Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Favorite Plant in the Garden Right Now...

...Is NOT Roscoea 'Spice Island.' I thought it was going to be, because lately I've been really happy that it came back in my garden, it's apparently flourishing in the spot I chose for it, and it's flowering. I went out in the garden to take pictures of it, and realized that even though it's flourishing, it needed propping up, so I stuck a couple of stakes in there, and started to take photos.

The Roscoea is the plant on the right with reddish stems that is tied to stakes like a witch about to be burned.

But after the first couple of pictures I realized it was totally being upstaged by the Aralia californica behind it.

So, my favorite plant this week is my Aralia californica. It was the first plant I ever bought from Far Reaches Farm, in 2011 at the spring Bloedel Reserve Plant Sale. I wrote two posts about visiting the Bloedel Reserve, which you can read here and here, but not about the sale. When I bought it, it was a little seedling, in a 4-inch pot. Every year it has gotten bigger, and I just love the presence it has as part of my garden's backdrop. It's a western native that grows in the wild from northern California through Oregon. Its common name is spikenard or elk clover (I prefer elk clover, because it makes me laugh, I mean, this plant is large, and nothing like any kind of clover I've ever seen). Native Americans used it medicinally as a topical treatment for skin ailments.

All that top growth is herbaceous, dying back all the way to the ground every winter, and regrowing bigger from the roots. It has lovely big serrated leaves, and cute button-like white flowers.

And right now, it has berries, slowly ripening from white to black.

I read that it likes moisture, so I planted it at the edge of the dry creek, which is a real working dry creek that siphons water off the lawn in the rainy season and into a low spot, where I have moisture-loving plants thriving. (I have a fake dry creek in the front).

I guess it loves this spot, because it has gotten enormous since 2011.

Here's some facts about it:

Height: 4-8 ft.
Width: 8 ft.
Hardiness: Zone 3-8
Soil: Moist, rich
Light: Part Shade to Full Shade

You can buy it online from these vendors:

Far Reaches Farm
Keeping It Green

Find out about other garden bloggers' favorites by checking out Danger Garden. Once a week or thereabouts, Loree posts about her favorite plant, and encourages other bloggers to post about theirs. Her favorite this week is Hedychium coccineum 'Tara.'


  1. Now that is a beauty, Love those berries

  2. First of all I'm so jealous that your Roscoea is doing so well (relatively speaking). Mine isn't...I guess I really should move it while it still has a chance, thank you for the reminder.

    Secondly I've done that same thing a couple of times! I grab the camera to go photograph a plant that's caught my eye thinking "it's the one!" but then something else grabs me and says it's the one! They're competing now.

    Finally love your fav and I'm glad you included part of your hand for scale. Those leaves are large!

  3. Spikenard sounds so Pythonesque! I love the aralias, and yours is a beauty. They do like steady moisture (shakes head ruefully). So many of the plants in your photo would be my fave!

  4. What a great plant, hardy, native, and with big leaves that suggest a bit of the tropics. You've picked a really cool favorite!

  5. I love anything with beautiful big leaves but, unfortunately, the moisture requirement rules it out for me.

  6. How odd that something with a 'californica' cultivar is not seen in nurseries here.Perhaps it is the water thing...

  7. That is a cool plant, really lovely in your garden.

  8. Love the Roscoea 'Spice Island', was thrilled when mine bloomed!

  9. Yay for Aralia californica! We planted one last year but it got eaten to death by slugs (sigh!). We ought to try one again...

  10. A true gardener...she must only have a favorite plant for one week, because there are so many to share the title.

    It's beautiful.


  11. This is a new plant to me and I can see why you are smitten with it...


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.