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Chilean Fire Bush - a hidden jewel in our garden

It is heartbreaking that this beauty is hidden in our garden but at least the hummingbirds have found it. Hidden because it is planted behind a 7 feet tall rose. I planted it there because I was under the impression that it would become a tree. It can indeed become a tree and there is one growing about a mile from our house that is around 20 feet tall.  In our garden, it is taking its sweet time and is only 4 feet tall after being planted seven years ago (2017). It did not begin to bloom until its fifth year and this is the first year flowering has been so profuse. Whenever I think about this plant, I always remember what the Gosslers said in their book "The Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs". I quote it here: "Since this plant comes from southern Chile, we begin with a word of warning: it will not grow anywhere in the United States outside western Washington, Oregon and northern California. People wanting to grow E. coccineum in the eastern part of the country will

The Garden Awakens

Anise 'Woodland Red' (Illicium floridanum)

A few weeks ago, I thought spring would never arrive, but now the change is astonishing. The nights are still cold (40s and sometimes even 30s) so planting tender annuals and vegetables is unwise although I have already succumbed, but covering and uncovering things gets old quickly. Someone made a wise comment last week and I must agree with them - "Don't plant anything tender until after May 1".

Several plants are blooming like never before. One is the Anise shrub (above and below). I don't know if the recent tree pruning, which is allowing more sun into the woodland path, is affecting it or perhaps it is just age, but I've never seen so many blooms. Michael refers to this as "the stinky fish shrub" and I have to admit to smell of the flowers is quite unpleasant. It is so beautiful that I can overlook that.

The old pink dogwood tree, which was already here, shades our woodland path and it too is prettier than it has been in years. In the past, it would bloom heavily near the bottom and not the top but this year blooms are covering it all nicely. It is hard to get a good photo. I took this from our driveway with the telephoto lens. You have to be at a distance to appreciate it -

A view from the pathway -

A gem along the path and alongside the pergola is Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty', a mayapple with remarkable foliage -

Bleeding Heart 'Gold Heart' brings much joy every spring -

Salal (Gaultheria shallon) is blooming up a storm -

In the front garden, Choisya 'Sundance' ("Mexican Orange") is also doing a turn-around. It was threatened with eviction last year if it didn't wise up and it is listening. Last year the shrub just looked bad and I was thinking it was just a bad plant. However, it looks much nice at the moment and it has never bloomed like this before. 

Abelia 'Frances Mason' also looks great compared to a few weeks ago. I wish that I had been harsher with the pruning though. These plants are real workhorses in the garden, and I recommend them all the time at the nursery.

Of all the dramatic changes from bad to good, the #1 prize has to do to Daphne 'Carol Mackie'. I truly thought this one was a goner about a month ago and look at it now! The fragrance is powerful.

More bloomers -

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Wallflower

Euphorbia epithymoides

Geum 'Mango Lassie'

Schipka Laurel 

Parrot Tulip 

Tulips with Barberry 'Admiration'

I had several rhododendron photos but I will save those for another post. Emjoy the spring!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Your garden is off and running, Phillip! I love the Illicium's flowers, which I don't think I've seen before. The red parrot tulip is a real winner too.

  2. "A view from the pathway", photo 5, is glorious. No flowers required.

  3. Wow, what a turn around! Lovely to see your garden surging in spring! I just planted an Illicium mexicanum (yucca do) yesterday - I didn't know the flowers stink, lol. Thankfully it's not too close to a sitting area. So many beautiful photos, the Podophyllum foliage , parrot tulips, and the view from the path. Beautiful!

  4. Last year our pink dogwood's blooms never unfurled, the spring was so wet and cold. I was so happy to see all the pink flowers this year! Your garden photos are beautiful, Phillip! I love the Parrot tulips!

  5. Once they begin they go full throttle. Instant torque. Lovely--the Dogwood, the Daphne, yes even the stinky fish flower. Agree on Abelia--a fine genus with summer nectar for the hummingbirds. :^)


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