Since You Asked: Oleander lives on in North's parking lot

Does anyone know the name of the beautiful large bush with the pink flowers in the parking lot of the old J.J. North's on Riverside Avenue?

I'm guessing the water and electricity have been turned off the past couple years so there's no watering system. It has bloomed the past couple years even without being watered. It seems to be a very drought-tolerant plant.

— Nadine S., Medford

The Since You Asked Botanical Research and Garden-Care Team loves an excuse to spend time outside looking at flowers.

After getting a look at the bush in question, then strolling slowly (we were on the clock) among the nurseries at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market until we saw the same plant in a vendor's booth, we determined that the shrub you admired is an oleander.

Doug Hormel of The Plant Connection in Ashland confirmed that the large specimen in the center of the J.J. North's parking lot is a Nerium oleander, probably of the hardy red variety.

He said oleanders thrive in some microclimates in the Rogue Valley, especially those that get a lot of winter sun, such as south-facing slopes, some western exposures or, apparently, the middle of parking lots. They typically grow 3 to 5 feet high here, although under the right conditions they can get larger, as the one you noted has. The plants are drought-resistant and very low maintenance once established, Hormel said. They will bloom throughout the summer.

In Central and Southern California, large oleander bushes line the freeways, getting no care in the medians and still thriving, he said.

The Jackson County Master Gardeners Association, which also has a booth at the market, points out that oleander is poisonous to humans, livestock and pets. The International Oleander Society on its website warns gardeners to wash thoroughly to remove toxic sap from hands and arms after working with the plant, never chew on any part of the plant or use it to skewer food, and don't burn the branches, as the smoke is hazardous, too.

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