A Mid-Season Report on the Test Garden
By Ruth M. Hanson
Fig. 40. R. irroratum in bloom in the Trial
Garden at Crystal Springs Lake Island.
Visitors to the Test Garden this Spring have been greatly impressed by the new entrance approach. This made entirely possible through the diligent efforts of our Portland Park Bureau who are to be congratulated oil constructing a fine parking area, a beautiful winding path down the hill, two foot bridges and an interesting grape stake gate across the lower bridge. All in all it has given the Test Garden a most enchanting entrance.
As one strolls down the path from the parking area he is conscious of the lush woodland growth down the slopes of the little ravine over which he passes and the sparkling little stream hurrying to empty into the quiet waters of Crystal Springs Lake surrounding the Test Garden and the newly acquired peninsula. This peninsula, by the way, is a long irregular wooded area beautiful in contour and having a native loamy soil never before cultivated. We hope to start planting this expansion area sometime in the Fall.
Continuing along the main path down the hill, one can get a beautiful view across the lower bridge to the Test Garden. The entire area of the Crystal Springs Lake is a bird refuge and abounds with wild ducks of all kinds which nest along the shores and occasionally select the middle of a low-growing rhododendron for their families. During the recent Show hundreds of little fuzzy ducklings floating along behind their mothers caused as much excitement for the visitors as did the actual rhododendron displays. This seems a bit off the subject, yet it is all a part of our Test Garden as this is really the front entrance hall to our Island.
The bridge joins the island at the lower end of the Rockery where paths take off in different directions, one keeping to the right past the main plantings, the other climbing the hill abruptly to the upper level where the hybrid plantings are located. The rockery, which is planted, for the most part, with low-growing species and hybrids, has proven to be a very popular point of interest. Kalmiopsis leachiana began blooming in January and continued through April. R. leucaspis and R. 'Bric-a-brac' were delightful with their large white flowers during February and March, but possibly the two plants which made the most outstanding show this year in the Rockery were the species R. degronianum, a low spreading narrow leaved plant with clear soft pink flowers and a seedling cross of R. racemosum x R. pemakoense, the latter being described in the P.A. winners of 1954. This little compact hybrid made everyone stop, look and admire. Though it is now late in the month of June the rock garden still has a few hybrids in bloom, but for the most part the plants are now putting on wonderful new growths.
Before proceeding, just a word about the grouping of the tender varieties as these are planted between the rockery and the Lake. This spring, such varieties as R. 'Countess of Sefton', R. 'Countess of Haddington', R. 'Fragrantissimum', 'Exonensis', polyandrum and 'Lady Alice Fitzwilliam' all bloomed. This is most remarkable when one remembers the devastating frost our whole Willamette Valley received towards the end of April; yet these plants were unharmed as the warming effect of the water apparently protected them.
The large hybrid plantings which extend the full length of the Island have been a source of great enjoyment to every visitor and the popularity Of various varieties is attested to by a beaten path made in through the plantings. The first hybrid to receive such attention was R. 'Gill's Crimson', a fine early red. R. 'Rainbow', R. 'Goldsworth Crimson', 'Faggetter's Favorite' likewise had the public bowing to them.
On June 13th the Test Garden Committee met in the Garden to discuss plans for future development and at this time they checked varieties in bloom and took note of the extra fine condition of all the plants. Due to our almost constant rain for the past three weeks new growth is very rank, some of the larger growing varieties have already put on almost a foot of growth. We are indeed well pleased with the condition of every plant on the Island, rhododendrons, azaleas, species and hybrids all seem perfectly happy in this most picturesque Test Garden. Of course the most salient growth is found among the members of the large-leaved varieties. Here one sees the beautiful silvery-white frosted leaves unfurl against the dull green of last years growth, or watch the rich cinnamon-colored growth of R. falconeri. It is truly a fascinating study in contrasts.
One of the most showy sights on the Island during the middle of June is the fine grouping of the R. 'King of Shrubs' P. A, and its similar varieties. This planting is found at the South end of the garden and it literally draws one to it for the blending of yellow through orange has given a harmonious apricot quality unsurpassed in any other rhododendron nor, can the various groupings of the 'Azors' be overlooked. These lovely salmon shaded varieties never fail to receive the admiration of every passer-by.
We have had very few plants donated to the Test Garden this Spring but among the number are three from Mr. S. D. Coleman of Fort Gaines, Georgia. These are Azalea multiflora and A. colemanii. We are indeed indebted to Mr. Coleman for these unusual azalea species.
Early this Spring a drive was started to raise funds for the erection of a Coolhouse for our collection of Maddenii and Edgeworthii varieties. During the Show, voluntary contribution boxes were set up and we collected a little over $400.00. This brought the Coolhouse Fund to an even $1,400.00. The cost estimate for the construction of this house runs approximately $5,300.00.
When the Coolhouse is built and our collection of Maddenii and Edgeworthii varieties are moved into it, the popularity of the Test Garden will be greatly increased. As it is now, there is no other place in the Country where one can see such a great variety of rhododendrons, hybrids and species, as are found growing in this Test Garden and with the addition of the Coolhouse the public will become better acquainted with the rare and beautiful tender varieties of rhododendrons.
The Test Garden is steadily gaining in National recognition. This is proven by the many out of state cars whose occupants visit the gardens every day. As this article is being written, late in June, there are still hundreds of visitors enjoying the beauty of the Gardens. Bloom will continue for another two or three weeks.