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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Top Ten Plants
Pacific Northwest garden writers pick their favorite plants.
Garden writers from around the Pacific Northwest compile their top ten plants with a brief explanation why it made the list.
It's not easy to choose only ten favorite plants but I rose to the challenge, as any gardener worth her weight in humus would do. I selected two garden-worthy gems to be my top ten of the moment from five categories: trees, conifers, shrubs and vines, perennials, and groundcovers and grasses. (I cheated and snuck in 3 more. Can you spot them?)
I'd choose the magnificent paperbark maple (Acer griseum) over magnolias any day. Flowers are so fleeting but paperbark's curling strips of cinnamon-stick bark go on and on and on, only improving with age (we should all be so lucky).
Lovely in all seasons, the graceful katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) brings extra delight when its blue-green heart-shaped leaves turn butter-yellow in fall and release an aroma of burnt sugar – some say cotton candy – to tease my nose and tempt my sweet tooth.
Creamy-yellow tipped much of the year, golden Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan-sugi') really lives up to its name when it puts on new growth. Stately and visually dominant, it is both beacon and supporting cast member in my garden.
Cascades of blue-green scale-like needles drip off the gently pendant branches of weeping Alaska cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula'), a selection of our native. It's decidedly sculptural and yet when I look at it, I see a gentle, venerable gardener leaning over to tell me its secrets.
I adore evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), an underused native evergreen shrub. Dainty, white, bell-shaped flowers emerge in late winter and early spring (and sporadically at other times) and result in juicy, blue-black fruits; all of it set off by rusty-red new foliage.
I'd been led to believe star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) wouldn't be hardy in my garden. Wrong, wrong, wrong (I hope I didn't just jinx myself). For two summers now, I've enjoyed this twining evergreen vine that blooms for weeks and weeks with waxy, white, and incredibly fragrant flowers.
I'm besotted with Geranium ‘Rozanne', syn. G. ‘Gerwat' with its large, cheery, blue to bluish-purple, white-eyed flowers. It begins to bloom in early June and continues to delight through October, looking fabulous weaving among Phormium ‘Apricot Queen' and velvet cloak smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak').
Sited in front of Rhododendron ‘Elizabeth Red', Hosta ‘Paul's Glory' adds great textural and color interest all season long. I bought this plant to honor a dear friend who died two years ago but I've come to love it for its slightly puckered leaves with soft gold centers and wide, blue-green margins.
Twinflower (Linnaea borealis), a little-known woodland native groundcover, delights me with its shiny, evergreen leaves on stems that creep along the ground. In May, twinned, fragrant, pale candy-pink flowers rise slightly above the foliage – worth getting on all fours to admire and inhale their sweetness.
Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola') is the epitome of Audrey Hepburn in my garden – pure style and grace. Its supple, gold and green variegated leaves light up shady spots, scattering sunlight with the slightest breeze, rippling and spilling and mingling very nicely.
Lisa Albert is a freelance garden writer in Portland, Oregon. She loves to write and talk about plants, drawing upon observations in her garden and conversations with fellow gardeners (affectionately known as plantaholics and hort-heads). Visit her website at http://lisaalbertwriter.com/index.html.
All photographs by Debbie Teashon.