Monthly Archives: March 2012

Class Preview: “Fundamentals” with Leslie Gover

Our weekly classes get into full swing starting with Leslie Gover’s talk on gardening fundamentals.  It is a broad topic but Leslie will breathe some life into the important and often overlooked parts of gardening.  Soil, water, nutrition, and planting will all be discussed in an effort to get you a heather and more happier garden.  The class is on Sunday April 1st at 1 pm, no registration required.

Putting the fun in fundamentals

“Fundamentals” is a broad ranging term, what particular aspects of gardening are you going to look at during the class?

Gardening has changed.  This is what we will discuss, what used to be cookbook is much different and our amount of plant material and where it originated from is as equally different.  This is not your grandmothers garden plan.

When you talk about nutrition what are you referring to?

I teach a seed sowing class for kindergarteners and we talk about the nutrition aspect.  French fries and pizza has come up a few times.  But we will talk more about what the causes the fertilizer to be used.  A bit more indepth than my kindergartners.

What are factors that lead to it being the right time to plant?

I think that we have all been in that situation where the plant we bought is put in the ground and it slowly loses vigor and turns to mush.  (Surely this is not my fault……!!!!!!)  But what do we do.  Can we trouble shoot this ahead of time.  We will look at this senerio and others.

How do plants talk to you, and what are they saying?

Part of the “talking” is the response of the plant to the soil and enviornment.  So lets listen to what the plants are saying and doing to get the right fit for both the plant and gardener to be sucessful.

It won’t be very warm and it probably will be raining for the class so remember to dress warm and dry.  There will be a canopy but rain has a habit of going sideways sometimes.  Leslie promises to be concise and keep it interesting.  We hope to see a few brave people on Sunday.

Full Circle: Cistus and Halimium Survival Stories

Recently, I was asked to design a border for a narrow bed fronting the largest solar power array in the State of Oregon.    The array is situated in the interior of the Baldock Rest Stop just north of Aurora on I-5 going north.  The site is four hundred feet long and four feet wide and is surrounded by fencing on all sides.  In addition, the site has no ready access to water.   All of the plants selected must be drought tolerant.  As I began to envision this unusual site, one of the first shrubs that came to mind was Cistus.

Baldock Planting Area

We have long been familiar with a number of species and cultivars of Cistus at Joy Creek Nursery.  In 2005, however, we were very pleased to learn that Oregon State University was trialing a large collection of Cistus and the allied genus Halimium at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center near Aurora, Oregon.  This gave us the opportunity to observe new and unfamiliar plants all in one place.  Both of these genera are native to the Mediterranean areas of Europe and North Africa and have long been used in gardens in parts of California with an allied climate.  They have been much less common in Northwest gardens.

In 2006, the Research Center offered to share cuttings with our nursery.  Of course, we were thrilled.  This began our own trials of Cistus and Halimium in what we call our no-water border.  Our trials involved not only cold hardiness, but also drought tolerance.

Cistus 'Ann Palmer'

The winter of 2009 was one of the cruelest in recent memory.  At the nursery, cold temperatures plummeted to just above 10°F in mid-December and snow fell most of the last two weeks of that month.  The effect of sudden cold after a mild autumn was bad enough, but the accumulation of snow also did great damage, breaking off branches and even snapping entire plants off at their crowns.  It became obvious to us that the weight of wet snow is a problem for many of the evergreen Cistus.

In the spring we counted the true survivors of our trials.  These were shrubs that showed no signs of winter damage.  We were surprised.  Only ten of the 30 varieties we had planted were unharmed.  An additional seven were only slightly damaged and the balance were killed or never fully recovered.  We replanted and trialed again only to have another severely cold, exceptionally long, dark and wet winter.  This time, most of the plants survived although many were hurt when temperatures dipped to 9°F.  The following is a list of the nine that best withstood those two winters.

