No azaleas, but…

The Southern Oregon coast is home to five native azalea species, now protected at Azalea Park in Brookings. Together with native rhododendrons, whose habitat stretches south into the northernmost tip of California, they provide a spectacle of color in April and early May. We were a couple of months too late to see any azalea blooms, but I was delighted by what I did find at Azalea Park and elsewhere in and around Brookings.

The biggest surprise was waiting for us right at the parking lot of Azalea Park: a Gunnera tinctoria, also called Chilean rhubarb although it’s not related to common rhubarb. I had been dreaming for years of growing one of these in our garden, but our summers are just too hot and dry. This was the first time I’d ever seen one in person, and it was every bit as stunning as I had imagined. Check out this detailed post.

Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria) at Azalea Park, Brookings

Ferns are ubiquitous in this part of the state, both in natural environments and in man-made landscapes. I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they just came up by themselves, much like weeds do—not that I’m denigrating ferns!

Here are some vignettes featuring ferns of different kinds (sorry, no ID since I’m not a fern expert).

Fern with lacy filigree
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(Sword?) fern at the base of tree trunks
Fern and weather-bleached driftwood
Fern against lichen-studded rock

Rocks define this part of the Oregon coast—not just on the beach and offshore, but also in public and private landscaping. Even by themselves they add great interest to the garden.

Rock assemblage
Rock surrounded by California poppies. This was the only spot I saw California poppies, so I tend to think they were started from seed. I don’t think the Oregon Coast is sunny and dry enough to be an attractive habitat for poppies.

While common in many places (including Oregon), hydrangeas are an exotic plant to me since they don’t grow in Davis. Whenever I visit our friends in Portland, I’m amazed by how large hydrangeas get in their cool climate. The same is true for Brookings. The hydrangea in the next photo was more than 6 feet tall.

The color of the flowers is unreal. They look like they were dyed with some garish food coloring. From what I understand (which is little), the type of soil affects the flower color: acidic soil produces blue flowers, neutral soils pale cream, and alkaline soils pink or purple.

Blue hydrangea at Azalea Park, Brookings

I don’t know that the tall purple flower is in the next photo, but the I loved the juxtaposition of its lacy foliage and the leaning tree trunks.

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Tapestry of purple flowers and tree trunks

Another surprise I came across at Brookings’ Azalea Park: two Japanese dogwood trees (Cornus kousa) in flower. I would have expected these to bloom earlier in the year, but I was happy to find them covered with flowers (actually, the white “petals” are bracts surrounding the inconspicuous flower in the middle).

Cornus kousa
Cornus kousa

And back at the log cabin we rented outside of Brookings, one of the biggest surprises: a blooming passionfruit vine (Passiflora caerulea). This turned out to be a classic case of “here today, gone tomorrow.” The day after I photographed this flower, it closed up and rapidly started to decline. Maybe it will turn into a fruit, but probably it won’t since the climate in Brookings isn’t quite warm enough.

Passionfruit vine (Passiflora caerulea)

More posts from our trip to Southern Oregon: