Award Winning Native Plants for the Maritime Pacific Northwest
Great Plant Picks
From By Peggy Anne Montgomery
The next plant award in our series called “Don’t Take Our Word for it” are Great Plant Picks. It’s is an educational program committed to building a comprehensive palette of outstanding plants for maritime Pacific Northwest gardens. To date over 800 exceptional plants have been chosen for gardeners living west of the Cascade Mountains from Oregon to British Columbia. I slipped in one or two from Northern California as well.
In this article, I’ll be highlighting native plant selections and some of their cultivars, whether they are naturally occurring or not. I hope this gives you a broad view and helps remind you that the straight species discussed are all winners. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, Great Plant Picks is a fantastic resource for you.
This reliable West Coast native iris is floriferous and resilient. Attracts bees and butterflies.TOUGH-LEAF IRIS
Prosartes smithii syn. Disporum smithii
LARGE FLOWERED FAIRY BELLS
White, bell-shaped flowers bloom in early summer. In late summer, bright orange-red berries dangle from the tips.
GIANT WHITE WAKEROBIN, SWEET TRILLIUM
This fantastic native trillium sports large while blossoms. Take a moment to enjoy the distinct rose-like fragrance of this woodland beauty.
This handsome native will form a natural groundcover. Dainty white flowers are somewhat reminiscent of tiny parachutists falling from the sky.
Sky blue, star-shaped flowers bloom in late spring and early summer. This is one of the few bulbs that will happily naturalize in moist soils near ponds and streams.
Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Van den Akker’
NARROW ALASKAN YELLOW CEDAR
The species is native. This is a strongly weeping form that is stays quite slender, just a foot or two wide. Useful in smaller gardens.
Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’
BLEEDING HEART DICENTRA
The species is native. This bleeding heart is a reliable performer and is valued for its compact habit and long season of bloom.
Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf's Pyramid’
The species is native. Soft, very blue evergreen needles have a distinctive twisting habit. Makes a fine vertical accent or specimen tree.
Zauschneria septentrionalis ‘Select Mattole’
The species is native. The frosted silver leaves are a spectacular contrast to the bright orange tubular flowers that bloom from mid-summer to mid-fall.
A charming native bellflower that is much tougher than its delicate looks suggest. Prune hard after the first flush of flowers to encourage a second round of blooms.
Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’
The species is native. This cultivar has bright yellow foliage. It tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, including heavy clay, as long as the drainage is good.
This unusual bulb prefers well-drained soil with full sun, but will tolerate clay. The long lasting, lilac-purple flowers are great for flower arrangements.
Dichelostemma ida-maia ‘Pink Diamond’
PINK FIRECRACKER FLOWER
The species is native. A favorite of gardeners for its unusual and eye-catching firecracker-like blooms. Attracts hummingbirds.
CREEPING OREGON GRAPE
The tightly bunched, bright yellow flowers are a sure sign that spring is on it’s way. An excellent choice for a tough, low groundcover.
Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor’
The species is native. In late spring and early summer the petite shrub is covered with white blossoms. Easy to grow, has an attractive compact habit and great fall color.
Triteleia ixioides ‘Starlight’
YELLOW FOOL’S ONION
The species is native. This West Coast native bulb blooms in late spring to early summer with striking two-inch long, pale-yellow, star shaped flowers.
Triteleia laxa ‘Queen Fabiola’
BLUE FOOLS ONION
The species is native. It is a great addition for sunny spots that do not get watered in the summer or plant in masses through low ground cover to add a little seasonal color.
This tall bellflower is a classic, cottage garden perennial. Along with the species, two cultivars: ‘Loddon Anna’ and ‘Prichard's Variety’ were also winners that year.
Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’
RED-TWIG OR RED-OSIER DOGWOOD
The species is native. This is a classic red-twig dogwood with brilliant red winter stems which are particularly showy against the grey skies of winter.
The umbrella plant is a big plant that needs a substantial space. Its bold foliage definitely attracts attention. Perfect for moist locations.
Darmera peltata ‘Nana’
DWARF UMBRELLA PLANT
The species is native. This is a dwarf form of the species and is much better suited to smaller urban landscapes. Attracts bees and butterflies.
Gymnocarpium disjunctum syn. Gymnocarpium dryopteris
COMMON OAK FERN
Give oak fern ample space to spread and weave itself through taller plants or use as a groundcover under rhododendrons.
Oxalis oregana (evergreen form)
EVERGREEN REDWOOD SORREL
Redwood sorrel is a terrific, evergreen groundcover for shady sites. The tiny, star-shaped flowers, bloom sporadically in shades of pink to white, all season long.
