Growing the perfect lawn is no easy task, in the days of increasing drought, pest pressures, and higher water bills. As I mentioned in Part I, Elizabeth often remarked about the difficulties of keeping a perfect lawn going at Gaiety Hollow. Prior owner, Dale Strand, used an electric reel mower to preserve the bentgrass lawn very well. Since the Conservancy has managed the garden, we have consulted with renowned turf grass professional and retired OSU professor, Tom Cook, to keep the lawns in top shape. His publication on Colonial and Highland Bentgrass lawns is a great resource for establishing a top quality turf at home.
Now that you have leveled any low spots in the lawn and the grass has come up, it’s time to start your mowing regime. With traditional ryegrass or fescue lawns, the mowing height is quite high – up to 3.75″. However, with Gaiety Hollows’ predominantly bentgrass lawn, the mowing height is much lower – closer to 1″ – to prevent the stoloniferous bentgrass from producing “false crowning.” This happens when the creeping grass is cut too high, producing long shoots that lay over, with the brown stems creating poor turf patches in the lawn over time.
If a mowing service cuts your grass, it is a good idea to ask if they are taking precautions to prevent the spread of boxwood blight as they move between gardens that might be infected. Hopefully, the service has a method for washing the mowers in between gardens to prevent the spread of pathogens and weed seeds.
Getting on your weeds early is a good idea as well. In the next post we will discuss the common lawn weeds and how to deal with them.
Stay tuned for more turf tips before we turn our attention to the rapidly approaching Tulip sho based on the recreated 1956 bulb plan.
“Next spring (1968) we must remake the other two sections of lawn. The front lawn between the Box hedge and the House had a planting of Chewing’s Fescue [Festuca rubra subsp. Commutate]- spring of ’66, tho’ I do not like the variety as it is so wiry. It proved to be dark green and stood the heat well. I have such a mixture of grass seed in the tool [shed] should either throw it all out, or mix them together and just plant it. Might make a sturdy lawn. Nelson has not cut this week at all & the new lawn is very high, a ten day stretch and tomorrow, his day here, rain is promised & surely looks & feels like it. He said he would come Monday, but he did not, nor let us know, but his absence did not stop the grass from growing. We had the rubbish from the trees taken away today.” Elizabeth Lord-1967
The lawn is mentioned at least 27 times in Elizabeth Lord’s 40 years of journaling on the Gaiety Hollow garden. You can tell Lord and Schryver often struggled with the lawn at their home garden. Due to Gaiety Hollow’s low location within the neighborhood, drainage is poor, and the heavy clay soil often stands water for multiple days after heavy rain. The dense shade from the mature oak at the end of the Allee doesn’t help, as thick turf likes sun and moist, but well drained soil. As this is the time of year that the grass is waking up and the mower is getting a tune-up, I thought I would write a series of blogs to help get your lawn in tip top shape this season.
Start by mowing the lawn to a normal height for the first couple mowings of the season. Let it sit a few days to recover and then mow it a bit shorter than you normally would. You don’t want to scalp it at this point, but you want to be able to see the low spots in the lawn. We use a mix of well composted cow manure and sand to fill the low spots at Gaiety Hollow. This is often sold as a lawn blend at your local garden center or bulk soil supplier. Fine sand also works but the addition of some organic material is beneficial. Fill the low spots with the soil/sand blend and use the backside of a rake to level. Overseed with your preferred seed mix. Gaiety Hollow uses a blend developed by renowned OSU turf professor Tom Cook. This mix of colonial bentgrass, rye and fescue does well in the shade and allows us to mow to the low height that shows off the garden with its verdant carpet framed by sheared boxwoods. Lightly rake the seed into the spots that are being leveled. Some folks cover with shredded peat moss or you can use a bit more of your leveling media, rake it smooth, and water lightly or wait for rain if it’s forecasted in the next day or two.
Keep the leveled and seeded areas moist. I like to seed in early spring when the soil is warming up and mix of sun and showers speed up grass germination. I have noticed that Lord and Schryver often remade the lawn in the fall. With its poor drainage, this likely led to the problems they encountered. Grass seed can drown if kept submerged for too long. The North Lawn (which Elizabeth referred to as the Oval lawn) often has standing water even after very short rainfall. We have gone to great lengths to improve the drainage in the turf at Gaiety Hollow. The next big project will be to see if we can finally solve the 100+ years of drainage issues in the North Lawn.
