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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Shrubs, Berberis, Skimmia, Leucothoe, Fatsia, Euonymus, Elaeagnus, Shade-tolerant plants, Osmanthus, Aucuba, Viburnum, Prunus, Camellia, Buxus

Can you suggest some shade shrubs/low trees that could be used in the bottom quarter of a huge, years-old pile of yardwaste and branches that is now a 20 foot cliff? I have started with some vinca minor in the lower part but could use some ideas of some things to plant that might get 15 feet tall, evergreen, and grow in woods/shade or sun through trees.


The closest list I could find to meet your needs is one of evergreen shrubs that will grow in shade:

Japanese aucuba - Aucuba japonica vars.
common boxwood - Buxus sempervirens
camellia - Camellia sp.
gilt edge silverberry - Elaeagnus x ebbingei 'Gilt Edge'
Euonymus - Euonymus fortunei radicans
Japanese aralia - Fatsia japonica
drooping Leucothoe - Leucothoe fontanesiana
Oregon grape - Mahonia aquifolium
Burmese mahonia - Mahonia lomariifolia
longleaf mahonia - Mahonia nervosa
holly leaf osmanthus - Osmanthus heterophyllus vars.
English laurel - Prunus laurocerasus 'Mount Vernon'
Japanese skimmia - Skimmia japonica
evergreen huckleberry - Vaccinium ovatum
nannyberry - Viburnum lentago

Source: The Pacific Northwest Gardener's Book of Lists, by R. & J. McNeilan, 1997, p. 46-47

Date 2017-05-25
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Shrubs, Garden design, Perennials

I have an asymmetrical flower bed in front of my house. It faces southeast and the house is white, with reflection of light. I purchase plants for full sun but they tend to get fried. I am interested in finding perennials to provide interest 12 months of the year. I prefer shrubs with a variety of texture. Plants that attract butterflies would be nice, and any grasses that are known not to grow out of control. What plants do you recommend that would give me a lush, year-round garden?


You may want to plant a mixture of perennials and shrubs, particularly those which tolerate bright light. An excellent book full of lists of plants is Ray and Jan McNeilan's Pacific Northwest Gardener's Book of Lists (1997). This book includes lists such as Shrubs for Interest in Each Season (pp.62-64), and Herbaceous Perennials for Full Sun All Day (pp.138-139).

I think you may find many of the other lists in this book valuable as you design your flower beds.

The Great Plant Picks website has lists of many different plants that do well in Northwest gardens, including pictures and descriptions.

There are quite a few books which address the issue of providing year-round color and interest in the garden, such as Adrian Bloom's Year-Round Garden: Colour in Your Garden from January to December (Timber Press, 1998) and his Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses : Expert Plant Choices and Dramatic Combinations for Year-Round Gardens (Timber Press, 2010). The Miller Library also has booklists on topics like Winter Gardening and Perennials which may be of use to you.

And, here is an article entitled "Create a Butterfly Garden" (S. Lamb et al., January 2002) from Oregon State University.

Visiting local gardens throughout the year and noting the plants that appear to be thriving may help, and a trip to your local nursery can give you lots of ideas and information. The Center for Urban Horticulture and the Washington Park Arboretum both feature seasonal plant highlights.

Date 2017-05-25
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Shrubs, Weigela, Color guides, Dwarf conifers and shrubs, Nandina domestica

Can you give me some information on Weigela Midnight Wine and dwarf Nandina? Are there any plant lists of purple-leafed shrubs?


Following is a good description of Weigela 'Midnight Wine.' The information comes from the Missouri Botanical Garden, so it is tested and accurate.


'Elvera' Midnight Wine is a dwarf version of the popular Weigela 'Wine and Roses' (W760). It is a dense, rounded, low-growing deciduous shrub that typically grows to only 1.5-2 feet tall and as wide. Features profuse reddish-pink flowers and burgundy-purple foliage. Reddish-pink, funnel-shaped flowers (to 1.25 inches long) appear singly or in clusters along the branches of the previous year's growth in mid- to late spring, with sparse and scattered repeat bloom often occurring on new growth as the summer progresses. Elliptic to obovate, glossy, burgundy-purple leaves (to 3 inches long) turn very dark purple in autumn. Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers. Original cultivar name is 'Elvera', but plants are being marketed under the registered trademark name of Midnight Wine. U. S. Plant Patent #12,217 issued November 20, 2001. Source.


There are several varieties of dwarf Nandina, such as 'Harbour Dwarf,' 'Firepower,' 'Nana,' and 'Nana purpurea.' University of Florida Extension has a feature on dwarf Nandina on their website. There are also plants available from nurseries such as Forestfarm Nursery and Greer Gardens in Oregon, and Whitney Gardens in Washington.

