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Growing native plants in the willamette valley
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Growing native plants in the willamette valley


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Many gardeners want to know how to incorporate Oregon native plants into their existing gardens. This presentation was created for the St. Paul Garden Club, but the information is relevant to many …

Many gardeners want to know how to incorporate Oregon native plants into their existing gardens. This presentation was created for the St. Paul Garden Club, but the information is relevant to many gardeners in the region.

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  • 1. Growing Native Plants in the Willamette Valley
    Linda R McMahan
    Oregon State University Extension Service
    Deer fern at Connie Hanson Garden, Lincoln City
  • 2. What is so different about gardening here in Oregon?
    • Dry summers and wet winters
    • 3. Extreme variability of soils – clay to rock
    • 4. Mild temperatures generally
    Maidenhair fern at a public garden
  • 5. Why grow native plants?
    • Easy to care for
    • 6. Natural beauty
    • 7. Nurture wildlife
    • 8. Fit into our existing gardens
    • 9. Are not invasive plants—it’s their home!
    Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllumlanatum) with nasturtium-private garden
  • 10. Examples of Gardens with Native Plants
    Lady fern at the Connie Hanson Garden, Lincoln City
    Athyriumfilix-femina is delicate, can grow tall in ideal conditions, but is deciduous and requires wet habitat
  • 11. Native plants at Shore Acres State Park near Coos Bay
    Sword fern and salal outside of the more formal entrance to the gardens
  • 12. B&B native plant garden in the Cascade Mountains
    Native sedums in whimsical pots-at least 4 sedums are native to Oregon
  • 13. B&B, Cascade Mountains
    Sword fern, rock, and an old tree trunk
  • 14. B&B, Cascade Mountains
    Oxalis oreganaand Piggy-back plant (Tolmiea menziesii) mixed groundcover
  • 15. Private garden, Portland Oregon
    Stream plant, Darmerapeltatum used in a garden setting
  • 16. Private Garden, Portland, OR
    Emerging false hellebore (Veratrumcalifornicum) growing through decomposing ash leaves
  • 17. Private Garden, Portland, Oregon
    Salal (Gaultheria shallon) and sword fern on a decaying stump
  • 18. Public Library, McMinnville OR
    Red flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum
  • 19. Native Plant Garden, McMinnville Library
    Coltsfoot, Petasitesfrigidus, in early spring
  • 20. Waterfront park, Corvallis Oregon
    Oregon iris, Iris tenaxwith blue fescue
  • 21. Private Garden, Corvallis, OR
    Hedged red flowering currant next to a magnolia
  • 22. Private Garden, Beaverton Oregon
    Sword fern (Polystichummunitum) and groundcover oxalis (Oxalis oregana) in a side garden path
  • 23. Ask yourself: Why do we garden the way we do?
    We copy what we see and remember: family, friends, neighbors
    Our gardening traditions are from England
    Today, we are seeing new ways to garden (restoration for example)and we copy that too,
    Connie Hanson Garden, Lincoln City, Oregon
  • 24. History Lesson on Native Plant Gardening
    The Victorian Era in the British Isles
    Formal gardens of London’s Crystal Palace and the informal lines of a William Robinson landscape Photos: Wikipedia
  • 25. The Wild Gardening Tradition
    In the 1890’s, Scottish gardener William Robinson reacted to Victorian “excess” by promoting Wild Gardening—note this was gardening in a naturalistic style, not necessarily with native plants
    Robinson’s house and garden: Wikipedia
  • 26. One of Robinson’s colleagues promoted new styles that led to border gardens
    Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932 popularized the idea of the informal border in many publications and garden designs. The “natural” style caught on and remains popular today.
    A modern “border garden”
  • 27. Experimented widely with southeast native plants, including Osage orange as a hedge, at his Monticello home
    Sponsored Lewis and Clark Expedition
    Thomas Jefferson
    Photos: Wikipedia
  • 28. “Father of American Horticulture”
    Professor, Cornell
