Hardhack

It first caught my eye on a walk in the sunny, rolling hills of Panama Flats.  What a pretty shrub!  AND It’s happily growing in the wild with no gardener to fuss over it!!!

hardhack, steeplebush garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
hardhack
photo by SVSeekins

My mind flashes to fantasies of a low maintenance garden. Isn’t this shrub  a good candidate for membership?

My go-to native plant guide, Plants of the Pacific Northwest, helps identify it:
Common names: hardhack & steeplebush.
BUT it’s the Latin name that rings bells with me:   Spirea Douglasii
Spirea !!
Cousin to the decorative spirea that I see in so many urban landscapes.
Very encouraging.

non-native spirea garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
non-native spirea
photo by SVSeekins

The Douglas Spirea ‘s deciduous leafs are grayish with woolly texture which leads me to guess that they’re deer tolerant. Word has it that black tail deer graze it.  Then another source says it is deer resistant  Who knows?

It tops out at 6ft./ 2m, which is handy for hedging.

The typical home is in moist areas.  That explains why it’s found at Panama Flats as well as Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.  It’s suckering habit produces dense thickets along stream banks.

The pink steeples of Hardhack first appear in June.  The flowers last through the heat of summer eventually turning to brown seed clusters that hold on long after the leaves fall.  That’s a luxuriously long season for feeding bees, then birds!

hardhack, steeplebush garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
hardhack / steeplebush
photo by SVSeekins

This plant is just as pretty as the classic lilac (syringa)  & butterfly bush (buddleja).  Both of those shrubs can be dominating in a garden landscape, seeding or suckering willy-nilly.  I reckon hardhack is a choice replacement option, especially because it is much more of a food source to local birds,  pollinators, & wild life.   It can be dominating like the other two, but only in very moist situations.

I’d like to grow hardhack in my yard, but the moisture requirements are too high.  We do have a ditch that would supply the moisture needed…  maybe C would give up a patch of grass along there ??

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Oceanspray

ocean spray, ironwood, arrow wood, holodiscus discolor, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
ocean spray
photo by SVSeekins

Splashes of frothy white flowers are reminiscent of ocean spray.
Well named.

Some call it cream bush, and it’s easy to see the reason for that, too.

Another name is ironwood because of the strength of trunk.

The west coast  first nations call it arrow-wood. That’s self-explanatory.

So, it’s a pretty AND useful shrub.  I like that.

ocean spray, ironwood, arrow wood, holodiscus discolor, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
ocean spray
photo by SVSeekins

The Latin name is holodiscus discolor.  Doesn’t that name just sound ugly??  But realistically, the 2nd part of the name is what makes sense to me.   Discolor. The flowers fade, turning to brown seed clusters.

I’m reminded of hydrangea & lilac – so pretty at the beginning, but looking more like used tissue paper later on.   ick.

oceanspray,
ocean spray
photo by SVSeekins

That complaint aside, I still  like the idea of having such a showy shrub in our yard.

I’ve seen some looking lovely on rocky outcroppings in full sun. That’s gotta be the epitome of drought tolerant & low maintenance.

Oceanspray is a multi-season work horse:

ocean spray, ironwood, arrow wood, holodiscus discolor, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
ocean spray
photo by SVSeekins
  • spring  – flowers that attract pollinators
  • summer – pretty flowers persist
  • fall – leaves color & seed heads form
  • winter – seed clusters continue to feed birds (especially bush tits) even past some tough storms

Oceanspray is also deer food..  The urban herd that uses our yard nibble on the 2 oceanspray that I bought from Swan Lake Nature Sanctuarys Native Plant Sale.  I don’t know if either bush will ever reach full height (15 ft / 5 m)  unless I cage them in for their own protection.  Once they’re tall enough (6 ft/ 2 m) I reckon the upper limbs will survive the grazing.

Cages just don’t seem decorative to me, so I’m looking for other suggestions.

In the meantime I enjoy 2 short (1 ft /.3 m)  bushy  shrubs.

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