Calocedrus decurrens

on Tuesday, 30 November 2021. Posted in Conifer, Showy Bark/Stems, Native, Drought Tolerant

Incense Cedar

Calocedrus with fruit

If you have room for even one large conifer in your yard, Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) would top our list of recommendations!

Incense Cedars are native to the West coast; ranging all the way from northern Baja California up into central Oregon and western Nevada. Unlike many of the popular conifers frequently planted here in the Rogue Valley, Incense Cedar is heat and drought tolerant, and is tolerant of both clay and serpentine soils.

They get their common name from their wonderfully spicy-smelling, aromatic bark. Plants feature flattened sprays of rich green needles, with a rich reddish-brown bark that becomes deeply furrowed with age.

Calocedrus decurrensYoung trees are dense, symmetrical, and pyramid-shaped which – happily – also makes them an excellent choice for a living Christmas tree.

tanner lakes titanIncense Cedars generally grow at a moderate rate (1-2’/year) and will probably reach a height of 60' - 70' when grown in your yard. Wild trees can get much bigger though. In fact, one of the largest Incense Cedars in the world - the Tanner Lakes Titan - is from right here in Jackson County, and is over 137' tall, with an amazing dbh (diameter at breast height) of 12.8'!

Fun fact: the genus name Calocedrus comes from the Greek words kalos meaning beautiful and cedrus meaning cedar tree!

Prunus lusitanica

on Wednesday, 24 November 2021. Posted in Good for Screening, Berries Attract Wildlife, Fragrant Blooms, Showy Bark/Stems, Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Deer Resistant

Portuguese Laurel

portugueseLaurelCloseEvergreen hedges are a great way to create a privacy screen, a windbreak, or even a ‘green wall’ to use as a backdrop for a selection of vibrant, colorful selection of shrubs and perennials.

One of the challenges to creating a good hedge here in the Rogue Valley is that you’ll want an evergreen shrub that is both relatively fast-growing AND deer resistant. And one of the very best options we’ve found for meeting both of those criteria is Portuguese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica).

portugueseLaurelFlowersPortuguese Laurel has dark, glossy, leathery leaves that contrast nicely with its wine-red stems. In spring, plants are covered with 6-10” long spikes of tiny, fragrant white flowers, which are extremely popular with bees and other pollinators.

The flowers are followed by berries that start out red, and ripen to dark blue-black. These berries are a big treat for wintering songbirds, but should be avoided by humans - like many members of the genus Prunus, their seeds contain cyanide. Want to avoid the berries altogether? Do your main pruning in early summer once the plants have finished blooming.

portugueseLaurel2Left untrimmed, mature Portuguese Laurels can reach between 20’-30’ tall and will get about 10’ wide. These plants tolerate pruning well, though, and can be kept to 10’ or so with regular pruning. Ideally, they should be planted around 10’ apart. But if you’re in a big hurry to not see what’s on the other side of your hedge, they an be planted as closely as every 6’. Plants generally grow about 18” or so per year, although this is variable and dependent on the type of soil they’re growing in - plants in clay soils tend to grow slower than plants in loamy or sandy soils.

Portuguese Laurel grows best in full sun, but will also tolerate a bit of afternoon shade. They do prefer well-drained soil; if you are planting in clay, you’ll either want to plant them with a high crown or on a slight mound. During the first year or so, they’ll prefer a good, deep soaking once a week. Once established, they are relatively drought tolerant and will only need deep watering a few times a month.

Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

on Friday, 19 November 2021. Posted in Winter Interest, Berries Attract Wildlife, Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Shade Plants, Drought Tolerant

Threadleaf Mahonia

Mahonia Soft Caress edIf you’re looking for a compact, easy care evergreen shrub that provides year-round interest - and will thrive in a dry shade garden - consider Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’!

I like to think of Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ as the gentler, more approachable relative of our beloved native Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Like Oregon Grape, ‘Soft Caress’ is a drought-tolerant evergreen shrub with fragrant sunny-yellow flowers. However, unlike Oregon Grape, its leaves and stems are thornless and soft rather than sharply poky and leathery.

