Monday, July 1, 2024

Plants doing exceptionally well (and one that's still not)

As I've written about (at length), last winter was a nightmare, there was so much plant death. However, on the flip side, I've noticed there are a few plants in the garden that are doing exceptionally well this year. Why? I attribute their happiness to the consistent rain this spring, rain that alternated with nice warm sunny days. There wasn't too much of either, just enough of both to get plants growing. There's also increased open airy sky—aka sunlight. Plant death means increased light for the nearby plants that live.

Galium odoratum, sweet woodruff, came with me from my Spokane garden (hitchhiked with another plant), and went in the ground back in 2005. It had all but disappeared, only a leaf or two showing up, that is until this year.
I suppose rather than look at its reappearance as a good thing, I should probably be terrified that a plant can lay in wait for over a decade, and then pop up all lush and happy almost over night.
Speaking of things showing up unexpectedly, see those terracotta shards on the lower right (above). My garden has been producing terracotta bits for years. Sometimes it's when I dig, but most of the time they just show up on the surface of the soil in unexpected places.

Another green ground cover, Soleirolia soleirolii (baby's tears), is also doing fantastic.

I never would have dreamt this Zone 9 plant—that I stuck in the ground on a whim—would have lived through last winter and look so good now.

I planted these Blechnum chilense (Parablechnum cordatum, the Chilean hard fern) back in 2020 and they promptly died back, or perhaps were chomped on by rabbits, or both.

Last year I think there may have been one sickly sad little leaf from each plant.

But this year!

Wowsa, it's beginning to look like I'm going to get the Blechnum chilense planting I intended back when I planted them.

Nearby is my Rhododendron pachysanthum. The new foliage starts out white frosted...

And then slowly turns cinnamon, it's in the process in the photo below. This is one that's definitely appreciating the increased light levels.

And a plant that's appreciated the rain that's fallen further into the season, Rodgersia, I think perhaps R. rotlaub. Those big leaves are just so fabulous...

Without equal, actually.

One more happy plant surprise, I bought this NoID orchid years ago, on sale. It was budded up and I figured "why not?". When the flower faded I hung onto the plant, because the foliage was interesting. Eventually I worked the plant into the bromeliad panels I made back in 2022 (very little soil, mostly growing in moss, hanging on the fence in summer, in the basement in the winter). Not only has that orchid lived, but it's going to bloom. Pretty fabulous!

Mahonia x media 'Marvel' made a quick recovery from its winter damage.

I have three marvels and they're all looking good.

The sad plant in the mix is another mahonia, Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress', it's still not doing so well. 

I have (or rather had) five of them; three plants that are just a couple years old and had overheard protection in the form of trees, and two plants that had been planted out in garden for 10 plus years, but were in the path of extremely high (frigid) wind. The young but "protected" plants (above and below) are finally pushing out new leaves, but one of the oldies was recently tossed, it was either dead, or at least dead to me. Bye-bye.

We're going on a bit of a detour before we get to the fourth Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress', and taking a look at the Mahonia eurybracteata 'Indianola Silver'. That's it dead center of the photo below, with the beautiful flush of pearly green new growth...
This plant was knocked back just as harshly as the 'Soft Caress', but it's rebounded much quicker. My two other "silver" Mahonia eurybracteata, 'Cistus Silvers' have also pushed out new growth, proving they're better adapted to my growing conditions.

Since my fifth 'Soft Caress' was nothing but a curvy stump...

I decided to make the trip out to Cistus and buy a couple of 'Silvers' to replace it, of course when I went to dig out the stump just two days later, this is what I saw... new growth!

The timing!

I went ahead and cut back the stump to the new growth point, and then planted the three Mahonia eurybracteata, 'Cistus Silvers' I bought nearby. Since they're seed-grown they all differ greatly. Those bright green leaves belong to one of the new plants...

They should develop a bit more of a silver cast as they age.

And here are the other two. It will be interesting to see how they all grow, and what future winters hold for them all.

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  1. It's so good to see a positive post. Proof that many plants are way tougher than we give them credit for. I've had seeds sprout years after the original plant went away.

    1. Yes! I am still getting seedlings from my Grevillea rivularis that went away back in March of 2021.

  2. Yes! Soft Caress has been a multi-year disappointment for both my mom and me (two different PDX gardens).

    My sweet woodruff on the other hand is a beast; it tries to "eat" everything in its path. It came with the house, and has spread to a patch that is probably 5 x 5', even with mitigations.

    1. A "multi-year disappointment" is a great description and one I will definitely use in the future! I am a little worried about the reemergence of the sweet woodruff, as tendencies to try for world domination have been mentioned a few times.

    2. The good news is that, at least in my experience, the sweet woodruff is easy to pull. And we're able to make a lovely May Wine with its blooms. Simply place a sprig in a glass of white wine, and you will have a delicious, vanilla-scented drink. Woodruff is supposed to be mildly carcinogenic, though, so we limit our woodruff-related culinary explorations to once a year.

  3. FWIW, Mahonia 'Soft Caress' up and died fairly promptly here too. I love all the resurrected groundcovers - and the fact that plants can wait so patiently for years to reemerge when the time is right. In addition, I give you full credit for allowing me to see Rhododendrons as more than just pretty flowering plants.

    1. Yay! There are so many great foliage rhododendrons, as you will see during the Fling!

  4. AnonymousJuly 01, 2024

    Add me to the list with a dead Soft Caress.
    That rhodie is stunning! For a moment I thought it was a datura!
    Jim N Tabor

    1. A datura? Hmm... I'm going to be puzzling on that one for a while.

  5. My 3 Soft Caress are slowly bouncing back .

    A plant that I could not keep alive in my previous garden, Thymus requeinii (Corsican Mint) spontaneously showed up in my current garden, then was shaded out, and I thought killed, by a massive Spanish Lavender. 6 months after removing the lavender the mint came to life once again. I had to move it to build a stone wall, and it is thriving after transplanting to three different places.

    1. I typed Thymus for some reason, its Mentha requeinii of course.

    2. Yes! I have had Mentha requeinii do the same, it's having a good year here in multiple places.

  6. Oh, that orchid! I hope we see a photo of it open! It really has cheered me up today to see it!

    1. Are you on Instagram Nancy? Cause it will definitely show up there...

    2. Yes. I will keep checking there.

  7. My very small Mahonia Soft Caress made it through the winter relatively okay, but that isn't saying much because it didn't look that great to begin with. Mahonia Dan Hinkley took a beating. I'm not sure if it's made a reappearance. I'd better go check once it cools off a little.

  8. AnonymousJuly 09, 2024

    The sweet woodruff is so lush. I live on the Humboldt County coast and it wants to take over all my shade. I harvested lots of it a year ago, dried it and gave sachets as gifts. It reminds me of sweet grass.


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