Monday, May 12, 2014


Spring is in full swing at Rare Plant Research and Villa Catalana Cellars. The Laburnum allee is in bloom, the Cannas are up and the olive trees are leafing out after losing most of their leaves in last Decembers deep freeze. In the deep freeze we lost a Jubea chilensis. We are a little colder then Portland (we had a low of 8f to Portland's 12f)  and probably it would have made it in Portland. It is one of the largest palms that gets a trunk of 4 feet wide and 60 feet tall. We even had damage on our Italian Cyprus, but fortunately they are starting to grow out. Several pleasant surprises were two South African bulbs, Hypoxis hemeralcaldea and Brunsvegia radulosa that proved to be remarkable hardy. They will planted  with more frequency in the garden this year. The trout are getting huge in the lower pond and it is time to get one on the grill! The grapes in the vineyard are leafing out fast and our wine is bottled and ready to drink. There is nothing like a nice glass of wine in the garden after a days work, maybe with a trout dinner. We have set up many dinning areas in the garden to help us enjoy different views. It is so important to enjoy the fruits of ones labors and to take the time to appreciate and savor. It is at these times that we often get inspired for new projects or reflect on past experiences with friends and family. Garden appreciation is food for the soul. The conservatory tasting room is finally completed and it will allow us to extend  gardening appreciation in the winter. Our winery is up and running and we will be sharing the conservatory with visitors on Saturday afternoons. We are pleased with the quality of our wine, especially our 2012 Pinot Noir. Being beginners in wine making, we feel fortunate that we have been able to produce something drinkable that people may actually enjoy! Especially when sitting in the garden.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

FALL 2013

Fall is here and the days are short and cold. Daylight Savings time is gone, the garden has frozen back and it is time to slow down and get ready for winter. Before the fall rains came we harvested our Bhut Jalocia and Scorpion chiles and made hot sauce. The chiles are some of the hottest in the world and are many times hotter then habaneros. The sauce is so hot, one drop is enough. One bottle is a lifetime supply. It is bottled sunburn. NOT for the faint of heart. In the greenhouse, we have been able to propagate more of the popular Tree Dahlia and hope to have enough this year for anyone who wants one. We ran out in mid spring this year. The plants grow to 12' high and are huge.We are also propagating some more South African bulbs and are surprised at how hardy many of them are.

We have gotten a lot done at Rare Plant Research this summer and fall. We terraced the west slope above the middle pond to better serve our wedding rental guests and are building a large grape arbor. All of our greenhouses needed to be recovered this fall and we got the monumental task done before the fall rains set in. We also put in  a new driveway and parking lot for our developing winery, Villa Catalana Cellars. We hope to be open in late spring. This year we made Pinto Gris, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah, Grenache Rose and of course Pinto Noir. We will be developing a separate winery web page that will be linked to our nursery page. We hope to have a few winery related events this summer in our gardens.

After a busy summer and fall, now is the time to go to bed early, sleep late and catch up on much needed rest. Before you know it, the Yard Garden and Patio Show will be here and spring will be right behind. Some serious fireside time is called for along with a glass of the exceptional 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Huge Bromeliad Blooms!

Alcanterea imperialis is blooming at Rare Plant Research. This is one of the world's largest bromeliads outside of the genus Puya. It is native to the hills near Rio de Janiero and grows 4-6 feet wide and the bloom stalk grows up to ten feet high. It grows on rocky cliffs and the roots attach to the rock face which holds the rosette up-right. The roots do not absorb nutrients like most plants, but serve simply to anchor the plants. Water and nutrients fill the cupped leaves and can hold many gallons of water. Mosquito larva hatch in the water and frogs inhabit the plant and eat the larva. If there are no frogs, mosquitoes can be a problem. It takes about 20 years for the plant to mature and flower and after flowering, it dies. The blooming process lasts 3-4 months before the plant finally dies. It is spectacular for many months and if pollinated, produces large quantities of seed.     

This plant is very rare in the USA and is rare in Southern California, but is slightly more common in Southern Florida. It is most common in Hawaii, where it is used in the landscape, yet it is still not often encountered. A number of years ago, plants began to be collected from the wild for the tropical landscape industry. Large areas were stripped  and now it is less plentiful in habitat and most plants that remain grow on steep inaccessible cliffs. There are several nurseries in Hawaii and Florida that propagate the plant, including Rare Plant Research, but plants can be expensive because they take so long to reach a large size. The plant can be viewed at Rare Plant Research during our annual open nursery and garden May 18th and 19th.   

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall 2012

FALL 2012

Fall is really here after a glorious late summer that seemed like it would never end. At Rare Plant Research and Villa Catalana Gardens we had no rain from late June until mid October.

The succulent plants loved it. They got watered about once every two weeks or less. The photos in this blog post are all from our terrace garden which is a bed about four feet wide and 90 feet long and filled with hardy and non-hardy succulents and xeriphytes. The hardies such as Yucca thomsoniana, Dasylirion wheeleri, Tradescantia 'Purple Heart', Delasperma, Semprevivums, and sedums are the backbone of the garden and non-hardies such as Echeveria, Aeoniums, Senecios and Kalanchoes give a little seasonal drama to the the bed. They get lifted and go in the greenhouse for the winter, usually after we get some frost.

