Monthly Top 10 Plants at Campiello Maurizio (April 2023)


Seems a bit late to be posting this, but I needed to wrap up my community college course and just completed my final last week so yay! Now it’s back to more regular posts again. It’s not easy to go to school while working nearly full-time! I salute those of you out there who’ve done so. I had so many hard-working friends at PSU while I was completing my undergraduate degree. Y’all just amaze me.

Last month was kind of “meh” in the garden. I realize now that in my love of heat and the summertime, I’ve kind of ignored spring plantings, so will be adding a few more for next year.

One: This year the large terracotta container of Citrus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ (syn. Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’) bloomed well. Am hoping I’ll have a crop of sweet smelling fruits later this year. While I’ve grown a few citrus plants over the years, I prefer to see them growing other places—since I don’t grow them well. My friend Alex used to have a greenhouse, and he grew the plants more easily. While I do have an outbuilding, I really do hate moving things in an out of it during the winter.

I’m blathering on about all of this because I lost a few citrus plants I’d inherited over the years this past winter. I really need a greenhouse, but do not have the space. THIS ONE THOUGH, it’s hardy, and it bloomed its head off after it had snow dumped on it. It looked at this last winter—and laughed—in flowers.

Slay on flying dragon, slay on!

Two: The Tellima grandiflora I have here is a nice collection given to me by my botanist friend. It came from Pacific County in Washington State and is very fragrant. The plan is to keep growing it, and to collect its seeds to grow more. Fringecups are a wonderful addition to any PNW garden if you’re looking for an easy native plant for damp and shady situations. I may have added this one to a warm and dry spot in order to push it a bit, but I was also hoping to add a shade-making companion plant to the area soon to help it along.

Three: There’s not a lot to say about the Sanicula epipactis (syn. Hacquetia epipactis) other than I fell for the attractive green flowers at some point, and that when I see it in bloom, I smile. Now that the flower has faded, I’m less pleased with it, but it’s not so bad as to make me desirous of its removal. In my garden, it’s grown well so far.

Four: Unlike many of my close friends and gardening community companions I have a lot of Japanese maples. Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’ is by far my favorite. It’s name means drifting of floating clouds and you can maybe see how it could have that look to it.

This to me is a special tree so when I cut down the old apple tree that was part of the original garden plan, I was happy to add this to another side of the back garden.

While it does cost a bit, I highly recommend considering the purchase of one of these.

Five: Alyssum montanum never disappoints in the springtime. This low growing plant in the Brassicaceae family has been blooming in this difficult spot reliably for YEARS.

I think it’s time to divide this clump, and spread it around a bit more in my pride strip aka hellstrip. June is just around the corner and this is part of how I show my support for Pride Month.

Six: Oregon gold thread (Coptis laciniata) is a native plant that gets its common name from the color of its beautiful roots. This is not a plant seen often in cultivation, so if you see it in a nursery, and you have the right spot for it, I suggest you pick it up. Luckily, we were selling some at Secret Garden Growers last year so I gleefully grabbed this one and it’s done WELL in my garden since it was planted. It’s even started to spread a tiny bit. It needs regular moisture and shade, but once established, it will settle in nicely.

Seven: Adorable little woodland blooms don’t feel like me, but well, here we are and it’s the blue of these flowers, set inside of the white, that just sets my heart aflutter. Omphalodes cappavocica ‘Starry Eyes’ is an easy-to-grow perennial and I’ve had it for at least a decade in my garden. The patch seen here is in full shade, and it’s often dry in that spot—but not completely.

Eight: What’s not to like about this Luzula sylvatica now that its grown into this lovely little mop on the ground? I think I picked this one up at Xera Plants and had no idea where it would go until I plopped it down here at some point. I don’t think I had expectations at all, and whatever I had been thinking, this plant has far exceeded those expectations. In this spot in the dry shade this grass has done great. It looks great year round too because it’s in a protected area of the garden.

