Sunday, August 8, 2010

Perennials in Portland!

Ok, FINALLY I'm getting around to sharing my experiences down in Oregon for the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) a few weeks back.

I figured a photo montage would be easier to follow rather than my rambles, but I do need to set the scene and provide a little intro.

So, I was encouraged to join PPA last fall after a bus ride chat with the fabulous Debra Prinzing. She said that I had to meet Steven Still and following my introductory letter to him, the PPA Executive Director, I was asked if I was interested in speaking at this year's symposium in Portland. Being fairly close to home and proposing a topic I've always wanted to speak on, but never have (perennials for tough spots/dry shade), I gladly accepted the invitation and began putting my talk together. It was a fairly large topic, but given my 45 min time slot, I had to find a focus and, hopefully, present something new and/or interesting.

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya'
New Introductions are always the hot topic at these annual conferences and the "New Plant Forum" was somewhat disappointing at best with WAY TOO MANY ECHINACEA AND HEUCHERA. I had many discussions with colleagues and growers about it and we seriously need to ask ourselves, "How many is too many?" It's so competitive out there that even the slightest "improvement" on a new variety is marketed to the fullest extent. Of the many fancy schmansy coneflowers out there, I actually kind of like this horrendous abomination of nature from the "Cone-fections" series called 'Hot Papaya'.

So the event was held at the Doubletree Hotel and five minutes upon arrival and registration, I ran into the lovely Sally Isaiou from T & L Nursery who I joined for dinner that night. Seeing a familiar face early on totally put me at ease and heightened my excitement for the event! Back at the hotel the hallways where the sessions took place were flanked with some of the most exquisite container designs.

PPA Melianthus Container PPA Container Composition 1

PPA Container Composition 2

Seeing this caliber of work was inspiring and also reassuring as I knew that I was capable of such quality!


One of the highlights of the entire symposium was the fabulous tour of nurseries. Sadly, I was stuck in the nose-bleed section of the charter bus right next to the lavatory that made me very nauseous, but by luck of a random coincidence, I was seated next to the wonderful Alice Doyle of Log House Plants who engaged me in a nice chat about garden travels and mentors.

Our first stop was in Scappoose at Joy Creek Nursery.

Perennial Beds at Joy Creek
The perennial beds were just packed with outstanding garden plants.

Phlox paniculata Nicky
Couldn't help but noticed that exquisite purple/blue. According to Alex LaVilla from Swanson's Nursery (actually pictured in the center of the photo above..hehe), this was Phlox paniculata 'Nicky'. Absolutely captivated by the color, Hans Hansen, a new colleague and plant breeder/discoverer extraordinaire who currently works for Walter's Gardens, recommended a similar, but improved cultivar called 'Blue Paradise' which now resides in a new perennial mixed border here at Landwave!!

Roses and Hydrangeas at Joy Creek Nursery
Roses and hydrangeas were in full boisterous bloom...

Rudbeckias at Joy Creek Nursery
...along with an eye-catching display of Rudbeckia that were to die for!

Next up was Cistus Nursery where my buddies Sean Hogan, Nathan Limprecht and awesome nursery staff welcomed and impressed us with the lush display plantings and remarkable diversity of plants for sale. I really wished that people made more purchases at this remarkable treasure trove in Sauvie Island, but I guess people were hesitant to carry around plants.

Cistus Dense Plantings

Dahlia David Howard
This was an eye-catchingly dramatic dahlia I have to seek out next spring called 'David Howard'.

Canna musafolia rubra
And an appropriate companion to "Mr. Howard" is a form of the "Banana Canna" I've never heard before, but just HAD TO HAVE: Canna musafolia 'Rubra'. CRAZIE!!!! A RED LEAFED BANANA CANNA LILY! WOOT WOOT!!

I really need a separate blog post about my purchases at Cistus. I got so many wonderful things, it was friggin' dope!

Air Freshner for BR

A kind and concerned nearby passenger attempted to "freshen up" the lavatory with a little bouquet of Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) that she picked from Cistus. It sort of worked, but overall... =(

Cistus was followed by Blooming Nursery; which, in my personal opinion, produces some of the fullest, most robust nursery stock for retail garden centers.

Blooming Nursery signage

Check out their operations:

Blooming Greenhouses with Solar Panels
State of the art facilities complete with solar panels.

Perennial Production
Row after row of beautifully grown nursery stock

Plant Spacers
And ridiculously well organized.

Plants ready for delivery
Their plants can be found at local retail nurseries with their characteristic maroon nursery cans.

After Blooming Nursery, Alice met up with some girlfriends of hers who drove separately and graciously invited me to join them so we could escape the foetid and unbearable odor from the back of the bus.

Next stop, the infamous Monrovia Nursery in Dayton, OR.

Monrovia Display

Monrovia Fields with Berberis thunbergii in foreground
This place was HUGE!!!!! Need any dwarf purple-leafed Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)?

Monrovia Courtyard
The courtyard and office complex was remarkable. You can tell this is a multi-million dollar venture with these facilities and vast display gardens.