‘Soft Caress’ is a great plant to use if you’re looking to bring a bit of texture into your dry shade garden. Its leaves look a bit like palm leaves – with slender, thread-like leaflets arrayed along a graceful central stem. For maximum effect, try planting it with some of the broader-leafed shade loving shrubs like Hosta, Hellebore, Osmanthus, and Viburnum davidii – or underplant it with dry shade-loving perennials like Epimedium and Heuchera.

From late fall to early spring, flowers appear in long ‘candles’ held above the foliage. These flowers not only help to brighten the winter garden, they’re also a great source of nectar for pollinators and other beneficial insects during the winter and spring, when few other plants are in bloom. The flowers are followed by decorative silvery-blue berries that add to the visual interest of the plant – and are popular with songbirds.

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ gets about 3’ by 3’ and maturity. It prefers part shade (morning sun is ok) to full shade and well-drained soils, and does well in containers as well as in the ground. This graceful, low maintenance shrub will be a welcome addition to your shady garden!

Rhus 'Gro-Low'

on Monday, 08 November 2021. Posted in Berries Attract Wildlife, Attracts Pollinators, Native, Fall Color, Deer Resistant

'Gro-Low' Fragrant Sumac

Rhus Gro Low plant edRhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ is another one of those plants we like to feature here in our Plant of the Week column, because it checks all our boxes: a native plant; deer resistant and drought tolerant once established; a great pollinator plant (functioning as both nectar source and a host plant for butterflies/moths); wildlife-friendly; a good choice for firewise gardens; and is even clay tolerant if planted on a slope or a mound.

As its name suggests, Rhus ‘Gro-Low’ only gets 1 ½’ to 2’ tall, and spreads to 6 to 8’ wide, giving it a nice mounded shape. Plants are fast-growing, with attractive (and fragrant!) glossy green leaves. It grows best in full sun, but will also tolerate a slight bit of afternoon shade.

Small, nondescript creamy-white flowers appear on branch tips in spring. While humans might not be impressed by the flowers, they’re a wonderful source of nectar for pollinators including bees and butterflies. ‘Gro-Low’ is a great plant to use if you are looking to extend the length of the bloom season in your pollinator garden.

Rhus Gro Low2Rhus ‘Gro-Low’ also proves that great fall color doesn’t only come on trees! These shrubs but on quite a show, with leaves turning a variety of shades of fiery orange, mahogany red, and deep burgundy. 

Finally, because of its ability to spread via root suckers and by branches that are able to root down where they touch the soil (like some species of Manzanitas), ‘Gro-Low’ is an especially useful plant for gardeners looking to stabilize a slope or an eroding streambank.  

Tilia 'Summer Sprite'

on Monday, 01 November 2021. Posted in Fragrant Blooms, Attracts Pollinators, Fall Color, Trees

Little-leaf Linden

LindenLinden trees are, literally, a sweet addition to the home landscape. Their fragrant, nectar-rich flowers are a delight for humans and pollinators alike. But full-sized lindens, which reach 35’ to 50’ tall at maturity, can overwhelm a small yard. And that’s one of the many wonderful things about ‘Summer Sprite’.

 

Tilia Summer Sprite‘Summer Sprite’ is a natural semi-dwarf tree that reaches just 15’ tall by 10’ wide at maturity. It has a lovely rounded pyramidal shape with dark green, heart-shaped leaves. The fragrant, creamy-yellow flowers appear in early summer, and foliage turns a rich golden-yellow in fall.

 

Linden BlossomLinden trees are beloved by beekeepers (if you get a chance, try some linden flower honey!). In fact, when these trees are in full bloom, you can often hear the happy buzzing of bees from several feet away. The flowers, when picked and dried, can also be brewed as a delicious honey-scented tea – just make sure to leave enough blossoms for our pollinator friends!

 

“Summer Sprite’ thrives in average, well-drained soils and can be grown in full sun to part shade.