Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database


Wallace W Hansen Northwest Native Plant Journal
Northwest Native Plant Newsletter and Journal, July - August 2000


1 - "To Do" List For Native Plants for Summer 2000

2 - Pacific Rhododendrons & Western Azalea - Beautiful Natives!

3 - Native Plants As Food For Early Native Americans

4 - Semi-Hardwood Cuttings In July & August

5 - Seductive Beauties Of The Northwest -- Tiger Lilies & Leopard Lilies!

6 - Follow up On Keeping Deer Out Of Your gardens

7 - Modoc Cypress - Beautiful Northwest Cypress

8 -- Personal Notes

9 - Next Issue


Pacific Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)

1 - "To Do" List For Native Plants For Summer 2000

A - Be careful about using fertilizer for the rest of the year. You do not want to stimulate growth that will put tender growth at risk from early frosts.

B - Get rid of weeds along paths, roads, etc before they go to seed. Cut and haul away, burn (careful!), kill with mild Round Up (nothing stronger), rent some goats, or whatever.

C - Collect seeds of native perennials, shrubs and trees. Dry a bit, label and store and process later as appropriate. As we have discussed many times, some seeds can be planted directly in the fall, other must be treated to break dormancy.

D - Keep watering young plants through August and maybe a bit in September, but then taper off to prepare the plants for first frost.

E - Start planning fall plantings! Mostly plant in late September and October. The ground is warm and even though deciduous plants lose their leaves, the roots will grow and get ready for Spring, 2001!

2 - Pacific Rhododendrons & Western Azaleas- Beautiful Natives!

These two related species really represent the beauty of the northwest. One is evergreen, one is deciduous. Use these two plants generously in your native gardens and larger projects.

Rhododendron macrophyllum (Pacific Rhododendron)

These beautiful and sturdy evergreen shrubs get to 10 ft. and larger. They thrive from British Columbia to northern California and part way up the Cascades, perhaps to the 1000 ft. level. Sun or shade but seem to prefer light shade, often on the edge of heavily forested areas. Large clumps of pink-purple flowers. This is one of my favorites. You northwest folks should use this Rhodie as your basic larger evergreen shrub. This Rhodie is a "sprouter." If the above ground portion is cut off or burned, it will sprout again - like the mythical Phoenix Bird that arises from the ashes!

Save seeds and grow your own. Collect fresh in the fall and sow at once on a bed of damp, fine peat moss. Do not add any peat moss cover but keep covered with plastic until the seeds germinate. You can also propagate by cuttings or layering.

The Japanese Root Weevil likes Rhodies. Watch for neat square notches in the leaves. This is caused by the insect form of the root weevil - notched leaves may be unsightly but not serious damaged. - The real trouble-makers are the grubs that hatch from the eggs that the flies deposit in the soil at the base of the shrub. These nasty little varmints eat up the roots and may "do in" the plant. Orthene is the best spray for the fly in July and August. To go after the grubs, I suggest beneficial nematodes when the soil is 50 degrees or warmer. They can be purchased in packages, contained on small sponges. Put the sponge in water, stir and pour about one quart around each plant. These beneficial nematodes eat up the grubs.

Use these fine native Rhodies for hedges and borders and in dense clumps at attractive spots in your gardens.

Rhododendron occidentale (Western Azalea)

This is the deciduous cousin of the Pacific Rhodie, but not quite so hardy. Found from southwest Oregon to southern California. A loosely branched shrub to 10 ft. Beautiful white flowers, tinged with pink. Will grow in sun or shade - probably very light shade the best (a little more sun that Pacific Rhodie). I grow from seed, treated almost the same as the Pacific Rhodie, above.

The Western Azalea is a beauty in its own right but also serves as a parent for many lovely hybrids. As you look at the many hybrid azaleas in "regular" garden stores, remember that in many, the "blood" of the Western Azalea runs strong and deep. Why not have the original beautiful charmer in your garden? What a delightful companion to the native Pacific Rhodie.

3 - Native Plants As Food For Early Native Americans

As you learn about native plants, as you appreciate their beauty and dignity, you might begin to wonder which of these plants were used as food by the early Native Americans. The answer is interesting and may enhance your appreciation of our Pacific northwest plants.

Early Native Americans in western Washington and western Oregon lived on fish, game, insects, roots, berries and nuts that abounded here. The game, fish and insects are another matter. Here is my list and comments on native plants eaten by early Native Americans, gathered from research and tempered by experience.

Camas, mostly C. quamash but some C. leilchtlinii - boiled and baked, starch like a potato: good.

Garry Oak (Quercus garryana var. garryana) - acorns: OK.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia) - berries: tart & seedy, but good.

Service Berry (Amalanchier alnifolia) - fruit: nice.

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) - fruit: fairly good.

Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. californica) - nuts: tasty.

Little Wild Blackberry (Rubus ursinus) - fruit: what wonderful pies!!

