Lifestyles

Scents theme for this year's list of outstanding plants for Pacific Northwest

Daphne cneorum (rock daphne) is no slouch when it comes to finding nice plants for your Pacific Northwest garden. - Photo by John Cox
Daphne cneorum (rock daphne) is no slouch when it comes to finding nice plants for your Pacific Northwest garden.
— image credit: Photo by John Cox

The List is out! This year's outstanding plants for growing in the maritime Pacific Northwest.

Every year since 2001, the Elizabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle has sponsored a trial of plant varieties with the purpose of determining which ones grow well in our particular climate.

This covers an area west of the Cascade Mountains from Eugene, Ore., to Vancouver ... and I would argue even further north.

Numerous plants species and cultivars are nominated for trial each year. Not all are selected for scrutiny but the number that are is impressive.

This year alone, the committee of very knowledgeable plant specialists have selected a total of 142 plants for The List.

Each plant in the trial is evaluated for its overall performance in Zone 7 and 8 for growth, flower and fruit production, pest and disease resistance, drought tolerance, soil type ... all with an eye to our Pacific Northwest climate.

The plants selected this year had to also comply with this year's theme: Plants That Make SCENTS.

So they were evaluated for floral and foliage scent ... and broken down into whether the scent was spicy, woodsy or "fresh."

I like that a theme is chosen each year. It provides a focus on plants that perform under certain conditions or have a particularly outstanding feature.

For instance, the theme for 2013 was Plants for Small Spaces; 2012 was Plants Made for the Shade; 2010 was Fantastic Foliage.

Running down the 2014 list, I spotted about two dozen species that we have in our own garden. Fothergilla gardenii (dwarf witch alder), Osmanthus x burkwoodii (hybrid sweet olive), O. delavayi (sweet olive), Philadelphus coronaria 'Aureus' (golden mock orange), Ribes sanguineum 'King Edward VII' (flowering currant) and Rosa 'Hansa' (double pink old-fashioned rose) to name just a few.

Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie' and Daphne tangutica were also noted and we have them both. But I question why these two were in the trial and not Daphne odorata, the most fragrant daphne of them all. Its intoxicating scent fills a substantial area of our garden from early spring almost straight April and well into May. Heavenly.

And Daphne cneorum (rock daphne) is no slouch either.

A neighbour of mine from my Gold River years had three specimens of this daphne species draped down their 12-foot-high concrete retaining wall. Spectacular! And the scent! Truly a delight to walk by.

For obvious reasons there are a number of evergreens on the list for their fragrant foliage. The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), four species of cedar, a juniper and a pine are all on the list.

Some cranesbills, or hardy geraniums, are also noted for their fragrant foliage. A couple of Russian sages (Perovskia spp.) and four cultivars of Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) are flagged for their scented foliage and garden performance.

However, I would dispute the last one for hardiness in a Zone 7 garden as rosemary is not reliably perennial in our garden.

My rosemary plants are kept in pots and given winter protection ... either moved into the greenhouse or at the very least under the eave on my front porch out of the weather.

Rosemary plants aside, I rely heavily on the lists of Great Plant Picks that are put out every year. Each plant on the list has some quick facts noted about it, notes on how to grow it and its outstanding qualities exposed for your reading enjoyment.

And even though we live outside of the specified testing region, you can be fairly certain that most of the plants on their lists will do just fine in your garden.

Visit www.greatplantpicks.org for the complete list.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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