I’ve known about Rare Plant Research for as long as I’ve been interested in plants, but it wasn’t until a coworker tipped me off that I became aware of their renowned annual plant sale and open house. Of course, long-time Portland residents like Loree of Danger Garden have been in on the secret for years. But if you think a true plant fanatic is going to pass on the opportunity to scope out and scoop up some rare plants, even after years of visits, well. You’d better think again.
The home of Rare Plant Research.
As a first-timer, you can imagine my surprise at finding this enormous Spanish-style villa overlooking the surrounding farmland just minutes outside of downtown Oregon City. And you can imagine my non-plant-obsessed boyfriend’s surprise at just how many people had turned up for the event. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and he was content to sit under a tent next to the food truck while I plundered the greenhouses.
Around the greenhouses are beds growing Eucomis and Canna in-ground, as well as one devoted to hundreds of different kinds of Lewisia, like this one.
Surely one of the main draws of Rare Plant Research is the large selection of succulents. I can’t say I’ve fallen back in love with them, but seeing them so out of place here in Oregon does give me a new sense of appreciation.
Alpinia zerumbet, common name variegated ginger.
Cannas, as well as the variegated ginger above, were overused landscape staples when I was working in San Diego. Here, they’re considered a rarity! Amazing what a few hundred miles can do (931 miles as the crow flies, to be exact).
Eryngium agavifolium. This one, I like. So much cooler than an actual agave, if you ask me.
The carnivorous plants were what I was most interested in. That, and I had hoped to find some ant plants somewhere in the mix, but no luck.
Euphorbia tirucalli, or sticks on fire. Yawn.
I do have a small collection of 3″ cacti, including a Gymnocalycium similar to the one pictured to the left. I love their iridescent purple sheen. And I would make room for a Melocactus, pictured right, if it was as cute as this one.
Pachypodium seedlings! How darling! Their fat little bottoms make me pine for the baby myrmecodia I lost in the move.
An unidentified Hippeastrum growing in-ground in one of the greenhouses, beside more Eucomis and some Albuca.
After I finished perusing the greenhouses and chowing down on a boar burger (yum!) it was time to head up the hill. Walking up to the house, I was surprised to see a large Ceanothus thriving on the hillside. To be honest, I didn’t realize there were species native to Oregon as well as to California. All of the beds around the house were a mix of plants that I thought would be goners in a freeze: yucca, agaves, eucalyptus. In addition to the villa, there were two large lakes – one complete with a dock – an amphitheater and an atrium where wine was being served.
You can’t tell me those bromeliads are going to survive winter outdoors without protection. Can you?
An absolutely stunning tunnel covered in Laburnum watereri. If I took one piece of inspiration away from the visit, this was it.
Believe it or not, I managed to walk away without purchasing a single plant. I did bump into some familiar faces, and I can’t say all of them were doing as well. But, to be fair, if I owned a yard of my own I’m sure Sid would have had to drag me out of there before I spent all our rent money. We both enjoyed the trip and I see how it can become an annual tradition. Even if you’re not in the market for unusual plants, it’s a beautiful location and a nice chance to eat, drink, take in the scenery and make a few friends.
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