Report from the Wy'East Rhododendron Garden
Josephine Wylie Drips
Our Garden Club sponsored Rhododendron Garden at the Western entrance to the Mt. Hood National Forest (on the grounds of Zig Zag Ranger Station) elevation 1500 feet above sea level will be four years old in February of 1957. Since our last report to the American Rhododendron Society in these pages, a sturdy sign, like those used throughout our National Forest roadways, has been erected near the entrance to our wedge-shape arboretum of two acres.
This past year the Forest Service made additional plantings of deciduous and evergreen trees. Mr. James P. Langdon of the Ranger Station who drew up the original landscape plans for us has continued to keep a paternal eye on the grounds, adding oaks and dogwoods, spruces, yews, and various cedars and hemlocks. These plantings will give the protection needed for the rhododendron plantings in the central area.
Only a few new rhododendrons were planted this last year. Rather we concentrated our efforts on improving the grounds themselves, notably the rhododendron borders. The bed areas were all hand-spaded and extended to better set off and care for the plants. After wearing ourselves out with hand-weeding (and also depleting the treasury for paid weeding) we decided on a sawdust mulch. This has made it possible for the few who volunteer to keep the garden clean and to keep weeds under control. Extending the beds and mulching has also made watering and fertilizing easier and more efficient, as well as aiding in rodent control. Gophers are the culprits that must be fought continually.
Only six plants were lost completely in the 1955 Armistice night freeze. Approximately a half dozen more were set back severely, almost to the roots but they have come back and made satisfactory growth this past season. Nearly all of the plants suffered some damage, very minor damage in the most protected plantings. The loss of six plants out of a total of two hundred sixteen does not seem to us to be too severe. All survivors put on excellent growth in 1956 and went into the winter nicely budded and with a healthy green color and fairly lush growth.
Plants completely lost in the freeze were: 'Dr. Stocker', about six feet tall and one of our largest plants; 'Lee's Dark Purple'; 'Tally Ho' (two plants of this succumbed); 'Rosa Mundi'; ponticum. Some of the 'Tally Ho' crosses from Lackamas Gardens froze back severely but are coming back slowly; this same was true of the Azaleodendron 'Fortnight'.
Concurrent with the freeze we have an almost new set of weather conditions. These are due to two factors; first the adjacent highway was straightened and widened giving a clear sweep of wind from the east. Worse than that, logging operations to the west left a fringe of trees which went down like match sticks in a high wind or series of winds in 1954-1955. We are inclined to believe that the loss of protection from East and West winds both contributed to the cold the plants suffered a year ago. On the whole, plants in the areas where protective conditions are best have made the best growth.
Most of the plants are now labeled with attractive metal markers, the names under glass and sufficiently legible to read without stopping. This past summer several groups of garden clubs visited the garden; some were discouraged from making long treks because of the scarcity of bloom. Given a normal winter, 1957 bloom should be the best yet.