Summer Garden Tours: The Plant Station (and yet another PNW Snopocalypse)

I had the thought to share my goals for the garden this year, but to do so would require up-to-date pictures of the various areas of the garden, particularly the problem areas. I don't have many wide-shots, especially of those areas, and the latest dump of snow has yet to melt. Between the snow and rain forecast this week, I'm not sure I'll have a chance to get out to take the photos I need. So while I wait for the weather to allow me to take those pictures, and long for the arrival of spring and summer, I think I'll share another garden from the Castle Rock Bloomin' Tour in August.

The second garden we visited on the Bloomin' Tour was The Plant Station, home of The Gardens at Sandy Bend. This is an evaluation/trial garden for new plant introductions from around the world. The owners, Nancy and Jim, used to own and operate All Seasons Nursery in Castle Rock, once a favorite destination for my family on a weekend morning. But back to their current garden.

I started snapping photos as soon as I stepped out of the car. How could I not, when we pulled in and were immediately faced with these Cotinus and Rosa glauca?

The Plant Station deserves partial credit for encouraging me to divide my Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' for one of the new areas I planted last fall. I'm not all that big on grasses, but I love this one.

Lush plants, both in the ground and in containers, surround the house. You may notice a few flags in these photos, like the two pink ones at the base of the banana. Visitors receive flags to mark their favorite plants, helping The Plant Station to gather information on gardening trends. Different colors were given to guests based on their experience, whether they were home gardeners, master gardeners, professionals, etc.

There were plants for sale. These aren't them.

I do love a happy California fuchsia, whether you call them Zauschneria or Epilobium. Mine don't look so happy right now, after being frozen and flattened by snow, but they'll come back and be beautiful like this again. I can already see new shoots.

Golden Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa cv.) glows with chartreuse foliage and charms with pendant clusters of tubular white flowers emerging from purple bracts.

Thujopsis dolobrata is one of my favorite conifers. I really should find a place for it in the garden.

I'm not a big fan of garden ornaments, but I did have fun photographing the big purple ball, which was well-matched with the green conifers around it.

I love simple pairings like this Salvia officinalis and Teucrium chamaedrys. Silver and green make a perfect combination. For some reason, I've never grown germander before. This photo has me rethinking that for several areas of the garden.

The Plant Station also contains a whimsical wooded area, where the owners' grandchildren are encouraged to engage with the garden and exercise their design skills. I think it's already clear that this isn't my cup of tea, but this one actually made me laugh. It was much better than the one at the first garden we'd seen on the tour. Come on, who doesn't need a flower-child pig with orange-rimmed sunglasses?

When a gardener is put on hold for too long.

Definitely getting a hippie vibe in these woods, or maybe Mardi Gras? I think the bear may have been begging for honey.

It's a legitimate concern in the Pacific Northwest.

The Plant Station is full of wonderful plants. The gardens were full of color, but the textural combinations were what really struck me.

I love the texture in this vignette. The fern, tradescantia, and Asarum caudatum in the background make a wonderful, lush green combination.

More simple, lush greenery. The bits of blue and pink from the hydrangeas in the upper left seem out of place in this tapestry of green shades. There's nothing wrong with brighter colors, but I love this.

This was one of my favorite vignettes in the garden. The silver pear, Pyrus salicifolia, arching overhead, contrasting with the metal ornament in the foreground. From it's shape, I assume it turns in the wind, though I don't remember it doing so. A lush mix of foliage and flowers creates a diverse yet harmonious melange of textures and colors. The partially obscured view invites guests to venture down the path to discover what lies beyond. It also screams "summer," which I'm in dire need of at the moment. This is my contribution to Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna at Flutter&Hum.

 Santolina and Carex comans make a beautiful, fine-textured pairing of different shades of silver/grey.

I don't normally fall for hydrangeas, but this black-stemmed beauty caught my eye. The contrast of the stems, foliage, and flowers was simply gorgeous. I like that the flowers were single and in smaller clusters, not as congested or frilly as many hydrangeas.

A weeping blue Atlas cedar trained over a mix of Juncus and Acorus conveyed a cooling, soothing vibe with the water feature under and behind it. There was a waterfall, but I mostly focused on the plants.

