JARS v44n2 - Visit the Cecil and Molly Smith Garden in 1990

Visit the Cecil and Molly Smith Garden in 1990
Betty Sheedy
Portland, Oregon

Cyclamen coum heralds spring and the beginning of a new year at the Cecil and Molly Smith Garden in St. Paul, Oregon. The Narcissus cyclamineus is showing color and will soon join the parade of companion plants which Cecil Smith planted many years ago. The moist woodland soil has enabled these and other plants to multiply resulting in thousands of cyclamen, trilliums, anemones, galanthus, violas, erythroniums and primulas. These are just a few of the rhododendron companion plants that supply a surprise bonus for the garden visitor.

Cecil Smith Garden
Springtime scene.
Photo by Harvey Welch

Another sign of spring is the annual work party. ARS members from the Portland, Tualatin Valley and Willamette Chapters converge upon the garden with wheel barrows and bark dust, pruners and rakes. Their efforts put the garden in order for open garden days. This year the dates are March 17; April 7 and 21; May 5 and 19. Hours are 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $3, ARS members are free. Group tours are available by prior arrangement only.

Each visitor to the garden carries away his own vivid recollections. Some are impressed with the size of the many specimen rhododendrons. 'Loderi King George', 'Sir Charles Lemon' and 'Loder's White' are a few that tower overhead. Other visitors are charmed by the species rhododendrons, especially striking are the early blooming R. sutchuenense , the brilliant red R. strigillosum , and the floriferous bed of R. yakushimanum . Among Cecil Smith's hybrid rhododendrons 'Cinnamon Bear' and 'Yellow Saucer' are outstanding favorites.

R. 'Yellow Saucer' Trillium
'Yellow Saucer'
Photo by Cecil Smith
Photo by Peter Kendall

Tree lovers will admire the beautiful bark of Prunus serrula and Acer griseum . Other flowering trees, such as the pink flowered dogwood and 'Eddie's White Wonder' highlight the spring scene.

Cecil Smith chose this wooded sloping site over forty years ago as an ideal setting for a rhododendron garden. Over the years he collected the finest plants available. They all flourished. He utilized stumps and fallen logs as planting sites. The result was a garden that has become world famous.

When it came time for him to "retire" from gardening, Cecil generously helped the Portland Chapter, ARS, acquire the property. The nearby Tualatin Valley and Willamette Chapters assist. The committee consists of a general chairman, garden manager, house manager, plant sales chairman, seed exchange hybridizers, rhododendron and companion plant propagators, and tour organizers.

Garden planning is an ongoing committee project. Donated books form the nucleus of a small library and additional donations are welcomed. A photography contest is in progress. Construction has begun on an off-the-road parking lot which will include a newly designed entrance and plant sales area.

In May 1989, a television crew from the Public Broadcasting System's "Victory Garden" show photographed the garden and brought it to the attention of gardeners throughout the nation. The program, PBS #1412, was shown on June 17th, 1989.

The committee is grateful for the support received from its many friends, however, continued support is necessary to maintain the garden. Volunteers are needed to share the many jobs available and financial contributions are required to assure the garden's future. To volunteer your talents, contact the committee.