- Author: Erin Mahaney
One of my fondest early memories as a Master Gardener involves a Master Gardener field trip to the Chalk Hill Clematis nursery near Healdsburg. It was one of my first “big” outings with my newborn daughter and I was excited to get out, see some familiar Master Gardener faces, and learn about plants. I wasn't familiar with clematis at the time, and I was astonished and thrilled by the variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of the species. I purchased an 'Alionushka' clematis with lovely pink, bell-shaped flowers, which thrived for years.
Fast forward fifteen years and Chalk Hill Clematis no longer sells clematis plants to the public and my daughter is taller than I am! I still am interested in clematis but am wary of purchasing more plants due to the adverse hot and windy conditions in my backyard. Still, I thought, it would be fun to wander around a nursery that specialized in clematis, “just to look.” And thus, the “Clematis Extravaganza Weekend” evolved.
It turns out the nearest clematis nursery is outside Portland and that one of my earliest childhood friends, who is quite a gardener, lives near there. She mentioned that there was another clematis garden nearby. Perfect! What could be better than a weekend with an old friend who loves to wander around and look at flowers as much as I do? So, one fine May weekend, my friend introduced me to the Rogerson Clematis Garden in West Linn, Oregon.
Part 1 of this blog will explore the Rogerson Clematis Garden and Part 2 will discuss lessons learned from a talk at Joy Creek Nursery, near Portland, about the types of clematis and growing tips for species that may do better in our warmer Solano County climate.
According to its website, the Rogerson Clematis Garden contains the most comprehensive collection of clematis within a public garden in North America with 1800 individual clematis representing over 800 taxa (distinct species or cultivated varieties). It contains rare plants and the newest hybrids and even has a section for beginners. The founder, Brewster Rogerson, bought a few vines on impulse in 1971 when he was a professor in Kansas and ended up spending the rest of his life collecting specimens from all over the world. He became an expert on clematis and a founding member of the International Clematis Society. Mr. Rogerson retired in Oregon and ultimately his collection found a home at its current location at the historic Luscher Farm, part of Lake Oswego's Parks and Recreation Department. The garden is open to the public daily and there is a small greenhouse that sells plants during limited hours.
The charm of the approximately 2-acre garden isn't just the sheer number and variety of clematis growing, although they are impressive, but also in how the clematis are displayed. The garden shows the clematis in a residential setting, showing how the plants combine with other plants. It also is organized by themed garden beds, which are based on geographic locations (such as the steppe climate areas and Baltic regions), growing conditions, modern varieties, and more. I tend to think of clematis as (mostly) climbing vines or plants that need support, so it was interesting to see how certain vining varieties weren't trained on trellises or supports, but instead were left to scramble on the ground around and through the companion shrubs. The garden also groundcover and shrubby varieties. The garden provided a wonderful opportunity to see a wide variety of clematis incorporated into the landscape in different ways. It's well worth a trip if you are in the area!
Even if a trip to Oregon isn't in your future, the Rogerson Clematis Garden's website has useful information and resources for growing clematis. It includes information on first steps with growing clematis, pruning clematis, and on growing clematis that like full sun or warmer exposures.