Published March 2, 2012 | By Robert LaHoff

The Pacific Northwest has long been a source for nursery stock for our garden center. For nearly 20 years I have been visiting this special part of our country, in part for business and in part to feed my soul with all its beauty. Relationships have been forged and now it’s no longer about visiting plants and vendors, now it’s about visiting friends whom we do business with. Conjuring up a vacation idea for this winter, my wife and I decided to introduce our daughter to a state clothed in large timber trees and to meet some of her now extended family.

The plant kingdom is well represented in the state of Oregon! The first day of our vacation was spent, in part, driving through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Vine maple, Cottonwood, Bigleaf maple and monstrous conifers were all represented well here. A trip over the “Bridge of The Gods” dumped us in Stevenson, Washington where we had a great lunch at the Skamania Lodge. It was here that we imbibed nature’s best offerings.

Years ago, two very dear friends of ours moved from New Jersey to Gig Harbor, Washington in search of new ideas. We have kept in contact with Michael and Maureen and try to visit with them whenever we go west. Our second day was, in part, spent hiking through Oswald West State Park in Oregon with them. The only rainy day of our vacation, we traveled through a thick forest of plant material on our way to the beach. Along the way, majestic timber trees like Douglas fir, Hemlock and Western Arborvitae blocked out all available sunlight and left only the strong to survive at their feet. Waves of fern, Huckleberry, Salal, Gaultheria, and Mahonia proved that they are all very capable of surviving in very low light and moist conditions. The attributes of all these plants are numerous, thus making them all interesting throughout the year. Remarkable to me was the fact that those timber trees were devoid of any branches for, in many instances, the first 50 feet or so and clothed in green moss for the better part of that. Later, our day took us into Cannon Beach, Oregon where a simple lunch was had as we gazed at Haystack Rock. Haystack is the third largest coastal monolith in the world standing some 235 feet out of the Pacific.

The third day was a bit of business for me as well as an introduction for our daughter Olivia. When asked where daddy was going that day I simply told Olivia that I was going to my “Disney World”. Iseli Nursery has established itself as a premier grower in this country and the world for that matter. They seem to be able to propagate nearly anything they set their mind to. An outstanding conifer grower, their talents also produce some of the finest Japanese maples, broadleaf evergreens and many other interesting plants. Their display gardens, that surround their triangular offices, are a quantum example of melding color and texture seamlessly with a huge diversity of plant material. Their locution, or rather registered trademark, is “Twelve Month’s of Color.” On this day I looked at plants like Picea orientalis ‘Skylands,Pinus strobus ‘Louie’Pinus sylvestris ‘Gold Coin’ and Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’. All four, I believe, I have mentioned in articles before, however, their beauty still captivates me in their mature state acting like a beacon in their gardens. Visiting our suppliers, at least once a year, keeps us in touch with our vendors, tells us what is coming up in the pipeline and affirms the abilities our growers have.

Our last day of the trip found us in Washington Park, right outside downtown Portland, Oregon. A trip to the children’s museum and zoo were nice for our daughter. For dad it was the Hoyt Arboretum and traversing the MAC trail (Multnomah Athletic Club). This trail, and many others, offered nourishment for me as I again soaked in nature’s best efforts. It was here that large specimens, both familiar and unfamiliar, abound. Those that stood out vividly were a Witchhazel, Hamamelis mollis ‘Boskoop’, in full flower, Grand Fir, Abies grandis, a Ussurian Pear, Pyrus ussuriensis, a tree I had never heard of and a Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa, whose bark on older specimens is scaly, broken plates separated by deep irregular fissures.

The trip was everything we hoped for. An introduction to Olivia’s extended family, an appreciation for the great outdoors and quality time spent as a family. For those of you gardeners who really want to see how big and beautiful plants can get, Oregon is the place to go. And after hiking through all those rich forests, consider refueling at Jakes Famous Crawfish Restaurant… you won’t be disappointed!

Posted in Fall ColorGarden TipsWinter Plants