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Seaside flowers that also grow well in the Rogue Valley

“My soul is full of longing

For the secret of the sea,

And the heart of the great ocean

Sends a thrilling pulse through me.”

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Secret of the Sea,” 1850


Many Rogue Valley residents, myself included, have been escaping the summer smoke and heat at the southern Oregon coast. This week, I’ve been in beautiful Bandon, where skies are clear (other than morning fog) and temperatures are in the mid 60s.

Besides enjoying the “secrets of the sea,” I’ve been taking note of all of the colorful flowers in bloom here. Many are familiar to Rogue Valley gardeners, only they bloom a little later on the coast and the flowers often last longer because of the cooler temperatures.

Here’s a list of 25 flowering plants that grow well in coastal climates and in the Rogue Valley (see my blog for pictures).

1. Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus)

2. Day lilies (Hemerocallis)

3. Sedum/stonecrop

4. Hydrangea

5. Sea thrift (Armeria maritima)

6. Gazania

7. Lavender

8. Crocosmia

9. Nasturtium

10. Rock rose (Cistus)

11. Heather (Calluna vulgaris)

12. Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum)

13. Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum)

14. Sweet peas (Lathyrus odorata)

15. Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)

16. Creeping rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’)

17. Pincushion (Scabiosa)

18. Salvia (‘Hotlips’ and pratensis)

19. Vervain (Verbena officinalis)

20. Clematis

21. Coral bells (Heuchera)

22. Hebe

23. California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

24. Hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica)

25. Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

In addition to these, I’ve seen lots of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) in bloom, and a variety of grasses. Three of my favorite ornamental grasses are feather reed (Calamagrostis brachytricha ‘Karl Foerster’), purple fountain grass (Pennisetum rubrum) and variegated silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’).

Like Longfellow, the ocean always “sends a thrilling pulse through me,” and so does discovering plants that are new to me. I’ve come across two summer-blooming flowers in Bandon that are particularly exciting; one is called the “fried egg flower” (Romneya coulteri) and the other is angel’s fishing rod, or wandflower (Dierama pulcherrimum).

Romneyas are perennials in the poppy family that are native to chaparral and coastal regions of California, but they can also be grown successfully elsewhere in USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10. They are sometimes called “fire followers” because they are found in areas that have been burned by wildfires. With their large, white, crepey petals and bright yellow centers, they really do look like fried eggs sunny-side-up. The attractive silvery green foliage with woody stems can grow up to 8 feet tall and, once established, the rhizomatous shrubs can spread rapidly.

The key to growing tree poppies, as they are sometimes called, is to plant them without disturbing their finicky roots. Find a place in the garden where they will have plenty of room to grow, lots of sunshine, and fertile soil with good drainage. Once the chance of nighttime frosts has passed in the spring, dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball, remove the plant carefully from the container with the root ball intact, and set the plant in the hole with the base of the main stem even with the soil line. Fill the hole and water thoroughly.

Water once or twice a week, depending on the weather, for the first growing season; once established, romneyas only need to be watered once or twice a month. Prune back in late winter or early spring to keep the shrubs looking tidy. Not only are the flowers stunning, they attract bees and butterflies.

Angel’s fishing rod also makes a great addition to pollinator gardens in USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9. Native to South Africa, the perennial’s grass-like foliage grows in clumps, and bell-shaped pink, purple or white flowers bloom in sequence along arching stems that grow 4-5 feet long.

Dieramas have similar cultural needs as romneyas. They, too, thrive best in full sun and rich, well-draining soil and don’t require much water after they are established. They also resent being moved once they are established. Plant the corms about 6 inches deep and divide every five years. Cut them back to the base of the plant in late winter or early spring.

Longfellow wrote, “Ah! What pleasant visions haunt me, as I gaze upon the sea!” I feel the same way as I gaze upon beautiful flowers blooming by the sea. I have pleasant visions of growing some of the same flowers in my garden at home.

Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, writer and teacher. Email her at rnowak39@gmail.com. For more about gardening, visit her blog at http://blogs.esouthernoregon.com/theliterarygardener.

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