The Turf is an integral part of the Gaiety Hollow garden, often overlooked as visitors awe at the abundance of blooms. Due to the concern over the spread of Boxwood Blight we are now mowing in-house. This will lessen the chances of spores coming in from infected gardens on commercial mowers. The addition of a high-quality electric reel mower will allow the grass to be mowed to its accurate, historical height.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks on getting that perfect lawn in time for summer.
“Late beginning to take note of blooming date. Had not intended to as have 59, 60, 61 & 62 years well noted. This more for the flower placing in the garden and changes to be made.
Flowering trees in bloom – an early spring. The new Prunus pissardii on the alley taking place of the Pink Hawthorn [Crataegus] which was blown down Oct 12, 1962 on time and did well considering the tree was transplanted from Pearcy Nursery – late February. It will do well in that situation.”
This is the only mention of the Columbus Day Storm that I’ve found in the garden journals. It seems that the plants in the Gaiety Hollow garden fared pretty well through that epic storm. Most of the old timers I have spoken with rank the 2021 ice storm as almost as destructive as the famed Columbus Day Storm. Fortunately, the Parterre garden survived quite well and is already putting on a show.
Spring in a Lord & Schryver garden is unusually rich. Lord & Schryver planted many early bulbs, including Tulips, that should bloom from now through the end of May. They also relied upon Primroses, Pansies, Violas, Muscari, Hyacinth, Galanthus, Hellebores and Camellias to add some color to the often dreary, damp Oregon springs.
Garden Managers Tip:
Despite several days of warm sun, and garden centers filling up with a variety of plants straight from the greenhouse, I caution against doing too much planting in the early spring. Although tempting to get a head start, the soil is still cool from months of low temperatures and rain. If you must start now, focus on the cool loving Violas, Pansies, Bellis daisies. It’s a good idea to harden off your new plants from the garden center before planting them out. I like to place the potted plants where will be planted for a few days ahead of time. If it’s going to be very cold at night, I’ll move them to a cold frame or sheltered place or cover them up with a frost blanket. Allowing plants several days to acclimatize in their new home before disturbing their roots will ensure they adjust better after transplanting, resulting in a spectacular display when the sun starts shining.
Mother Nature reminded Salem of her awesome power over the Valentine’s Day Weekend. Freezing rain is nothing new for those of us who have lived in Salem for any length of time. Rarely a year goes by without the threat of that annoying icy rain falling and coating everything in a slick, icy blanket.
But this year was something special. The ice started accumulating, not stopping until every tree and shrub in town was covered with up to an inch and a half of ice. Even the healthiest, most well pruned plants could not support that weight. Gaiety Hollow was not spared the onslaught of ice. Our big Oak tree at the top of the West Allee lost several branches. The Cherries and Lilacs also lost some limbs, with the Lilacs splitting at the base.
The Boxwood was the largest concern. Although not directly damaged by the ice, portions were crushed by the massive Oak limbs. Due to current Boxwood Blight issues in nursery industry stock, our Boxwood cannot be easily replaced at this point. We simply can’t risk introducing this pathogen into the garden.
The #1 cleanup priority was to remove the heavy Oak limbs from the crushed Boxwood, a task hampered by the lack of a large chainsaw. At this point, most of the West Allee is off limits due to the widow maker hanging from the Oak. We are waiting for an arborist to come and do the final clean-up in Oak and adjacent Southern Magnolia.
Although a few plants lost some limbs, Gaiety Hollow’s Camellia collection came out relatively unscathed. We lost an ancient Pieris in the Evergreen Garden that uprooted from the heavy ice. Also, several Rhododendron specimens in the West Allee were severely damaged by fallen Oak limbs. Deepwood had more Camellia damage with some uprooting completely. Sadly, many trees at the Historic Deepwood Estate were damaged beyond salvage.
We can’t thank our volunteer gardeners enough for coming out and helping clean up the mess. This was a historic ice storm, and the damage was something not seen in Salem since the 1962 Columbus Day Storm…although several old timers said this was worse. In my South Salem Hills neighborhood, we lost power for seven days. A neighbor who lived through the Columbus Day Storm said he only lost power for three days.
It was heart-warming to see so many volunteers show up to help clean up the mess. Kind neighbors provided their pickups to take debris to city-operated dumps sites. Chainsaws were offered and rakes utilized. Several fence panels were destroyed and need to be replaced. As the panels are made of different-sized lathe, none commercially available, these must be hand cut and finished. If any of you are woodworkers and want to help, please contact me at (503)799-2725.
