A Gardener's Garden
By Bob Bovee
Fig. 13. Wisteria and species clematis vines trained on the house,
while at the foot of the patio are massed plantings of peony,
rhododendrons, hybrid clematis, and other shrubs.
Portland, Oregon, has often been called a city of fine homes and gardens. Our climate, rainfall and wealth of native material, both trees and shrubs, has made this so, and land is available for large gardens. One of the famed gardens of the northwest was that of the late Mrs. Philip Hart. Located in an area of beautiful gardens it was lightly wooded with native fir and dogwood, the lower part of the garden overlooking the Willamette river.
On October 21, 1958, Mrs. Hart, a charter member of the American Rhododendron Society, died very suddenly. Her ability as a gardener and her knowledge of good plant material and how to use it had made this garden a "show" place. Visitors from all over the country came here and were most welcome.
While rhododendrons predominated in this garden, they were everywhere, both species and hybrid; the garden was best known for its many rare and unusual shrubs and trees. And this good material was most carefully placed to fit into the landscape picture.
The one plant for which this garden was best known was Actinidia Kolomikta. This rare vine framed the front door and climbed the house to above the second story. (Fig. 14) It is a deciduous vine with a light branching pattern which never gives a heavy matted appearance. The beauty is in the foliage although it does bear small white flowers. The leaves are large, dark green and heart-shaped. In the spring the bottom half of each leaf turns a pure white, later changing to bright pink and then again becoming dark green.
There are many good vines in this garden. Clematis were an important part of it. The rarest of these was C. macropetala. Planted at the base of a large Viburnum burkwoodii it trailed over and through the plant, the dark green foliage providing a fine background for the unusual silvery grey blue flowers of the clematis. Another fine clematis, C. armandi var. 'Apple Blossom' was trained along the side of the garage and over a group of large camellias. Mrs. Hart believed this to be a particularly good form of this variety. The flowers of var. 'Apple Blossom' are only lightly touched with pink, but are large and the plant blooms very heavily.
Under an old and very large copper beech three plants of the hybrid rhododendron 'Unique' were above one's head, and on a nearby low rock wall two large plants of R. williamsianum bloomed well. One of these is particularly important horticulturally as two or three year old plants raised from cuttings will often set a bud or two, unusual for this slow-to-bloom species. In the background a plant of Corylopsis pauciflora not over three foot tall but spreading to over ten foot, put on a beautiful show in the early spring with its scented primrose-yellow flowers.
A number of large plants of R. racemosum, several of them unusually good pinks and others large flowered, were used as a foundation planting near the Actinidia. And further along in this same planting were R. 'Lady Chamberlain', R. 'Yellow Hammer', R. 'Blue Diamond', R. 'Blue Tit' and many dwarf rhododendrons. Gaultherias wardii, miqueliana and nummularioides were grouped in the front of beds. Here also was a good plant of Ternstroemia japonica, a handsome shrub related to camellia. This, Mrs. Hart often said, "was the finest evergreen shrub in the garden." Its foliage is glossy dark green, the new growth bronzy and it blooms with clusters of small fragrant white flowers in June.
Fig. 15. The living room "picture window" framed with a
camellia, hybrid Rhododendrons 'Blue Tit', and 'Bow Bells',
Viburnum davidii, and Clematis chrysocoma.
On the large patio a four foot plant of R. 'Bow Bells' grew alongside a low window. Under this window were low plants of Viburnum davidii and R. 'Blue Tit'. Clematis chrysocoma with its dark green hairy leaves and large light pink flowers grew over the shrubs, up the side of the house and helped frame the window. Under another window on this terrace many dwarf rhododendrons were grouped. Among them R. 'Wilbar', R. 'Humming Bird', R. hanceanum v. nanum, 'Adrastia', 'Jock', 'Jaipur', and 'Little Bert'. Here also the tender Azara microphylla grew quite well against the wall. At the end of the patio against a background of bamboo were plants of R. haematodes and others of the Neriiflorum series and an old plant of R. roxieanum made a fine evergreen shrub but had never bloomed. In large tubs on the patio were several forms of Japanese maples and other small trees, a rare creeping form of sequoia, and a number of collected pines and other needled trees from the high mountains which had been dwarfed and twisted by wind and weather forming natural "bonsai" material.
Hardy cyclamen were grown to perfection. Large beds of them, scattered throughout the garden, were beautiful when in bloom and just as outstanding when solid masses of strikingly marked foliage appeared. There were many varieties, some rare, but C. cyprium with its pure white flowers and long narrow leaves, was a favorite. Under a big Cornus kousa chinensis a new bed for some of the more rare forms had just been prepared. Experience had proved that sharp drainage was most important. While this bed was already raised on one side, deep parallel trenches were dug and filled with coarse gravel to insure even better drainage. Leaf mold had been worked into the soil. Each fall a light mulch of leaf mold was applied to each bed which helped furnish food and protection. Mrs. Hart was most generous with her Cyclamen "pups" and many visitors left with a start for their own gardens.
In front of the high patio wall was a most effective planting. Masses of tree peonies were planted with big plants of dwarf conifers, ternstroemia and rhododendrons, and behind these near the wall were hybrid clematis which trailed their vines and flowers over the taller plants. At one end of this bed was a particularly good form of Stewartia koreana.
Helleborus in its many forms were used extensively. The different forms were widely scattered throughout the garden to prevent crossing. One group, quite tall growing with large flowers and multiple flowers on a stalk, came from a chance seedling. This was an outstanding form of Helleborus niger and she named it H. 'Hartii'.
In the bed overlooking the Willamette river were grouped many fine plants, mostly rhododendrons. A fine form of Magnolia seiboldii and the best colored deep pink R. schlippenbachii I have seen formed a background for several of the maddenii series rhododendrons which grew quite well most years. Another fine grouping was a good white form of R. decorum, R. euchaites, R. brachyanthum, R. wardii, R. cinnabarinum and other good species. A rare and unusual plant, Sycopsis sinensis allied to Hamamelis, with dark-green leaves and red-brown and yellow flowers; was planted with Camellias 'Mary Christian', 'J. C. Williams', 'Donation' and other new types.
But the feature here was a planting of dwarf rhododendrons of which Mrs. Hart was justly proud. The plants are old and very large, it would be difficult to find finer plants in this country.
R. lepidostylum was three foot across, R. fastigiatum, R. impeditum, several R. hippophaeoides and others of the Lapponicum series were massed with a very beautiful pink R. trichostomum. The very dwarf creeping form of R. radicans hugged a rock, R. flavidum was a very fine color form. R. camtschaticum was one of her favorites. And there were many others. In this group was the rare and beautiful Gaultheria forrestii with dark green leaves, red stems and white flowers.
Here too, were perhaps the most outstanding plants in the garden which Mrs. Hart was most proud of, six R. sargentianum, each two foot across and less than a foot tall. They never bloomed heavily but their small clear yellow flowers against the tight dense growth and dark green foliage showed up wonderfully well. And the new light green growth which appeared later was almost as beautiful as the flowers. These plants were over thirty years old.
These are but a few of the fine plants in this garden. There are many others as interesting as those mentioned. Enkianthus, the rare vine Schizandra propinqua of the magnolia family, big plants of Kalmia latifolia, a fine red leafed Pieris formosa var. forrestii, a large wisteria climbing into the weeping willow on the patio, the tall Cedrus atlantica glauca with its grey-green needles, beds of hybrid and species rhododendrons, and solid masses of the Winter aconite Eranthis hyemalis with its bright yellow blossoms in the very early spring. There was so much to see in this garden, it took many visits at all seasons to know it. 1 was most fortunate to have had that opportunity.