Nine: Not sure why I have so many native plants in this post, but I do believe that gardens should have as many native plants included as is possible both for a kind of continuity with the surrounding setting, as well as the fact that other living creatures native to this region appreciate having them here in order to survive in one way or another. Besides, I want to remind myself that I’m NOT in control of nature and letting plants go a bit wild has always mattered to me.

The artificiality of perfection in the formal garden, or being told that someone has a “foreign” English garden makes me feel the same as if they’ve said they’ve planted an invasive species. The colonial mindset continues I guess and I’m more than happy to have both my interior cultural projection of my own European heritage, mixed in with a native plant garden with plants representing the region I grew up in and love dearly—to my core.

Mahonia aquifolium is yet one of the native beacon native plants for me. I have two at my house, and I love them throughout the seasons. They’re sited at the “nerve center” of my garden, the heart of it, where I work the most.

They’re also our state flower, and can handle basically any conditions. Mine are both on the southside of the house, they’re not watered a lot, and both get a lot of sun. I love them, they remind me of home, so home is where they’re planted.

Ten: Lastly, our native Thalictrum occidentale is a fun plant with a wide native range. From Alaska to Northern California to Colorado and Wyoming, this plant needs a shady spot with some regular moisture. For me, in my garden, it has spread a bit. I wish I could give it more space. It it an aggressive grower, but it is NOT a thug. Also, at some point, it will all but disappear in my garden as we heat up during the summer. Deciduous perennials will do this. If it was damper and cooler it would likely stick around a bit longer. So by the time I’m tired of it, it’s cooled it heels. So when it returns the next year, I’m always happy to see it again like a friend returning to visit.

It is dioecious, and the male flowers are the showy ones. They have a bit of the wiggle effect on those male flowers. They make me giggle and I have a dirty mind, so I see them as itty bitty tata tassels. Just have to be free to be me sometimes I guess.

So that took a bit longer to complete than I’d wanted it too. You’ll have an update soon on how I feel about the garden THIS month.

I also wanted to mention this podcast I was recently interviewed for and how much fun it was to participate in so be sure to give it a listen and check out the other guests as well.

My Thoughts on Native Plants…


Turns out I know about native plants. Question is, which native plants do I know about, and the answer is… mostly West Coast natives—but all plants are native somewhere, and a good horticulturist knows this, so, I work diligently to better understand growing conditions and climates all over the world.

I want to be not just a good horticulturist, I want to be a responsible one.

Oxalis oregana ‘Klamath Ruby’, a lovely collection originally from the wild, but now widely available in cultivation.

I know a lot of plants, and I’m familiar with many biomes.

It’s always important to know where plants are native to—all over the world. This helps us to better understand how to grow plants in different locations, especially if it is one we’re working on for conservation.

Berries on Aralia californica. Don’t let the name fool you. This plant is also found in SW Oregon.

These topics of conversation are regularly discussed at work and with my friends and colleagues away from work. This is why I don’t write about them here on my site.

I work with experts in this field, and it feels silly to regurgitate the same things they say over and over, but I think in the year to come, I’ll begin to write a bit more about this topic, in my own way, in my own voice.

I’ve just not been comfortable doing so yet. One of the primary reasons for that has been an inability to spend more time in the field. I’m ready for that now.

Viola hallii, one of a handful of amazing violas found in Oregon.

If you want to work in horticulture, and stand out as a great grower or designer, start learning your earth and natural sciences. This goes beyond just traveling to be in the field, and posting pictures as you go. What this entails, is really learning how it all works, and being able to communicate it to others. Just like everything else in life, stories matter.

You can delve into science by reading about it, asking about it, writing about it, or just opening up your mind more to better understand everything around you and how it’s connected.

I know lots of folks with scientific minds, and I’m glad to have always had them in my life. Going back to my youth, it has always mattered a lot to me to have folks to seek out when I wanted to better understand something. Sadly, too many have too much pride to admit they don’t know and they don’t ask.