Today, the garden is looking much improved. However, much work remains. Damaged plants will need to be dug out and replaced with matching historic specimens. Corrective pruning is needed on the woody shrubs and trees. Although the crushed Boxwood has popped back up, there may be long-term root damage. Let’s hope this was a once in a lifetime storm and not an indicator of worsening weather from climate change. After the wildfires of this summer, and the ice storm of the century, the Willamette Valley could use a break from weather-related disasters. Hopefully, March will bring kinder, gentler weather so we can get the garden back in shape for the upcoming open garden season.
“Because the birdsong might be pretty, But it’s not for you they sing, And if you think my winter is too cold, You don’t deserve my spring.” ― Erin Hanson
Working in the Gaiety Hollow and Deepwood gardens these last few weeks, I’ve been watching the hellebores come into full bloom, the first of the snowdrops paint the landscape white, and the primroses that haven’t been mauled by the hardy slugs start to emerge. It certainly feels like spring is nipping on the heels of winter.
The weather man warns the coldest weather of the year may arrive this week, with forecasts in the low 20’s and possibly the teens. The earliest flowers are unlikely to be affected by a frost like this. However, our winter has been so mild that many plants may be further along then they in a normal cold winter.
Not much one can do to prep for this bout of cold. The garden water is still off, the mulch is in place, and the seedlings are still tucked away in the warm basement. Now we just hope it doesn’t get cold enough to destroy any early buds on the plants.
I learned my lesson long ago during a particularly deep freeze. The temperature was down to 9 degrees at my place up in the South Salem hills, with the daytime highs never above 25. That was a tough winter and I said goodbye to many treasures I had collected from the lower latitudes. That was the year I learned zonal denial can often be replaced by zonal regret.
Stay warm folks and make sure you are prepared for a bit more winter as it looks like we have some more to go before we welcome spring.
It was a pleasant surprise to get a dusting of snow this week in the garden. No matter how often one appreciates the architectural formalities of a Lord & Schryver garden in the winter, it’s a wonder to see it painted white by nature.
For the birders following this blog, I was treated to a rare sight (for me anyway) this week at Deepwood. A small band of Varied Thrushes were flitting among the the skimmia and chasing worms in the lawn. No doubt they were pushed down into the valley by the snow in the highlands.
Salem has had some historic snowstorms throughout the years, especially in January 1937. The snow arrived early on January 31, continuing for the next 24 hours. When it finally let up, the snow measured 27 inches in downtown Salem, with many outlying areas reporting more than 3 feet of snow!
Many downtown business were shuttered for fear of the roofs collapsing. Residents sprang into action to dig out of the snow. The Statesman Journal reported that a 22,000 square-foot greenhouse near Market and 17th Streets also collapsed. Most likely, this impacted plant availability for Lord & Schryver’s work in the upcoming season. I’m curious…do any of our long time residents or historians know which nursery this was?
Interestingly, Elizabeth Lord, who often remarked on the weather happenings in the garden, makes no reference to this legendary storm. In act, her first 1937 garden journal entry, dated March 1, 1937, only mentions the lateness of the season:
“Season late. Crocus just beginning to bloom. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) & Daphne mezereum in bloom. Forget-me-nots [Myosotis scorpioides] – Canterbury Bells [Campanula medium] & Sweet William fared badly in Fl. Garden. Tulips beginning to come up.” E. Lord.
As a fanatic backcountry skier, I always welcome a healthy snow pack – especially when it arrives on Jackson Hill right outside my back door. As a gardener however, I fear the damage from heavy, wet powder that can break branches from well trimmed trees and shrubs.
I live in the South Salem hills at 620 feet elevation so can get more snow then the rest of town. A couple of those hills are notoriously hard to navigate in snow storms, including Hylo and Delaney, both of which end in ditches that are constant car eaters. This snow storm was no exception as I came home to find someone had not been able to overcome the force of mass accelerating down the hill covered in the slick stuff.
I’ve learned that in Oregon it’s never safe to trust the groundhog. Just because it is 63 degrees and sunny in February doesn’t mean that March won’t fool you. I recall shovelling snow off my greenhouse all night long in March 2012 so it wouldn’t collapse under all the weight.
Hoping you all are staying healthy, safe, and warm.
