Penstemon pinifolius

on Wednesday, 23 June 2021. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Perennial, Ground Cover, Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Flowering Plants

Pineleaf Penstemon

Penstemon Mersea YellowPineleaf Penstemon makes me happy every time I see it. So many benefits in such a compact package! 

 Penstemon, as a group, have a reputation of being fussy about watering, and not being very long lived. But this western native perennial is evergreen, and one of the very best Penstemons for long term success in the garden. It makes a great rock garden plant or edger at the front of a border, in fact, we have a bank of it planted in our display garden. The delicate tubular flowers should be appreciated up close - that is if the hummingbirds will let you get close enough!  

PPinifolius crop ed

Pineleaf Penstemon requires well drained soil, especially on a slope, and will be drought tolerant once established. The needle-like foliage is evergreen and looks best when you can shear the spent flowers back in the same style as you would shear an Erica or Calluna after blooming. In most areas, we have found them to be deer resistant.

 Sunset Steppe Penstemon edThese Penstemons typically begin blooming in late spring - May and June here in southern Oregon - and are great compliments to the other sun lovers like spring and summer blooming sages, sedums, lavenders, or even dwarf conifers. They will stretch to about 2' wide and 12-18" tall and look comfortable among rocks and boulders.

 The varieties we usually carry are 'Mersea Yellow'- a nice soft yellow (shown top left), Penstemon pinifolius - the straight species - which is a reddish-orange (above right), 'Steppe Suns Sunset Glow' - an apricot orange veriety.

Marrubium rotundifolium

on Monday, 21 June 2021. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Ground Cover, Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

'Silver Heels' Horehound

Marrubium Silver HeelsMarrubium rotundifolium – aka ‘Silver Heels’ Horehound - is a great plant for the really hard places in your yard. It absolutely thrives in full, hot sun and poor soils, and is extremely drought tolerant once established; a deep soaking every four to six weeks will keep it looking great all summer long.

There’s lots more to love about ‘Silver Heels’ too. For starters, it’s evergreen, deer resistant, and pollinator friendly. ‘Silver Heels’ gets about 10” tall and about 3-4’ wide; making it a great choice for a groundcover or a low-growing perennial.

But the thing that makes this plant a real stand-out in the garden is the texture of its leaves. We tend to choose most of the perennials for our gardens based on the color of their flowers, and there’s nothing particularly memorable about the small, white, flowers of ‘Silver Heels’. But oh, those leaves!

Marrubium4‘Silver Heels’ has rounded, soft green leaves with a wonderfully pebbly texture, and the undersides of the leaves are coated with dense, white hairs – making them look like they’ve been felted. Plant them with dark green or bronze-leafed perennials or grasses, as a soft “carpet” under a taller plant, or out along the edge of a walkway or wall – where you can pet them as you walk by.

Like many fuzzy-leafed plants, ‘Silver Heels’ doesn’t do well with overhead water from sprinklers, and prefers drip or hand watering when necessary (which isn’t often!). And they actually grow better in lean, poor soils than heavily amended soils. But give ‘Silver Heels’ a hot, dry, sunny spot where all your other plants struggle, and they’ll be absolutely content.

Amelanchier

on Wednesday, 16 June 2021. Posted in Winter Interest, Berries Attract Wildlife, Fall Color, Edible, Trees, Shrubs

Serviceberry or Juneberry

Amelanchier Autumn Brilliance flower

For those of you who are not already familiar with Amelanchiers - aka: Serviceberry, Juneberry, Saskatoon (they have a LOT of common names), let this serve as an introduction to what might well become your new favorite shrub/small tree!

Serviceberries are one of those rare plants that provide year-round interest here in the Rogue Valley. In the spring, this charming member of the Rose family is covered by clouds of white flowers that are a big favorite with pollinators.

Summer brings truly delicious blue-black berries (hence the name Juneberry) that taste like a cross between a blueberry and an apple, and are as popular with birds as they are with humans.

