Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter-hardy gardening - Portland style

Baby, it's cold out there! We've already had two hard winters and seem to be seriously looking at a third here in Portland. The past two winters decimated many of the MulchMaid's marginally hardy plant choices and left her wondering just how many times she's willing to start over (so far, she's on her third arbequina olive sapling, for example.)

So on the last day of 2010, with the second freeze of this winter upon Portland, it seems a good time to take a look at some plants that can easily deal with whatever zonal irregularities Mother Nature deals out this season. These are the Northwest natives that the Mulch Man loves and has incorporated into his part of the gardens at Longview Ranch. And the MulchMaid is happy to admit they look fabulous right now.

Mugo pines, a species rhododendron and kinnick-kinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) laugh at our torrential rains and current below-freezing temps (with George and Martha, the pink plastic flamingos, providing an incongruous note to the climate discussion.)

More happy kinnick-kinnick and evergreen huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum.)

The three Western red cedars have filled in well, providing the MulchMaids with privacy and a lovely green screen from the neighbors.

Salal (Gaultheria shallon) provides a glossy note with its leathery leaves, and sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) fill the spaces below the maturing shore pines (Pinus contorta).

Rocks and Mahonia aquifolium are a nice foil for shapely vine maple (Acer circinatum) trunks.

 Mahonia nervosa has great winter color.

Sisyrinchium Californicum is sending out new leaves in the dead of winter. The MulchMaid thinks it likes its new location on a slope.

The snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) is currently bare, but looks seasonally appropriate backed by the green of Mahonia aquifolium.

Although still small, Arctostaphylos 'Martha Ewan' looks happy and right at home.

This tiny Menzies Penstemon (Penstemon davisonii v menziesii) was added to the Northwest area this past summer. It has formed a low mat about a foot across and appears (so far, anyway) to be unfazed by cold weather. Although it will return in spring even if it decides to die back, these next few days will tell more about its visible contribution to the winter garden.

This pine and rhodie mash-up epitomizes the pleasing contrast of healthy color and texture in the Northwest Territory at Longview Ranch this winter.

Up next: what is actually looking good (or not so much) right now in the Mediterranean garden beds at Longview Ranch.


  1. Everything looks so good, completely unfazed and not even messy (like mine is). I wimped out last night about 7pm when the temp had already fallen to 28 and went out and covered the manzanita...I figured we were headed to the teens. I guess this really is the new norm.

  2. Looks great - I have a George and Martha as well and love them! I'm finally going to get back home (to Oregon) for a bit this summer and I can't wait. Have a Happy New Year!

  3. Looks great! I must check out that penstemon you have, all the ones I have are great pollinator magnets and I want more.

  4. Beautiful shots, Jane. I think I need that little Penstemon! I don't think the lows will dip too low. Not like last year. This is my hope anyway. Happy New Year!

  5. Oh, I like that little Penstemon so much I had to go and look it up! I think I need some Mahonia nervosa in my garden, I didn't realize it colored up so nicely in the cold.

    I'm off to look up the 'Martha Ewan' Arctostaphylos now.

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  6. Very nice, I like the big rocks..good choices for winter interest.
    I just bought stamps from Safeway thinking they would be pretty ones like in your post. But no...drat the old liberty bell again.

  7. Inspirational. I must admit that the parts of our property where we do nothing look much better this time of year than the cultivated parts.

  8. dg - it's only neat because I haven't shown my part of the garden - yet.

    Deb - I hope you'll enjoy your time in Oregon this summer. Visit some nurseries - even if it rains!

    Ryan - the blooms on this penstemon are ridiculously large compared the leaf size. But cute, nonetheless.

    Grace - yes, you need it. It's a happy little camper!

    Alison - I hope that winter color on the mahonia isn't a harbinger of death. We have had varying success with them: be sure it gets lots of sun.

    Linda - I got the conifer stamps at New Seasons.

    Ricki - Slightly frustrating, isn't it, after all the work we do in the garden?!

  9. Really wonderful plants. A couple recent nights of temps in the high 30s threw a few of my plants into a tizzy. How wimpy is that?


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