Acorus gramineus variegatus from Home Depot were divided into enough plugs to cover a large area. The pot in the above photo contains Itea ilicifolia, a plant I have high hopes for. See it here on Plant Lust. I’ve killed it before, but maybe the care that went into preparing this bed will do the trick.

new bed looking north

In the foreground is the lovely small tree that inspired the making of this bed. It has lived in a large pot for several years, and it was showing signs of longing for liberation. I thought it was ‘Red Bells’, but when I compare it to the excellent photos on Plant Lust, I think, instead, it is Enkianthus campanulatis var. sikokianthus. To its right is Hypericum inodorum ‘Albury Purple’. Impossible to see at this stage is Disporum hookerii. The sweet flag plugs take up the middle of the bed, where their root system is meant to protect the water lines beneath. In the distance, on the left, is a Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana). An Osmanthus too small to see is somewhere there in the middle distance, and on the right is the Itea. Where the new bed joins an existing bed a vigorous ground cover of Hypericum ‘Brigadoon’ will pretty rapidly migrate into the bare patches.

looking west

Looking west…

looking east

And one last shot, looking east. Take That! evil gophers! With this project taken care of, I guess it’s back to weeding for me.

a time to plant

Excuse me…I don’t mean to go all Biblical on you, but after playing the acquisition game for a while there’s nothing for it but to get some of that new stuff in the ground. And what a day for it! Yesterday was bright and clear and today a gentle rain is watering in all of the new plantings.

plants from Yamhill sale

First up, the group of plants I got from the Yamhill native plant sale. A friend told us about this, and volunteered to pick up our plants when he took the drive to collect his. The prices were good, and the website was easy to navigate. I ordered five Camassia leichtlini var suksdorfii to plant at the woodland’s edge, hoping that they will naturalize over time; two Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed); one Disporum hookerii (Hooker’s fairy bells); three Sequoia sempervirens (coastal redwood); two Arbutus menziesii (Pacific Madrone); and two Cornus nuttalii (Pacific dogwood). I asked Bob to pick up some huckleberries if they had any on hand, and they did, shown bottom left and center. Turns out they had run out of dogwoods and sequoias, so they substituted extra Madrones, a couple of Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana) and nine crab apples (Malus fusca).

Malus fusca potted up

Not sure what to do with all of those crab apples, I potted them up to grow on for a while. They can reach thirty five feet and enjoy moist conditions. I might put a couple of them in the front hedgerow, but if they appeal to you, let me know…or I can bring some to the next plant swap.

Arbutus menziesii

What to do with five Madrones, when they can top out at twenty to fifty feet was an even bigger challenge. Well, they’re supposed to be slow-growing and appreciative of poor soil with good drainage, so I just stuck them at intervals along the border I’m developing approaching the house. We’ll see what happens. I can always cut them down or, if I don’t wait too long, dig them up for relocation. As you can see by the first photo, most of the things in this batch of plants pretty much disappeared when planted. If they prosper and put on a show, they are sure to show up in future posts.

Dyckia hybrid

The Yard, Garden and Patio Show came next, and the only plant I bought was this Dyckia hybrid. It is meant to take the place of a deceased Echeveria in a pot of succulents. I hope I will have better luck with this. I rarely go on a buying spree at the show, because I don’t want to haul plants around with me, especially when there are so many stellar nurseries nearby where I can just drive up and load plants into the car. I am kind of kicking myself for not picking up a few of the unusual dahlia bulbs (or whatever you call those things) on offer, though.

Primula Elatior Reno Mix

A quick and dirty stop at Means to pick up a couple of things to stick in porch pots yielded this perky Primula Elatior Reno mix (I like the way the flowers rise above the rosette of leaves) and a surprise. As I browsed the tables, a young man approached and inquired if I needed help finding anything. What?! He proved to be quite knowledgeable and friendly, running counter to the reputation of an outlet that has sold boring plants in quantity with no one in the place knowing anything about the merchandise. When I called this to the attention of Ransom, he chuckled and allowed as how that was their reason for hiring him. Guess I’ll be pulling off the road on my way to Freddy’s more frequently in the days ahead.

Helleborus ‘Pink Beauty’

I was surprised to find small pots of Hellebores for a mere $6.50. See how nicely ‘Pink Beauty’ nestles into the cachepot that sits next to our front door? I’ll find it a permanent home later.

Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’

I’ve long admired the foliage of Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’, but hadn’t realized how colorful the bare branches were in winter. This will be a great addition to the driveway border that is oh-so-slowly coming together.

the haul from Dancing Oaks

The Open House at Dancing Oaks yielded more than plants. Who could resist the cold pressed hazelnut oil at right? As you can see, we didn’t even try, as we have already drizzled it over the incredible (and colorful) eggs. Front, left, is Nandina domestica filamentosa, which will form a dome similar to Japanese maple, but lacier and more see-through. Behind that is Acanthus Syriacus to add to my “collection” of three. In the center is Cyclamen coum, silver form. New stems form in cunning spirals. This may go under the Nandina. The last plant is hiding beyond the frame, but wait…

Corokia cotoneaster

There it is: Corokia cotoneaster and yes, I’m ready to give it another go after having destroyed a couple of them.

grasses from Scott

On Sunday, Scott, of Rhone Street Gardens brought me this wonderful bunch of grasses: three Muhlenbergia cappilaris, a huge (like its name) Stipa gigantea and in the bag, I believe, a Miscanthus, but which one escapes me (Scott?). Next time the sun breaks through, I will get these into the ground. Since Scott was mainly making room in an already crowded garden it was not quite a swap, but I did serve pie…and on our walkabout we identified a couple of things he’d like (next time).

Now that I have most things planted, I can forge ahead into Spring with a clear conscience. Hortlandia will be coming up soon, after all.