Cornelian cherry dogwood
Deciduous tree from Europe and Central Asia with bright yellow flowers blooming in late February to early March. Grows as a multi- or single-trunked tree with slightly shiny, 3-inch-long, broadly elliptical leaves and bright red fruit in July. Generally disease- and pest-resistant, it grows in sun or partial shade and tolerates poor, dry soil. ‘Golden Glory’ is a vigorous, upright cultivar reaching 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide. ‘Variegata’ is cream-variegated and smaller in stature. Cold-hardy to -30 to -20 degrees .
See it in person: There is a labeled example near the center of Laurelhurst Park (3554 SE Ankeny St).
Native to western Asia, the fig tree is deciduous, drought-tolerant, and revels in reflected heat. Leaves are boldly lobed and the fruit is ambrosial. ‘Desert King’ (late summer fruit, richly flavored, pink flesh) and ‘Vern’s Brown Turkey’ (delicious amber fruit ripening in both summer and fall) are especially reliable in our area. Grows to 25 feet tall and wide, but can be espaliered and kept smaller when roots are confined. Cold-hardy to 10 to 15 degrees or less.
See it in person: Examples can be found throughout Portland, particularly in Southeast Portland backyards.
Magnificent West Coast native broadleaf evergreen. Reaching 30 to 50 feet tall and 30 to 50 feet wide, with small, white, urn-shaped flowers in late spring followed by little orange berries that birds adore. Glossy, elliptical leaves have a blue-white cast underneath. Madrone trunks are, frankly, stunning: Cinnamon-brown bark peels off to reveal sinewy, smooth, chartreuse bark underneath. Previous year’s leaves drop in June. Need full sun to dappled shade. Good drainage is essential and, once established, the tree should receive no summer water. Cold-hardy
to 0 to 10 degrees.
See it in person: Vestigial clumps of Pacific madrone sit in the south woods at the Elk Rock Gardens (11800 SW Military Ln), on the slope below N Willamette Boulevard, and in patches along the region’s freeways.
Lyonothamnus Floribundus Var. Asplenifolius
A small evergreen tree from Southern California’s Channel Islands with ferny, evergreen foliage and cymes of flat-topped white flowers in summer. Flowers turn brown after flowering and are retained on the tree. Bark is reddish brown and peels off in shreds. Can cope with hot sun, reflected heat, drought, and poor soil. Needs good drainage. Reaches 20 feet tall by 10 feet wide with a broad, umbrella-shaped crown. Cold-hardy to 10 to 15 degrees or less.
See it in person: A few examples can be spotted in inner Southeast Portland (like the 2500 block of SE Ash St).
Crape myrtles are well adapted to hot, urban areas of the Pacific. Glossy, dark green leaves come out in late spring and turn yellow, orange, or dark red in the fall. Fluffy flowers resembling crepe paper appear from summer to fall. The bark is sinewy, often exfoliating in patches to reveal a smooth, skinlike layer of underbark. They flower better with some summer water until established. My favorite, ‘Catawba’, grows up to 15 feet and has panicles of purple flowers and orange-red fall color. Cold-hardy to 0 degrees.
See it in person: Several grow in the Hoyt Arboretum Visitor’s Center (4000 SW Fairview Blvd).
Smiling forest michelia
An exceptional evergreen magnolia with large, white flowers (delectably scented like lilies) that are produced in leaf axils in March and April. This Chinese native has 4- to 6-inch blue-green elliptical leaves with a chalky blue underside. It reaches 20 to 30 feet high with a variable form. Variety platypetala is more robust and taller. This tree appreciates regular summer irrigation. Cold-hardy to 17 degrees or less; grows hardier with age.
See it in person: A row stands outside of the County Cork Pub (1329 NE Fremont St).
Oregon white oak
Our native oak, whose gnarled, lichen-draped winter branches are emblematic of the Willamette Valley horizon. This large, deciduous tree has an irregular, rounded form; leathery, deeply lobed leaves; and a glorious branching pattern as it ages. Its acorns feed wildlife. Best in low-elevation sites with well-drained soil. Tolerates seasonal flooding, but should be dry in summer. Grows to 65 feet tall and 50 feet wide. Cold-hardy to 0 to 10 degrees.
See it in person: Specimens are scattered all over the Willamette Valley.