Native onions (Allium) - whole plant: OK, typical onion.

Woods Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) - fruit: small but very tasty.

Tiger Lily (Lilium columbiana) - bulb: nutritious but not very tasty.

Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria affinis) - bulb: same as Tiger.

Bracken Fern -- new shoots: a main food - you can survive!

Bittercherry (Prunus emarginata) - fruit: OK if starving.

Blackcap (Rubus leucodermis) - fruit: quite nice - a raspberry.

Blue Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) - fruit: fair for dessert!

Dwarf Huckleberry (Vaccinium caespitosum) - fruit: tasty.

Mountain Huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) - fruit: the very best!

Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) - fruit: tart but OK.

Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) - fruit: small but good huck flavor.

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) - Don't mix with Giant Cow Parsnip - Deadly Poison!

Wild Carrot - roots: never tried this one.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) - fruit: good for Sunday early breakfast.

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) - fruit: good with cream.

Fireweed (Chaerion angustifolium var. canescens) - Never tried this.

Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia) - roots: Lewis & Clark ate Wapato and Elk meat when in Oregon.

Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) - new shoots: will keep you alive during a famine (starvation diet).

Tarweed ( Madia) - Burn off tar and use seeds for food: (Good??)


4 - Semi-Hardwood Cuttings in July and August

Semi-hardwood cuttings are usually taken in late June, July and August. These cuttings are taken as the new growth hardens. If you go too late into the summer, you will not get enough roots to survive through the winter. I suggest you try some of these native shrubs: Blueblossom (Ceanothus thrysiflorus), Western Clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia), Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), Honeysuckle (Lonicera), Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii), Nine Bark (Physicarpus), Crabapple (Malus), Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana), Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana). Rhodies, Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum), Roses, Elderberry (Sambucus), Spirea and Snowberry (Symphoricarpos). Select clean new growth stems and collect in early morning when cool. Cut a section of stem with two or more buds or leaves on the stem. The lower cut is just below a bud and the upper just above a bud. Strip off all but 1 or 2 leaves on top. The base end of the cutting is dipped in rooting hormone and then "stuck" in a tray containing a moist mix of pumice or sand and peat moss. Have an arrangement to keep the plants constantly moist (nearly 100% humidity) and in a position to receive sunlight (but do not overheat.) You can achieve 100% humidity by rigging an enclosed plastic environment, or misting frequently by hand or through controlled misting nozzles. Semi-hardwood cuttings must have frequent "misting." Be patient. It takes weeks for roots to develop. Don't keep pulling out plants to see if they have roots. You can tell if roots are developing if you tug gently on the stem and there is resistance.

Maybe this involves a lot of attention and why not just buy the plant? Well, it is like going fishing. You spend hundreds of dollars for $3.00 worth of fish - there are some things that are not measured in dollars and creating a new plant with your own hands and skills may well be worth the effort!

5 - Seductive Beauties of the Northwest - Tiger Lilies & Leopard Lilies

In the early Spring, the Trilliums bloom in the damp forests - drifts of beautiful white, prim and proper little Nuns - members of some mysterious woodland order with strict rules and behavior codes. In the summer the forest and prairie mood changes and the seductive Tiger Lilies and Leopard Lilies flaunt their stunning beauty in warm, flashy colors - shameless little hussies inviting the bees to visit them - how I love them!

Tiger Lilies (Lilium columbianum)

These can get 8 ft. tall, but in my garden they are much shorter. Each stem can have from 6 to 10 pendulous turk's cap blossoms in wonderful yellow to orange red colors with spots. The lower leaves are whorled and the upper leaves are scattered. This is a hardy plant, found on both sides of the Cascades from British Columbia to California and into Idaho and Nevada, Large white segmented bulbs. I propagate by breaking off bulb scales and placing in plastic bags with some fine pumice and a herbicide powder. Then I keep in the warm house and watch every week. Many send out small roots and then, with extreme loving care, you have a new plant. You will need to wait several years for blooming size. Seeds germinate well, but it takes several years again to grow up. Native Americans in the northwest dug and ate these bulbs, spring, summer and fall. They were boiled or roasted and sometimes dried after cooking for winter use.

Leopard Lilies (Lilium pardalinum)

Found in southwestern Oregon. They are not as hardy as Tiger Lilies, but sooooo beautiful. Again, they have pendulous turk's cap blossoms - orange red to crimson with deep maroon spots. Can get to 10 ft. tall, but not in my gardens. I propagate these just like Tiger Lilies - a rather slow process.

Both of these native lilies are hard to find. Try to find locally. Best bet is to find plants and get permission to collect the seeds. Plant in the fall in a peat moss soil, dampened and covered with plastic to keep from drying out. Plant as soon as the seeds are ripe. May take two years to germinate. If you have bulbs, you can break off a few segments when the bulb is dormant and proceed as I mentioned above. The bulb will still grow OK.

