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plant choices for native--ish forest bed

Posted by eeldip portland, 8b-ish (My Page) on
Tue, Jan 14, 14 at 16:56

So, new house, I have a completely new bed to plan:

A roughly a 30 foot diameter lima bean shaped bed. Existing plants are a big doug fir trimmed up high. then two multi trunked mature pacific dogwoods that are looking scary sad/dead/rotted. some amount of them are coming down very soon, but i think i am going to try to keep 2 of them. the ones leaning away from my house.

i need some privacy at head height-- house is a ranch. the bed is in the corner of the property. so i want to thicken up that area.

I am leaning to do a native themed bed. my thought was to incorporate large shrub/small tree mostly evergreen plants in there (and groundcover stuff, but that is easy). its going to be dry, between the root competition and me not wanting to water. no mid day sun due to fir and neighbors cedar. some east and a little bit more west sun.

i just got a relatively big evergreen huckleberry in a nice #10 pot. i was going to try to fill with native shady evergreen small trees, but the native plants are WAY too slow (pacific yew, all i could find was a 2 foot tall one for $40), the wrong shape (mountain hemlock, taller than wide, want wider than tall), too big (myrtle), impossible to find or cultivate (golden chinkapin). i'll probably pick up a wax myrtle.

but can anyone come up with a FAKE native? a nativish that easy to find. i am thinking i would like yew that would get me close to pacific yew without the whole waiting 50 years for it to grow.

any other thoughts? woodland shrubs... pacific NW looking ish....


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

From the dry, shady plans at https://green.kingcounty.gov/gonative/Plan.aspx?Act=list, you could try an oceanspray or indian plum - both are 15 ft shrubs and not too hard to find.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

It's not evergreen, but I would second the nomination for Oceanspray. It will do well in bright open shade, gets tall fairly quickly and bushes out enough to be a good screen even in winter with the leaves off. Plus its excellent habitat, both as a hiding spot and winter roost for smaller birds, and the dry flower heads harbor insects the chickadee and bushtit mobs will thank you for in midwinter.

Pacific Wax Myrtle will only do well in shade if its really pretty bright. Tall conifers might be ok, but if its not bright enough, it will be a cranky lanky mess, and not likely to give you the density you are looking for as a screen.

A non-native, almost native looking plant (lol, if there is such a thing) that might do well for that spot, but will take a bit to get there is the Mahonia x media, "Grape Holly" group, with the winter flowers, many of which are blooming now (and attracting hummers, I might add.) These guys will get up around 10-15 feet tall, are bushier at the top than the bottom, do well in dryish shade if your willing to push the water the first couple of years, and look like a native M. aquifolium on steroids, kinda. At least, to my rather picky eye, they don't stick out like a lot of other things would. They are rather slow to get to the kind of height you are looking for though, and since a gallon sized pot regularly retails around 20 bucks here, I can only imagine what "mature" ones would go for, if you can even find them.

Other deciduous natives that might be worth a try include red-flowering currant (most people don't realize how shade tolerant these are, but do be aware some cultivars will not be quite as bright, and others won't flower quite as heavily... but they still put on a great show in shade), and are as drought tolerant as most of our native understory shrubs. In shade they will get a bit taller too, which may be perfect for you. Personally I like the white and pink ones in shade anyway. 'Pokey's Pink' is a good one for this, as it seems to like to get taller than wide anyway, where 'White Icicle' seem to like to stay broader than tall. 'Appleblossom' is somewhere in between on that scale, though it is doing ok here in shade for me.

Not so drought tolerant is the native Viburnum, but lovely in both flower and fruit, and will take the shade if you can at least give it lots of winter water... redirect the water runoff from your roof maybe? lol. There are lots of non native viburnums that will also do well of course. Most of the bigger evergreen ones like the cat-piss smelling Viburnum tinus look to me a little weedy, but that's me.

The other decent suggestion I can think of, that you might have a prayer of finding a large one without too much trouble, though perhaps not cheap, is to find one of the more shade tolerant camelias. Some again, are more shade tolerant than others, but do some research and I am sure you can find one or two that will suit your spot. I can't say these look "native" but they do seem to me to have that Northwest feel to them, and again, some of the shade tolerant ones will bloom in winter.

Then there are some oddballs, mostly from what I can think of, stuff like Azara, odd myrtles, oh, or maybe the Ozmanthus group? Just stay away from the serviceable but all too spready privets and cotoneasters, please... lol.

