If California is the most excellent state in the entire Unites States of America and surrounding Universe, and Oklahoma is the second most excellent, then Oregon might be number . . . hmmm . . . fourteen or fifteen . . . or maybe like twenty or something. However, in MY (very important) opinion, Oregon is like the third most excellent state, and almost ties with Oklahoma! That makes it even slightly more excellent than Pennsylvania, Vermont and Arizona! Yes, it is THAT excellent!
Even the state tree of Oregon is excellent. It is the Douglas fir, pseudotsuga menziesii. That is like the second most excellent of the state trees, right after the coastal redwood of California. If California did not claim the coastal redwood as the state tree, Oregon is the only other state that can claim it as a native, since the native range of coastal redwood extends ever so slightly into the very southwest corner of Oregon.
There was a time when redwood was the main timber tree here, but that was only because it was the most readily available. As the supply was depleted, it was reserved for fences, decks, structural lumber that is in contact with concrete foundations, or any other situation in which its innate resistance to decay was important. Douglas fir became the most common lumber, and is still what homes are built from now.
Besides all that, Douglas fir is one of the grandest of trees in North America.
Then there is the state flower of Oregon. Well, it is not so much to brag about, although it is still better than the state flower of Oklahoma, which happens to be mistletoe. (Okay, that is another subject for later.)
Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, blooms late in winter with these bright golden yellow, but otherwise unimpressive flowers. The few small black berries that develop over summer are mostly taken by birds before anyone notices. The glossy and prickly dark green foliage is quite appealing, and happens to do well in partial shade, but this is the state flower, not the state foliage.
Some might say it blooms very late. Others might say it blooms very early. Regardless, sasanqua camellia, Camellia sasanqua, blooms in autumn or early winter when not much else is blooming. The abundant two inch wide flowers can be pale pink, rich pink, white or red, all with prominent yellow stamens. Some are fluffy with many petals. Others have only a few. Alas, fragrance is rare.
Each cultivar of sasanqua camellia has a distinct personality. Some are strictly upright, and can eventually get somewhat higher than downstairs eaves. Others are too limber to stand upright on their own; so they grow as low mounds, or espaliered onto trellises. With proper pruning that does not compromise bloom too much, some can be pruned as hedges, or as foundations plantings.
Sasanqua camellia has been in cultivation for many centuries. Prior to breeding for bloom in the past few centuries, it was grown for tea and tea seed oil, which is extracted from the seeds. This oil is used for culinary purposes and cosmetics. The finely serrate elliptical ‘tea’ leaves are about one to two and a half inches long. The glossy evergreen foliage is appealing throughout the year.
The camellias are getting meager, but a few are STILL blooming, even a week after the camellias that were blooming so late last week! These pictures were taken at the same time as those for last Saturday. There were just too many to fit into six pictures. Last week, we had two light pink and four white camellias. These are the dark pink or red camellias. There are no pictures of sasanqua camellias, and we have no reticulata camellias.
1. This is probably the biggest of our camellias. I do not know the name of it or any of the camellias here, but I believe that this is one of the old classics that had been around for centuries, and was popular in the 1960s.
2. If this big ruffled dark pink camellia looks like the last one, it just might be. It does not seem to be as deep red, but that might be a result of the exposure.
3. You know, I do not typically like this simple pink; and I do not typically like this floral form; but for some reason, I really like this simple pink camellia. It just looks so much like a camellia should look.
4. This floral form is more refined, but looks almost too perfect, as if the flower were assembled by robots on an assembly line.
5. This one also seems to have been assembled, but is a bit friendlier. I happen to like such formality.
6. Like #3, this one has an unavoidable appeal. It really looks like a camellia should look, although it also looks like it could use some Grecian Formula.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:
The camellias are STILL blooming! They may not bloom profusely, but they have been blooming for quite a while. I do not know how many different cultivars are here, but there are more than I can fit into just six pictures. There are six more for next week, although two might be the same. They are the dark pink or red camellias. For this week, we have two light pink and four white camellias. I did not get any picture of the sasanqua camellias. I have not seen reticulata camellias or any other specie here.
1. This clear pink camellia is probably my least favorite of these six, only because it is a bit too casual for my taste.
2. This clear pink camellia looks more refined. I really like this form.
3. Now we have white, my favorite color, but the bright yellow stamens in the middle make this casual camellia look like a fried egg.
