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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

Transplanting Cascara & Buttonbush

There are so many plants in the garden that I want to move but finding the motivation is a challenge. Part of it stems from the fact that simply moving something in this garden usually involves moving other plants. It is a game of musical chairs. 

An eyesore that I have been contemplating all year is the large photinia along the back fence directly in back of the Pan garden. It appears to be dead although I am not certain about that. Whatever the case might be, it is totally leafless. 


I envisioned more evergreens along the back fence line but another idea emerged. I had planted a Cascara (Frangula purshiana) (native here) in a truly awful spot along the fence line on the opposite side of the garden, down by the garden shed. Might this tree work where the dead photinia is? I know that it is a fast-growing tree and while it is not evergreen, it is beautiful when the leaves are on and it attracts all kinds of birds and insects.

Planted smack-dab in front of the photinia and really the only feasible spot for a tree was the Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) which was planted in 2017. It has been doing really well in that spot although you can't see it unless you walk back into the border. But if I moved it, where would it go? You can see my dilemma.

Finally, I decided to relocate the Button Bush to the shady border closer to the pergola. There, I dug up the 'Geisha Gone Wild' Japanese maple and put it back in a pot (this is a good thing as the spot in the border was not the best location for the maple). 

The transplanted Button Bush (it is hard to see because of the twig fence)

And now a spot for the Cascara!

The transplanted Cascara which will hopefully thicken up and
provide a nicer backdrop in the border.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. You're a brave gardener, Phillip. I'm always afraid to move plants, especially when they're relatively large. I hope the Cascara - and the Acer and button bush - prosper.

  2. Oh, that was a job! I would easily talk myself out of moving something that large, lol. It is definitely worth it tho, can't wait to see them take off.

  3. It's odd seeing Photinia grown to a tree size rather than it's common use of a hedge.
    Did you leave the Photinia in place for the time being?
    It's hard to get motivated to move a plant when you know you'll have to shuffle 2-3 others too. Musical chairs indeed, unavoidable as the garden matures it tells you what it needs. Everything will be doing and looking better now.

    1. The photinias (there was a line of them along the back fence) were here when we moved in. I don't think they had ever been pruned and when you don't do that, they become trees. I'm leaving it for the time being, mainly because I'm not sure exactly how to cut it down as most of it leans over to the neighbor's side. A professional will probably be needed. On the other hand, I've contemplated planting something that would grow up it. I do have a Lady Banks rose that needs to be relocated...


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