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Talkin' Dirt - May 2017

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by Vicki Kammerer

Plants with year round interest

These plants look great 12 months out of the year, They withstand the weather conditions in the Pacific Northwest, They are easy to maintain, disease resistant, take very little pruning or water (once established).

Viburnum tinus 'Gwenllian' One of the most reliable and easy evergreens, 'Gwenllian' is a dense shrub with dark green, leathery leaves. Clusters of deep pink buds open to white flowers throughout winter, and have metallic blue berries (they eventually turn black) that follow. This viburnum copes with shade, but it flowers best in full sun. 

Abies balsamea ‘Nana’, Dwarf Balsam Fir   Is a cute little conifer that doesn’t get much bigger than 2′ tall by 3′ wide and will also do well in part shade unlike many other conifers. This specimen is approx. 12 years of age. New growth is a bright green color fading to a darker green as summer progresses. ‘Nana’ is ubiquitous, one of the most popular and easy to locate conifers in the nursery trade.. It differs from most Abies in having its needles all around the stems, and not in the typically flattened 2 rows. In ten years, a mature specimen will measure 24 inches tall and 30 inches wide, a rate of growth of 2 to 3 inches per year.

Ilex × altaclerensis 'Golden King' Variegated evergreens can be difficult to place in the garden because getting them to "work" with other plants is never easy. Just give it its own space and let it show off its bright, prickle-free foliage. Despite its name, this is a female plant that produces red berries in winter. 'Golden King' can get to 12-15' tall, but it's very easy to clip to shape if your garden is small. It thrives in a wide range of soils and situations.It is one of the most popular of the variegated hollies and this is a female despite its masculine name and does berry. The leaves are margined with a rich golden yellow, which may have given the impression of a golden crown to those who named it. It is generally not prickly and as such can make an interesting hedge.

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Gold Strike’, Gold Strike Creeping Juniper ~ This is not your Grandmother’s Juniper! This one grows only about 2-4” per year, hugs tight to the ground and brightens up a small space or rock garden. It  does need more moisture than other junipers and may scorch in western exposure so plant it where it will have protection from the hottest afternoon sun.

Hebe spp. Some Hebes do not make it through our winters but some have had good luck with Hebe ‘Quick Silver, Hebe ‘McKeanii’ and Hebe ‘Karo Golden Esk’. These all have great texture as well as interesting foliage color. 

Pieris spp., Andromeda or Lily of the Valley Shrub  There are many varieties of Pieris that will also work for larger gardens but the cultivar Pieris japonica 'Cavatine' is a  favorites for small spaces. It'is one of the best dwarf forms, being a compact evergreen with year-round interest. Pale green winter flower buds contrast well with its dark green foliage. In mid-March it is almost completely covered in bell-shaped, creamy white blooms with drooping clusters of inverted urn-shaped flowers, providing a source of nectar for early-season pollinators such as mason bees. Dwarf lily-of-the-valley shrub makes a beautiful low informal hedge, and it can be used to hide the leggy stems of taller shrubs. It is well adapted to container culture and can grow for several years in a pot.

Polystichum spp. This group of evergreen ferns includes our native Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum. They look best if the fronds are cut back in late winter to reveal the intricate fiddle heads emerging, but it not absolutely necessary that you do this.  Polystichum polyblepharum, tassel fern is another good option.

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, Black Mondo Grass ~ This little grass looks great tucked in small spaces, especially next to silver or chartreuse colored foliage. It spreads to form a good sized clump but can be easily reduced in size when necessary. It even gets a tiny little purple flower!

Leucothoe spp. ~ This plant gets great fall and winter color as well as creamy white bell shaped flowers in spring. It does well in a shade or woodland garden. The leaves are alternate, oblong evergreen with the new foliage coming in a beautiful bronze.


Nandina spp., Heavenly Bamboo This plant has it all:. Foliage, white flowers, and red fruit. Its texture is unlike most other plants so it works well to break up other broad leaf plants and grasses. It looks great in containers all year round. It colors range from bluish green to orange, red, and purple depending on the time of year.

Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ or Coral Bark Maple: This is another you may have seen before – if you have, you’ll certainly remember it! The lush golden-green foliage of summer gives way to a glowing yellow fall color, then the leaves drop to reveal bright orangey-red stems. ‘Sango Kaku’ gets 15-20’ tall in time, and is best in partial shade –  in full shade, the color isn’t very good. These are great with yellow-twig and red-twig dogwoods throughout the garden to have that variety of bright stems popping up in between your leafy shrubs in winter.

Arbutus ‘Marina’, the Strawberry Tree: The Strawberry Trees in my gardens are just letting go of their non-edible “strawberries” and putting on clusters of lovely pink flowers. The orangey-red color of the fruit, and the birds they bring, and the pinkish white bell- shaped flowers, are interesting but the real reason I love Arbutus are the stems and bark.The bark is exfoliating, which means it peels away in interesting layers and provides a gorgeous multi-colored look, and the new stems are a vivid red. It’s evergreen, too, so there’s never a time when this plant isn’t being interesting for you. They get about 20-25’ tall, and remember about that fruit – this isn’t one for planting over your spacious driveway – it’s another that’s better within a garden bed.

Loropetalum chinense 'Sizzling Pink' or 'Razzleberri' Clusters of rich, pink fringed flowers repeat throughout the year. Showy new growth is deep burgundy maintaining the purple tinged foliage as it matures. Use as a colorful accent in borders and containers. Evergreen. Blooms: Heaviest in spring, repeating throughout the year.

Porcupine grass. Large upright ornamental grass with gold-banded foliage and copper plumes. Plant in full sun to light shade. Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus Green foliage is highlighted by dramatic horizontal golden bands. Reddish-bronze plumes above the foliage in summer. Suitable specimen or in groups. Herbaceous perennial.

Mahonia or Oregon Grape, are evergreen shrubs of the barberry family (Berberidaceae) grown for their ornamental value. With shiny, dark green leaves that look like holly, it grows to six feet. Several can be planted together and pruned as a hedge. The leaves are sharply spiked, and birds are attracted to its fragrant yellow blooms and purple berries. These blue edible berries can be made into jelly. Interestingly, the chemicals in Oregon grape might help fight bacterial and fungal infections and may also slow the overproduction of skin cells in diseases such as psoriasis.

Yuccca In this climate, yuccas are more in danger of drowning than freezing to death. The clean-lined, simple shapes of yuccas look stunningly modern. Use  just enough yuccas for punctuation, soothed by plants with less belligerent shapes. Think of yuccas as living garden art: They can’t help but stand out as focal points. They produce long stalks of creamy white bell shaped flowers in the summer. Stick several in big pots and enjoy their sculptural presence close up, year-round.

Dryopteris erythrosora, Autumn Fern  This plant looks great in woodland gardens and brightens up a shady spot. It's often used in containers because of its great fall color and texture. Try the cultivar “Brilliance’ for an even better show of coppery orange color from spring though fall.

Hens and chicks succulents provide year-round interest These drought-tolerant, very hardy plants thrive in full sun with almost no maintenance. Rosettes of succulent leaves form a tight ground cover, great for containers. They provide form, texture and color contrasts and bloom in  Early, Mid and Late Summer.. Sempervivum Full Sun. Deer Tend to avoid them!

Lastly, Camelias are broad leaf evergreens with several months of flowers to decorate your Winter and Spring!

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