Underplant with salal, sword fern and Mahonia nervosa, and all of these will look better. Or how about some rambling snowberries? lol.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

How about vines growing up the trees to thicken them?
Native Lonicera?
or the shrubby Lonicera- twinberry.
shrub roses?
Native bald hip rose grows in dry shade.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

Just had a thought... roots of those conifers can get a bit aggressive, but at least two of the plants mentioned above- Viburnum ellipticum and Lonicera involucrata, are actually bog loving anyway. You may want to consider putting in a small bog (or bog and pond), with one or both of these in the back. You could direct run off from your roof into it to fill it in winter, and just top it off as needed in summer. Just a thought.

In general I think the oceanspray would be easier though, lol.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

yea, leaning to massing oceanspray. limiting the evergreens to key screening points.

any evergreen shrubby oaks good in this context? maybe in the sunniest spots i can find?


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

Oaks typically are not good in shade, evergreen or not. You'd be better off with the Camelia, or maybe something like Umbellaria (Oregon myrtle) or Chinquapin, for all they are hard to find.

Or if you are ok with a large "herb" maybe a Bay laurel? Bayleaf type, not the usual hedge laurels. Mine is doing just fine on the north side of a fence, with a Doug maple on one side and a tall fir/cedar on the other. It does get some light, but is in a fairly shady spot, and doing fine with that. These are somewhat delicate to cold around here though, so be careful which variety you choose, and be ok with frostbit leaves in our coldest winters. On the up side, it will give you plenty of bayleaves! I made wreaths from it to hand out at Christmas this year, lol.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

boring update:

had a long consult with arborist, looks like i am going to take down all the dogwoods. they are just too far gone. best day to plant a new tree is today!

SECOND. have you guys used sunseeker? mind blowingly useful app for the phone. you pick a date, and look at your phone and it shows you the track of the sun per house. from every spot on the bed you can count the hours of sun per day for every date of the year.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 18, 14 at 14:55

Ocean spray really doesn't provide much screening at all and the spent, lingering seed heads look dreadful to me. In the wild here it is an indicator of drier soils and often occurs with salal and Douglas fir on slopes, humps etc. where there is better drainage. On properties where there is a mix of locations where soils drain and become dry in summer with those that remain damp the salal and Douglas fir will concentrate in the drier parts, with salmon berry and alder indicating where drainage may be impeded or slowed enough to support such plants. People clearing native growth for new plantings can judge where to put particular kinds of garden plants (or timber plantings) by observing which native species are present on sites beforehand. This is consistent enough that UBC once put out an illustrated handbook for foresters called Indicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia that showed what exposures, moisture levels, nitrogen levels etc. a pretty large assortment of native plants required.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

site is definitely on the drier side. soil is "latourell loam". little gravelly/sandy loam with mixed small river rocks becoming more common the deeper you go. slight slope to north.

the bed is full of disturbed earth-- used it as a dumping ground for regrading, new window well excess soil.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

Obviously I disagree about the screening effect, since i recommended the plant. As to the seed heads, they may be unsightly to some, but they are one of the main wildlife draws of the plant, since that is where you will find the mobs of chickadees, bushtits, vireos etc. spending most of their time in winter, carefully poking those seed heads for overwintering insects. It may not be for everyone, but it is a great native for the kinds of conditions you are describing. Fast growing too.

If you have room for multiple shrubs, I'd still be tempted to add in a currant for the color. Its berries are also good bird fodder, too,, if not too palatable for people (apparently perfectly edible, just taste funny).

With salal and low Oregon grape at their feet, you've got a nice, low maintenance shrub community.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

The currents growing wild on my place get a dirty black soot mold, not long after they blossom. Other than that, they're a nice plant. I saw one in Seattle that covered 3/4 of a length of a garage. They can get a lot bigger than I originally knew.
Mike


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 19, 14 at 15:23

Yes, the summer aspect of Ribes sanguineum is poor. In nature it is usually another one that is a see-through shrub, like the Holodiscus. Of course, partly this is due to many of them being viewed growing beneath or among trees, in shaded positions. But these are still not particularly dense-growing as well. In fact, the ocean spray has a history of being used for arrow shafts because it produces suitable straight, non-forking first year shoots of some length.

British references do recommend the currant for the development of flowering hedges, but probably every time heading back to promote density and uniformity is part of the concept.

This post was edited by bboy on Sun, Jan 19, 14 at 15:48


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

fyi, bed picture below.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

OK, here is where I veer WAY off course. I went to Portland Nursery today. If I abandon the whole native concept I came up with two ideas:

1. Choisya. Seem to do fine in shade in Portland. I have seen them in deep shade. Depending on where you are, this bed is missing mid day sun, but gets close to half day. Will not need supplemental irrigation. Will grow thick and big. But most importantly, they are easy and cheap to source nice big #5s. Somewhat boring. Somewhat frost tender.

