The sunniest wildflower

My top pick for an accommodating Pacific Northwest native wildflower (west of the Cascades) is OREGON SUNSHINE, the happiest flower of late spring/early summer.

Here are the reasons why it is so superior:

  1. Easily germinated. Frequently, it is the only plant that comes up when I broadcast seed in the fall. Its gray leaves seem to just appear when all else is weeds. Do sow abundantly, as not every seed will come up.
  2. Persistent through early drought. If you forget to water, this one will likely survive, and take off once you remember.
  3. Beautiful foliage and sunny flowers. They are just happy plants, they make the gardener happy.
  4. Easily managed. They may spread more than you like, or become woody after a couple of years. Just shear them down after bloom to keep them fresh (not too close to winter – if you need to do it in March, that’s ok). If they sprawl, they are easily removed and not invasive.
  5. As native flowers they provide superior pollen and nectar for beneficial and native insects, including solitary bees and wasps, butterflies and hover flies.

Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) loves sun, but will tolerate a bit of shade and even like it. Soil that drains well is better than saturated soil, but a clay slope is okay, as is more gravelly soil It plays well with other plants, and grows about 1-2.5 feet tall depending on soil, exposure, moisture and age. Allow it to wend its way through tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), asters, and goldenrod (Solidago occidentalis or S. canadensis) to extend the pollinator smorgasbord. Add some showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and you’ve got yourself a super eco-friendly garden with monarch caterpillar food.

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