Hmmm. Sadly, someone has decided that, once again, plants planted in public places are available for the taking. I’ve been informed the a few Arisaema, among other perennials have disappeared after they began to bloom. Having gardened myself for many years in the public sphere, it is aggrevating, and disturbing, how some people decide they can take plants, because, after all, they pay taxes. I’ve actually had people tell this to me when they were confronted. Others, I imagine see it simply as an opportunity to get ‘free’ plants. The worst times have been when I’ve had plants pulled up that I find elsewhere, broken, dried and dead. Once, I had a Fejoa sellowiana, now Acca, dragged across the lawn at Waterfront Park, they left a dirt trail, to where they tossed it into the Willamette over the seawall! Several years back, I came back the next day to finish a planting and all of the Spiarea I had planted the day before was gone, more than 20 plants, so probably by a landscape company, and this was from a utility planting to shield a parking area. Many public gardens, maybe most, around the world, are protected by fencing and locked gates after hours. This adds more costs upfront and can often make regular maintenance more difficult for access reasons. One alternative is to plant ‘unattractive’ plants that no one will want…, but what’s the point of that. We can’t ‘nail’ every plant down, so in Parks we would just go back and do it again. Don’t get me started on the just stupid vandalism of broken trees….
A few years ago the Washington Park crew started to joke about their new ‘Himalayan Cloud Forest Garden’ on the north slope of the Park above west Burnside. I was still working in the Downtown Parks and though not part of the project, was greatly excited by its creation. What began as an Ivy removal/ restoration project had quickly morphed into an idea for a species Rhododendron display garden (Or, perhaps, the idea came first!). Washington Park, minus the Zoo/ Arboretum acreage is about 160 acres. Much of the terrain is rough and undeveloped. For years, due to budget constraints, maintenance has been focused on the high use impact areas. Neglected areas included the ‘Cloud Forest’ portion above the ‘Canyon Walk’ which follows the draw down to the old Stearn’s entrance on Burnside where it begins to carve its way through the trees. Over the years English Ivy built up to a smothering blanket. Other plants, like English Holly had reached mature size and were seeding in alarmingly. While on the crew myself, some years earlier, I spent many hours cutting, treating stumps and dragging the Holly trees off. That effort accelerated in recent years when the two staff ‘Rhody-philes’ began feeding off each other’s energy.