The Constant Garden Traveler

Gardeners know that any trip turns into a garden tour of sorts — driving in a different town or countryside is a way of getting new plant and design ideas.  So, our weeklong vacation in Oregon was full of visiting friends and family, with the bonus of garden and plants.

            We spent a couple of nights with friends Dave and Ellen Morrison, who live in the country just south of Tillamook (south of the Air Museum) and north of Beaver.  In addition to their large, fabulous vegetable garden and orchard, Ellen has collected some great plants.  Positioned at the end of their drive is a small (for now) purple beech, which replaces a Forest Pansy redbud (Cercis canadensis) that didn’t quite live up to expectations.  European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and all its many cultivars make it into my top five favorite plants ever — stately trees, crisp foliage, fallen fruit (the nuts are called beech mast) crunchy underfoot.

            On our way from the coast to my sister’s house in Bend, we drove through Santiam Pass.  Still in bloom at that elevation:  bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax), with its fluffy white inflorescences atop tall stalks, and snowbush (Ceanothus velutinus).

            Back in more cultivated gardens, my sister’s small patio was awash in blooms.  One of our favorites, of course, is the ground-cover rose ‘Green Snake.’  This is no landscape rose, it runs wide (up to 10 feet) and flat on the ground, unless it hits an obstacle, and then it hops over.  ‘The Fairy,’ also in bloom, was eyeing the small vine maple behind it.  I’ve seen ‘The Fairy,’ a sweet, unassuming polyantha rose, scramble up into an old apple tree.

            Carolyn planted a lamb’s ears as a border along two sides of the patio.  It’s Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’ (also sold as ‘Helen von Stein’).  It’s a different growth habit from regular lamb’s ears, which I have in the parking strip.  Instead of creeping flat on the ground, this plant mounds up into a thick, rounded form — fabulous!  It’s now on my list to recommend as a low hedge; wouldn’t it look great as the border in a parterre?

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