PLANT SUGGESTIONS As far as lists of plants with purple foliage, you should find a wealth of information in the book Black Magic and Purple Passion, by Karen Platt, 2004. There are also lists online, such as this page from Iowa State University Extension, entitled "A Passion for Purple." You can also search Royal Horticultural Society's Plant Selector and other similar resources by leaf color.

Date 2017-05-11
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: salt-tolerant plants, Shrubs, Seaside gardening, Perennials

I need plant suggestions for growing in cold, salty winds only 15 to 20 feet from the high water mark of the Georgia Straits. In winter, the salt water from the ocean occasionally douses the area where I will be gardening. I'm particularly interested in perennials and small shrubs.


I found a list from Island County, WA with revisions added for Bay Area gardeners.
"Some of the better salt-tolerant shrubs and small trees to consider include Salal (Gautheria shallon), Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Elderberry (Sambucus species), Tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana), and the Wax Myrtle (Myrica [now called Morella] californica).

There are a variety of native plants that are commonly found near the shoreline, and which typically do well in the Puget Sound area. These include the sword fern (Polystichum munitum), Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilimum), Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), Coastal lupine (Lupinus littoralis), Honeysuckle (Lonicera species), and Coastal strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis)."

Washington Native Plant Society also has a list of plants for a saltwater setting.

I recently answered a question about salt-tolerant grasses which may be helpful to you as well.

The book cited in the answer above, Frances Tenenbaum's Gardening at the Shore, also lists shrubs and perennials. Below are those which might work in zone 8 or lower, and which are smaller than 20 feet.

  • Acca (also called Feijoa) sellowiana (8-12 feet)
  • Amelanchier (small tree/large shrub)
  • Arbutus (there are some smaller species than the familiar Pacific madrone)
  • Arctostaphylos patula (6 feet)
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (ground cover)
  • Atriplex canescens (3-5 feet)
  • Baccharis halimifolia (6-10 feet)
  • Calluna vulgaris (from 6 inches to 2 feet)
  • Caryopteris x clandonensis (2-3 feet)
  • Ceanothus (many varieties of different sizes, from ground cover to 20 feet)
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (look for a dwarf variety of this tree)
  • Clethra alnifolia (8 feet)
  • Gaultheria shallon (ground cover)
  • Hydrangea macrophylla (6-8 feet)
  • Juniperus virginiana (look for creeping juniper cultivars like 'Bar Harbor' and 'Blue Rug' which are salt-tolerant)
  • Picea glauca (look for dwarf cultivars like 'Arneson's Blue')
  • Rhus typhina
  • Rosa rugosa
  • Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Syringa vulgaris
  • Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
  • Viburnum (numerous species of different sizes)


  • Achillea
  • Armeria maritima
  • Artemisia 'Powis Castle'
  • Artemisia schmidtiana
  • Asclepias tuberosa
  • Baptisia australis
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro'
  • Nepeta x faassenii and Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia
  • Platycodon grandiflorus
  • Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Date 2017-05-17
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Seed dormancy, Propagation, Shrubs, Seeds, Perennials, Ornamental grasses, Herbs, Ferns, Reviews

A book by Jekka McVicar called Seeds: the ultimate guide to growing successfully from seed (Lyons Press, 2003, $22.95) will help you turn your seedy hopes into plant reality. Thirteen chapters are divided by types of plant including ferns, grasses, shrubs, perennials and herbs. The practical information that applies to all kinds of seeds, such as what type of soil to use, and how to break seed dormancy, is included in the last chapter. Color photos illustrate throughout. For online tips for seed starting go to:
http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/pnw0170/pnw0170.pdf from Oregon State University.

Date: 2006-03-01
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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

[The Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs] cover

I have long enjoyed the folksy but information packed annual catalogs from Gossler Farms Nursery in Springfield, Oregon. It is a great pleasure to now have the first book by the family (mom Marjory and sons Roger and Eric Gossler), The Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs. Here the very practical, learned-by-experience descriptions of the catalog are expanded to 350 of their favorites, and all would make a good choice for local gardens.

The highlight of the introductory chapters is "How Not to Kill Your Plants" with lots of advice on how to select, buy, plant, and nurture your new shrubby children. "Consider it an open adoption: you want to know about the birth parents, what neighborhood the plant came from, whether drugs were involved, and so on." This same professional insiders advice continues in the A-Z listings, where I learned that a favorite of mine, Enkianthus perulatus, is rarely found in nurseries "...because it grows too slowly to be profitable."

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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May 31 2018 13:14:08