Friday, October 3, 2008

Garden Writers Symposium – Portland, OR

Portland, OR sends its regards. I am just back from the Garden Writers Symposium; I think my tailwind brought back some of their cool air. Thank goodness, we’re all ready for a break from the heat.

There’s nothing like a conference for networking and stimulation, and this one was no disappointment. It drew some 600 plant nerds from all over the country. Besides every type of journalist, there were photographers, growers, garden designers, public and private garden employees.

Portland, OR is the perfect setting for a symposium on gardens. For rose lovers like me, it’s heaven. Roses were everywhere, from front yards to strips along sidewalks to harsh highway dividers. The international testing site for roses — trials of several new unnamed varieties take place every year there. It currently boasts some 500 roses. The city’s weather is ideal for plants (less so for people)—a mild short summer and a very long but mild wet winter. One show vendor has already sent me its rose, Oso Easy Roses, as a trial in my home garden along with the cracker roses, heirloom own-roots, and others I already have. If I have anything to do with it, we will have easy to grow roses in the future Garden.

The schedule kept us hopping. We had classes in the morning and tours in the afternoon. Topics ranged from photography and self editing to ornamental grasses and garden blogs. Tours took us to urban private gardens as well as nurseries.

On my free day I drove down to Oregon Garden in Silverton and discovered a very innovative garden. This 80-acre garden is only 9 years old and is on the forefront of public garden design. Some of the things they’re doing:
In partnership with the town, it developed a wetland system to recycle the city's treated wastewater and irrigate ornamental plantings; water features throughout the Garden demonstrate that purpose.

Being pet friendly — allowing dogs on short leashes.

Work with the local soup kitchen, donating some 3,000 pounds of vegetables grown on site this year.

Offering on-site lodging at the newly opened Oregon Garden Resort.

In my absence, somehow life at the Garden went on without me. The Garden was open for a Tropical Mosaic visit on September 17th and again September 27th. Brian Holley joined up with Brian Galligan and Carolyn Miller to collect plants from Montgomery Botanical Center and Bloomin’ Good Gardens in the Miami area. Hort staff attended classes on palm identification and irrigation.

The annual FNATS (Florida Nursery & Allied Trades Show) September 25th and 26th in Orlando beckoned. Brian Galligan and Carolyn Miller came back with valuable new and renewed contacts and product information. They also toured Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando and Bok Tower Sanctuary in Lake Wales.

Upon my return I found that autumn was indeed afoot. The cooler night temperatures had triggered some plants like the Brunfelsias into bloom. The Garden has several hugging the loggia that beckon with their scent (hence their common name Ladies of the Night). The flowers usually are trumpet shaped but vary from yellow (B. lactea) to cream (B. ‘Isola’) or cream with shades of blue (B. Americana). The most eye-catching and well known is Morning, Noon and Night (B. pauciflora), whose flowers change from purple, to pale lavender to white.

The burgundy border has a new look. After its severe pruning, it was a sorry sight. Hort staff filled in gaps with maroon and ruby plants: purple fountain grass (Pennisetum rubrum), red hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella), Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’, purple threads Joseph’s coat (Alternanthera ‘Red Thread’), and purple-leaved canna (Canna indica ‘Purpurea’).

Tropical Mosaic Garden visits continue. Future dates include Friday and Saturday, Nov. 28th and 29th, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Dec. 26th, 27th, and 28th. Visit the Garden on those dates anytime between 9am and noon, except for Dec. 28th, when the hours are 1 pm to 4pm.

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