I had lunch with a fellow Filipino colleague whom I met last fall at the Garden Writer's Association conference in North Carolina.

Grace Romero, who took this photo of me with Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique' joined me for lunch and we chatted about new plant introductions and our insatiable craving for home-cooked Filipino food at the time.

Naughty Man with Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique'
Having a little too much fun...yikes.

Following Monrovia was a most pleasant visit to Bauman Farms. OMFG, we had such a blast here!!!!

Petunia Arbor
Petunia Arbor with a view of the farm.

Petunia Tree
Petunia "Trees"!!!

Petunia hanging baskets
Yeah, we were basically in Petunia land with outrageously colored baskets for DIRT CHEAPO!

The real highlight and treat however...

Bauman Fruits

Bauman Berries

Marionberry Lemonade Smoothie
and I should mention a most delectable Marionberry Lemonade Smoothie!

On the itinerary was my second visit to the famed Terra Nova Nurseries.

Terra Nova Nurseries Sign
Specializing in exquisite and absolutely mouth-watering selections of perennials with way too many Heucheras and Echinaceas, it was such a treat to see their display beds.

Terra Nova display gardens

Terra Nova Mixed Borders

New Echinacea 'Coral Reef' with a lovely blue Agastache.

Persicaria 'Brushstroke' with Mukdenia 'Crimson Fans'
A rarely offered Persicaria 'Brushstrokes' with a seldom grown, but ultra fabulous Mukdenia 'Crimson Fans'

Mukdenia 'Crimson Fans'
Here's 'Crimson Fans' backlit by the sun. OOOOhhh yeaahhhh!!

Roscoea 'Cinnamon Stick'
I was caught taking this photo and plant breeder Chuck Pavlich offered me a sample!!
This is Roscoea 'Cinnamon Sticks'. This is a genus I'm not really familiar with, but they have another introduction called 'Spice Island' with stunning bronze foliage and lavender flowers!

Zantedeschia 'Edge of Night'
In the same color range and, once again, backlit by the sun, this Calla lily was to DIE FOR!!!

Washington Park Amphitheatre

The day was capped off by a most pleasant evening gathering and dinner at Washington Park where we inhabited the amphitheater with plant geeks and nursery stock for sale from various specialty growers!!

PPA Gathering

Rose Garden Vista in Washington Park
It really is the Rose City!! WOW!

Riz and Alice Doyle
So, I reconnected with Alice as she had her staff set up shop with Log House Plants' wonderful selection of unusual annuals...

Stick in the Mud
...and some things I just didn't quite get. LOL. A "Stick in the Mud"!! SERIOUSLY?

Double Grafted Eggplant
and a new line of GRAFTED VEGETABLES! Two varieties in one!! Read more about them here.

The best part about attending these symposiums is the potential for networking. I ran into so many familiar faces and friends along with some new colleagues I hope to stay in touch with and perhaps collaborate with in the future.

The tour definitely was a nice distraction from my talk the following morning. I broke my former professor's rule about making changes to a presentation the night before, but I was so caught up on making sure I represented each bullet-point and photograph in the best possible way. I pulled it together and come sunrise, I was raring to go:

PPA Badge

So, how did it go? Well, I stressed about making sure I represented plant material that the majority of the audience would be able to acquire and grow successfully, since my topic was on perennials for tough places (with a focus on dry shade). The feedback and reaction from people afterward was quite positive and encouraging, but I later learned that a significant and important figure in all of horticulture was disappointed in my presentation. I don't know why this person didn't just approach me directly to give me some constructive feedback; I'm trying not to let it get to me, but I'm just trying to find the courage to email this person and see why they were displeased with the talk. I know I can't please everybody, but if it was a "fatal flaw" I committed, I need to know about it!

Later in the day, I was delighted to see this fenzy:

Free Plants at PPA
Several nurseries who were taking down their trade booths gave their plants away and what a treat it was to see people graciously share and hand out plants to everyone and anyone who walked by. Even the parking attendant was offered a plant and came back to grab another for his garden or whatever; it was awesome!!



  1. another post about Cistus plants? yes please. I've been waiting to make a trip out there for a few months now (not easy with little kids to take care of). I rediscovered them when I was looking for a place to buy Impatiens omeiana. It was neat to see Blooming mentioned too, I did web site work for them ages ago. I still have a t-shirt from them we got as a thank you gift. After 8 years it's in pretty bad shape but I wear around the yard.

  2. Thank you for the photos and narrative, I (almost) feel like I was there! Maybe next year...

  3. I hope you finally hear that criticism. Maybe it's constructive, maybe it isn't, but you should be the one to decide and then be able to move on and look forward to future presentations. Your blog tour was wonderful. Thank you!

  4. Thank you, Denise. I did receive feedback and noticed that it may not have been a professional move on my part that I even mention that I received the original feedback from someone. I was visibly upset and I'm one to share my thoughts and feelings openly, but I guess there's a line that one can cross.

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