Friday, June 3, 2016

One person who will not be reading this blog is Paige. I received a heart-wrenching email from her after a recent Flora Wonder Blog on My Grandfather's Garden.

Please, please delete me from your mailing and blog distribution lists. After reading the blogs, there is zero chance that I will ever buy from you.

Gee, sorry that we're not on the same page, Paige. I cried into my beer for a while, then gathered myself and burst into song (a la Engelbert Humperdinck in the 1980's):

I'll delete you and let you go
For you don't want my blog anymore
To waste your time would be a sin
I'll release you so you can love again
You have found a new blog, dear
And you will always want it near
But before I let you go, my dear
Could you please serve me another beer?


"I Hate Flowers"

Flowers of Abies koreana 'Vengels'

I know a couple of nurserymen who have exclaimed, “ I hate flowers.” A well-known Dutch conifer grower uttered the sentiment as we were cruising down a California freeway where the medium planting of oleander (Nerium oleander) for miles and miles indeed grew wearisome. It is an evergreen shrub that tolerates poor dry soil, so perfect for roadside planting though boring. But c'mon, the plantsman didn't really mean that he hated all flowers, because after all he is aware that his beloved conifers also flower, every one of them. I would never plant a damn oleander in my garden either – it would clash like my uncle in his cheap plaid suit and white socks who shows up unannounced.

Autumn foliage of Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White'

Another “nurseryman” who detested flowers was a young whippersnapper with ADHD who I used to employ. When my back was turned he would edit perennials from my landscape with weed killer. His brain required a more simple world without the complicated clutter of foliage and flowers, and for him the perfect landscape consisted of well-spaced Japanese maples and conifers with lots of unplanted barkdust. He claimed that my one specimen of Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White' looked like a weed and the garden was better off without it. Little did he know that I enthusiastically bought it at a plant sale because I had previously seen it myself in the alpine meadows of Kashmir.

Portland International Rose Test Garden

Jesse A. Curry
Rodrigo with the Rosarium
To a degree I can relate to these two garden minimalists, but I am fascinated by flowers and I have tons of them in my landscape. I can “relate” because plant snobs such as myself prefer the simple flowers of a species rather than the gaudy hybrids, the single flower over the double, and the petite over flowers bred for size...just as with women. Nevertheless it can be interesting to visit the Las Vegas-like excess of some flower gardens even tough I don't want to grow them. One recent visit was to the Portland International Rose Test Garden which features more than 10,000 roses, plus spectacular views of downtown and Mt. Hood on a clear day. The garden was conceived by Jesse A. Curry in 1915, and it started out as a safe haven for hybrid roses grown in Europe during World War I. Later Portland became known as the “City of Roses” with a summer Rose Festival presided over by “Rosarians,” a Rose Parade and an annual Rose Festival (high school) Queen. Every year hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world visit the 4.5 acre free garden, and on a sunny day the heady fragrance is smothering – the roses, that is.

By 9 AM the parking lot was jammed, and meters were installed a year ago which provide thousands of dollars in additional revenue for the mayor to squander, and boy is he good at it. The crowd was well-behaved for the most part, as children are not inclined to dash through the rose beds. Many families brought their grandmothers, and the old gals smiled at the chance to be outdoors, if only for once per year. Young men brought their dates – perhaps a heart-throbbing first date – in an attempt to demonstrate that they have a pleasant, sensitive side. An old hag seemed oblivious to the serenity of others as she squawked out instructions to a little brat about how to pose for her camera. A foreign woman – I think from Bulgaria – wore tight lime-green pants and you could instantly spot her in the crowd of hundreds.

Rodrigo at the Rose Garden

It was a pleasant-weather Sunday, so of course the garden was full. My mission was to serve as a tour guide for our Brazilian intern, Rodrigo, who slaves six days a week at hard physical labor at the nursery, in spite of the fact that he holds a master's degree in genetics. We seem well-suited for each other – he will gain an appreciation for the lower-educated laborers who impress him with their speed and skill, and I can finally dispel with the stereotype of all university-educated Brazilian men as being useless.

Portland Japanese Garden

After the Rose Garden we walked up the hill to the adjoining (almost) Portland Japanese Garden, which I considered to be the main event for the day. I won't go into that experience now, but it certainly was a contrast to the exuberance of the Rose Garden. In no way do I put down the hybrid roses and it's what the public likes in any case, and I think the majority of visitors would prefer them over what I grow. Below are some individual portraits, but there could have been thousands of others.

Rosa 'Summer Love'

Rosa 'Grande Duchess Charlotte''

Rosa 'Neil Diamond'

Rosa 'Tequila Gold'

Rosa 'Red Drift'

Rosa 'Rosarium Uetersen'

Rosa 'Love & Peace'

Rosa 'Good As Gold'

Rosa 'Iceberg'

Rosa 'Comtesse De Provence'

Rosa 'Oregold'

Rosa 'Watercolors'

Rosa 'The Lark Ascending'

Rosa 'Hot Cocoa'

Rosa 'Julia Child'

Rosa 'Peace'

Rosa 'Jacob's Robe'

Rosa 'Happy Go Lucky'

Rosa 'Chihuly'

Rosa 'Whistle Stop'

Rosa 'Lyda Rose'

Rosa 'Preference'

Rosa 'George Burns'

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