The Oregon Garden II
Bill Long 8/1/07
Growing Excitement in the Garden
So, I went over to one of the water gardens and continued studying, watching, taking notes. I am always delighted when I run into a palm tree in Oregon, and a Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) was there. This is known as a "cold hardy palm," which means that it can endure weather down to 10 below zero (it rarely hits zero in Silverton), which is probably why it is planted. Here is a good picture of one. I loved the way that tufted hairs surrounded the trunk of the palm. Nearby, in the artifical pond was a Thalia dealbata, whose popular name is alligator-flag.
I turned to look at some of the plants ringing the pond. I noted a Japanese Barberry (Berberis Thunbergii), brilliant red in color, standing sentinel. Some catnip, Nepeta cataria grew nearby, and the ground was covered by what is called catmint. Surrounding it was Loropetalum chinense, an attractive purple bush whose flowers weren't in bloom. You can see a picture here. Then I noticed the Red Gooseberry and Leucothoe, and I paused to look at them more closely. The Leucothoe fontanesiana is a popular Northwest shrub, with lanceolate leaves, divided with a pronounced "fold" down the middle, with red leaves alternating with the green ones. You can't get acquainted with too many new "friends" either at a party or in visiting a garden or nursery, but I felt that the Leucothoe is one with which I need to make a regular and deep acquaintance.
If I went through the rest of my visit on a "plant by plant" basis, I would probably write 30 essays on the Oregon Garden. For the remainder of this essay, I think I will speak of some "highlights" of the visit and encourage you to put it on your "list" of great gardens to visit when you are in Oregon. I will conclude this essay by mentioning four plants/trees: a Tradescantia (popularly still known as a Wandering Jew); the unusual Australian Urn gum, an interesting story about Lungwort and then a word on the dramatic Weeping Giant Sequoias. The Tradescantia is named after John Tradescant the elder, a 17th century British botanist. It is interesting that the Wikipedia article refers to the major popular name as "Spiderwort." I guess "Wandering Jew" is not kosher anymore. The bluish-purple flowers had already fallen off; all that was left were two hued lanceolate leaves (gold and green). Here is a picture of the "gold" Tradescantia.
I had never before seen an Urn gum. I couldn't find a picture online which adequately captures the grayish/green leaves of this tree. In any case, I decided I had to stop and look at this gum, which is really a species of Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus urnigera). As I tried to understand my strongly positive reaction to "meeting" this tree, I think I was touched because of the exotic or at least unusual shape/color of it. I felt like the first time I met my Armenian colleage at Sterling College, Dr. Abraham Terian. Abraham is a native of Jerusalem (Armenian Quarter), a scholar of the Hellenistic world and an accomplished linguist. When I met him, I knew immediately I could learn a lot from him. That was my sense with the Urn gum. I think I will have to go back to the OG to see it.
Concluding with Two More
I have always been intrigued by plants that ended in "wort," such as "St. John's wort" or "Milkwort." The OED says that the word "wort", which means "A plant, herb or vegetable used for food or medicine," originally was derived from a word similar to our "root." Hence, the medicinal significance. In any case, Lungwort, of the genus Pulmonaria, is a "freckled" plant, with ovate leaves that both form a shrub and a groundcover. Here is a good picture. The story developed that such spotted leaves of the P. officinalis were thought to symbolize ulcerated and diseased lungs, and so were used by way of sympathetic magic to treat pulmonary infections. With the advent of modern medicine, the "lore" of plants tended to go underground; perhaps a vigorous study of the flora all around us can question the assumptions of our own day, as well as give us insight into the natural world.
But no trip to any garden is complete without looking at the Giant Weeping Sequoias. Here is one picture. How often do you see a seeming shrub of 30-40 feet in height, which flows down much like the cascading waters of Multnomah Falls in Oregon?
This is a brief and inadequate survey of my trip to the Oregon Garden. I have 100 or so "acquaintances" that I made today, though these essays only tell you about ten or so. Maybe I will write one or more tomorrow on the "rest" of my trip. In any case, this jewel begs to be investigated further. How have you been able to or been interested in expanding your world of late?