Succulents and More expanding north—and bamboo-in-law update

A trunk full of plants always makes my heart beat faster. Especially if it's our car filled with plants!

These plants, however, weren't for our own garden. Instead, they went on a 3½ hour car ride into the mountains, bound for what I jokingly call our northern garden expansion, a.k.a. my mother-in-law's 2+ acre property in Mount Shasta.

Of the 2+ acres, no more than ½ acre is landscaped. The rest are native trees, mostly Western redcedar (Thuja plicata). In other words, there's lots of room to broaden the plant palette!
The plants that went to Mount Shasta came from a variety of sources: some from the clearance rack of Lowe's (always a good place to look, especially in the fall), others from various plant sales I'd attended in recent weeks, and a few from my trip to Portland in September. There's even a plant or two from Annie's Annuals!

Mount Shasta (elevation 3,500 ft.) is in USDA hardiness zone 7b, which translates into an annual extreme minimum temperature of 5°F. It has gotten colder on occasion (the record low is -10°F in December 1990), but the average rarely dips below 20°F.

Clockwise starting at the bottom: Yucca gloriosa, Mahonia oiwakensis subsp. lomariifolia var. tenuifoliola (what a mouthful!), Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Blue Surprise’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, Callistemon viridiflorus ‘Xera Hedgehog’, Yucca 'Blue Sentinel'

Clockwise starting at the bottom: Agave parryi (pot-bound for years), Berberis thunbergii 'Orange Rocket', Lupinus sericatus 

LEFT: Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tasman Ruffles’  RIGHT: Lagerstroemia ‘Black Diamond Red Hot’

Here are all the plants we took to Mount Shasta:

Actinidia tetramera var. maloides
Rosy crabapple kiwi
10-25 ft. vines
Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue’
Frosty Blue whale tongue agave
4 ft.
Agave parryi var. parryi
Parry’s agave
18 ft.
Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’
Orange Rocket barberry
5 ft.
Callistemon viridiflorus ‘Xera Hedgehog’
Xera Hedgehog bottlebrush
2 ft.
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Blue Surprise’
Blue Surprise Port Orford cedar
6 ft.
Lagerstroemia ‘Black Diamond Red Hot’
Black Diamond Red Hot crepe myrtle
12 ft.
Lupinus sericatus
Cobb Mountain lupine
2 ft.
Mahonia oiwakensis subsp. lomariifolia var. tenuifoliola

10 ft.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’
Variegated maidenhair grass (2x)
6 ft.
Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue’
Dewey Blue switchgrass (2x)
4 ft.
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tasman Ruffles’
Tasman Ruffles pittosporum
10 ft.
Yucca ‘Blue Sentinel’
Blue Sentinel yucca
6 ft.
Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’
Spanish dagger
6 ft.

Most of the plants went on the hill in front of the house, not only because it's visible from the living room but also because it's one of the sunniest spots on the property. In the photo below, each purple rectangle represents a newly added plant. The bowling balls are yard sale finds dating back 10+ years. My father-in-law enjoyed them.

The plants are small and the hill is large so there's no wow factor at the moment. But give it time (and keep your fingers crossed).

LEFT: Callistemon viridiflorus ‘Xera Hedgehog’  RIGHT: Lupinus sericatus 

Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue’

TOP TO BOTTOM: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tasman Ruffles’, Lagerstroemia ‘Black Diamond Red Hot’

LEFT TO RIGHT: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue’ (2×). The small tree with yellowish leaves on the left is a × Chitalpa tashkentensis ‘Pink Dawn’ we planted in the spring; it's about to go dormant for the winter.

Looking towards the house. The purple square in the lower right marks the spot where the Mahonia oiwakensis subsp. lomariifolia var. tenuifoliola went. I bought it from Far Reaches Farm at the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's Plant Fest in September.

A sunny picture of the hill, with the driveway on the left (it continues on the right and runs back into the street)

BACK: A smokebush I gave to my mother-in-law last year (Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple').  FRONT: Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Blue Surprise’, the dwarf Port Orford cedar we just planted (to 6 ft.)

This makes gardening on a large property a lot easier:

Looking towards the barn:

An area closer to the house that needs some TLC (and new plants):

The lawn and the back of the house (the hill is behind it):

This spot calls out for a raised bed:

There are literally hundreds of trees on the property, most of them Western redcedar:

Lots of redcedar seedlings, too!

A long berm towards the back of the property, created from excavated dirt and composted wood chips:

Prime real estate for planting, wouldn't you say?

More room to plant along the fence line. Something shrubby to block the view.

This is an Arizona cypress I got for my mother-in-law (Cupressus arizonica 'Blue Ice') earlier in the year. The new growth is the icy blue I so love:

Finally, a look at the bamboos we planted years ago. The very first post on this blog, dated October 10, 2010, was entitled “Moving black bamboo.” It described how we planted a Phyllostachys nigra 'Punctata' from a half-barrel in front of the house into the backyard. My father-in-law was still alive, and he used his backhoe to dig the hole—child's play!