We have had a number of very light frosts which the non-hardies can endure, but when it drops below 25*f, they suffer significant damage. Now that we are on standard time there is no light in the evenings after work to enjoy the terrace garden so it is time to pull the plug on the non-hardies.

 It is a sad time of year as they get put to bed, but after a winter rest, they join their hardy friends in the spring and they look even better. When seen in a pot, they often surprise me because they have grown so big during the warm months. It is time for time by the fireplace in the evenings and the less hectic time of winter. Ahh, a little winter nap sounds pretty good to me after a very busy spring, summer and early fall.     

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spring is Here!

After a mild winter and a very rainy March, spring has sprung. With several days in the 80's under our belt, many plants are starting to pop. The Eucomis pole-evanii has about 1" of growth, the Laburnum allee has a few flowers starting to open and the Tetrapanex is leafing out. The hardy Amarylis are about 6" high and the hardy banana (Musa basjoo) have several new leaves. The native frogs are toning down their evening song of love (or is it lust?) and our Egyptian goose seems to have become attached to a Canada goose who, unfortunately for him, ignores him.

Last fall we dug a new pond and the frogs have rapidly moved in and filled the void. We stocked the upper pond with rainbow trout and discovered that the Blue Gill in the middle pond have been busy propagating. We also got the small vineyard planted on the middle pond dam last winter and the buds on the little Pinot Noir vines are beginning to open. Spring is such a dramatic beginning to the warm season.  We are excited about several plants that will be available this spring. After several years of poor luck with germination, this year we finally will have Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger' available. It is about as hardy as Musa basjoo, but has red stripes on the leaves. Pretty cool!  We dug our Haemanthus humilis and Brunsvigia bulbs and potted them up. They are just beginning  to grow and hopefully we will be able to release a few this spring.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fall in the garden

Fall is here after a very short summer. We wish we could have had another month of summer, this year, but we get what we get when it comes to weather in the Pacific Northwest. We have had a number of light frosts that have taken out the tomatoes and burned back the cannas, but the hardy banana, Musa basjoo has barely been nipped. The Astors are done, but went out with a flourish and the tender container tropicals are back in the greenhouse to spend the winter. There are still many chiles that we harvest daily that the frost has not been too hard on- they are great grilled on the barbi. We trialed a South African bulb, Ledbouria zebrina last year and it survived the 16*f winter just fine. We are excited about it because it has the architectual look of an Agave, but dies back to the ground in winter. It will be several years before we have them available, but the seedlings are doing fine so far.

Walks in the garden are short because of the rain and cold, but there is still much to enjoy. Gone is the summer ritual of a glass of Pinto Noir in the garden at sunset, but it is replaced with a short walk in the garden at dusk to enjoy the last fall colors, look at the ducks and geese that come in with the season. Last week a bald eagle went hunting over the middle pond. My, are they big! We have begun cleaning up some of the dead and dying summer annuals so there is less work when the colder days of winter arrive. Although clean-up is not a favorite, it is good exercise and allows us to see the bones of the garden and help plan for next years garden. Now that we are off daylight savings time, the days end rather suddenly at 5pm- a far cry from 9:30pm in June. Yet this causes a welcome slow down from summer. Its dark so early that outdoor work comes to an end and thoughts of dinner and a warm fire take over. We do have an indoor garden project though. We are making tiles for the domed garden folly as we have not been able to find weather proof tile in the color we want. So, hopefully when we have our open nursery and garden in May, visitors will see a new tile roof. In the mean time, we are enjoying the last of the seasons colors and hope you are able to do the same.   

Monday, August 1, 2011


Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. The wet cold spring (the coldest an wettest in 116 years) and the cool June and early July has finely yielded  to a pleasant, but not hot summer. These are the days that we cherish in the garden. It is not too hot, the major weed pulling is over and it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labor with dinners outside and a dip in the pond on hot days.

Our garden party July 9th was an evening to remember. It was not too hot and not too cold. The jazz trio played. The garden tour was well attended and the sun transformed the garden into gold as it set. The only glitch was our caterer's lengthy food service. Some of you waited as long as an hour for dinner. Big River Events has a commitment to excellent food at affordable prices. But how do you  feed 170 people in 2 hours with individually prepared food to order without a long wait? After lengthy discussions, we think our caterer has it worked out for next year so there will be a much shorter wait time with only a slight increase in food prices. Feedback from the the artists indicated that you were more interested in the garden and having another glass of wine than in their art. We will await your feed back as to whether we add more artists next year.   

The fundraiser for Growing Gardens produced by Chef in My Garden in conjunction with Andina Restaurant and chef Hank Costello on July 24th was one of those summer evening dinners that will be remembered for a long time. The food was divine with very creative and unusual Peruvian dishes to delight the taste buds. The staff of 16 pampered the 50 diners and turned our upper terrace into an outdoor restaurant. We also learned about the unusual peppers and spices that go into the the dishes and have motivated us to start trying to raise some of these culinary delights in our nursery. Check with us next spring for availability.

Now is the season to enjoy your garden, to savor it's beauty to drink in it's fragrance and art. Walk by that weed without stopping to pulling it and head for the hammock. Now is the season for serious hammock time. Try to wear it out.