The early spring flowers have a spicy fragrance and are a favorite of over-wintering hummingbirds. The cultivar‘Pulborough Scarlet’ was chosen as a winner the same year.
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’
The species is native. This cultivar waschosen for it’s unique spring and summer foliage that has a distinctive beaded look.
Only about 5 percent of the true native Garry oak ecosystem remains in B.C., Washington and Oregon, so thinking of Garry oaks may get you thinking of other native plantings.
Excellent garden plant, albeit for the larger garden or park. Also valued for it’s size, soft-green needles and its thick, (fire-resistant!), red-brown bark.
WESTERN WILD GINGER
Grows as an understory plant in our forests, so it is accustomed to dry, shady locations. This is one of the few wild gingers that have a fair degree of slug resistance.
This small, fragile-looking native fern is incredibly tough once established. Easy to grow in dry shade.
Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’
The species is native. This cultivar is a vigorous climber that bears deeply lobed, bright greenish-yellow leaves. The “hops” are quite pretty in fall floral arrangements.
Pinus contorta var. contorta
It is one of the few conifers that tolerates wet places as long as water is not standing all year long. It is also tolerant of salt spray and is drought once established.
Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’
GOLDEN FALSE ACACIA, GOLDEN LOCUST
The species is a remarkably tough tree, growing vigorously in poor soil and in polluted urban conditions. This cultivar hasbrilliant lemon-yellow leaves that are a beacon in the spring.
Few plants can rival the beauty of a giant trillium. Be sure to smell the blooms and enjoy the unexpected rosy fragrance.
You may have seen this native wildflower when hiking in our Pacific Northwest forests. Beautiful planted with other spring wildflowers.
This native conifer is considered the standard for a beautiful Christmas tree shape. When crushed, grand fir needles emit a characteristic northwest woodland fragrance of citrus and pine.
QUAMASH, INDIAN HYACINTH, CAMAS
This easy to grow native bulb produces showy spikes of violet-blue flowers in May. They are brilliant when planted en masse.
It is effective as a specimen and equally beautiful massed as a tall groundcover. Even in dry shade under the dense growth of Douglas firs.
Petite white flowers bloom in spring giving way to succulent blue-black berries by late summer. These make delicious jams or jellies.
Acer circinatum ‘Monroe’
CUTLEAF VINE MAPLE
This species is native. It was discovered in Oregon by Portland resident Warner Monroe, brought into cultivation in 1965, and named by Brian Mulligan, former director of Washington Park Arboretum.
WESTERN MAIDENHAIR FERN
The Western maidenhair is one of the most graceful and beautiful of our native ferns and adds a soft texture to shady gardens.
Blechnum spicant is a charming native fern that is one of the best textural plants for the woodland garden. An evergreen fern with three-season appeal.
The dark green foliage is soft to the touch and has a wonderful cedar-like fragrance that permeates the air in warm weather. It makes an excellent vertical accent or a backdrop in the landscape.
CASCADE OREGON GRAPE
Forms a loose groundcover with lustrous emerald leaves. Panicles of yellow flowers bloom in May and waxy blue berries appear in autumn. It is adaptable to difficult growing situations.
Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Glaucum’
BLUE-NEEDLED GIANT SEQUOIA
The species is native. This blue-needled selection that great color and is very effective as a focal point. Stands out beautifully against dark green conifers.
Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Pendulum’
WEEPING GIANT SEQUOIA
The species is native. The branches on this selection are tightly pendulous and conform to the trunk. When space allows it is best planted in small groups of five or seven.
Vine maple is very closely related to Japanese maples and has the same versatility in the small garden or woodland, but with a more relaxed feel.
Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Prince’ syn. Aster lateriflorus‘Prince’
The species is native to British Columbia. In late summer to early fall a profusion of starry white flowers, blushed with pink and purple cover the plant.
Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’
WEEPING ALASKAN YELLOW CEDAR
The species is native. A strong upright trunk with sweeping arched branches, hang like curtains of dark green foliage. Once established, it is drought tolerant and easy to grow.
Ribes sanguineum is a tough, durable and beautiful native shrub. Two cultivars were chosen in 2002. The first is ‘Kind Edward the VII’ selected for it’s deep pinkish red flowers. The second selection was ‘White Icicle’, selected for it’s white blooms.
It develops into a slender small tree with gracefully layered side branches. It is excellent for creating an alpine look in the landscape.
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