2. For not too expensive, Portland Nursery has some #2 sized Schima argentea. Will need some irrigation fo ra while at least, but appears OK with filtered light, competitive situations. Never heard of this tree before today. http://www.quarryhillbg.org/page15.html


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 20, 14 at 18:14

Schima would be expected to freeze back or out. You would be much better off with camellias, if you are going to use shrubs from that family.

As this is an area "facing down" trees with bare trunks broad-leaved evergreens such as these ARE what you should go with.

For pretty much the whole planting.

An effective proportion is a small amount of big leaves (Rhododendron, Mahonia...), a larger amount of medium leaves (Rhododendron, Kalmia, Pieris...) and a dominating percentage of small leaves (Camellia, Holly, Box...). For a good flow the bigger leaved, heavier looking shrubs would be used right by the trunks, with the leaf size coming down as you move out away from the immediate vicinity of the bases of the trees.

This post was edited by bboy on Mon, Jan 20, 14 at 18:16


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

i was wondering about hardiness of schima. listed on tag as 7b-- but as usual i am dubious. reports on forums show survival at -16C, but reports from research show GREAT variability between individual collections.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 20, 14 at 23:32

As a rule people don't "get" the USDA system and assign the wrong zones to plants. I'd be willing to bet the 7b was put on the Schima because somebody noticed it going south at 10F. No plant that fails at 10F is going to be a long term feature in Portland - we just had teens in the Seattle area this past month, and Portland gets colder than it does up here.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

If you want evergreens, you should look at some of the California natives. Many of these are drought-tolerant, which will fit in nicely with your desired lack of summer watering. All of the following should be hardy to at least 5 F:

Manzanitas - 'Sunset' and 'Harmony' both do well up here and can take a little shade. (Still, plant these in the sunnier part of your yard.) They're faster than most manzanitas and get taller than they do in drier climates.

Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica) - Good drought tolerance and can take a little shade. Gets about 8' tall and grows at a moderate rate.

Bush Anemone (Carpenteria californica) - Like an evergreen mock-orange. Has some drought tolerance, but can also take regular garden water. Hardy to about 10 F.

I'd also recommend taking a second look at mountain hemlock. They're not good screening plants (at least, not for a decade or so), but they're really beautiful and are trouble-free in the area. If you don't mind spending the money, a cluster of three would make a nice focal point.

Some deciduous recommendations. They don't shade well, but they'll make your yard look really nice:

Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) - Good part-shade plant that can take standing water in winter and summer drought once established. Leaves turn a nice golden-yellow in the fall.

Pink Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum glutinosum) - Smaller version of red flowering currant that prefers part shade. Water/drought tolerance similar to ninebark. A nice small shrub to grow near a bird bath.

Fuchsia-flowering Gooseberry (Ribes speciosum) - Very showy flowers that hummingbirds love. Prefers part sun or part shade and likes it drier than most Ribes. Thorny, so plat away from high-traffic area.

Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) - Nice small (15' x 10') tree that has really nice pink flowers in the late winter. Will do OK in part sun and grows at a decent rate. Hardy to at least 10 F after establishment.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

funny you mention manzanita, took this pic today.

that house is facing west, so the manzanita in the summer is getting some filtered sun, then full sun from about 2pm onwards. my bed will get similar light, perhaps a bit more in the high summer, but less of this low southern light early/late in the season.

that pittosporum (?) looks to be doing pretty well too.

I can source larger california natives from cistus nursery i bet.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

Cool! Most manzanitas will do well in that amount of sunlight.

Cistus is a good bet. Dancing Oaks (near Monmouth) also has a good selection of Cal natives.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 21, 14 at 20:24

Ribes speciosum is a sunny wall shrub this far north - and even in such a spot will not be fully hardy. Most Cistus also freeze eventually, when there is a cold winter only certain ones come through. The most reliable appears to be C. x hybridus. But like the manzanitas and the gooseberry rock roses are Mediterranean climate shrub-land species, with there being definite limitations on both their ability to grow in the north and under trees.

There are reasons why so many of these are native to California (or southern Europe etc.) but not up here.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

I was referring to the nursery on Sauvie Island, not rockrose.

There are places in California that get colder than Portland or Seattle where Ribes speciosum is native. One of the nurseries that I purchase from is located in the central Coast Range, where it routinely gets down into the low teens in December and January. Last month, they experienced 6 consecutive mornings of single-digit temps, at the end of a 2" rainfall year. These conditions managed to kill several established USDA Zone 7 manzanitas, but their established Ribes speciosum was happily leafing out of its summer dormancy. Outside of the really nasty 50-year winter, it'll survive in Western OR/WA.

