cornus canadensis
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Got shade? Creeping dogwood (Cornus canadensis ) is an adaptable ground cover plant reaching about 4 inches high with pretty little white bracts in spring. In rich, well-drained soil, it fills in quickly, but given a little more shade, it can tolerant drier conditions, though it grows more slowly. As you can see, plants can survive under shady tree roots where there’s enough duff to root in. This is a winner of a plant! Here, it’s cohabiting with bead lily (Clintonia uniflora , in front), which can also go dry in summer but seems to thrive best in cooler, higher elevation environments and (behind, left), what looks like twisted stalk (Streptopus sp.), a compatible and adaptable woodlander.

veratrum and erythronium
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These two species – the big, pleated-leaf green false helleborine (Veratrum viride ) and the little white-flowered avalanche lily (Erythronium montana ) both appreciate cool, damp sites so if you live in the West Hills, Mt Tabor, or anywhere with a little elevation, especially on the east or north facing slopes or where water seeps, give it a try. Gorgeous green false helleborine grows about 4-6’ tall, with yellowish-green flower plumes in summer. It is very poisonous (don’t eat it!) so site with care. Avalanche lily is a shortie (6-10" high) and dies down after flowering, creating space for other herbaceous plants like twisted stalk (Streptopus sp.) or lady fern (Athyrium felix-femina).

spiraea densiflora
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Have a sunny slope that could use some sparkly springtime color? As long as the soil isn’t bone-dry in summer, you can grow this dashing, 2-3’ tall native spiraea (Spiraea densiflora ) and attract rafts of native butterflies and insects to the pretty, flat-topped heads of rose pink flowers. My favorite part about it: the tawny brown seedheads that last through the winter. Note: as long as your soil is well-drained, you don’t even need to plant mountain spiraea on a slope: it does well in the same acidic, well-drained soil that rhododendrons like.

Arctostaphylos uva ursi
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Kinnickinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ) is sometimes overused in landscapes: planted by the acre, it looks like any other unimaginative green carpet of groundcover. But kinnickinnick is indispensable for its drought-tolerance – and it’s evergreen – so it’s a very ecological choice for the drought-tolerant garden. Planted amidst grasses and rocks – as with this trailside composition on the trail to McNeil Point – it couldn’t be prettier. If you have a dry area that drains well in winter, give it a try. Just mix it up a little, if you please! In sun, try it with drought tolerant grasses like Festuca californica or wild lilac (Ceanothus ) or, in a shadier spot, with snowberry (Symphoricarpus sp. ).

sunny hillside
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A sunny hillside on a Mt Hood foothill, with rocks, native grasses, kinnickinnick, and other miscellany. Since those spiky flowered bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax ) can be tricky at lower elevations, I’d replace that with native Columbia lilies (Lilium columbiana ), non-native foxtail lilies (Eremurus sp. ) or foxgloves, which also produce spikes of flowers. The fussy Indian paintbrush could be replaced with sedums, yarrow, or asters (native or not). Slow-growing conifers would look good with this ensemble, as would low-growing shrubs like wild lilac (Ceanothus sp. ).

cornus canadensis
veratrum and erythronium
spiraea densiflora
Arctostaphylos uva ursi
sunny hillside

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