Halimium pauanum

Cistus ‘Anne Palmer’
Cistus x argenteus ‘Paper Moon’
Cistus x argenteus ‘Stripey’
Cistus ‘Elma’
Cistus ‘Jessamy Beauty’
Cistus x ledon
Cistus x platysepala
Halimium lasianthum ‘Sanderling’
Halimium x pauanum

As my vision of the bed at the Baldock site began to develop, I was certain that I wanted to use Citus and Halimiums because their silver and grey foliage would suggest the reflective power of the solar array behind them.  Further, I also wanted to include shrubs with yellow flowers to suggest the sun.  Because Halimium x pauanum has yellow flowers, it became one of my theme plants.

During one of my visits to the site, I realized that it was situated only a mile or so from the Willamette Research Station where we had received many of our plants.  And so the design also pays homage to the trials that took place just down the road.

The garden was sponsored by Portland General Electric, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Master Gardeners of Oregon™.  It will be planted on March 24th, 2012 with assistance from volunteer Master Gardeners.

Maurice Horn

Coast Silk-tassel’s Late Winter Tresses

The Silk-tassel is a familiar enough shrub often encountered in the Coastal Ranges of California and southwestern Oregon.    We have grown the species for many years in the gardens at Joy Creek Nursery.  Although it is a worthy evergreen native shrub that makes a fine background plant in the summer I have often thought that its incredible winter bloom gets lost in the dense foliage.

Six years ago, I bought Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ to go into the native plant border at my home.  I was pleased that it grew quickly and created a thick screen between me and the driveway next-door even if its habit was ungainly.  Branches curved in a drooping fashion back down to the ground.  Others twisted themselves around neighboring branches as if they were seeking a way out of the evergreen tangle.  Because much of the growth was lateral and downward, I began to contemplate what I could do to encourage upward growth.   I wanted to see the tassels drape the shrub like tinsel on a Christmas tree.

Once the shrub had gotten five feet tall, I began to prune it with an eye toward opening it up.  My goal was to take out unattractive twisted branches and branches that descended.  Because there were so few truly upward growing branches, I did this task cautiously at first.  As the shrub matured, I became bolder.  Finally early this winter, even though the tassels had already started to form, I began removing all unwanted branches.   When I was done, I had an open, airy Silk-tassel that looked nothing like the dense shrub I was familiar with.

By the beginning of February, the tassels began to extend until they reached their full length of 12 to 13 inches which is the characteristic of ‘James Roof’.  These tassels often come in terminal sets of five accompanied by two sets of three additional tassels at the leaf axils immediately behind the terminal.  The tightly-scaled tassels are grey green at this point but toward the middle of February the scales loosen to reveal tiny flowers so full of pollen that a slight brush of the hand releases a small cloud.  ‘James Roof’ is a male clone and does not develop fruit.

To my delight, my pruning worked.  The tassels blew in the breeze and did exactly what I hoped for as you can see in the accompanying pictures.  By opening up the shrub, and giving it a sense of transparency, I have come to really appreciate the glory of this native.  I have become a true believer.

Maurice Horn


Interview with Mike Smith about his Pruning Class

We are having our first class of the year Sunday March 4th.  Mike Smith, co-owner of Joy Creek and pruning guru, will be talking and demonstrating the finer points of pruning.  It is at 1pm and make sure to dress for the weather.

Why do we have this class at this time of year?

In most gardens, as the winter draws to an end, there are a significant number of plants that require pruning.  Whether the source of the need is the repair of winter damage, plant health or aesthetics pruning just before a plant breaks dormancy gives the plant a fresh start at the beginning of the season.  This time of year also lets the pruner see more clearly where and what to prune.

What aspects of pruning do you plan on covering during the class?

In the class I will begin by spending a short time covering pruning basics and the equipment needed.  The majority of the class will then be spent on demonstrating my approach to pruning various shrubs and small trees.  I will also review the progress made on several plants that have been pruned during previous years pruning classes.  The class will end with a quesiton and answer period.

Is there a specific area of the gardens that you plan to address?

The plan is to thin and shape a grouping of shrubs and small trees that over time have grown together so that each plant has lost its individuality.  The goal is to bring back visual balance back to the planting.

What is your favorite type of plant to prune?

My favorite plant to prune depends entirely upon my frame of mind at the time.  If I am frustrated and want to release some aggression then an English laurel hedge is a good target.  If I am feeling creative and thoughtful then pruning a Japanese laceleaf maple is always fun and interesting.