This post was edited by OregonGrape on Tue, Jan 21, 14 at 23:57


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

If it wasn't for the porch light being on, I'd think the place had been vacant for a few years. That's the trouble with just using natives in a haphazard design.
Mike


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 22, 14 at 13:18

Long experience with Ribes speciosum in cultivation outside of its native area shows it to be tender. Now, if there are infrequently described, less familiar particular forms that are more hardy, then that is a different story.

The last killer winter, that took out a range of different plants up here was in 1990. At the time it was said to be the worst in 30 years.

The thing about killer winters is that they don't make appointments and follow previously agreed upon schedules. If somebody may not be willing to play with shrubs that could burn up in a few years (or even the same year they were planted) they shouldn't be getting told to plant kinds that are likely to fall into this category.

Most people aren't Zonal Denial enthusiasts.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

If you want to restrict your planting to Douglas-fir, redtwig dogwood, and serviceberry to achieve a statistical zero probability of losses prior to the next ice age, that's your business. Many people like to experiment a little and don't mind taking a loss every 20 or so years. That doesn't make them wrong, nor am I wrong to suggest a plant that is roughly as hardy as Ribes divaricatum, Gaultheria shallon, and Myrica californica (all natives in the Willamette Valley).

I don't appreciate being labeled a "Zonal Denial enthusiast," nor do I appreciate your endless stream of self-aggrandized blather. Knock it off.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

Since Ian Barclay occasionally reads/posts to this forum and runs a nursery in WA that specializes in water-wise gardening in the PNW, I think that his perspective is important. He sells Ribes speciosum (http://desertnorthwest.com/catalog/plants_western.html), and here is his take:

"Hardy to about 10 F"

"It is one of the few drought-deciduous shrubs we can grow in the Northwest."

"Although native to central California, IT DOES FINE IN MILDER NORTHWEST GARDENS, occasional leaf drop notwithstanding." (my emphasis)

If you have a problem with me SUGGESTING Ribes speciosum for a relatively mild climate like Portland, I can't image what you think of Ian for SELLING the plant to PNW customers. Be sure to express your displeasure the next time that he posts here.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 22, 14 at 21:22

Pacific wax myrtle isn't native to the Willamette Valley.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

According to at least one source, there is an established population just west of Portland.

http://www.plantmaps.com/nrm/myrica-californica-pacific-bayberry-native-range-map.php


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

oh, i would like to see that population, very interesting.

OK, rubber hitting the road here-- at some point i have to BUY a plant, stopped by Portland nursery on Stark to see what they have.

As usual, January is a pretty bleak time at nurseries, but turned up Lomatia myricoides in a pretty good size. #2 or so, 3 feet or so. The evergreen, spreading vase shape to 10 feet works. I won't put it in the most critical screening part as it is semi tender (listed 5-10 degrees). But I am concerned about it needing water, as its a NSW species. And a bit concerned about only giving it 1/2 day of light.

I will admit I am very tempted on this N Cali/S Oregon theme, which it will totally violate.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

I don't know much about Lomatia myricoides, so I can't offer any advice there. However, what I would suggest is to not limit yourself by what's available at the local nursery (especially at this time of the year). Do an exhaustive search and determine which plants you (1) like best and (2) will work in your yard/climate. Then look for nurseries that carry them. Many places will do mail-order and some (such as Forestfarm) are willing to ship larger sizes.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

TOTALLY. i am only biting if i see something that fits my theme and is big enough. i am just really happy that budget isn't a giant concern this time. so i don't have to limit myself to 1 gallon plants and hoping for privacy.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

Have you checked out the Bosky Dell Natives plant lists?

http://www.boskydellnatives.com/plantlist_willammette1_b.htm


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 23, 14 at 23:47

Much unsold potted stock at retail outlets here was left out through the recent cold. Beware of frozen roots when inspecting possible purchases, the top is the last to go so tops of shrubs looking okay is not adequate assurance.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

i actually picked up something for this bed from bosky dell. a nice #10 or so pot evergreen huckleberry.

their stock is so so this time of year. the employee that took me around was enthusiastic but kept mis-identifying plants, most of which don't have tags.


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RE: plant choices for native--ish forest bed

Haven't been there in a few years, but not surprising; that nursery is a bit rag-tag. Too bad Wallace Hansen out of Salem went out of business a few years ago--had an extensive collection of natives. Perhaps someone has taken over the biz.


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