It’s Sunday, July 30 , and 87º outside, our forecasted high. We’re at the front end of a forecast that is calling for two days over our record highest temperature ever recorded in Portland. I’m looking at it now, Monday, the 31st calls for 92º, August 1 for 99º, 108º, a record, on the 2nd, 110º, another record, on the 3rd, before ‘cooling’ to 105º on the 4th and 95º the next day. Our average high for this time of year is 82º. The current record is 107º set on Aug. 8, ’81 and matched on Aug. 10, ’81. That may not seem that high to people in the SW, but it is here and here is what matters. Temperature is a local phenomenon. It’s okay if we whine about it. It’s hotter than we’re used to. Hotter than what the local native flora and fauna are ‘used’ to. For native species it’s not just about preferences, though we may use that word when we talk about their requirements and limits. Continue reading
(I wrote this several years ago for the HPSO Bulletin, when it was actually printed on paper, and thought re-issuing it today, edited and expanded, might be helpful to some as we are about to enter their flowering season. The iris pictured on my Blog’s masthead is Iris x pacifica ‘Simply Wild’ poking out from the base of the Chilean shrub Fabiana imbricata ‘Violacea’)
Gardening is no more or less subject to the vagaries of fad and fashion than the other activities we dabble in. Marketers prey on us luring us with plants possessing new and alluring characteristics, promises of larger flowers, more disease resistant, floriferous, more exotic or environmentally responsible, less maintenance intensive… the list goes on. Gardening is a very personal endeavor and as such we will always be subject to such Siren calls. There will be the righteous amongst us convinced of their own focused vision who seem to be immune (but what, we might ask, are they missing?) and there will be those who simply surrender completely to the beauty and bounty around them making themselves easy prey. In the long run, who is to say who is right? Our knowledge is imperfect and we are weak…. The act of gardening strengthens us, provides us with the opportunity to learn and in so doing puts us into relationship with the living world around us. We become better gardeners capable of making better, though still imperfect, decisions. Whether we garden to augment our own diets with what we grow or are trying our hand at healing a small piece of a damaged earth, or building a place of respite for ourselves and friends or trying to model ‘right’ behavior for our children and neighbors, we are out in our gardens and landscapes learning something of how incredibly complex this earth is…and that is all good. Continue reading
Thirty years ago, when I first moved here to the Portland area from the Central Oregon High Desert country, very few people were growing Manzanita. Those plants that you did see were local natives that you had to search out, remanent populations of widely scattered stands, in western Oregon, in the Cascades, parts of the Gorge and Siskiyous or on old stabilized dunes above the beach, e.g., near Manzanita. They were mostly ignored in the trade, barely recognized by anyone other than those in the Northwest native plant societies and hikers who would go out on forays botanizing. When I still lived in Bend, I would occasionally order dry-land native plants, like Cercocarpus, that could be seen in the Ochocos, from Forest Farm in southern Oregon. My first two horticulture books, other than the many vegetable growing guides I bought from Rodale Press and Steve Solomon’s guide, were the Sunset Western Garden Guide and Arthur Kruckberg’s, “Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest”…I went through them over and over again. In the small space Kruckberg devoted to Manzanita he wrote, in the first paragraph, “Only Arctostaphylos uva-ursi…, A. nevadensis…and possibly A. patula are hardy in colder areas.” Because I lived in one of these ‘colder areas’ this stayed with me, effecting my view of the genus. I’ve already posted on A. patula, of it growing in Central Oregon, the eastern slopes of the Cascades and as a specimen outside of our breakfast window in my childhood home. Other than A. columbiana, a denizen more of the western Cascade slopes and the high ground of the Coast Range, Kruckberg barely mentions the other species and forms…of which there are argued to be between 50 and 100, primarily in California and southern Oregon. Continue reading
I’m a horticulturist, a person trained and practiced in the ‘art and science of growing plants’…a classification to which trees belong. I’m not a ‘tree expert’ though I like to think I’ve learned a few things having spent most of my last 35+ years out working in the landscape, planting, caring for, diagnosing and designing, the bulk of which was maintenance, trouble shooting and tweaking landscapes so that they work ‘better’. Trees were always part of it…so I have opinions.
[One of the lessons most of us learn on our journey to adulthood is to avoid the topics of religion and politics in casual conversation. These can be very divisive. In Portland the topic of trees can also elicit strong feelings amongst their advocates. The City of Portland has worked toward the protection of its trees. Here we have, in many cases, codified the planting, pruning and removal of trees in an attempt to stop the most egregious offenses and to expand the urban tree canopy. The City, through its Forestry Division, also works to help educate a public that too often has little to no connection to the green growing world. It is a huge task especially when so many other public institutions, like public schools, play almost no role. I spent the biggest part of my professional work life in Portland Parks and Recreation and I know that most Park’s staff have a passion for the work as well, even after years of working in a very political atmosphere with inadequate support. It would wear on anybody. So when I criticize aspects of the City’s tree program I want to be very clear that I am not criticizing the people or their intent.]
