Here’s one of our native purple bush lupines, taken after rain–back when we still had rain. Lupines are in the pea family, so they add nitrogen to the soil. Most of the wild varieties are perennial and take some freezing, as well as positions on crushed-granite hillsides or dried-clay roadsides. Unlike garden lupines, they can also take heat-though they bloom before it gets really hot, and tend to go almost dormant by late summer. This Lupine albifrons is growing in semi-open woods.
One of my very favorite trees, madrones are beautiful in themselves, and make a gracious background for semishade garden plants. (I like to pick the more woodsy types for growing under them. Lilies, columbine, and digitalis are among the good choices for shelter by madrone.) Their brilliant, shiny-green new growth is almost shocking amongst the older, dark-green glossy leaves. They’re semi-evergreen-that is, they do lose leaves, but they always have some on the tree.
Madrones (Arbutus menziesii) are in the heath family, along with manzanita, bearberry, and the European heaths and heathers. They like a high water table (though they don’t need to actually be watered) and they grow bigger and healthier where there’s plenty of moisture in the air as well. Despite their preferences, they grow beautifully in my dry-summer area.
If this weren’t an essay on foliage, I’d go into the many wonders of madrones–bark, berries, flowers, uses, and all-but it really deserves its own post, so I’ll save that for another time.
Black oaks (Quercus kelloggii ) starting to turn in the fall. We don’t get the dramatic colors of New England or the Midwest, but the turning of oaks from green to gold is a quiet drama that lights up every autumn.
Even the final show of foliage–dead and on the ground–has its own beauty.