As the days begin to lengthen, and seed catalogs start arriving in your email and postal box, it’s time to think about placing your orders for this year’s garden show. I’ve always been a big fan of seeds as a source of material for the garden, which grew on me when I was a propagator at the Berry Botanic Garden. Mrs. R.S. Berry was famous for her ability to grow an amazing array of difficult and rare plants from seeds. She obtained many of these seeds in the Himalayan Mountains and Valleys of China during expeditions funded by collectors including Frank Kingdon-Ward and Joseph Rock.
Saving seeds is a very important part of curating a plant collection, as historic plants can succumb to pests and disease and cloning may not always be an option. Saving seeds preserves a plant’s genetic material, minus whatever disease may have caused its demise. Let’s look at some seed sowing techniques and tips to ensure your success in the upcoming gardening season.
It-s best to start with a high quality soil mix. I like Promix HP, with biofungicide and mycorrhizae. It has a peat-based substrate so it retains moisture very well. Also, its HP (high porosity) helps roots development and prevents damping off, a fungal disease that can run unchecked through seedling flats if drainage and air flow are inadequate. The biofungicide and mycorrhizae help prevent disease and encourage strong root growth.
Getting an early start with perennials and woody/tree species from temperate climates is important, as they may require a period of cool weather before they will germinate with rising spring temperatures, a process known as vernalization. I like to sow these species outside as soon as they arrive in the winter, ideally with seed flats out and exposed to the weather by January, at the latest. This way, if it’s an early spring, they should have been sufficiently chilled to induce germination. With seeds having longer germination times, I like to top dress with some grit. This helps prevent the growth of mosses that can overtake peat-based soils before seeds have a chance to germinate. You can buy grit (crushed quartzite) at feed stores. Packaged as turkey or chicken grit, it’s relatively cheap and as you are only using a thin top dressing, a little goes a long way.
For annual seeds, bottom heat and supplemental lighting can encourge an early start to the growing season. These systems can seem technical and daunting; however, basic electric heating pads and LED grow lights will do the trick. ures are well within the realm of affordability.
When working with seedlings, the best advice is sow thinly. This will help prevent the dreaded damping off disease where a healthy flat of seedlings start to topple over suddenly, caused by a number of different fungal pathogens, the stem of the plant is severed, and the seedling dies. Sowing thinly also makes it easier to move the plant on when it comes time to repot. I usually sow a 1/4 – 1/2 of the packet and save the rest. That way if I find a particularly popular or successful plant, I can regrow it next year, in case the seed company is out of stock.
Sulfur is one of the least toxic fungicides to have on hand. It can be dusted or mixed with water to make a spray. Be aware that sulfur is acidic in nature, so can change the pH of the soil.
Here are a few of my favorite seed sources.
Outside Pride: Based in Independence, Oregon, this online-only retail offers a remarkable array of flowers, grasses, and cover crops, including large seed packet sizes.
NARGS: The North American Rock Garden Society offers a seed exchange to its members. Even if rock gardens aren’t your thing, the exchange provides access to thousands of different seeds collected from member gardens. Many selections are drought tolerant and will thrive under tough conditions.
Plant World Seeds: For those that like the uncommon, this is a great source for everything from unusual bulb seeds to rare trees.
Nichols Garden Nursery: An old standby from nearby Albany, this is a great source for herbs and vegetables, including unusual and heirloom varieties.
The Thyme Garden: Situated in the coast range between Corvallis and Waldport, its a great source for unusual herbs and flowers.
I hope these tips and resources provide a good start to the growing season! The warmth of spring will be here soon so start now by getting your seeds ordered and sown.
Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another. John Muir
Those of us who attended Keith Park’s presentation on Preserving the John Muir Sequoia experienced an insightful treatment of preservation horticulture in the real world. I was fortunate to have already learned of this preservation project at a National Park Service workshop at Fort Vancouver, WA last year. That workshop encouraged me to take a closer look at the Lord & Schryver plant collection that I oversee as the Garden Manager |Curator.
Much behind the scenes work goes into collecting, curating, and preserving the amazing collection of plants at Gaiety Hollow. Visitors to the garden have most likely noticed small metal tags hanging from the woody plant material. These tags hold accession numbers linked to a database that records the key characteristics of each plant, including the era in which they were introduced to the garden.
Plants age, become diseased, and sometimes simply up and die without any reason or warning. Maintaining detailed records helps curators track plant growth and anticipate future problems. Taking cuttings is a popular propagation method, however, caution is required as one can potentially clone the same pathogen that caused the specimen’s demise. Propagation by seeds is another avenue, although genetic variability may be an issue.