Again, I love the textures and colors here. Simple and serene. Who needs flowers? (Though technically, the Juncus is flowering in this photo.

Though I was impressed by the size of these floriferous begonias. They were huge!

Lavender and blueberries, with boxes of nasturtiums and other annuals on the decking above. Outside the frame of this photo to the left were delicious alpine strawberries. We were encouraged to indulge and did so with gusto.

I loved (LOVED) this water feature. We have lots of old cedar left from taking down the split-rail fence, and I could imagine using some of it to create something like this. I love the aged wood, the way it emerges from under the deck. I love the rocks and the conifers. I love that bit of rusty metal on the right.

Sadly, my idea was shot down. That's ok. I can look back on these photos for inspiration when I have full control of my own garden.

This winter has seen a lot of planning for the arrival of spring. I have pages on pages of garden tasks; detailed lists of plants that need moved, removed, added, pruned, etc; fantasy lists of new plants to add to each bed, compiled through internet research. I've gotten sick of fantasy planning and wanted desperately to visit a few nurseries to refine my lists based on what I could actually find locally, in real life. I had planned to go to a few on Monday, until the forecast made me cancel those plans. This Saturday looks mercifully dry (only a chance of showers, versus a downpour) for the season opening of Xera's retail store. Of course, I'm also desperate to start gardening. I think I could get away with planting my big leaf maple seedlings out in the woods, and digging a few sword ferns from the woods to move into garden beds. A little cold won't hurt tough plants like that. If only it would stop snowing!

Edit: Sunday night, after I had written most of this post, the power went out at about 10:30. It was my worst fear, a power outage at night, and me with no backup heater for the greenhouse. I threw on warm clothes and a headlamp, slogged through 9 inches of heavy, wet snow to the greenhouse, and did a quick assessment of what to bring inside. Thankfully, temperatures were predicted to hover just above freezing all night, but there were a few plants I didn't want to risk getting even a light frost. Most of my vireyas, an agapetes of unknown hardiness full of flower buds, Blechnum gibbum, and a bevvy of baby tree ferns came in the house for the night. Everything else could handle at least a light freeze (I hoped). The entire time I was walking back and forth between the greenhouse and the house, loud cracks and crashes from breaking limbs and falling trees resounded in the dark.

My unidentified agapetes from the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden. Actually, the label says Agapetes/Vaccinium?, as they weren't sure at the time to which of those closely related genera this plant belongs. The color is a bit off. The pink should be more red and the cream-colored part should be more white.
On Monday morning. the power was still out. I went to check the greenhouse thermometer. Thankfully, it had registered a low temperature of about 34F. No need to worry there. Of much greater concern were the three red alders that had fallen across the fence, smashing two sections and allowing several deer to enter the property in the night. The first order of business was of course to chase out the two young deer that hadn't followed the other half of their herd out through one of the new gaps in the fence. Next I brought out several of the old deer cages from before we had the fence installed and rigged them across the smashed portions of the fence.

I'll spare you the full details of my power-outage and snow-related tasks that morning. Eventually, I went back out to photograph the damage to the fence, both for this blog and for insurance claims. Then I set about clearing some of the debris.
Deer tracks in the snow. Something I had hoped never to see here again.
 This is what happens when your neighbor clear-cuts and then you get a bad winter with lots of heavy snow. We had managed to escape the wind in our other snow events, making them far less damaging than what Portland experienced this winter. Unfortunately, Sunday night brought both the heaviest snow yet, as well as wind. The heavy snow, on top of saturated soil and increased wind exposure, felled these alders.
Two trees fell across the fence here. I took down the temporary fence to get a better shot of the damage.

We have a new water feature.
 The previous photo is from the east side of the property. On the west side, where our other neighbor also clear-cut his property last summer, a large section of alder fell across the fence and smashed flattened several plants. The most substantial loss was the 10-foot rhododendron that had provided at least some screening to block the view of the neighbors junk yard, made even more unsightly since the logging.

Shattered to pieces. It looks awful, but the rhododendron will survive. We've cut it down to stubs before in order to move it to its current location. It just took years to retrain the vigorous, floppy new shoots into a sturdy frame of dense foliage to block the view.

