Plant Collecting

C. ‘Fairy Blue’ is often sold
as syn. ‘Crystal Fountain’

Once upon a time, I was feeling smug about all the various plant groups I was collecting in my garden, so smug I was thinking about writing about my “collections” in Random Acts of Gardening. I was rather proud that I had accumulated 10 or so varieties of epimediums and 20 or so hydrangeas and hostas. Then I met real plant collectors that were deliberately assembling as many taxa, species and cultivars of one plant family as possible . Turns out plant collections—in essence a living museum—can help us understand the diversity and geographic dispersion of plants.

C. ‘Nelly Moser’ romps with a rhody

The Rogerson Clematis Collection (RCC) sits on about two acres at Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego, Ore. At approximately 500 taxa and just under 900 individual plants, it is one of the largest assemblage of clematis in the Western Hemisphere. Approximately 30% of the taxa in the collection are not currently available in the “trade” (which means you and I can’t buy them anywhere). The collection was started in the early 1970s in Kansas by Brewster Rogerson. He moved out to Oregon in 1981 to provide his collection a more hospitable environment (how’s that for devotion!). The Founder’s Garden is devoted to Mr. Rogerson’s favorite clematis, which I understand keeps growing in number.

C. ‘Miss Cavell’ was introduced
in 1918 and is named after a nurse

Around the historic farmhouse is The Historic Garden filled with plants that might have been available to Oregon gardeners before World War I (the plant tags show when the plants were introduced). Surrounding the historic 85 year old beech tree is a garden filled with species or hybrids from Japan, a country with a long tradition of clematis breeding focused on subtle shapes and colors. According to curator Linda Beutler, the beech tree is the only thing that “doesn’t get a clematis growing through it.”

Native C. integrefolia ochroleuca
hides behind Kitty

There are clematis that like it hot. In the south-facing Front Bank Gravel Garden, you’ll find North American natives in a genus known botanically as “the Viornae,” some of which live in oak savannah. To mimic the environment as closely as possible, volunteers collect and compost leaves from nearby oaks to add to the soils surrounding these plants. It should be no surprise that the collection is renown as a result of such devotion and attention to detail.

For the gardener just beginning to experiment with clematis, RCC is building a Beginner’s Garden that will feature 40 or so clematis selected by the International Clematis Society as varieties and cultivars that are not only beautiful, but also reliable, and easy to grow. Another garden features clematis from the Baltic (Poland, Estonia, Russia, Latvia and Lithuania) where the genus is enjoyed by avid hobbyists and plant breeders.

Best idea: Attract mason bees by creating a home that also provides support for a clematis!

The Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection is devoted to the preservation and continued expansion of the collection to present as fully as possible both the botany of the genus and the range of attractions that clematis have for gardeners, says the RCC’s brochure. They can use our help as volunteers and for financial support. Go for a visit and plan at least two hours to stroll the gardens with a docent. For more information, visit their website.