When my native plant craze started, I planted only northwest native plants in the garden. My original plan was to create a low maintenance (and wild) garden, so that if life takes me away from Seattle, locally adapted plants could survive my parents’ forgetfulness and if they happened to escape my garden they wouldn’t be a potential new invasive species. My strict native palette has relaxed since then, but my love and appreciate for the diversity of flora of the Pacific Northwest is still going strong. If I ever see an interesting or not commonly offered native plant I’ll usually snatch it up.
Through the years I’ve saved Camas bulbs that were unsellable from work and I have scattered them through multiple beds, but the largest patch grows in my “Wild Bed”. Here weedy grasses, mint, and Schizostylis run a muck, but every year the Camas have come up fuller and undeterred. I love how the starry blue wands of Camas flowers give the bed a wild meadow look in mid-spring. My soils are predominately clay and it’s difficult to find plants that can survive bricky soil in summer and mud in the winter. Wonderfully, Camas are well adapted to handle waterlogged winters and parched summers, and plus they thrive in clay soil – right at home in my garden with little effort!
Speaking of native plants that thrive in clay soil, the Dodecatheon pulchellum I mentioned in a previous post is already showing signs of buds! I hope the little previously shattered divisions will finally flower this year. It would be lovely to see a drift of hot pink dangling above the cool bed of chartreuse moss.
Another native plant that took off in my clay soil (see a theme emerging?) is starting to wake up. Boykinia major is a herbaceous perennial that grows in shady wet meadows and spreads via underground rhizomes. Mid-spring it sends up tall stems with clusters of white flowers and can bloom throughout summer if it is watered well.
Last year I received my two Boykinia major from work, because they had developed brown spots on their leaves. (I think it was because they didn’t stay as constantly moist as they would like to in the nursery.) I took them home and kind of plopped them into the seemingly last bit of free space in the bed. Apparently the two plants LOVE where I planted them, because I can see their rhizomes tunneling throughout the soil happily. Hopefully each little growing point will throw up an inflorescence giving me a stand of foamy white blossoms and glossy fringed leaves.
Sidalcea hendersonii, or Henderson’s Checkered Mallow, is another native wildflower that has done extremely well for me. It’s naturally found growing along the coast in tidal marshes and wet meadows. It’s a rare wildflower with wands of pink flowers and very uncommon in its native habitat. Small populations can only be found in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. An other interesting fact is that Henderson’s Checkered Mallow come either as female or bisexual plants. My plant is bisexual because it has self seeded gently to my delight.
Like Dodecatheon pulchellum, Corydalis scouleri doesn’t like it hot either preferring to go dormant than endure the summer heat. This herbaceous perennial can grow into an impressive billowing four feet tall in one season, though it requires constant moisture to be able to reach such heights. It spreads via underground rhizomes and it quite the sight to see a colony thickly growing in the ravines of waterways and seeps.
Back in the Wild Bed behind some Camas I have Mertensia bella poking up out of the ground. This native Lungwort lives up in cool mountain seeps and wet meadows. It’s lightly hairy leaves and stems hold up dangling light blue bell flowers in the late spring. Though I planted it in a site that gets too dry and hot in the summer, it still has hung on and grew for the past few years. Since the slugs are also fond of this plant, I’ve been applying Sluggo before it has come up.
Both Maianthemum racemosum and Maianthemum stellatum, formerly in the genus Smilacina, are just pushing up out of the ground. M. stellatum will bloom first, while M. racemosum will have the fullest panicle of blossoms. Both do beautifully in a damp woodland setting and the hold their leaves and red mottled berries through the summer and autumn.
Our naive Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa is a very tough herbaceous perennial that spreads via underground rhizomes. Though it is best in damp shade, it can grow in dry shade, however once summer drought hits it will retreat back into the soil until next spring. I have been trying to get it to spread under a Colorado Blue Spruce, but since it’s in dry shade it is spreading very slowly.
Where would I be without Tellima grandiflora? This low evergreen mounding perennial can grow in deep shade to full sun, but part shade in a woodland setting is where it will look its best. In spring tall elegant stems lined with white fridged flowers rise above the scalloped leaves and eash flower will fade to pink or red before dropping its petals. It is a great filler plant and it visually binds the beds together to make my garden more cohesive and best of all it readily self sows so I have my own nursery stock on site. (Don’t worry, the seedlings are easy to weed out if they end up in an undesired place.)
Phew, what a long post! We’ll those are a few of my favorite native plants and there will be more waking up soon. Stay warm out there and see you soon!