Other injuries include Rhododendron 'Medusa' and Rhododendron 'Kurume Red'. Medusa was slated for a hard pruning this summer anyway, as it had become thin and leggy in its former location. But I still would have preferred it not to be splayed in half.

This Japanese maple might reveal some damage once the snow melts, but it seems to have been miraculously missed, for the most part.

And the fence damage.

I am so incredibly ready for this winter from hell to be over. I desperately need to see plants growing, and to work in the garden in a capacity other than damage control.


  1. Ready for it to be over: Hear! hear! Please PLEASE! No more weather events this year!
    That the goofy "garden art" was installed by grandchildren makes it OK with me.

    1. The next week, with highs near 50, look so wonderful. I'm ready for it.

  2. Agh, damn stupid deer. Not to mention neighbors' trees. I need to get out and garden too. Looking forward to seeing you at the NWFGS. Thanks for the tour photos, love the pig in glasses, now that IS my cup of tea.

    1. They didn't explore the yard too much, but they did take the time to eat the best blooms from my witch hazel. I hope it gives the damn thing a stomach ache. Looking forward to seeing you, too!

  3. Oh Evan.... your new fence!!! And all the plants!!! :( I'm so sorry to see all that damage. It's so sad that the neighbor removed all of that wonderful protection from the howling winds. What are people thinking...? As for the flower child piggy with the orange sunglasses - it made me laugh out too. I bet the proud grandparents can walk through that space, and know exactly which kid created what. So fun!

    1. Well, technically my parents' new fence, but... Since both neighbors almost certainly voted for 45, I hope they lose the retirement fund from the logging to his policies.

  4. I'm so sorry, Evan. The snow would be bad enough but the fence and the deer - that's just too cruel. It's a good thing you still had the old deer cages and could take quick action. The Plant Station photos were a beautiful counterpoint to winter's ugly challenges. I loved your WV, as well as the photo at the top of your post.

    1. The snow in this case actually helped protect the plants from the deer, except for the blooms on my witch hazel (grrr). They didn't explore the garden much, just sought the more sheltered wild areas. The fence damage hurts. Insurance isn't going to cover all of it, but at least it will help.

  5. i am preparing to move two Golden Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa cv.) i think they are in too much shade as they have not bloomed in two seasons and just fall over. putting them in a morning sun pm shade place. what do you think? i love that water feature too. it does not feel forced. so are you buying this place? you had alder forests on both sides of you that were clear cut. i would be absolutely heartbroken. our awful next door neighbors cut all the large evergreen shrubs and put up an mediocre ugly shed. now i look at a bright grey roof instead of greenery. they also hacked back our maple tree branch that was over the fence. i could have tied it back during construction and then used it to hide their ugly. asshats. they are everywhere.

    1. Hi there. Yes, your Leycesteria will probably appreciate that exposure. No, I'm not buying The Plant Station, and couldn't afford it even if it was for sale. The trees that were removed on either side of my parents' property (where I garden) were mostly Douglas fir, not alder.

  6. Such a stark difference between the beginning of this post and its end!
    I do like garden ornaments, but the trinkets you showed don't quite do it for me; the water feature on the other hand is awesome. The begonias under the cedar (?) tree are beautiful. It reminded me of the large trees at the entrance to your property; a difficult and dry area for underplanting which you have not mentioned much in recent post.
    I'm sorry for all the damage to the garden. This winter is almost over, hang in there.

    1. A better blogger would have made two separate posts, but I'm trying to stick to just one post a week. The garden trinkets were amusing in that setting, but I wouldn't want them in my garden, either. I have a couple spots under large trees near the driveway that are very difficult and dry. I'm planning to tackle them this year, so you'll see them again soon.
      Thank you. I've mostly come to terms with the damage. Now I'm just impatiently waiting for things to either die or pull through so I can figure out what needs replacing.

  7. Your nursery tour is making me long for the growing season to start. The Zauschneria is fantastic, I saw some blooming in a nursery last fall and it is on my wish list for this year's plant sales. The gardener on hold is so funny! I'm sorry to see all your broken fences, that must be quite a chore to clear and repair. I suffered from the Snowpocalypse too, lots of trees to cut up and remove.


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