Visit the Wonder Garden


Treat Yourself to a Walk in the Wonder Garden

If you haven’t yet treated yourself to a visit to the Wonder Garden, be prepared: quiet and contemplative it is not! The place is a riot of color.

White cistus, purple allium and orange wallflower (Erysimum) seemed to appear overnight mid-May, announcing that the season was ON. Here we are entering June; and in no time the hebes will be prancing in purple, the geraniums in blue and—heart be still—the genus Callistemon will come into bloom.

You may think you’ve never heard of callistemon, but its common name tells all: bottlebrush. Callistemon flowers bear an uncanny likeness to that utilitarian gadget; with their cylindrical shape and bristly texture, you’ll never confuse them with any other flowering shrub.

And see them you will throughout the WG because we cannot resist putting them in.  With full sun and good drainage, they’re incredibly versatile and undemanding drought-tolerant plants.

From a distance, callistemon might be mistaken for lean, sculptural conifers. We’ve got one heavily pruned specimen that looks a bit like a bonsai pine by the entrance nearest the library. Most, though, are tall upright shrubs with a lot of presence, as you’ll see in the big bed facing Laneda Avenue where we have two Callistemon palidus ‘Eleanor’.

Long-limbed ‘Eleanor’ is a traffic stopper once she lights up with magenta-purple blooms. It’s an unapologetic over-the-top color, for sure, but mixes surprisingly well with others just as bold: sulfur-yellow ‘Moonshine’ yarrow (Achillea), orange-red leopard lilly (Lilium pardalinum) and steely silver-leaved Astelia.

She’s definitely the showiest of the five distinct callistemon in the Wonder Garden, but the subtler ones are no less desireable. Be on the lookout for a bottlebrush dipped in linen-yellow and another in chartreuse-green. We have yet to acquire a red callistemon, but you might want to try one. Just avoid the seductive, blue-leaved ‘Little John.’  Unlike most of us, he does not thrive on the north Oregon coast.