Gerdemann Botanic Preserve: the rare, the unusual, and- ooh, whats that?!

This will be the final installment on my August visit to the amazing Gerdemann Botanic Preserve in Yachats, Oregon. You can see more of the gardens in my previous posts here, here, and here. I think I've saved the best for last. In this edition you'll find all the most unusual and rare treasures, or at least all the ones I noticed during this trip. I've also included plants that aren't necessarily that unusual, but captured my interest, a la "best of the rest." One of the best parts about the gardens of plantspeople is that there is always more to discover, especially after they've gone a bit wild and overgrown matured. It adds to the mystery, and increases the payoff when you turn a corner in a tunnel of rhododendrons to find something completely unexpected.

Grevilleas aren't that rare on the west coast of the U.S., but they are always a favorite of mine and tend to be crowd-pleasers in general. I think this was Grevillea victoriae, but I'm still not that great at grevillea ID.

Whichever one it was, it was loaded with pendant racemes of fuzzy, golden orange buds. I'd love to be there to see them bloom! I really must prepare areas in my garden for proteaceous plants. It's simply tragic that I don't have any.

Rhodochiton atrosanguineum is a tender perennial vine that many garden enthusiasts have probably at least seen sold as an annual, if they haven't grown it themselves. The Gerdemann Botanic Preserve is probably just mild enough in most years for this zone 10 vine to sneak through winter. I wonder if it reseeds?

Most people admire magnolias for their flowers, but many have spectacular fruit, as well. These pendant clusters belong to Magnolia wilsonii. This species has downward facing white blooms with red stamens, similar to the slightly more common Magnolia seiboldii, but has a more tree-like habit to 30 feet tall. Seeing a specimen dripping with these decorative fruit in late August makes me even happier to have added one to my garden.

This slightly shaggy trunk belongs to Fuchsia excorticata. It's hard to tell from this photo, due to the lack of reference, but this trunk is massive. The base was around 8 inches across. It's no wonder this species is known as the tree fuchsia. In its native New Zealand, where it is known by the name kotukutuku, it can reach heights approaching 50 feet. The specimen at the preserve was killed back by a severe winter (by Yachats standards) to a stump about four feet tall, but is coming back strongly. Several seedlings were also growing in the garden. I was lucky enough to take one home because it was growing right on the edge of the path. It dried out quite a bit on the drive home, but I potted it up and it is rooting in the greenhouse. Here's hoping for some top growth at some point.

One of the most unusual plants in the garden is this Berberidopsis corallina. One of only two species in the genus Berberidopsidaceae (Rolls off the tongue, right?) this barberry relative is an evergreen, rambling vine with leathery, serrated leaves. The flowers share the same general shape as barberries, but are a striking waxy red. Apparently, they're attractive to yellow jackets. We brought a good supply of cuttings back to Cistus Nursery and I'm pleased to say they rooted quite nicely and were recently potted up. I am of course knocking on wood to make sure I didn't just jinx them. Transitioning from perlite on the mist bench to potting soil in a greenhouse can be a bit tricky.

Telopea oreades is another treasure of the preserve, along with a large specimen of Telopea truncata. The latter wasn't in bud (that I could see) and was further off the trail, so I didn't even notice until a later walk through the garden when I didn't have my camera. These members of the family Proteaceae are known as waratah in Australia. I've had a devil of a time finding hardiness information for these Tasmanian and SE Australian plants, but Telopea truncata can survive at least brief dips down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and I believe T. oreades is similarly hardy. Cuttings of both species rooted well. I'm crossing my fingers while they root into their pots, as proteaceous plants are notorious for mysteriously dying when they're potted up after rooting. Even more exciting is the handful of seeds I collected from Telopea oreades, which have started to germinate.

Clerodendrum bungei isn't rare, but I don't see it often, either. Those dark clusters of buds atop the big leaves are full of promise. Funnily enough, don't they look a lot like the Telopea buds above?

Buds which burst open to fragrant pink flowers. They're so exotic and wonderfully-scented that I can accept the color, which isn't too bad as far as pinks go.

 I left out a few rhododendrons from my first post. One of the best was this one, which I'm fairly certain is Rhododendron proteoides. I first saw this species only last year at the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden, as little 1-2' buns covered in gorgeous, fuzzy new growth. The specimen at the preserve is around 4' tall by 5' wide, though it's hard to tell the exact proportions as it's growing as part of a large mass of rhodies tangled together.

It's even more gorgeous in evening light.

