I ventured further south to visit a few more nurseries and, boy, what a treat it was. It was definitely the farthest south I've even driven and given just a few more hours, I could have made it down to California if I really wanted to!
First stop was Springfield, and no, I didn't seek out "The Simpsons", but instead hit up Gossler Farms and met with Roger Gossler who gave me a tour of their beautiful grounds and wonder selection of hardy, woody species.
I was welcomed with a free car wash/shower as I pulled into their driveway while their sprinklers were on!
Gossler Farms is known for their incredible selection of Magnolias and to my surprise, I was kind of shocked to see a butchered specimen such as this, but according to Roger, a few deciduous species don't bloom as well once they get to a certain age, but by pruning them quite severely such as this, they encourage more blossoms and the proliferation of excessive water sprouts provides cutting/scion wood for propagation.
What didn't seem butchered at all was a most stunning specimen of Magnolia virginiana I've ever seen! This is a selection called 'Henry Hicks' that Roger feels should be more readily available to gardeners in urban areas where it doesn't get too big and provides these elegant blossoms that are mouth-droolingly fragrant, especially at dusk.
In their nursery hoop houses, there are treasure to be found including a rare variegated dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a ridiculous number of Chinese witch hazels, wallet damaging dogwoods and even a selection of Jack-in-the-Pulpit with a most outrageous flower larger than my fist!
The HUGE spathe of Arisaema franchetianum 'Hugo'!
It was such an honor to finally meet and introduce myself to Roger Gossler.
He's such a well-respected figure in the plant world with a humble operation offering gardeners something new, different, and exquisitely special. While I should have gone home with the Magnolia (where we had our picture taken together), I settled for a plant I've been REALLY needing and that was Embothrium coccineum, the Chilean Fire Bush! I'll be back for that Magnolia in the future!
Just a few minutes west of Springfield was Eugene and a nursery I've been longing to visit for a very long time.
Ernie and Marietta O'byrne began Northwest Garden Nursery specializing in rare, woodland perennials and alpines. They were THE SOURCE for the diverse selections and coveted cultivars by collectors until they decided to shift their focus and devote the majority of their time to breeding the wonderful strain of Hellebores known as the Winter Jewels®.
Their plants can be found for sale in late January into March at a handful of specialty nurseries around Oregon and Washington, but their exquisite double-flowered strains are produced through Terra Nova Nurseries who grow on their seedlings into jumbo plugs and then sell them to growers who finish them off for retail sales.
Ernie took me through the production process:
Seeds are freshly sown. Once they germinate and fill the flat with about 500 seedlings, the double strain of Winter Jewels are sent to Canby, OR at Terra Nova to be grown on as plugs.
Ernie takes me through first year seedlings...
...which can be quite variable in size because I learned that the common lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus) is actually composed of 16 or so different species; therefore, some are far more developed than others this first year.
Later on, they get bumped up into gallon to two gallon sizes for sale and up to five gallon if they are to be saved as stock plants to continue their breeding efforts come winter to, basically, begin the process all over again!
Check out a previous blog entry where I featured their Hellebores!! My oh my!!
What was most remarkable about my visit with Ernie and Marietta wasn't just the Hellebores, but because of their remarkable display gardens. Strolling through their perennial beds and borders, woodland paths and series of garden rooms really made me hold my breath to witness the love and passion that went into creating their landscape.
The attention to details, colors, and the diversity of wonderful garden plants; some common, some not, some exclusive to Ernie and Marietta, it was such a lavish blend of plant crazy and sheer serenity that I deeply admired.
And as people, they are so warm, generous, and the most gracious of hosts who welcomed me into their home and made me take a carton of home-raised eggs as a parting gift! I look forward to my next visit. Perhaps in February or March to see those wonderful hellebores in full glorious bloom!
After the O'byrnes, I drove back to Portland and soaked in the scenery of vast meadows and farmland and the setting sun illuminating my final glimpses of the countryside.
I stayed in Portland one more night and headed back to Washington the next day with my ritual visit to Cistus Nursery and then, I took a little detour heading back to Washington that I've been meaning to do for quite some time. It was a short, but much needed time to relax, unwind and reflect.