Science is a group activity. Sadly, not everyone feels comfortable with that “hat on” but that’s often because of incidents where others may have made you feel stupid or even dumb. Don’t let that stop you though, don’t give up, and don’t believe that your brain doesn’t work that way!

Folks can be mean in either direction. As in all things in life, all I can add here is: Don’t Be an Asshole.

Yes, some scientific folks can appear to have poor skills with other people, and yes, those who are not so scientific can seem judgmental and shallow. We can get beyond our differences though if we only realize, we’re not all the same, we don’t have to be, and diversity in people is as important as diversity in other things.

The space between people can get blurry and dangerous when it comes to science. Instead of speaking with ego, try to tell a better story. This can help us to better communicate in either direction, and reach out to one another.

Coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are also found in Oregon, but does this make them native or is it just a small pocket that’s stretched over our border?

Oftentimes I joke about being known more for houseplants than I do for the work I do at Cistus Nursery, and yet, I don’t write much about what I do because I assist in the work of someone else, and it has not become what I do at home.

Fragaria chiloensis is a wide ranging and useful garden plant.

Really, I don’t think it’s unusual to want to have your own thing, but I’ve had to think long and hard about sharing my thoughts about native plants because it means potentially walking into a quagmire.

Seeds from Calycanthus occidentalis collected at work. This is a native shrub we propagate. Usually we make a crop from cuttings, but the seeds are pretty amazing so I collect and grow them sometimes.

While I am a memoirist in a world of plants, I’m not a scientist working through data, but I’ve collected plenty of observations over the years.

Lewisia tweedyi is a stunner.

One of my first lessons was to ask someone who’s more of a botanist at which point does a wild collected plant become a cultivated one.

The answer is the moment you place it in the container and it grows.

This is why so many people often mistakenly dig up things in the wild, and then they fail to prosper, and then the plant dies. A mature wild plant is frequently not cultivated so easily, and this is why it’s best to grow native plants sold in cultivation. I also support the purchase of seeds and plants grown in cultivation by professionals because I believe my industry is an important one and that we have a lot to offer to consumers.

Of course rescue digs on property slated for development is a different matter, and I am happy folks dig in community when possible, but nurseries are great resources worth protecting and sustaining.

Devil’s club is a personal favorite of mine from my childhood. Oplopanax horridus is not exactly a friendly garden plant though with its stems covered in thorns.

I am proud to be part of this process when I grow plants from seed. The seedlings that survive are doing the work for us. They’re the ones that prosper in cultivation. They’re the ones we’re most likely going to succeed with in our gardens. (The same can be said for the vigor of a handful in a batch of cuttings.)

But as my botanist friend would point out, this can also mean that the plants which are dying are possibly better suited for the wild. These are the ones that won’t like the posh comfort of nursery soil and the protection offered in cultivation.

Soils are a BIG deal. I won’t go into all of that here, but as a consumer you’ve likely noticed how many growers use different kinds of soil mixes. A BIG PART of horticulture is understanding how to successfully grow plants in containers. These mixes are akin to the secret sauces created by great chefs lol.

I grew this Iris tenax from seed nearly two decades ago for a garden I once worked in. It was part of a project to restore part of the native oak savannah of the Willamette Valley at that site.

I am not saying a lot, but I think this is enough for now.

The blurred lines between different states in a region are not always the same borders plants pay attention to so we can be a bit open there too, but we could speak more specifically about the different clones, and where they’re collected from since in the long run, much of that does matter.

But not today…

Seeds from the Dicentra formosa plants in my garden. I used to sell fresh seeds of this plant. Give it space to roam in if you choose to plant it in your garden.

So, I will remain honest and transparent about a few things.

First and foremost, I do love our native plants. I love my region of the United States, but it is not a competition. I admire and want to learn about all of the plants all over the world though.

This is why I am not solely a native plant horticulturist.

