After our record-breaking cold in December, January has shaped up to be the second-warmest on record in Portland. The temperatures have been above average every day this month, so there are many plants already in bloom.
I spent some time this week at my favorite local winter garden, the Elk Rock Gardens of the Bishop’s Close (http://www.diocese-oregon.org/theclose/), located in the Dunthorpe neighborhood of southwest Portland. The thirteen-acre estate, originally owned by Peter Kerr, was given to the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon in 1959. Designed by noted American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the six acres of gardens consist of a diverse mix of mature trees, shrubs and flowers, many imported from Kerr’s native Scotland. Unusual and modern cultivars have been added in recent years. The estate was a featured garden at the 2008 national Garden Writer’s conference.
The gardens are best in winter and spring. The bloom season begins in January with the witch hazels (Hamamellis), viburnums (V. bodnantense, V. farreri) and sweet box (Sarcococca). Providing a much-welcomed burst of color, many of these winter-blooming shrubs are also intensely fragrant.
Other plants I found in bloom this week include snowdrops (Galanthus), Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius), winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), naturalized crocus, dwarf iris (I. reticulata) and bergenia (B. cordifolia). Paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) and later hellebores (H. orientalis hybrids) are just starting to flower. Golden ‘Chief Joseph’ pine (Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’) and the blue berries and red stems of David’s Viburnum (V. davidii) offer additional color. I’ll include more images in my next post.