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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Dogwood Summer?

"Wildflowers can’t be controlled, and neither can the girl with a soul boundless as the sky, and a spirit as free and wild as the ocean"
Melody Lee

Sacajawea, the daughter of a Lemhi Soshone chief was only 12 years old when she was captured by a Hidatsa raiding party and sold as a slave to the French canadian trapper Toussaint Charboneau, who married her and subsequently was hired by the Lewis and Clark expedition to translate on the overland Journey. One can only imagine the fortitude of such a woman who gave birth to a son on that journey with it's trials and tribulations while carrying an infant. The reports of her death are sketchy but it seems to have been pieced together that she died in 1812 at Fort Mandan, near the mouth of the Bighorn River in Montana. But native oral stories say she left Charboneau and returened to her Shoshone people in Wyoming and died in 1884. She left us a piece de resistance of feminine power in a time when women were really treated as chattle, she saved the expedition many a time, the west is covered with place names bearing her mark and this lovely variegated form of Camas leichtlinii with it's creamy flowers. 

Camas leichtlinii 'Sacajawea'

I have this wall calendar with a bunch of folklore from the farmers almanac hanging in the kitchen, near the toaster oven. Last month's entry talked about the dogwood winter, must be mostly an eastern thing as I have seen a lot of references to the Tennessee mountains regarding this phenomenon. The legends say that the dogwood winter is when the Cornus start blooming and northern cold fronts push in to give the little winters in the middle of spring. I've never heard it referenced here in Oregon where the lovely Cornus nutallii dots the woods. I think we are experiencing the opposite of a dogwood winter this season. The dogwood summer came on about 3 weeks ago when we hit 80 degrees in April. Normally, you can count on April to produce pretty much non stop rain showers, broken only by the occasional gale and often a downpour to mix it up. If we are really lucky a day might start with drizzle, a few sunbreaks will find shorts and sun dresses on the streets only for the day to end with a thunderstorm and a half inch of rain. Not this year. This spring has been crazy dry, when it stopped raining three weeks ago I thought, this is a nice little break from the usual April dreary grey skies, but then the warmth pushed a lot of the spring bulbs over way to fast and pretty soon the clay soil for which the valley is so famous was starting to crack from the lack of moisture. 

I don't know what a Dogwood Summer heralds for the rest of the growing season, but I sure hope it doesn't mean an inferno of a summer. 

The Camas collection is starting to bloom, as are many of the May wildflowers of the Willamette valley. 

William Conklin Cusick is a name that should be familiar to anyone who studies the flora of Oregon. A self taught botanist in the likes of Howell and Suskdorf. He was assigned to monitor the activities of the Nez Peirce tribe in Idaho as a volunteer of the union army during the Civil War. The Nez Peirce were peaceful and this left Cusick plenty of time to botanize in the hills around Fort Lapwai. Following the war he spent time in Sisters, Oregon and Salem, before finally establishing a homestead in the Thief Valley, near the Powder River of Eastern Oregon. Asa Gray got him into the real deal of botanical collection and he was soon making expeditions into the Cornucopia area of the Wallowa Mountains, from which the form of his namesake Camas was likely seen.  One of the interesting pieces of his story that jumped out to me was he married a widow with 8 children later in life, he supported two of the boys as they attended the Oregon Agricultural College (later to become my alma mater Oregon State University). Both of the boys dropped out of college to get married. I wonder how dissapointed he was at that? 

The indomitable Camas cusickii from a seed collection many years ago in Oregon's Wallowa mountains just seems to get better with age. 

This stately variegated form is gracing the rock garden, the Hebe cupressoides 'Boughton Dome' propagated from Jane McGary's lendary Estacada rock garden makes a nice backdrop of the creamy variegated spears of foliage.

Camas leichtlinii in the wildflower meadow at Illahe

Lupines and Hawthornes as the Wildflower bloom commences.

Nelsons Checkermallow in the Wildflower meadow at Illahe

A few of the wildlfowers are starting in and the season does seem early, with all the warm weather we have had. I really need the rain back to soak the ground for some planting in the vegetable garden. Normally I don't have to put up any summer irrigation until well into June. But this year the ground is so dry it's looking like watering will need to start early. 


Iris douglasiana in the flower border

Iris 'pacific coast hybrid'
This one of the forms from the Berry Botanic Garden that had a nice swarm of Pacific coast hybrids that flowed down a slope under an immense Douglas fir, I've been meaning to propagate this one as it's tucked under some plum trees in the Southern hedgerow and lost to the world for the most part. 

No Rain in the 10 day forecast that I can see.......boy I sure hope this Dogwood Summer doesn't last. 


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