Botanical Rambles

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Plant Profile: Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea, a.k.a. Cornus stolonifera)

Legler_Cornus
Why choose red-osier dogwood?  This fast-growing shrub pleases every month of the year. During dark winter days, its red twigs glow under sunny or gray skies. Leafing out, the shrub forms a fresh green backdrop to its own clusters of creamy-white flowers and to other spring-bloomers. Red-osier dogwood will often bloom into late fall, so that you can see it with both flowers and its blue-white berries when the leaves turn yellow or maroon.  What it can do in the garden Red-osier dogwood...
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Native vs. Nonnative Plants in Pollinator Gardens

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​It seems these days that questions about butterfly and pollinator gardens have moved on from "why?" to "what shall we plant?"—with the conversation often turning to whether or not it is better to plant native species than nonnative ones. Led by Andrew Salisbury of the Royal Horticultural Society, a team of researchers in Britain undertook a four-year study to try to provide an answer. Their work was published in May 2017 in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation .  The research was done...
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The Holly and the Ivy…Festive, but Not in Your Forest!

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Tip of the Holly This is an English holly ( Ilex aquifolium , see photo below) that I pulled out of the ground. What I want to impress upon you are the measurements. From the top to the root collar is about 12 inches. The root then extends another 36 inches. Folks, that's a 2-to-1 root-to-shoot ratio. Maybe they should change the expression "tip of the iceberg" to "tip of the holly." Can you imagine what the root system is like on larger hollies? This is one of the big problems with this invasiv...
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Riparian Planting in Eastern Washington

Stream Stewardship
I visited several salmon restoration projects in the Yakima Basin at the end of October, and I was excited to see the progress being made to restore native willows, cottonwood, red-osier dogwood, and grasses in old road beds, formerly channelized streams, and other challenging sites. Some resources about planting along streams and rivers in eastern Washington have crossed my path recently, and I thought I would share them with you. The first is a save-the-date announcement from Heather Simmons a...
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Washington’s Cherries

Washington’s Cherries
When I was growing up, February had a lot going for it, with three holidays. Lincoln's birthday (February 12 th —studying by firelight; Honest Abe; top hats), Valentine's Day (February 14 th —giving, and hopefully receiving, Valentine cards; candy hearts; a stomach ache by nightfall), and Washington's birthday (February 22 nd —noble profile; wooden teeth; cherry pie). Two days off, with romance in between! What I most remember learning about George Washington in elementary school was that he cho...
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Plant Profile: Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)

Plant Profile: Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)
It's that Valentine's Day time of year, and hearts and flowers are on everyone's mind. This week I'm expanding on a short piece I wrote for WNPS a few years ago that appeared in the Seattle Times ( here it is in the Times ) and other papers around the state. Pacific Bleeding Heart ( Dicentra formosa ) Why it's choice This perennial's lacy leaves and delicate pink flowers belie its rugged disposition. Pacific bleeding heart's blue-green foliage and heart-shaped blossoms lighten up full to part sh...
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February: Time to Plan

February: Time to Plan
As I write this, it's a bit soggy and cold and gray. Out in the garden, though, buds on evergreen huckleberry ( Vaccinium ovatum ) are pinking up, the hazelnut ( Corylus) catkins are starting to dangle, and the inflorescences of the red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum ) on the south side of the house are busting open. February is a month of possibilities and planning. Here are a few of the many offerings from the Washington Native Plant Society and friends. Photo Contest: deadline February 1...
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Western Hemlock: A Grinch of Greens

Western Hemlock: A Grinch of Greens
Many of us bring evergreen boughs or trees into the house this time of year. And how many of us have made the mistake of bringing Western hemlock ( Tsuga heterophylla ) into our homes—only to find needles everywhere. Everywhere, no matter how fresh the branches. The Internet tells us that hemlocks are "not the best" for seasonal decorations. When I worked at the University of Washington Herbarium, occasionally I would get a request for a specimen of Washington's state tree, western hemlock, from...
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Plant Profile: Snow Buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum)

Plant Profile: Snow Buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum)
Autumn is coming, and the number of plants still flowering diminishes this time of year. Snow Buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum) is one you can often find in bloom through September in eastern Washington. This plant profile was originally published, in slightly different form, as part of a native plant spotlight series.   Why Choose It? With frosty-green leaves and long-lasting sprays of tiny white to pink flowers, Snow Buckwheat cools the eye in late summer and early fall. Happy on little water,...
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A Great Fall Berry from The Forest: Blue Elderberry

A Great Fall Berry from The Forest: Blue Elderberry
Blue elderberry is one of the great plants of the Pacific Northwest forest. I have found this berry in nearly every county of Washington State. It grows in wet, cool shady areas. It produces great berries that are prized for their flavor by both humans and wildlife. Native people have used it for as a medicinal plant and to make small flutes or whistles from its stems. Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea (formerly Sambucus caerulea ), the scientific name for the blue elderberry, is different from the S...
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Join the Celebration: Native Plant Appreciation Week 2016

Join the Celebration: Native Plant Appreciation Week 2016
Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed April 24 through May 1, 2016 to be Native Plant Appreciation Week across Washington State—and you're invited to help the Washington Native Plant Society celebrate. The Washington Native Plant Society is 40 years old this year, and it's Washington's 12 th year of celebrating our flora with Native Plant Appreciation Week. Take a trip I've been traveling across Washington for work lately, and botanizing from behind the wheel (safely, of course). It's been my pleas...
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Plant Profile: Red-Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)

Plant Profile: Red-Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)
I have several white-flowered bushes of Ribes sanguineum in my garden, and when they burst into bloom they cause a number of trite similes to come to mind. Their abundance is like a frothy cascade, a bridal veil, a waterfall…you get the idea. My shrubs came from a start supplied to me by Dr. Eugene Kozloff , well-known as a zoologist and author—and less well-known as a chronic plant propagator and generous plant dispenser. They bloom earlier in my garden than the red cultivars, and the hummingbi...
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January 2016 News and Notes from WNPS

January 2016 News and Notes from WNPS
Botanical Rambles wishes you a happy new year and offers you this capacious—but nowhere near exhaustive—list of things to do and learn. Contents Washington Native Plant Society News Kudos! WNPS Chapter News WNPS Chapter Activities Conservation—Opportunity to comment Trainings Volunteer Opportunities Grant Opportunities Plant Sales Washington Native Plant Society News The WNPS Office Welcomes Visitors. Located in Seattle's Magnuson Park, the office is generally staffed Monday–Thursday, 9:00am to ...
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Winter Berries for the Birds

Winter Berries for the Birds
On a cold fall day, I stand at my back door near Snohomish watching leaves lifted and tossed as if by an invisible wind. Leaves seem to bounce off the ground as I count a dozen orange and black birds rummaging under the bushes as if going through yesterday's trash. I realize a flock of varied thrush ( Ixoreus naevius ) have arrived. For the next several months, they will subsist on a buffet of bugs and berries in my small garden. Highbush Cranberry in the Garden Many years ago, I planted half a ...
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Vine Maple Variations

Vine Maple Variations
The vine maple ( Acer circinatum )—what's not to like? Well, if you don't like something about one vine maple, look again, a second one may give you what you want. Don't like the color? Try the one down the street. Too big? Too small? Too short? Too tall? You don't have to be Goldilocks to find the A. circinatum just right for you! General Characteristics Before talking about the differences, let's describe the characteristics that apply to all vine maples and help us identify the species. Eithe...
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