Monday, August 31, 2009

Bewitching Blue Poppies - The Berry Botanic Garden

((Please note: In January, 2010, an announcement appeared regarding the closure of
Berry Botanic Garden. Sad news for all who had an opportunity to visit this serene and magical landscape.))
Meconopsis betonicifolia
A passionate gardener, exceptional plantswoman, and an inspirational figure in the world of horticulture, Rae Selling Berry prevailed over a condition of hereditary deafness and left a remarkable legacy for plant lovers.
In The Berry Botanic Garden, the admirable depth and breadth of the plant collections -and projects carried out today that focus on conservation of endangered plants - attest to Rae Berry's enduring spirit.
Primula marginata
Rae and Alfred Berry acquired the parcel of land that was destined to become The Berry Botanic Garden in 1938: A nine-acre property near the Willamette River that gave Rae sufficient space to pursue propagating and cultivating the myriad specimens she wished to grow.
Rhododendron wood
Seattle landscape architect John Grant assisted with siting trees, etc., but Rae took responsibility for planning and planting the areas devoted to exceptional collections of primulas, alpine plants, and Rhododendron species from seed. Two large types, R. decorum and R. calophytum, have now matured into what looks like a natural forest. Some 300 species of alpine plants from around the world thrive in the quarter-acre Rock Garden.
Primula bed
On a June visit visitors are left breathless by glorious displays of the mythic Himalayan blue poppy and the Nepalese poppy found growing in the primula beds. I was bewitched by the tall - to 5 feet - stands of dusty pink Meconopsis napaulensis, and simply stunning arrays of the alluringly soft, subtle blue-hued 'Crewdson's hybrids.'
Spring - Berry Botanic Garden
The genus Primula was one of Rae's cherished favorites. Aficionados revel in the garden's profusion of primula species, from the flowering candelabras of P. aurantiaca to noteworthy P. cusickiana, which bears violet-scented flowers; native to northeastern Oregon.
Dubbed 'Cooky' by Rae Berry, P. cusickiana is particularly temperamental to cultivate. It's known to have eluded Rae's skillful attempts to grow it. Today this plant's image is used as the garden's logo, symbolizing The Berry Botanic Garden's commitment to promote a vast kingdom of plants.

Meconopsis napaulensis
Photos: Berry Botanic Garden

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  1. What a delightful kaleidoscope you've captured. A couple of summers ago, my husband and I drove to Jardins de Métis -- home of the Vale of the Blue Poppy -- near Rivière du Loup, Québec on the south shore of the St. Lawrence. Unfortunately, all we saw of the blue poppies (Meconopsis, as you show here) was the sign to say they were there. Mythic and mythical. Perhaps one day we'll time it better.

  2. Would you believe another place here in Portland that I have never gone! You are amazing Alice!

  3. Oh my goodness I love that meadow of primulas. The Rhododendron wood is so neat looking! What great gardens.

  4. I second Janet. The primula photo is magic.

  5. Alice~~ I'm working on the Meme. Thank you. I'm honored. Your reviews are exceptionally well written.

    I want that Meconopsis!!

  6. I really admire landscape designer; their skills in extrapolating what's the place going to be in years to come for others to enjoy.

  7. Helen, How tragic to miss them ... but doesn't it add to their mythic quality! I'm unfamiliar with the Vale of the Blue Poppy: Have always wanted to visit Jardins de Métis. Thanks for letting me know about the 'Vale.' Wouldn't that be an incredible place for a group of garden bloggers to gather.

    dg, I'll do my best to keep the destinations coming your way!

    Janet and Susan, Some gardens are imbued with the spirit of their maker. Rae Berry's primula meadow & Rhodie wood manifest rare skill & a dream realized.

    Grace, I was of two minds about the Me Me meme, but in the end it was fun. Look forward to reading yours, and appreciate the compliment.
    btw, When you plant blue poppies, let me know!

    howitgrows, Do drop by again.

    Bangchik, It is extraordinary to experience a garden that has achieved the ideas set forth by the designers so long ago.

    All the images of blue poppies in books and magazines had not prepared me for the reality of the ravishing blue blooms set off by the statuesque Napalese hybrids!

  8. The himalayan blue poppy is gorgeous. I planted seeds for one myself this year, but they never sprouted. Seeing your photo makes me want to try again next year. What a lovely collection of plants at Berry. Cheers!

  9. Avis, I'd be curious to hear about where you purchased the seeds, and what sort of instructions were included. If you try again, please let me know how it goes. I'm curious now about their growing range in terms of temps and conditions. I know they do well in the Pacific Northwest!

  10. I love this post! As usual ;)
    I have put this garden on my list and the month in which to go. I really (!) want to see the blue poppy in person and that primrose garden looks fantastic. Thank you for giving us the story behind the garden as well. Lovely.

  11. The primula bed is a perfect blend of different colours. The rhododendron wood picture reminds me of an illustration in a book.

  12. poppies just rock. The blue ones are common in our northern regions. And primula is an annual for us too. Sadly, we grow mostly primula vulgaris here although lots of varieties can be grown here. thanks for sharing this beautiful post.

  13. Urbanfieldguide, Glad you enjoyed the post. You won't soon forget the sight of the poppies, or the Berry's other unique features. I couldn't begin to cover the whole story here: there's much more to glean when you visit!

    Autumn Belle, The gardens do present themselves like beautiful illustrations. An astute remark!

    MK, Welcome! Hearing first-hand from one who lives in a region where blue poppies (and primulas) appear is stirring. I'll look forward to your comments and unique perspective!

  14. such a beautiful place. Wish it wasn't so far away from here, I would love to visit.

  15. Teresa, I feel the same way about gardens that seem to be out of reach. Every so often I'm able to visit the East Coast, but I have a to-do list with any number of landscapes that I've yet to see :~)

  16. aloha,

    its raining today so seeing all the garden blooms are a nice thing to do with a hot cup of coffee.

    those primula beds are of the blue meconopsis also, saw one in the SF botanical garden once.

  17. Aloha Noel,
    I've learned that the Berry Botanic Garden is slated to close (or may now be closed) and it's sad news, indeed, for such a magical setting.