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As always there was much to inspire at a recent and wet visit to Cistus. Entering this world-famous Oregon nursery that I am so lucky to have regular access to really does give me the overwhelming feeling of being a kid in a candy store. It’s hard to know where to look. Each plant feels like a treasure. Read on for some of the things that caught my eye.

Fall garden beauties at Cistus

First up, I spent time browsing the tables in the main area of the nursery. Since I often visit Cistus in the lush, tropical splendor of summer, I don’t associate it with fall interest, but wow, there were so many plants really shining this season.

1. Callistemon ‘Best Blue’ (Lemon Bottlebrush)

Fine-leaved blue foliage and thin reddish branches of Callistemon 'Best Blue'.

Callistemon pallidus ‘Best Blue’ is a Cistus introduction and one they refer to as a collector’s Bottlebrush. Even without seeing this in bloom I’m sold on its very handsome blue foliage with contrasting russet stems which would really be a standout if positioned against a background of fall’s vibrant leaves.

2. Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Ace’ (European Spindle Tree)

Close-up view of small pendulous pink seed pods hanging on a single branch with rain water droplets dripping off them and a dark green blurred background.
The striking pink seed pods of Euonymus Europaeus Red Ace

Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Ace’ was really making me weak in the knees with its dripping, red pendulous seed pods. Holy moly. I can see why Cistus says it’s the most expensive plant fellow nursery-owner, the late Dorothy Rodal, ever purchased. Evidently it also has chartreuse spring flowers and the winter seed pods open to reveal tiny orange fruit known as capsules. Unbelievable. 

3. Parthenocissus inserta (Woodbine)

Bright pinkish red serrated leaves on thin branches.
Stunning foliage on Parthenocissus inserta.

Parthenocissus inserta or Grape Woodbine was showing off shockingly red foliage. This is a fun one to think about planting around a doorway. You’d need to provide some support because evidently it is a twining plant that lacks the sticky pads of related Virginia Creepers. Thank goodness. 

4. Yucca rostrata (Beaked Yucca)

A mature trunked yucca rostrata in a display garden featuring grey foliage
Yucca Rostrata at the display garden at Cistus Nursery.

Yucca rostrata is one of the hardiest tree yuccas down to USDA zone 5 and just out of this world, forming an impressive trunk topped with what Cistus describes as “a rounded halo”. The beautiful blue-green foliage is a knockout that really pops against the warm toned fall leaves. I read that yuccas have become so coveted that there’s now a big poaching business and plants are being dug up from public and private land. What a sad business. Luckily we can obtain these ethically seed-grown specimens from Cistus. 

5. Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus’ (Variegated Sweet Flag)

Close-up of thin grassy foliage in variegated chartreuse and dark green.
The fine-leaved foliage of soft Acorus Gramineus ‘Variegatus’

Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus,’ with its tiny, grassy blades that are so soft and delicate, really packs a punch of vivid chartreuse and is another plant which was really popping in the autumn light. I like the thought of this one in containers where you can really appreciate the fine texture closer to eye level.

The tenders

Next, moving through the greenhouse where the selection of tender plants are kept under cover, I spotted many that would make striking houseplants, which helped assuage my sadness about summer’s end and the arrival of fall. Way to bring the party inside for those of us living in zones where much of the garden will be sleeping for a few months.

1. Begonia maculata ‘Cadbury’ (Angel Wing Begonia)

A close-up of dark green and emerging chartreuse lancet-shaped leaves of a houseplant covered in white polka dots.
Polka-dot begonia ‘Cadbury’ at Cistus Nursery, Portland.

Begonia maculata ‘Cadbury’ is an adorable polka dot begonia and Cistus says that the mature form of this cane style gives the plant the appearance of a cluster of palms. AMAZING! I want one so bad.

2. Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant)

Close-up of long feather-shaped leaves in milky green with dark green spots that look hand-painted.
Calathea Lancifolia makes a stunning houseplant.

And ‘Cadbury’ was extra popping next to the stunning Calathea lancifolia. It looks hand-painted and that vivid yet creamy green is just delicious. Cistus describes it as easy and forgiving. This plant really speaks my language. 