4. I happen to prefer this fluffier white, with less prominent stamens.
5. Wow! This one really looks yummy!
6. Now my favorite; so simple, and so white, although, the camellia in the previous pictures actually looks yummier!
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:
It is a shame that forsythia is not more popular here. Years ago, there was a commonly perpetuated myth that winters were not cool enough for it, as well as lilac. We now know that both lilac and forsythia are happy to bloom here. Now, some might insist that there are so many evergreen shrubs that bloom nicely right through winter, that there is no need for deciduous blooming shrubbery.
They might not say so after seeing how spectacular forsythia is in bright yellow bloom as winter becomes spring. It uses the same tactic as the flowering cherries that bloom at about the same time, by dazzling spectators with profusion, before foliage develops to dilute the brilliance of the color! The flowers are tiny, but very abundant. Plump buds on bare stems can be forced indoors.
Forsythia X intermedia is the standard forsythia, although a few other specie and variations, including some compact cultivars, are sometimes seen in other regions. Mature specimens should not get much higher than first floor eaves, but can get twice as tall if crowded. The simple opposite leaves are about two or three inches long, and can turn color where autumn weather is cooler.
When the weather warms up a bit between frosty weather and winter storms, the rich fragrance of winter blooming daphne, Daphne odora, is at its best. The domed trusses of tiny pale pink flowers are not much wider than a quarter, so are easy to overlook while investigating the source of the fragrance. ‘Aureomarginata’, the standard cultivar, has glossy evergreen leaves with narrow pale yellow margins. Mature plants are only one or two feet high. All parts of the plant are incidentally toxic.
It is no mystery why daphne is rare. It can be rather finicky, and unpredictably so. It purportedly wants rich and slightly acidic soil, in a warm but partially shaded spot; but can be difficult to grow even in ideal conditions. Yet, it is sometimes seen doing well in full sun or in dense soil of questionable quality. To make matters worse, even the healthiest plants live only about five to eight years.
As a group, aloes really deserve more respect. Many will naturalize and thrive with only occasional watering through summer. Candelabra aloe, Aloe arborescens, wants a bit more water than most other aloes, but not much. It looks like a sensitive jungle plant, but is surprisingly durable, and very easy to propagate. Any pruning scraps can be plugged wherever new plants are desired.
The foliage alone is striking. Some might say that the loosely arranged foliar rosettes are sloppy. Others might say they are sculptural. The long and curved leaves are outfitted with prominent but soft marginal teeth. Some specimens have narrower leaves that are almost curled. ‘Variegata’ is striped with creamy white. Mature plants may form dense mounds more than six feet high. Hummingbirds and bees really dig the flashy bright reddish orange floral trusses that bloom on tall stems in winter.
Most of the brachyscome found in nurseries nowadays are the annual Brachyscome iberidifolia. Perennial species are rare. The name is still often spelled as ‘brachycome’, without the ‘s’, as it had been spelled for decades. Although it is a warm season annual, brachyscome is also popular now because it can bloom better through the locally mild winters than the warmth of mid summer.
The blue, lavender, pink, yellow or pale white flowers are like tiny aster flowers. The finely textured foliage forms soft mounds about a foot deep, or mixes nicely with sturdier plants. Brachyscome might work better as a component to urns of mixed annuals rather than as a uniform bedding plant. It likes full sun exposure, but tolerates a bit of shade. Deadheading promotes continued bloom.
Like euryops daisy, sweet pea shrub and New Zealand tea tree, the blue hibiscus, Alyogyne huegelii, blooms whenever it wants to, even if it wants to bloom sporadically through winter. It should bloom more abundantly in phases though spring and summer, but even that is difficult to predict. The three inch wide flowers are lavender blue, but can be rich purple or white. Pink is very rare.
Young plants can grow quickly but sparsely. Lanky stems can be tip pruned after a spring bloom phase to promote branching and improve density. Growth slows with maturity. Plants can get five feet high and wide in their second year, but might never reach the eaves. They like full sun and shelter from wind, but should not mind a bit of shade. Established plants do not need much water.
It may not always bloom profusely, but sweet pea shrub, Polygala fruticosa, blooms sporadically through most of the year. Even when not much color is evident from a distance, a few flowers can likely be found on closer inspection. For some reason, bloom seems to be quite colorful now. Bloom phases should be more profuse in spring and summer. The pea flowers are soft purplish pink.
Mature plants might only get to two or three feet tall and wide, but have the potential to get larger. They are usually a bit wider than tall, with a nice rounded compact form. The evergreen foliage is slightly grayish light green. Sweet pea shrub prefers full sun exposure, but can get roasted in hot spots. A bit of shade should not be a problem. Once established, it does not need too much water.