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Some Evergreen Shrubs

Mahonia repens (Creeping Mahonia) I can never over-emphasize the importance of evergreen shrubs in the garden. Otherwise, you have nothing to look at during the winter months. Here are a few of my favorites. Talk about a carefree plant! The PNW native  Mahonia repens (Creeping Mahonia or Creeping Oregon Grape) requires nothing special and will even tolerate drought after it is established. I tend to think of this plant more as a groundcover but after many years (six to be exact - it was planted in April of 2017) it is beginning to look more like a low-growing shrub. The height is less than 2 feet tall. Growth tends to be more horizontal and it has spread 3-4 feet. Not a fast grower. Sun or part-shade. The leaves are an attractive blue-green and they become tinged with red and purple when the weather is cooler.  Flowers have been sporadic but every year they increase. It usually blooms around April - The flowers are then followed (around July) by the berries or "grapes" - Os

Happenings in the garden

It wasn't much but we got what the weather forecasters call a "trace" of rain overnight. Any is welcome and the plants seem to dramatically react to just a sprinkle. I went ahead and watered thoroughly anyway. We have had glorious weather but hot temperatures are on the way and I even saw the dreaded 90 number in the forecast for next week. We can look on the bright side - perhaps the tomatoes will start to turn red. 

I have finally completed the gravel pathway in front of the house. This was supposed to be my very first project. Well, you know how those things go. When we first moved in, both Michael and I thought there should be a pathway leading from the front door to the driveway.

As you can see in this "before" photo, no pathway in front of the border.
And now we have a path.
I removed about 4-5 inches of soil and installed edging along both sides of the path. I then put down a layer of landscape fabric and covered that with pea gravel. The gravel looks blue in the photo but it is actually a tan-ish color that matches the brick on the house.

Outside the side gate, I built some steps. This was a slope previously. I plan to add some plants that will flow over the sides to camouflage my mistakes! Building steps has to be one of the most difficult projects for me. I want a large set in the back and I dread it already.
I am glad that project is over with especially with the upcoming heat. The heat actually isn't that bad to me because there is little humidity but the sun is very harsh and we have no shade at the moment.

The plants are doing nicely. First, some things that were already here when we moved in -

There is a long narrow retaining wall with a raised bed next to the garage. Hen and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) were planted there by the previous owners and they have been rapidly spreading. They do very well with the excellent drainage. A few weeks ago, they started to bloom. I have never seen this plant bloom like this. They have been amazing.

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura) was planted right at the driveway entrance and it has been stunning.
 A few of the new plants that I have added -

I bought this aster at the Clark County Master Gardener's Sale earlier this spring. It has already started to bloom which seems early to me. I do not know the name of it.
Cuphea 'Strybing Sunset'
Rose 'Mutabalis'
Rose 'The Impressionist' - I am loving this rose!
Statice (Limonium)
We have fallen in love with the penstemons. This one came from Joy Creek Nursery. It is called 'Violet Kissed'.
This is Penstemon 'Electric Blue', my latest purchase from Shorty's Nursery.
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chim Chiminee’
Celosia 'Intenz'

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. I didn't notice any mistakes on your steps. I think the plants around it to soften the edges is a good idea tho. I agree that you needed a path to the front door. It is most welcoming with the arbor over the steps. Your new selections of flowers are beautiful. Roses are yummy. The blues have it though.

  2. Just thinking about building steps makes my head 'bizzy' as I contemplate risers, treads and materials.

    Do penstemons attract hummingbirds with their little bells/trumpets?

  3. Those steps are amazing Phillip! As is the pathway! You did it! Congratulations!

  4. Your pathway looks fabulous, and I love that you're enjoying the sempervivum flowers. They are odd but terribly cool.

  5. I agree with Lisa -- I don't see any errors on the steps. I'm sure they'd look with plants alongside, but I don't think you need to worry about camouflaging your handiwork.

    That's one of the nicest looking Gauras I've seen in a while. Fantastic!

    Oh and your gravel path looks great. Kudos.

    Low humidity?! A man can only dream... ;-)

  6. The Impressionist rose is gorgeous. I can see why it is a favorite! I like your pathway and the steps. Great job! No doubt this is going to lead to more planting, and your garden is going to grow and grow...

  7. Love to see so many colors of flowers there. Especially roe Mutabilis. I have ever seen some of them in the real here. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hello there Phillip ... I am such a fan of gravel paths ... they are so common in Europe , I missed them when we moved back to Canada ... and yet ? I didn't do gravel for my own paths .. flagstone took over because it seemed easier.
    You have a wonderful eye for placement ... and your plants are so pretty ... I let my sempervivium do their thing too and smile over how funny they can look ...
    That statice with that deep violet blue is stunning ... I need more blue in my garden now that I think of it after seeing yours !
    Pretty pictures : )

  9. Your path and steps look great! Congratulations on getting that out of the way. My question is, will you recreate that amazing purple (concrete? stucco?) wall from your former garden somewhere in your new place?

  10. It's a lovely pathway Philip, I just love pea gravel paths! We put pea gravel around our vegetable garden this year, and it's nice and crunchy when you walk on it. You've made a TON of progress around there already. Good job!


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