This abutilon formed a large, bushy specimen, a little overgrown and need of some grooming and rejuvenation. But it was so floriferous, absolutely covered in these blazing orange-red flowers that drew the eye as soon as the merest line of sight opened towards it.

Far from rare, phormiums simply break my heart. I had three before the winters of 08-09, known among the PNW garden bloggers as the Phormium Killing Winters, or PKWs. They might have recovered if it had just been the one winter, but the double whammy finished off whatever was left. There's just no hardy alternative to the red or purple phormiums, in my mind. Can you think of any? I know of two phormiums in a hellstrip in St. Helens that look fantastic. I have no idea how long they've been there, but it looks like they were planted at least two years ago. Unfortunately, I doubt they were around during the PKWs.

A big, happy gunnera is always noteworthy. I love these big, prehistoric-looking leaves, I just don't think I have a good spot in my garden to grow one.

Eucryphias aren't rare in the Pacific Northwest, but I also think they aren't seen often enough. I think they're reputation suffered a bit from the introduction of less-hardy cultivars. I know the small one my family brought home from a trip to the beach didn't make it, but it was planted "temporarily" in a pile of old, very dry mulch. Perhaps if we'd actually put it in the ground, it may have survived instead of slowly dwindling until a cold winter took it out. These clay-tolerant, narrow, evergreen trees, like many Chilean plants, prefer a cool root-zone and some supplemental water away from the coast. I think I have just the spot for several, and I plan on trying a few of the hardier cultivars.

These small trees offer a welcome show of flowers in late summer. The glossy foliage is attractive in all seasons, and the growth habit is narrow enough to fit even in most smaller gardens.

Those fuzzy stamens are so pretty. There is also a semi-deciduous species, Eucryphia glutinosa, which is said to be hardy to zone 6b. Along with the hardy evergreen hybrids, like 'Rostrevor' and 'Mt. Usher', I plan to try this one just to be sure I have one that can take even a freak winter like the PKWs.

This is it, the final plant I'll cover from this trip to the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve. Say hello to Gevuina avellana, commonly called the hardy macadamia or avellano. I don't know about you, but I normally don't think of proteaceous plants as having edible fruits or seeds. Nevertheless, avellano produces large, edible seeds, similar to macadamias (which are also part of the family Proteaceae).

Avellano is native from central Chile all the way to the southern tip of South America. It's hardy to zone 8, making this a possibility for many gardens in the PNW, though I'd be hesitant to try it in my current garden. It's a zone 8, but the cold is just a little colder and lasts a little longer than at lower elevations like Portland, and the memory of the PKWs, one of which brought single digits to the garden, still haunts me.

The big, glossy leaves are attractive, reminding me a bit of mahonia foliage. This comparison makes avellano even more strange, with white, bottlebrush Proteaceae flowers atop the foliage.

The best part of finding this small tree was seeing an experienced plantsman like Sean Hogan geeking out like any other plant addict, positively giddy as he caught site of the flowers peaking out above the rhododendron foliage and forging the short distance off the trail to get a closer look.

And there you have it, the last of my first visit to the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve, a hidden gem near Yachats, Oregon. It only took me about two months to wrap up. I can't wait to visit again.


  1. Your knowledge of the plant world has me reeling.

    1. Aw, thanks, Ricki. Really, though, I'm just good at researching, and mildly obsessive about it.

  2. Magnolia wilsonii, where have you been my entire life? And thanks for the mental image of Sean (understandably) geeking out over the Gevuina avellana - it's pretty fabulous! Also...I agree about there not being anything that comes close to replacing a big, beautiful, dark-leaved Phormium...

    1. That Magnolia is pretty fabulous. Maybe that's what you should shoehorn into your new empty spot!

  3. What a jewel this place is! Re the Phormium, I've been considering the same question about replacements as this summer (heat + drought) has all my dark-colored Phormium looking like they're at death's door. I've yet to come up with an acceptable alternative.
    P.S You DO need a Grevillea or 2.

    1. Isn't that funny? You're losing them to heat and drought, gardeners in my area lose them to cold and wet. And they were originally hailed as such tough, easy plants. They do great right along the Oregon coast, and probably most of the coast of Washington and milder parts around Puget Sound. I wonder how far down the coast of California they make it. Working on adding Grevilleas (and other Proteaceae members) to my garden.

  4. Thanks for the eye candy. Clerodendrum bungei caught my attention; it's magnificent, but further internet research suggest it could be invasive. I saw one called GreenhousePink Diamond with variegated leaves and compact habit; maybe it could grow in a large pot.
    May all your cuttings survive and flourish.


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