QBARS - v6n4 Two Years of Progress at the Trial Garden

Two Years of Progress at the Trial Garden
Ruth M. Hansen

Just two years ago on October 21 the first rhododendron plants were planted in the Test Garden on Crystal Springs Lake Island, just off S. E. 28th and Carlton Streets in the heart of Portland, Ore. At that time no one dreamed of ever seeing the Island well planted from end to end with every variety of rhododendron and azalea that could possibly be collected.

The planting now consists of over 200 varieties of named hybrids and about 115 varieties of species. There are also represented about 70 named varieties of azaleas which include some 45 of the Ghent, Mollis and occidentale hybrids and 22 varieties of the Glen Dale azaleas and several other evergreen forms. Altogether well over a thousand plants are now in the Test Garden and all but a few of these have been donated by nurserymen and amateurs. The Society extends its thanks to the wonderful cooperation of our local nurserymen who have taken such an interest in this garden and to the many individuals who have given specimen plants from their own gardens to make this Trial Garden a success.

When work first began on this project it was necessary to construct some sort of a tool shed for the storing of garden equipment: a shelter building was designed with one end enclosed to serve as a tool shed, while the rest of the building remained as an open shelter. This small structure was finished in shakes and stained a dark brown to harmonize with the surroundings.

On July 20 of this year, a meeting of the Test Garden Committee was held out in the Trial Garden under the shade of a planting of birch trees. The meeting had been called to consider a proposal submitted by the Portland Park Bureau. This consisted of a set of plans converting the shelter building into restrooms. The Park Bureau planned to raise the wooden structure, pour a concrete slab and install the necessary plumping equipment. Needless to say the plans were readily and heartily approved by the Committee and many words of thanks and appreciation were expressed for the City Park Bureau.

As this report is being written, now in the month of September, conversion of the shelter building into rest rooms has already begun. With this improvement the possibility of holding our Annual Shows in the Test Garden are a closer realization.

Another proposal for further development of the Test Garden was made at this time. There has been a growing interest in the dwarf varieties of rhododendrons and so far a planting has been lacking in these worthwhile border or rock garden plants. Now, we feel that the time has come when we can proceed with their advancement. It was suggested, at this meeting, that the Society construct a rock garden at the North end of the Island where there is a drop-off of about ten feet.

The bank could easily be made into a fair sized rock garden where ideal growing conditions could be maintained for the dwarf varieties. This suggestion was unanimously approved and work will begin on this project by the end of September.

Another suggestion for the improvement of the Test Garden was the construction of additional trails which will provide a more complete circulation system. These trails will be of great benefit to those visitors who desire a closer look at some of the rhododendrons which are planted in exceedingly wide beds or down a slope too far to be accurately seen. The meeting was concluded with a walk around the Island and a close inspection of every plant.

The Trial Garden recently received another donation of some choice hybrids from a most generous nurseryman and Charter member, Mr. Endre Ostbo of Bellevue, Wash. Among his gifts are included beautiful large specimen plants of his R. 'Mrs. Donald Graham', P. A., an exceedingly fine form of the Azor cross; his unnamed Lily No. 3 and specimen of the 'R. King of Shrubs', P. A. For those of you who are not familiar with this fine hybrid, a very accurate color picture of it may be seen in the October Quarterly Bulletin for 1950.

The summer has been exceedingly dry here in the Portland area and the month of September has seen the temperature well up in the nineties most of the time. This condition has meant constant watering. A few of the plants have had burned leaves, but not many, and it has been due to the constant vigilance of our President, Mr. C. I. Sersanous that more plants, out of reach of the sprinklers, were not burned. The rhododendrons and azaleas have all made fine growth and have set many buds. The garden looks wonderfully well for this time of the year. Needless to say, this Trial Garden will present a spectacular picture for all visitors from April through June next Spring.

Plants Donated to Island Test Garden

Arthur W. Wright:  20 'Azor' (Specimen plants)

Endre Ostbo:  3 'Mrs. Donald Graham',  P. A. (Specimen plants)

2 Lily No. 3 (Specimen plants)

1 'King of Shrubs',  P. A. (Specimen plant)