Mahonia piperiana ‘Spoonleaf’ in the display garden at Cistus Nursery.

I’m challenged by climate change, as we all are, and I believe in creating xeric gardens since wasting a natural resource that’s vital to our survival matters to me. Yes, we use a lot of water in horticulture, but in the future we’ll need to think more about that…

Vaccinium ovatum ‘Cascade Sunburst’ is an amazing ornamental selection of our native evergreen huckleberry.

All plants are native to somewhere. We need to keep saying this. We also need to keep reminding ourselves that they may support more insects in their native range, and that here, even though they might be pretty to our eyes, they’re not sustaining as many insects as native choices, and this means less food for other animals.

Humans have been transporting plants and plant products for various reasons since the very beginning of civilization. We need to think about this too. We’re part of this system, part of the problem, and it is part of who were are, who we have been, and who we will be…

And we should know that diversity is good, and yet, mono cropping means efficiency and more profits. We live between these two realities. This is why I love ecological designs, diversity, and gardeners who understand that plants provide a lot more to us than a refreshing look that makes our minds calm because it is pretty and organized. We need to place more value in this kind of investment.

Pretty can be many things to many people and I am ok with non-native ornamentals mixed in so long as it’s diverse, but let’s still chose to be honest about this system and how virtue signally can be just as negative as creating water-hogging landscapes in deserts.

We can do better on both accounts and I hope we will see change.

One of our many native plants along the Oregon Coast, this is Angelica hendersonii.

I believe in working more and more in the in-between zone, and being receptive to new ideas and change.

Not everyone will want to have purely native plant gardens, and no matter what, more native plants in any region will be better, but this means pushing to have more of them planted in our parks, community gardens, schools, and municipal plantings.

Plants are part of our culture, and we’re sentimentally attached to different ones for our own reasons. When we move around from place to place, we bring those ideas with us, but we need to better appreciate that maybe our sentimental ideas are not good for the planet, and that we can seek out new stories about the plants in our new communities. It’s not easy to have to give up on plants we somehow see as part of our “identities” but our own personal style does not matter as much as we think, and we can make a difference. I think in the last 30 years the concept of many styles of gardens has already changed dramatically, and I love the regional takes on these different looks.

I hope we can keep going with this…

Oxalis oregana in the garden.

Plants speak of place, and an awareness of where we live should be appreciated by us as humans. As I age, and as I watch the internet evolve internationally, sadly, I think I see more and more people living online, carrying this “place” with them in their day-to-day lives.

Thanks to capitalism, we still see much more aspirational content—than inspirational.

It’s part of our human condition I suppose.

One of my favorite plants, Salix scouleriana along the banks of the Columbia River near its mouth.

After many years, I feel like I can quietly enter into this conversation though about native and non-native plants, but on a blog post, don’t expect a well researched or groundbreaking conclusion.

I’m more of a memoirist after all folks, so I won’t try to be a voice I am not.

I’m just going to do what I can, the best that I am able to, and there is no reason I shouldn’t speak up more about sustainable plantings and the importance of the work I do and why I love the different kinds of plants that I help to keep in cultivation and commerce at BOTH of the nurseries where I work.

Lastly, while I am often called a native Oregonian, I cringe more when I hear that. My family has been here since the 1850s, but I am not native here. My family has been here for generations, and I have an incredible attachment to this place, through the stories of my own ancestors, and others. Like many here, I live though on the lands of the Chinookan peoples, and because I grew up with a father who is an avid fisherman, I learned my geography through river drainages. I feel connected to that land in a unique way, and I am very connected to the fish, and to the plants that have protected the fish runs for generations. As for being indigenous, like many other citizens of the US, my paternal line traces back to the Mediterranean and my maternal line returns to Great Britain. Other “tributaries” from North African, the Middle East, and Western Europe flow into the river that is me, but I am not native to this place.

Like many who came before, I’m just passing through.

I want to steward the land, and leave no trace.