Fast-forward 8 years. This is what the black bamboo looks like now:

LEFT: Phyllostachys nigra 'Punctata'    RIGHT: Phyllostachys bambusoides

Phyllostachys nigra 'Punctata'

Wider view:

LEFT: Phyllostachys nigra 'Punctata'   MIDDLE: Phyllostachys bambusoides  RIGHT: Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis'

Yes, these are running bamboos, and they can be fairly aggressive if the conditions are right. We didn't install any rhizome barrier because we knew that there is a natural barrier at my in-law's place that would prevent rampant spread: water, or rather the lack of it. Each clump has grown to the edge of its irrigation zone but not beyond. The reason is simple: It typically doesn't rain from May until October, i.e. during active growth season. In addition, the soil is so porous that it dries out quickly to a depth of at least a foot—about the level where the bulk of the rhizome mass is found. This has proven to be a very effective strategy for restraint.

Take a look at this November 2012 post. While the bamboos have bulked up since then, they haven't grown nearly as much as you would think.

Arguably the bamboo that had to overcome the biggest challenges is Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis'. As I mentioned in this July 2011 post, voles (or moles?) had feasted on its roots, almost killing it. It pulled through, but its growth was set back by years. And yet, here it is, 7 years later, still alive, its yellow culms as beautiful as ever.

Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis'
A few more bamboos in the backyard:

FRONT CENTER: Chusquea gigantea from Chile. While reportedly hardy to 0°F, the culms emerge quite late in the year and don't have a chance to fully harden before winter rolls around. Therefore they often get damaged or even killed by the January cold.

Chusquea couleou 'Rojo' (bought in July 2011 from Tradewinds in Gold Beach, Oregon; see post here). Knocked down by many a winter, yet still alive although not a whole lot bigger than when I bought it.

The bamboos that have fared best are the three Fargesia dracocephala 'Rufa' planted along the edge of the lawn, quite possibly because they get a bit of overspray:

Fargesia dracocephala 'Rufa'

Fargesia dracocephala 'Rufa', with Phyllostachys nigra 'Punctata' behind it on the right

Three more bamboos to show, all runners in the genus Phyllostachys and all contained within their respective irrigation zone. The largest is Phyllostachys angusta, planted in the summer of 2010 from a 15-gallon can. It was lush and beautiful then, and it still is—except it's significantly larger.

In the photo below it's on the right. The straggly thing on the left is Phyllostachys aureosulcata, planted at the same time as a 1-culm division. It has grown, but it's eons away from living up to its potential. To really thrive it clearly needs a lot more water than it's getting (and will ever get).

The final bamboo is Phyllostachys nigra 'Henon' just outside the fence that surrounds the backyard (so technically it's in the front yard). The culms are about 12 ft. tall now and it's a welcome presence but again nowhere near as large as you'd expect it to be after 7+ years in the ground. The reason is the same: not enough water. Still, I like the way it looks, and I'll be happy if it continues to creep along like that.

Another trunk full of plants is ready to head north. I made full use of the 40% member discount at the UC Davis Arboretum clearance sale on November 3 and bought beauties like Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii), strawberry tree (Arbutus 'Marina), western mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), California coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica 'Leatherleaf'), dwarf chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus 'Blue Diddley') and a lot more. We may be able to put them in the ground at Thanksgiving, but that's awfully late for planting in Mount Shasta. It all depends on the weather. If it doesn't happen now, the plants will overwinter in Davis and get planted in Mount Shasta in the spring.

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  1. Halfway through I was thinking "I wonder how the bamboos are doing?" ... and there they are! Amazing to me how little they've grown. I just can't relate to that climate! I certainly love the wooded setting though.

    1. I thought of you when I took photos of the bamboos!

      Mount Shasta is very dry. The mountain (at 14,162 ft not exactly a minor hill) is bare. No snow pack left. It's actually a pretty shocking sight. Year 7 of the drought, no matter what the official line is.

  2. I'm surprised at how well the bamboos are doing. I hope your newest addition fare as well. Having another garden to work (play) in is a great opportunity, especially when it gives you a chance to work with a different climate.

    1. You're right, it's actually fun experimenting with plants that I wouldn't be able to grow here for lack of space and other factors.

  3. The bamboo works perfectly in that setting. Who would have thought?

    1. The space is there. I was hoping the lack of water would be an effective barrier, and it looks like it works.

  4. The deer are sometimes a problem. Depends on whether they find anything they think is tasty. I have put Irish Spring soap in the flower planters in front and that seems to keep the deer away. I also discovered that the raccoons really like to take bites out of the soap!
    Actually those supposed "bowling balls" are really Elephant Eggs! The Grands are still waiting for them to "hatch"! ;*)

    1. Maybe hang some Irish Spring soap from the Tasman Ruffle pittosporum, too?

  5. I went down a rabbit hole after clicking on the link to your first post, browsing around some of your very bamboo-y posts from back in the day, including your visit to the bamboo nursery in Gold Beach. I love bamboo so much, but I don't have room-not to mention the water. I hope you'll continue to report on the growth at your MILs spread.

    1. The water is the main issue, isn't it? Fortunately, my MIL is on a well so it's less of an issue.

  6. Is that Pittosporum tenuifolium actually cold hardy at that elevation? I wouldnt think it was. Also, it has proven very tasty to deer here in the Oakland hills.

    1. David, I was surprised, too, but it's supposed to be hardy to zone 7. We'll see.

      As for deer, they'll nibble on almost anything. I'm hoping it'll outgrow the deer quickly enough to survive.


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