Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Walk Around the Garden

In between rainstorms, I’ve been out in the garden, enjoying the emerging blooms and the leaves. Many species are from our Washington flora and many I’ve obtained at Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS) plant sales.

Here are some of the native plants I’ve been watching in my garden this past week.

Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)

white three-parted flower and green leaves

Western trillium (Trillium ovatum). Photo by Sarah Gage.

Trillium’s flowers surprise me every year—they are just so clean and so white. Christy Karras recently wrote a wonderful appreciation in the Seattle Times, “Take a trillium hike in the Columbia River Gorge.”

She notes that:

…folks are crazy about these little white, tri-petal blooms that stand on long, upright stalks as if held in invisible bud vases. Everyone I approached to ask about them knew what they were.

Without exception, everyone also took great pains to remind me not to pick them or dig them up. Although trilliums look ready-made for flower arrangements, disturbed plants can take years to bloom again. (This is good to know if you buy some to plant in your yard; you might not see them emerge for years.)

Portland’s Tryon Creek State Park hosts a Trillium Festival (April 5-6, 2014) that includes a native-plant sale and guided hikes.

Red-flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)

pink sprays of flowers on robust green shrub.

Pink cultivar of red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). Photo by Sarah Gage.

The currants in my garden are really going gangbusters this year, and it seems like the ones around town are exuberant too. Some local restoration efforts, thanks to the Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail, have been in the ground for a few years. The shrubs are maturing and flowering beautifully.

I took a few moments the other day to relax (!) on my garden bench in the sunshine (!!) near a red-flowering currant—and to enjoy the hum and buzz of the pollinator orchestra. My non-entomologist’s eye could distinguish honeybees, bumblebees (really big, mostly black), something that looked like a bee that might actually be fly, and something that looked like a mosquito but was interested in the shrub, not in me.

white spray of currant flowers

White cultivar of red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). Photo by Sarah Gage.

I was also buzzed, quite loudly, by at least one hummingbird, who I never did actually see that day. The hummingbirds seem to enjoy both the pink and white cultivars of Ribes sanguineum in my garden.

On Thursday, April 3, 2014, the Central Puget Sound Chapter of WNPS will present Julie O’Donald speaking about Native Pollinators in the Garden. Sounds like that would be a good place to learn about those valuable and under-appreciated critters.

Golden currant (Ribes aureum)

yellow tubular flowers on small shrub.

Golden currant (Ribes aureum). Photo by Sarah Gage.

Out in my front yard, the golden currant is in full bloom. It’s not native on the west side of the Cascades—and my shrub isn’t especially robust, even after 7 or so years in the ground. But I love the spicy fragrance of its lively yellow flowers.

Palmate coltsfoot (Petasites palmatus)

spiky white composite flowers on stalk.

Palmate coltsfoot (Petasites palmatus). Photo by Sarah Gage.

This species did not like where I planted it, under the giant Sequoia. It has colonized the lawn, or what used to be the lawn, where there is more moisture and possibly less competition.

I bought the coltsfoot at a plant sale about 5 years ago, and I wasn’t at all sure it was going to survive. The slugs and snails ate it down to the nubs. Now, however, I’m not sure where it’s going to turn up next.

Still to come…

I take almost as much pleasure in emerging leaves as I do in flowers. The red columbine (Aquilegia formosa), inside-out flower (Vancouveria hexandra) and maidenhair fern (Adiantum aleuticum) are just starting to rev up for the year.

WNPS Plant Sales

Is this the year to add a few more natives to your garden? Three chapters have scheduled plant sales this spring:

What other plant sales do you know about? What’s happening in your garden?