Wednesday, September 2, 2009

There's Something About Oxalis

I don't know what it is exactly...the charming leaf shape, the lush carpet of foliage they form, or just the sheer calming effect a carpet of the stuff has...but i LOVE oxalis. Ever since I was a kid and was drawn to the one green oasis in my parents' lawn of dead, yellow grass during a hot Nebraska summer, I've been intrigued by this resilient little plant. Of course, in the lawn it was the dreaded white clover (Trifolium repens), hated the world over by lovers of the homogenous, green lawn...but i loved it. It was a little island of jade green peacefullness, covered with little white flowers, which, in turn, were covered by dozens of bees, all jostling for the one bit of nectar in a green desert. Flash forward 20-some-odd years and Norm and I went to the Leach Botanical Gardens in SE Portland...and a love affair was rekindled. This time, the suitor was the truly lovely Oxalis Oregana (above) a.k.a. Redwood Sorrel...a native of the PNW. Blankets of the stuff covered large areas in the garden, washing up against ferns, trees and rocks...covering hillsides and tumbling onto paths. Strangely, I've been unable to find a nursery that carries this particular variety, so i've resorted to several other types for my garden.

First, there is the sorta chartreuse version with the pink flowers, which has slowly grown over the summer and formed a nice-sized clump which hasn't stopped blooming since I planted it, which is nice. The leaves have increased in size with each wave of new growth and are super-charming, that typical heart shape. They are definitely a winner and I will probably plant more in the future.

Next we have Dark Dancer...a variety I've seen all over, mostly in containers. This one has smaller leaves that are a dark, rich green with a burgundy-purple (almost black) center. I have to say I adore this variety for the sheer lushness of the patches it forms, only about 4-6" tall, but spreading to about a 1 1/2' over the course of the last 2 months. The color combo is great and I'm hoping it continues to looks great at the edge of a bed, tumbling over and softening the edges of walkways.

The last is the famous purple-leaved variety...which I have to say, so far, is my least favorite. It doesn't seem to have grown much at all...and may be getting too much a few of the leaves look scorched...i may move it to a place with more consistent shade and water this fall and see if it perks up next year.


  1. I just discovered Oxalis Oregana a year or so ago, and am now a big fan. It's a cool stream of green under some wild cherry trees near my house, but I hope it will spread. And now I'll be on the lookout for these other varieties, thanks!

  2. That's awesome Tom...I recently bought some O. Oregana from a nursery in town...well, last fall...and can't wait for it to start spreading so I can propagate it and create a nice little patch of it!