    Created first US horticulture compendia
    Plantsman & naturalist
    Began program for nature study in NY schools, forerunners of native plant societies
    Liberty Hyde Bailey
    Photo: Wikipedia
  • 29. Essentially, two styles of gardening with native plants have evolved side by side
    Substituting natives for traditional plants and developing “garden-worthy” cultivars
    Gardening with native plants for their own sake in naturalistic landscapes
    Photos: left azalea and sword fern (Polystichummunitum);
    right coltsfoot (Petasitesfrigidus)
  • 30. Another thing -- growing native plants in Oregon is very recent!
    Only in the past 15 to 20 years in Oregon and perhaps 30 or more years in the US, have we explicitly created native plant gardens
    Mixed succulents in a private garden, including Sedum spathulifolium, center
  • 31. Adding Native to Existing Garden – An easy way begin
    • Match conditions of the plants to those of your garden—sun/shade, water use, soil characteristics
    • 32. Start first with well-known natives, such as sword fern and red flowering currant, or established cultivars
    • 33. Choose colorful flowers or foliage, complementing features, and a “tame” habit before you explore other species
    • 34. Look for wildlife value—birds, bees, food and shelter
  • Some Favorite Plants
    Sedum spathlufolium
  • 35. Oregon grape, our state flower
    Berberis (Mahonia) aquifolium, likes full sun, can be easily pruned, attracts pollinators and birds, easy to find
  • 36. Sedum spathulifolium
    Best native sedum, easy for containers or well-drained soil, available at many retail nurseries
  • 37. Heuchera‘Palace Purple’
    A cultivar of Heucheramicrantha, readily available, moist, rich, and well-drained soil
  • 38. Mock orange
    Philadelphuslewesii, available at native plant nurseries and SWCD sales. Fragrant and easy—sun to part shade, moderate water
  • 39. Camas (Camassia)
    Available as a bulb in better garden centers, needs wet winters and dry summers—no problem for us!
  • 40. Wild Strawberry
    Fragariachiloensis, coast or dune strawberry, and other species--vigorous ground-cover, sun/part shade, bees and birds, easily available
  • 41. Epilobiumcanum(Zauschneriacalifornicum)
    California fuchsia, full-sun, spreads slowly, attracts hummingbirds, fall bloomer
  • 42. Vancouveriahexandra
    Shade-loving deciduous groundcover, duck-foot plant
  • 43. Vine Maple
    Acer circinatum, best in part shade, some have good fall color, bird-friendly
  • 44. Stream Violet
    Viola glabella, accent or groundcover, drought tolerant, butterfly host plant
  • 45. Red Twig Dogwood
    Cornussericia, wet or dry, large, prune from the base, berries attract birds
  • 46. Red Flowering Currant
    Ribes sanguineum, February/March bloomer attracts hummingbirds, also bees. Blue/black berries are edible and a bird favorite, many cultivars available
  • 47. Check out the recommended requirements for each species
    Provide water to establish, even if the species is drought-hardy
    Refrain from too much fertilizer-plants are usually adapted to our typical soils
    Cultural Requirements
    Douglas iris and Viola adunca
  • 48. Leave enough space—some natives may grow larger than anticipated
    Many can be hedged, but some gardeners prefer the natural forms
    Prune multi-stemmed shrubs from the base
    Cultural Requirements
    Desert Parsely and snowberry
  • 49. Don’t assume plants are “deer-proof”
    If you want plants to self-seed or provide berries for wildlife, don’t dead-head the flowers
    Cultural Requirements
    Ocean spray and osoberry
  • 50. For More Information!
    Kruckeberg, Arthur R. 1966. Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, 2nd edition, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA
    Yamhill County, OSU Extension Ecogardening at:
    Selecting native plants for home landscapes in Central Oregon at:
    Oregon Flora Project (interactive maps and photos) at:
  • 51. Thank You!
    Linda R McMahan
    Oregon State University Extension Service, Yamhill County
    Unless noted, photographs are by the author. This presentation is copyrighted by Oregon State University. Material may be used freely for educational purposes. For other uses, please contact the author.
    Rosa sp. – wild rose