Portland loves its trees, except for the malcontents who view each leaf that falls on their property as an affront not to be tolerated, oh, and those developers looking to build and cash in on ever square foot of space that they can appropriate. Yes, these people are out there, just as are there opposite. Continue reading
A friend recently asked me if I had some favorite trees that I would recommend for planting on school landscapes, that would be like asking if I had favorite park trees, no I don’t…and I don’t have a list of proven performers either. A planting site being located at a school, only tells me something about the uses/abuses one can likely expect on a site, and nothing more. When we choose plants we need to be paying attention to a lot more than that. Many people are intimidated when it comes to choosing trees, there are so many and potentially, they live so long, growing from year to year…all of this tends to magnify the ‘weight’ of our decision. People often look for short cuts because there are so many things to keep in mind when choosing. There are two major questions that need consideration first, the site conditions and design, what will the tree have to put up with and what do you expect? Continue reading
Overall, mine is a sunny warm garden. Like any landscape or garden it is defined or described by its: place, design and plant choices. Where these three all come together, you have a garden. Each one presents itself as, what some might view, a daunting array of options or possibilities.
What exactly do I include under ‘place’? Certainly climate, exposure, aspect, slope, soils and the ‘history’ of gardening and ‘disturbance’ on the site. It also includes the larger surrounding landscape, the context within which it is located and the physical ‘features’ built and natural with which it will be a part. The story of a place is important. Place, is the major limiting factor in a garden. Gardens are also defined by the choices we make. Each choice precludes others. In a very real sense gardening is a process of limitation. ‘If this then not that’. What we need to be aware of is that these, design and plant choices, these limitations, can either work together or compound each other when not made with awareness. When design and/or plant choices ignore place, the gardener must overcome all of the ‘conflicts’ this choice has put in to play, or face ‘failure’.
This little tour begins from the traffic circle at the intersection of SW Montgomery St. and River Dr, by the sign to South Waterfront Park and Garden. It has you walking north along the esplanade in front of the shops and restaurants. It concludes about 900′ to the north at the Riverplace Hotel.
Sometimes it pains me to take walks. I was on my way home from the Imperial Bottle Shop and Tap Room, walking down SE 26th south of Powell Blvd when I came across these four Katsura trees planted in a 4′ wide parking strip, no curb parking with a painted bike lane right next to the curb. Katsura trees 24″ from the bike lane. How is that going to work? Trees grow. Branches extend and caliper up. Branches hit bicyclists and pedestrians in the face and people crash and or break branches. (Yes, I know these can be limbed up over time but we all know how often that doesn’t happen and what are these trees going to look like if all of the branches are cut off of the street side up to 14′ for traffic clearance. Trucks regularly use this street.) And then there’s the whole it’s just the wrong plant for the growing conditions thing. Katsuras grow in the mixed woodlands of Japan with moderate temps and summer rainfall. So that looks like 3 strikes out of 4 pitches. Landscape architects still love these…so do I, but planting them in positions with reflected heat with limited root runs through compacted mineral soils!!!! It’s 90 degrees today, their foliage is stressed even with their water bags filled around their bases. I have seen many more bad examples of Katsura use over the last 25 years than i’ve seen appropriate. If you’re going to plant them plant them in a woodland or along the edge where they will be protected from intense direct sun and make sure they have a long cool root run. This is so wrong. Now we’ll all have to watch these limp along getting by stressing until they die or become so damaged someone removes them. Continue reading
The following is an evaluation I initially did while still working for Portland Parks and Recreation. I’ve edited it a bit and added a few things to make it more current. I think it’s important for people to know what others are doing, what they’ve tried and what were the successes and failures. While kind of long it is still a brief look at the conditions on a few sites that were under my care and my observations concerning their performance. As Downtown area Parks these landscapes are very accessible for those curious to see how these plants have done on the ground. Now, most of you if your gardening is limited to your own backyards will never have to deal with landscapes so large, nor will your growing conditions, specifically your soil, be the same, I thought that it would be interesting to share this anyway, in addition to letting you know where you can come see how these plants can look in a landscape. All were planted small as they tend to better adapt to their sites when small, but some are beginning to mature and show what they can do. Anyway, I view our Parks as a public asset. There are many valuable and important plantings around us, that the public is largely unaware of. Part of my role here is to change this situation through promotions like this and by continuing to work with horticulturist to create some kind of database of public and private plantings that is accessible for viewing by the general public. Continue reading