Clematis 2001 - Portland, Oregon, USA

This is the first of my reports on the recent meeting in Portland, Oregon, USA in June / July 2001. Follow this link for my second report featuring the nurseries we visited.

Brewster Rogerson, President, PNCS©K.WoolfendenThe meeting was organised and run by members of the Pacific Northwest Clematis Society (PNCS) and based in Reed College, Portland, Oregon. Many thanks for all the PNCS members and other helpers for all their hard work both prior and during the meeting, also to the donors for their generous contributions that enabled the programme to be offered at an affordable cost to attendees.

Bragdon Hall, Reed College©K.WoolfendenReed College was founded in 1908 and states that "success is measured by a student's increased intellectual capabilities with an emphasis on critical thinking and original thought." It has a long established reputation as a liberal arts college. The buildings stand on a large green campus with an outstanding collection of over 2000 trees representing more than 125 species, many of which are as old as the college.

Beer and talk at Reed College©K.WoolfendenWith an attendance of nearly 80 people, representing some 12 countries, we were allocated rooms across three different halls of residence to ensure no overcrowding of the shared bathroom facilities, a very sensible and practical idea. Each morning a pleasant walk across the "canyon bridge" took us to the refectory for breakfast, freshly cooked and a great way to start each of our busy days.

The 5 day programme comprised a wide variety of events and visits, with lectures by members, visits to private gardens, visits to nurseries, some of the sights of Portland, and much more. And of course there were plenty of opportunities for everyone to catch up with old friendships and make new ones, starting on the first evening with a selection of local beers and other drinks outside Bragdon Hall on campus.

The Flat Garden, Portland Japanese Garden©K.Woolfenden

Sapporo Pagoda Lantern, Portland Japanese Garden©K.WoolfendenThe first day took us to the renowned Japanese Garden of Portland. Comprising a number of areas demonstrating 5 different gardening styles, the coolness and tranquility were immediately apparent in spite of the heat of the sun. Said to be the most authentic Japanese Garden outside of Japan, our guide pointed out some of the intricacies and nuances of the designs, including this antique five-tier stone Sapporo Pagoda Lantern.

Portland Classical Chinese Garden©K.WoolfendenAfter lunch we transferred to the centre of Portland where some went shopping and others made our way to the very recently opened Portland Classical Chinese Garden, Garden of Awakening Orchids.
Portland Classical Chinese Garden©K.WoolfendenIt's modelled on a Suzhou-style garden and was constructed by Chinese craftspeople who travelled to Portland from Suzhou, China, specially for this task, bringing authentic materials and plants with them. It is said to be one of the best examples of a Chinese garden outside of China. It made a fascinating contrast to the morning visit and forms a cultural haven of peace in the middle of the busy city.

Day two saw us in a lecture theatre in Reed College to be welcomed officially by Brewster Rogerson, President of the Pacific Northwest Clematis Society and then to listen to to three very interesting lectures; Kozo Sugimoto of the Kasugai Garden Center on New Japanese Cultivars (with many thanks to Shigeyo Kikuchi for interpreting); Murray Rosen from Chalk Hill Clematis on Using Clematis as Cut Flowers; and Vicki Matthews, the International Clematis Registrar, on the Registering of Clematis and International Naming Standards. We emerged at lunchtime with much to think about.

C. pseudopogonandra©K.WoolfendenAfter lunch it was off in separate groups to visit four very different and contrasting private gardens in and around Portland.

Linda Beutler's garden©K.WoolfendenLinda Beutler lives in a lovely turn-of-the-century house in Portland and has designed her garden to match this style. The garden may not be that large (just as well we'd broken up into small groups) but it is completely full of plants. My eyes were immediately drawn to Clematis pseudopogonandra (left), a small cultivar I'd never even heard of before our visit. But there were many other interesting things in the garden, both in the design and the planting, and one or two surprises, like the creative use of an ex-shopping trolley.

Lucy Hardiman's Garden©K.WoolfendenLucy Hardiman's Garden©K.WoolfendenLucy Hardiman is a garden designer by profession and her private garden is a wonderful advert for her skills. It starts even before one reaches her house, as Lucy and Fred have built a seat into the wall of their front garden for passers by to seat and enjoy the sight and scent of the adjoining flowers.

Lucy Hardiman's garden, allium head©K.WoolfendenRound into the back garden and you can see Lucy's planting skills in the complementary planting. The garden has a number of paths which, when combined as they are with both the plants and various structures, provide many interesting corners to discover. And Lucy has a sense of humour, as you can see in the multi-coloured allium heads - amazing what a can of spray paint can do!

View from Virginia Israelit's garden©K.WoolfendenThe third of the gardens on our itinerary belonged to Virginia Israelit. Viginia Israelit's garden©K.WoolfendenSet on a steep slope with a wonderful view over Portland, it is large and imposing but still manages to feel delicate and intimate through the attention to detail. I particularly liked the avenue of steps down by the side of the house, and swathe of cool shade given by the tall plants either side, most refreshing on this hot afternoon. With such a slope, everything is a challenge but Virginia has to rise to this, one of her latest projects is a woodland walk behind and above the house.

Gate in Selby Key's garden©K.WoolfendenThe forth and final garden for the afternoon was that of Selby Key. Selby Key's garden©K.WoolfendenA most imposing property, the long drive up by the side of the plot is bordered by a hot planted border of bright annuals and perennials. Reaching the end one enters the secret garden behind the house through a hand-wrought iron gate, just one of many modern sculptures within this garden.

The garden is divided into a number of areas, each with it's own unique look. The cleverly planting creates a very natural feel, as though it has existing for many decades and very slowly evolved into it's present state.

Sunday was no day of rest, at least not for the majority of attendees. We were provided with a number of options from which to select one activity for the day. They included a trip to Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge and the Hood Valley, and a visit to some nurseries and private gardens of Clark County, Washington State. Wildflower Hike©K.WoolfendenBut for me it had to be the Wildflower Hike, up through forest in the Columbia Gorge to a wonderful ridge covered in wildflowers. Many miles from the nearest road, it was unspoilt and beautiful. Whilst the hike wasn't too strenuous (it was quite an easy one according to the "true" hikers amongst us) there was a real sense of achievement as we reached the ridge above the tree-line.

Next month I'll look at the nurseries we visited in the second half of the programme. I'll leave you with a view from the ridge over the Cascades.

View over the Cascades©K.Woolfenden

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