3. Abutilon Chiffon (Flowering Maple)

Butter yellow flowers and flower buds on abutilon 'Chiffon'
Abutilon ‘Chiffon’

Abutilon Chiffon caught my eye with it’s large bell-shaped flowers and pale yellow color. A bit more subdued than other Abutilons which somehow made it even more charming. 

4. Begonia ‘Mr. O’Flaherty’

Large oak-leaf shaped leaves in grey and dark green and burgundy on Begonia 'Mr.O'Flaherty' in a pot.
Begonia ‘Mr.O’Flaherty’

Begonia ‘Mr. O’Flaherty’ is possibly hardy to as low as USDA Zone 9 but no matter as this one is so handsome I’d prefer to spend the winter indoors with him as a houseplant. What a dapper plant. 

5. Lysionotus ‘Pudding’ (Cliff Flower)

Yellow flowering Lysionotus Pudding vine.
Lysionotus ‘Pudding’

Cistus recommends Lysionotus ‘Pudding’ as a great pot stuffer for shady situations where it’s frost hardy to 25F but again this would be a swell houseplant I think. 

The cactus house

And finally, in the cactus house at Cistus, as always there were numerous goodies for the spiky plant collectors among us which are always covetable, fall through spring.

A cluster of aged terracotta pots with a variety of spiky looking desert plants.
Plant display in the Cistus Cactus House

1. Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’

Lancet shaped grey leaves splashed with shades of dusty wine on Mangave 'Mission to Mars' in terra cotta pot at Cistus Nursery.
Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’

I was really taken in by the Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’ with its stunning painterly shades of cool green-blue and wine. Not to mention its very bold  and upright architectural shape. I’ve killed this beautiful plant before because I was overly optimistic about its hardiness but I want to try again indoors. 

2. Mangave ‘Moonglow’

Two Mangave 'Moonglow' plants in ceraminc pots showing pale grey green leaves dotted with burgundy.
Mangave ‘Moonglow’

x Mangave ‘Moonglow’ PP29195 was also looking great, more speckled and flat in shape and edged in light grey. It really did seem to glow. 

3. Cryptanthus ‘Zebra’ (Earth Star)

Close up view of the strikingly white and dark green Zebra or Zebrinus variety of Cryptanthus.
Cryptanthus ‘Zebra’ is a an eye-catching plant for the tropical collector.

I just learned that these bromeliads are known as Earth Stars. I love that. This variety, Cryptanthus ‘Zebra Star,’ would be so incredible in terracotta as a patio plant and a stunning houseplant. 

4. Opuntia ‘Kelly’s Choice’ (Prickly Pear Cactus)

Cistus Nursery grows one of the most impressively varied Opuntia collections around. Opuntia ‘Kelly’s Choice’ seems like a great choice for an Opuntia nube like me. It has all the hallmark traits of a Prickly Pair I desire such as big, wide paddles, loads of vibrant watermelon-colored Spring flowers, an upright growth habit up to 6’ tall, and given sharp drainage hardiness to zone 5a. 

Close-up of paddle leaves on a cactus plant with many more cactus nursery starts in the background.
Kelly’s Choice Prickly Pear is a choice pick for a hardy and beautiful opuntia.

Echinopsis oxygona (Easter Lily Cactus)

This cactus-curious gardener was really taken in by the display of Echinopsis oxygona arranged in a tray and brought up closer to eye level in a pot stacked on top of another overturned pot. Genius!

A close-up of a large terra-cotta planter full of small rounded barrel cactus.
A display of Echinposis

Opuntia fragilis var. denudata ‘Potato’

A hand holding up a nursery start of a rounded Opuntia cactus in a blue green color with more opuntias seen on a nursery table in the background.
The cutest Opuntia Potato

I started having daydreams about how adorable a similarly planted shallow pot spilling over with Opuntia fragilis var. denudata ‘Potato’ would be. Talk about cute.

Thanks to Cistus for continuing to inspire and for offering one of the most exciting plant selections anywhere. I am already looking forward to my next visit.