You cannot make someone like something. To many, a desert will always only look brown and dead, but for those attuned to them, deserts can be beautiful, awe inspiring, expansive, places of raw earth and geology, intimately tied to sky, filled with little jewel boxes, hidden just out of view and down at your feet…places of rock, delimited by the scarcity of water, with plants that not only tolerate its paucity, but require it, where the sun and wind seek it out. My wife and I grew up in the ‘Sagebrush Steppe’, the Oregon High Desert and on its edge where it meets the Ponderosa Pine Forest. I often spent hot summer days with my family water skiing on reservoirs in the dammed up canyons of the Deschutes and Crooked rivers, while she often found herself living out of places like Summer Lake and northern New Mexico for the summer. We both still feel the draw of these places, while others only hunger for more green and lush landscapes where the scale is shifted and plants cover the earth often with flowers that you can’t help be pulled to. As a horticulturist, I actually appreciate both. 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
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.
I’m over here in Bend for the Labor Day weekend doing family stuff, visiting my dad and Julie’s parents…dealing. I worked my way through the first draft of an article/posting on everyone’s favorite Manzanita, isn’t it, Arctostaphylos patula, with a sustainable landscape spin. I met two old friends at the 6th Annual Little Woody, a celebration of beers aged in barrels, mostly bourbon or wine, 24 breweries with 40 decisions to make. Needless to say they got easier as we worked our way around. If you’re a beer snob and like to wow your friends with talk of original and final gravity, A.B.V. and what the right balance of I.B.U.s might be, this is for you. It’s still a modest sized crowd that attends. Don’t expect pints, just good beer, with a twist and extra ooomph!
Today, though I’m between things and went for a walk with plants in mind, Arctostaphylos foremost, and set out to look a little closer at some of Bend’s more public ‘scapes, in their roadways not their Parks. Bend is known for its ubiquitous and proliferating traffic circles so I checked this one out on SW 14th, on Bend’s westside. They are all planted from a native palette. A couple of bronze deer were curious what I was doing. The light was glaring and my pictures less than I had hoped.
After that I was cutting through some commercial spaces on my way to check out Bend’s newest booze joint, Back Drop Distilling, it’s sharing space with Good Life Brewing, but the sign says they won’t be open until sometime later this fall, when I saw these Rhamnus frangula ‘Asplenifolia’ at a little US Bank branch office. 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