The Osmanthus heterophyllus acc# H0076 at the end of the West Allee is a good example of the Conservancy’s work in preservation horticulture. Billing records show that Edith and Elizabeth purchased an Osmanthus illicifolius (heterophyllus) in 1954. This is likely the same plant that is currently suffering at the end of the West Allee. It has tip dieback, yellowing foliage, and is struggling to find it’s place under the now much larger Osmanthus fragrans and the ever growing Holly Hedge. Fortunately, it put out a great crop of seeds this past summer so we have other options than cloning.
One benefit of collecting seeds is that if handled right, many species can be stored for long periods of time. Seed banks have been created that specialize in this sort of preservation. Seeds must be kept cool and dry to maintain viability for long periods of time. Saving seeds is a key aspect of preservation horticulture that gardeners can practice themselves. The Rae Selling Berry Botanic Garden is a famous example of a private estate garden turned botanic treasure. It eventually morphed into the Seed Banking program at Portland State University to preserve rare native plant seeds.
Whether it be sticking cuttings, making layers, or collecting and sowing seeds, preserving Gaiety Hollow’s plant collection is ongoing work as plants age, or new pests and diseases threaten the collection.
Making a holiday sign for the front gate at Gaiety Hollow has put me in the holiday spirit! If you haven’t seen it yet, we hope that our sign brings you some joy this holiday season.
The idea originated when Pam said she wished we had a front sign, so people knew where Gaiety Hollow was located. That wish, together with a piece of luan plywood from my home shop and several rainy weekends, resulted in a lighted holiday sign! I have always been enamored by old world craftmanship but sadly, the days of hand painted signs are long gone in this age of vinyl, plastic, and 3D printers. There is much exquisite craftmanship in the fence work and brick work at Gaiety Hollow… a vinyl banner simply wouldn’t do!
The sign has received many compliments and it seems to fit in well with the house and garden.
Just a quick bit about the construction. I had some thin scrap plywood laying around my home shop that I thought would fit the gate perfectly. Chet Zenone helped me cut dado joints from some scrap cedar left over from the Reserve Garden fence project. We used that to frame and reinforce the sign, and also protect the end grain. The hand lettering was the tricky part, but also proved to be a welcome chore to distract an often- overthinking mind on a rainy socially distanced weekend. I had clearly forgotten how therapeutic painting can be when it’s more than just rolling Strand Green on 5oo pieces of lathe!
Drilling out the 400 plus holes for the lights was a bit of a chore, but the design allows the sign to look good both day and night. KC Meaders provided some custom metal brackets from his blacksmith shop so the sign can be easily mounted on the existing gate and taken down without any tools.
Like so many Conservancy projects this was a labor of love, made totally of donated goods and with help from volunteers. In this time of giving and as we wrap up the year, it is important to recognize how much love and energy has poured into this garden for the past 90 years. I think back on how much work it must have been for those carpenters who built the original fences, pergolas, and gates for Elizabeth and Edith. When I think of them nailing together all that lathe with a hammer and tacks, I thank the heavens I was born into the age of air compressors and nail guns! But I will always appreciate the look of something handcrafted.
I hope you appreciate our handcrafted sign as it hangs from the gate for the holiday season. We at the Lord & Schryver Conservancy wish you joy and cheer and a soon to be Happy New Year!
“Nature alone is antique and the oldest art a mushroom.” – Thomas Carlyle
I’m dedicating this blog post to the fungi in the garden as ’tis the season where the fungi are perhaps the most interesting thing blooming. I recently took a photographic journey around the Gaiety Hollow and Deepwood gardens. LSC volunteer gardener, Jay Raney, contributed some wonderful photographs of mushrooms at Bush’s Pasture Park.
I wish I knew how to identify more mushrooms as they are a great food source if you know which varieties are edible! Mushrooms provide Vitamin D which is beneficial for the immune system and mental health.
Research shows that many mushrooms have medicinal properties. Oregon recently approved research into Psilocybine mushrooms for treating depression and other disorders. If you haven’t seen the documentary Fantastic Fungi, I strongly recommend it. It includes fascinating information from Paul Stamets, the legendary mushroom guru, as well as incredible nature art.
A big thanks to Diana Reeck, a local member of the Mushroom Society who visited Gaiety Hollow this fall. Diana helped me identify some of the mushrooms we have growing in the garden.
This time of year it’s exciting to see a new mushroom popping up in the garden. It reminds us that even though many plants have gone dormant for the winter, so much life is still happening beneath the soil.