6 - Follow Up On Keeping Deer Out Of your Gardens

In an earlier issue, I discussed the common problem of keeping deer out of your native plant gardens. In the early spring I needed to protect an area about 100 ft. by 200 feet from a gang of bold deer. I use this gravel area to place plastic pots containing various native plants for the summer growing season. The area is irrigated by overhead sprinklers, on a daily basis. I found a catalog from a company named Gempler's in Wisconsin. They advertised a 7 ft. high black tough plastic netting, nearly invisible, at about $50 for a 100 ft. roll. I bought enough rolls of netting and then located 10 ft. steel posts. We drove these into the ground 2 ft., at 15 ft. intervals and rigged two gates of the same netting. Results? So far, very very good. The deer will not jump this "fence," the top of which is 8 feet above the ground. The netting is not ugly and hardly noticeable. We installed the "fence" in three hours. You need some device to pound in the tall steel posts. I hope this helps some of you who have fought this battle for a long time. Maybe your local garden or farm store carries this material.

7 - Modoc Cypress, Beautiful Northwest Cypress!

Cupressus bakeri, often called Modoc Cypress, Baker Cypress and Siskiyou Cypress. This is the only cypress that I know of, that gets into Oregon. This rare tree is found only in small. Isolated areas in southwest Oregon and in northern California. Most garden folks have never heard about it. To get to the Oregon sites, one must hike in. Modoc refers to a tribe of American Indians in southwestern Oregon - there was some flare-ups earlier between the Modocs and the white settlers.

Modoc Cypress is a beautiful tree, about 50 ft. tall and a foot or so in diameter. The foliage is beautiful - a sort of gray green, hard to explain color. It will be interesting and important to get some stands of this unique tree, established in other northwest areas. Open, spreading branches with aromatic twigs. Modoc cypress likes well drained soil. It's usual home is in the 3000 to 7000 ft. level.

Modoc Cypress reproduces by seed only. The cones are unique. They only open from heat or very old age. Seeds are dropped from the cones to the ground, months after a fire. Reproduction in natural areas occurs only after fires - a crop of seedlings shoot up after a fire occurs every 20 - 50 years. The mother trees probably die in the fire. What a survival mechanism, what a design, what a plan! This native likes sun - no shade please! And do not overwater small seedlings. I hope some of you will grow this rare native!

8 - Personal Notes

Summertime! The Gentle Season! The frenzied energy of Spring has given way to a gentle, reflective mood. Enjoy your gardens, large or small, especially in the cool of the evening. Savor the moment - the fleeting hour. Gardens soften life. Gardens evoke memories of childhood, perhaps a childhood that never really was as we remember. Somehow, the emotions, feelings, imagination. mystery and wonder as we became aware of our world, lingers on. Maybe it is good -healthy to revisit and remember and renew. We cannot be a child again, but can we in some way renew and enrich our lives in our gardens?

I have a four year old Grandson, Ethan - a city boy (lives in an apartment). Last week he visited here at my nursery and gardens. He is a very gentle boy. Somehow, when here, he became a country boy. He went into a wilder part of my gardens and soon brought me, ever so gently and careful in his tanned little hands, two baby hummingbirds. We, of course, hurried to the nest - (how sharp his eyes to ever see the nest!) - on a stout Himalayan Blackberry vine, camouflaged so skillfully! The inside of the nest was built by a master builder - soft down, seamless, clean, perfect. Ethan gently put the baby hummingbirds back, in the nest while the Mama swooped overhead. The babies were so fat they filled the small nest to the brim! Afterward, I thought of that wonderful poem by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 - 1892). The Barefoot Boy. Let me quote a few lines:

"Blessings on thee, little man,

Barefoot boy with cheek of tan!

With thy red lip, redder still, Kissed by strawberries on the hill:

Oh, for boyhood's painless play,

Sleep that wakes in laughing day,

Health that mocks the doctor's rules,

Knowledge never learned in schools,

Of the wild bee's morning chase,

Of the wild flower's time and place . . .

I hope the child in you never goes away - keep some of the wonder of the little girl or the little boy with you always. We never really grow up, you know. Gardens both bring us close to nature and the good things of life and renews our sense of awe and mystery of youth which is also a part of reality.

As our amazing scientists unlock genetic codes and some of life's mysteries, more mysteries and wonders appear! The more we know, the less we know. Learn all you can of science and pure knowledge but keep a strong hold on that other part of your being that may be found in your gardens - that deeper part that reaches back into the womb of time.

9 - Next Issue

Topics planned include:

A -- Get ready for those easy Winter Cuttings!

B -- Pacific Wax Myrtle - A Little Known Native

C -- Recommended Natives For Fall Planting

D -- About Using Native Bareroot Plants This Winter

E -- And Much More!

E-mail comments are welcome. (Note from Jennifer: As did Wally, I also welcome your email comments!)

Good Luck!


Contact:  star@chillirose.com ~ Copyright 2011 Wallace W. Hansen ~ All rights reserved