READY for 2017? Here’s what we’re working on at Xera.

Every year we focus on certain plants that we feel are excellent. After we have observed them for a number of years we see their star potential. They may be our own introductions, they may be just obscure but they deserve wider distribution. This year we are focused on shrubs. While we have an enormous inventory of Manzanitas there are many new varieties we are bringing to the market. It seems you can never have enough Manzanitas and we think thats the way it should be. Here Are some trees and shrubs whose excellent, reliable performance has impressed us. We love to share these plants with gardeners- discovery on all levels of gardening is a thrill. Check out these five shrubs/trees we are making in quantity. We think they will shine in your garden.

Grevillea x ‘Neil Bell’

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7′ tall and   7′ wide in 5 years

Tomato Red Flowers

Bloom time: Year round

Zone 7b (5º to 10ºF)

Growth rate: Fast

Drought tolerant

Full sun to light shade

Well drained soil

Deer resistant

‘Neil Bell’ Spiderflower

This seedling was found in the garden of OSU extension agent Neil Bell near Monmouth, Oregon. Its parent is likely Grevillea x ‘Constance’. Neil thought it had promise so we took cuttings and what it has yielded is a fantastic shrub. Hardier to cold than its seed parent by a good 10ºF we have never had damage down to 5ºF, extraordinary. Its a handsome fast growing evergreen shrub quickly to 7′ x 7′ in just 5 years. Its best attribute is its YEAR ROUND heavy flowering. Large pendant spiderlike flowers are vivid tomato red and will open happily in all temperatures down to freezing.

The open flowers are cold hardy to approximately 25ºF (-4ºC) and if they are damaged flowers in the bud stage are hardier- protected by fine hairs and subsequent weeks will open happily. Full sun to part shade in the hottest aspect. Not fussy about soil as long as it is never boggy. ‘Neil’ is completely unphased when unirrigated in the hottest weather- never requires summer irrigation.  If your plant is shy to bloom it may be tip pruned at any time of the year. This seems to spur Grevilleas into bloom – just remove the very tip of each branch. It will also increase the shrubs density.

 

Lagerstroemia x fauriei ‘Yuma’

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12′ tall and   6′ wide in 5 years

Light bluish lavender

Bloom time: Late July to Sept.

Zone 6b (-5º to 0ºF)

Growth rate: Moderate

Regular summer water

Full sun

Rich soil, especially clay

Fall color- Orange/red

Bark: Taupe/tan/pink

‘Yuma’ Crape Myrtle

I’ve grown a LOT of Crape Myrtles in Western Oregon and I’ve had about 30 years to sufficiently gauge the best performers. Our summers are not as sweltering as the SE U.S. or interior California and Crape Myrtles with the lowest heat requirements to bloom have always been the best. This spectacular tree has surprised me again and again. I never thought lavender/bluish would be the color that I found most spectacular but there are several reasons why ‘Yuma’ changed my opinion and makes it my FAVORITE Crape Myrtle in our climate hands down.

The flowers show up reliably even in cooler than average summers- most often in town in late July. The trusses of flowers are a luminous hue and they are HUGE, FULL, and over the top OPULENT- substance makes up for the less bright flower color and exceeds it. Its habit is unusual for Crape trees. Rather than the rigid upright to pendulous branches on most other cultivars this one produces a spreading sinuous slightly angular crown that is not only graceful it excels at featuring the HUGE flower trusses. The bark is a showy combination of russet/taupe/pink and remains striking year round. Finally it has very impressive and consistent fall color. A combination of smoldering bright orange and red. Regular water is necessary for this small moderately fast growing tree to perform.

Nerium oleander ‘Hardy Red’

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5′ tall and 5′ wide in 6 years

Red/Magenta flowers

Bloom time: Late June to Sept.

Zone 8a (10º to 15ºF)- Survives lower with establishment

Growth rate: Moderate

Regular water to dry

Full sun – a hot position

Rich soil, good drainage

‘Hardy Red’ Oleander

I’ll have to admit that I planted this Oleander just to see how ‘hardy’ hardy truly is and I’ve been thrilled with this shrubs performance. In its first year as a youngin’ it breezed through 9ºF and the evil double freeze winter of 2013/2014 with just a few crispy leaves. I wasn’t prepared for it to repair itself so quickly in spring and commence full bloom by June. All of my preconceptions about this as a highway ornament that ubiquitously lines the freeways in California went right out the window. It begins blooming and then on new wood it produces a continuous supply of vivid, incredibly showy flowers for more than two months. Well worth its weight in mid to late summer.

