Six on Saturday

The Propagator beats his tom-toms to beckon tillers of the soil from the far reaches of the earth to display that which is best and brightest in their early spring gardens.

Traveling again this weekend in the name of plants. My final (and largest) order from a soil and water conservation district native plant sale needs picking up, and I am taking advantage of the opportunity to revisit some favorite spots along the north coast of Oregon.

1. Planters reconfigured. As promised, bananas are in barrel adjacent to chimney, while crucifixion thorn is now (inadvisably) in rusted metal planter in middle of high traffic path area. As the garden develops, my original path scheme is revealing its many limitations. Keeping company with the thorn are cuttings of The Biggest Most Upright Prickly Pear ever beheld in these parts. Upon being (more violently than intended) flung from the pot where they overwintered, these cuttings revealed an extensive root system. With the added space, my hope is that they will begin to spread their wings/paddles. My fear is that their nasty spines will ambush unsuspecting garden goers, but I refuse to allow fear/accurate foresight to interfere with my aesthetic vision! The side pockets have been planted with yucca, newly acquired dickia, and a kalanchoe that I was firmly convinced had frozen/rotted into oblivion, but upon digging, revealed healthy looking roots.

2. Crocuses. Purple. Golden. Always my favorite first flower of the spring in these parts. Upon reflection, I attribute this preference to their diminutive stature and modest design, which seem well suited to the time of year. Almost as though they were as surprised as we are and didn’t have time to premeditate a fancy party dress. All these were planted long before our tenure here began. Next year, I believe I will add to their number.

3. Pacific madrone. This is one of my favorite trees and also a native in these parts. The brilliant colors of the exfoliating bark, the sinuous limbs’ expressive writhing, the bright, glossy evergreen foliage. My neighbor was invited to “rescue” native specimens that were about to be bulldozed on private land. He brought back 6 of these wonderful creatures in a tub of the heavy red clay soil in which they had been growing. Madrones are notoriously difficult to transplant, and I believe I remember reading at some point that this is due to the loss upon transplant of the mycorhizal relationships that allow them to derive necessary nutrients from the soil. Consequently, every effort was made to include scoops of the red clay from which they originated in the planting holes and a mycorhizal tea was brewed and distributed generously upon the new transplants. Now, two weeks in, all but one tree appears to be surviving, though the largest is showing signs of stress.

4. Mexican Orange. A new acquisition. Bluestone. Fascinating, stringy leaves. Flowers with a lovely perfume are promised. Importantly, this is an evergreen, and so shall join the ranks of other evergreens along the front fence, which – if all the stars align – will eventually form an untamed hedge that will lend the necessary privacy to the front garden.

5. New Plantings. Among the bare root plants that returned home with me from a native plant sale were goldenrod, Douglas aster, and bigleaf lupine. These, in time, will be joined by grasses, manzanitas, California lilacs. The California lilac in the foreground below was also rescued from the bulldozer but with significant damage to the root system. An aggressive pruning and regular watering are the measures taken to keep it going long enough to allow new roots to form. Despite the traumatic transplant, it heroically clings to a few diminutive leaves.

6. Rhubarb. The long wait is over and a rhubarb root with tiny plantlet beginning to emerge was at long last obtained from the local farmer’s co-op. As I have never particularly enjoyed sweet rhubarb concoctions, I regard this as an aesthetic addition to the garden and accordingly situated it in a prominent location in the perennial beds. This will, I hope, be the first of many gigantic leaved additions to the garden, particularly as work on the courtyard garden in the back begins shortly.

14 thoughts on “Six on Saturday

  1. That’s a lethal looking planter! Very nice though!

    I’m glad your Madrones are doing ok – not a plant I’ve ever heard of before, so I look forward to seeing them grow.

    Nice to see the rhubarb coming through – it looks to be at about the same stage of growth as ours over here on the other side of the pond 🙂

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  2. Those are rather fine planters, I love the look of the iron and they will look rather fine with those cactus. Have they been out all year? As I had a couple of episodes falling into big prickly plants when I was young, I tend to steer clear, though instead I do have a penchant towards succulents: the spinless sort.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I love succulents of all sorts, too. I have high hopes for the planter though I imagine I might have to use one of those tree pruners on a pole to reign in lateral growth eventually – assuming, of course, that the plantings are successful enough to require reigning in.


  3. I just looked up Pacific Madrone, and can now see why it’s one of your favourites, what beautiful bark and striking, sinuous branches. I recently read a book about fungi that described the importance of those mycorrhizal relationships that transplant nutrients between plants and do all sorts of astonishing things. Your prickly pear is going to look wonderful in its planter, I love them as they remind me of places I love – Jordan, Greece, southern Italy. They get really big though, don’t they? PS Great opening line to your post this week 🙂


    • Yes, Pacific Madrone is truly lovely and has lots of wonderful associations for me, having spent a good chunk of my childhood in the Northwest. As to prickly pears, I’m hoping that a little gentle (or perhaps quite stern) encouragement will prompt it fix all its aspirations on vertical, rather than lateral growth.

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  4. I’m growing dyckia fosteriana from seedlings and they measure only 1cm … I will have to wait to have some like you! 😂
    The opuntias don’t like the climate here which is too wet in winter and in 2015 I lost the mother plant brought back from Sicily when I was 12 years old (i.e. it will have lived 29 years! not so bad) …
    Great that the rhubarb is already emerging from the ground!


    • The dyckia seedlings sound very cute. I was very sad to hear of the demise of your childhood opuntia. Perhaps one day it will be time to try another – part time inside, part time outside? I remember being shocked that there was a kind of opuntia that would survive the snowy winters and humid summers of Baltimore, Maryland. Perhaps it’s all a matter of identifying a variety that can make it under your conditions?

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  5. Hi Erin, You’ve been so busy collecting and planting all those fabulous plants. It was a good idea to keep the original soil around the roots of the Pacific madrone. I’m loving hearing about all these plants, which aren’t ones we’re vey familiar with here in the UK. I love your spiky opuntia and crucifixion thorn arrangement. It looks great.


    • Thank you. Yes, I wish I had had more of the original soil to work with, but so far they are looking promising. I’ve read about people making teas from soil collected at the feet of healthy specimens of trees they are trying to grow, with reported success.


  6. I am also a fan of your iron pot, I have one that started life as a syrup making kettle, it has Desert Roses in it and a Kalanchoe. I have developed a fear of cactus having inherited a large (15 footer) with my house. I thought it was the coolest thing at first. Later, It was asked to leave the garden after it dropped too many thorny pads on the walkway. For future note, scotch tape will get the little thorns out of your feet.


    • Thanks for the tip. With experience, wisdom (may) come. But I really should know better than to do a lot of the things I indulge in, garden-wise. I just get carried away by enthusiasm, I guess. I shall keep the tip about scotch tape in the back of my mind for inevitable run-ins.

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