The fall color of Serviceberries – especially ‘Autumn Brilliance’ – rivals maples for color and intensity. And even when they drop their leaves, the branching pattern of Serviceberries provides nice visual interest in the winter garden.

They’re also relatively carefree and easy to grow, and do well in full sun to light shade with average water. Most Serviceberries are somewhat drought-tolerant at maturity, and will only need deep watering once or twice a month during the summer.

Shooting Star Nursery regularly carries three varieties of Amelanchier:

 Autumn Brilliance plant crop edit'Autumn Brilliance': We are absolutely in love with this plant! It works well as either a small single-trunked tree or large multi-trunk shrub, reaching about 15’ to 20’ tall and wide at maturity. As the name suggests, ‘Autumn Brilliance’ puts on a truly spectacular show of color in the fall. 

Spring Flurry edit‘Spring Flurry’ has more of an upright tree form (28’ tall by about 20’ wide) than Autumn Brilliance’. It has a strong, dominant central leader and is a great choice for a small street tree: low maintenance, abundant spring flowers, and nice fall color too.  is generally available in tree form. 

Our native western serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is a bit smaller than the two cultivars listed above - generally reaching about 12' by 6' at maturity - and can be found growing right here in the Rogue Valley and surrounding areas. They bloom and fruit about a month later, are easy to care for, and are excellent wildlife-friendly plants: the berries are heavily visited by a variety of pollinators, birds love the berries, and the plants also provide nice nesting sites for songbirds.

Penstemon 'Margarita BOP'

on Monday, 31 May 2021. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Perennial, Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

MBop2Seeing a mass of blue flowers in the summer garden is like a deep drink of cool water on a hot afternoon. And few perennials do blue better than Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’.

‘Margarita BOP’ is a natural hybrid of two native Penstemons (P. heterophylla and P. laetus) and was discovered by the late Bert Wilson of Las Pilitas Nursery in Santa Margarita, CA, where it had volunteered at the base of his porch (the BOP in ‘Margarita BOP’ stands for ‘Bottom Of Porch’). Plants are long-lived, have a long bloom season, and are very drought tolerant once established.

Surprisingly enough for such a blue flower, the flower buds start off as pale yellow with a rosy base. But once the buds have opened, the flowers are a gorgeous shade of deep violet-blue. Plants are evergreen, and get to around 2’ by 2’ at maturity. The tubular shape of the flowers makes them extremely popular with hummingbirds, who are their primary pollinators. They’re also a favorite of bumblebees, who often bite their way into the base of the flower to steal some nectar (without providing any pollination services…). Let’s face it, Margarita BOP is just plain irresistible!

MargaritaBOP1‘Margarita BOP’ prefers full sun and well drained soil, and plants are relatively deer resistant. Plant them en masse for a truly gasp-worthy effect, or combine with other drought-tolerant sun lovers like Erigeron, Zauschneria, Eriogonum, Monardella, Agastache, Salvia, or Eriophyllum lanatum.

Amsonia 'Blue Ice'

on Monday, 31 May 2021. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Native, Fall Color, Perennial, Deer Resistant, Flowering Plants

'Blue Ice' Bluestar

Amsonia Blue Ice edit

The American Horticultural Society named Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ as one of its “75 Great Plants for American Gardens’, and it is easy to see why! Easy to grow, attractive foliage, lovely periwinkle-blue flowers, and great fall color: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ deserves a space in any sunny perennial garden.

 

‘Blue Ice’ is native to the southeastern US, but is finding increasing popularity here on the West Coast. It gets about 15” tall by 24” wide and has a nice, soft clumping shape, which helps it blend in nicely with other plants in a mixed border. Late spring/early summer flowers put on a great show – and in the fall, the foliage turns a warm golden color.

 

Plants grow best in full sun – they get a little soft and floppy in partial shade - and deadheading will help prolong flowering. ‘Blue Ice’ is tolerant of most soils; even clay soil, as long as the soil isn’t waterlogged. As an added bonus, the latex sap in plant stems makes it unpalatable to deer, but butterflies and other pollinators find the flowers irresistible!