In our climate ‘Hardy Red’ has been slower to bulk up than in milder zones but it still puts on about 2′ of growth a year. I think its going to be most successful as a garden shrub in the urban heat core of Portland. Cold damage begins in the low teens- but again recovery is ultimately fast. We grow 3 other ‘Hardy’ Oleanders but this one is my favorite as I’ve always had a soft spot for the red flowered variety in this species. Full, hot sun and light summer water in well drained soil. Mine is located on the SW corner of my house near a west wall- adds a little protection. And I’ve planted another in a full open exposure just to see how it fares. We are also growing ‘Hardy Pink’, ‘Hardy White’, and ‘Mathilde Ferriar’ (double yellow flowers). These should be more than reliable in mild urban places.

 

 

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Munchkin’

3′ x 3′ in 7 years

White /green flowers

Bloom time: May-July

Zone 5a (-20º to -15ºF)

Growth rate: Slow

Average water

Full sun to high overhead shade

Rich soil, well drained

‘Munchkin’ Oak Leaf Hydrangea

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Oak Leaf Hydrangea has long been one of our favorite shrubs at Xera but the problem is that they almost all get enormous. And the few that were touted as compact would often not bloom very well. But forget all that. The National Arboretum has come up with a stellar version of this tough, dependable and multifaceted shrub. To just 3′ by 3′ in 7 years this truly compact plant also explodes into bloom from every densely branched tip. And the flowers aren’t small, they can be cones of creamy white and green up to 1′ long. A shrub in bloom is magical. As the summer goes along the flowers age to a rosy pink and extends the show well into autumn.

This dainty shrub has a wonderful congested habit and it displays the huge white cone shaped trusses of flower in every direction. In late autumn/winter the large substantial leaves take on burning tones of red and maroon. By spring it is a clean little deciduous shrub. Full sun to light shade in rich soil with regular summer water brings the best performance- but established plants seem to get by on their own. This is a fantastic plant and it brings this wonderful species into the smallest gardens. No pruning is required. We’re the number one fans of ‘Munchkin’.

 

 

Callistemon ‘Wetlands Challenged Mutant’

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You simply don’t see this flower form often in our climate- so its spectacular and welcome

5′ x 4′ in 7 years

White /Cream

Bloom time: May-June

Zone 7b (5º to 10ºF)

Growth rate: Moderately slow

Average water to dry

Full sun to high overhead shade

Rich soil, well drained

‘Wetlands Challenged Mutant’ Bottlebrush.

At Xera we are fascinated by bottlebrushes. More and more we are finding excellent species and cultivars that thrive in our climate. This is perhaps one of the best. Raised and named by Ian Barclay at Desert Northwest Nursery in Sequim, WA we are entranced when this hardy evergreen shrub blooms. Huge 5″ long by 1″ wide ivory cream brushes decorate the modest stems in mid to late spring and often again in early autumn. Not only is it showy in bloom its a really nice looking plant as well. Army green relatively large leaves make this plant glow. Though it has a very light texture this is a  substantial shrub for a hardy Callistemon.

Slow growing it will reach 5′ only after a half dozen years. Full sun to (surprisingly) very light shade in average soils suit it. Its even ammenable to heavy clay on slopes. Light summer water speeds growth and I suspect enhances the bloom show of the following year. This is a spectacular shrub for those who seek the original. Excellent selection made by our friend Ian and it should be one of the most popular. Somewhat deer resistant. The name refers to a character in the long defunct cartoon ‘The Neighborhood’- either way its a great shrub.

So here is a glimpse of the future- we think these plants have true star potential. There’s nothing more exciting than trying new things- and if you plant enough new stuff you are sure to find a diamond in the rough. Look for these plants next spring when we open.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

-Paul

 

 

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READY for 2017? Here’s what we’re working on at Xera.