The Rogerson Clematis Collection

Where Every Garden Tells a Story

By: Linda Beutler
Linda Beutler

LINDA BEUTLER is a fearless gardener who grows a great variety of plants on a city lot in Portland, Oregon….

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Clematis in the Rogerson Clematis Collection—be they vines, herbaceous perennials, or shrubs, have an anecdote to share about how they came to be in the gardens at Luscher Farm Park. The often-told saga of the collection’s migration from Manhattan, Kansas, to Oregon reveals a journey of epic proportions. Today, the clematis are owned, maintained, and curated by the non-profit Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection (FRCC) and the plot is carried forward on land leased from the city of Lake Oswego.

The large-flowered Clematis ‘Fairy Queen’ is an antique variety (1875) rarely seen in the trade. Photo: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

The large-flowered Clematis ‘Fairy Queen’ is an antique variety (1875) rarely seen in the trade. Photo: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

Building a botanic garden around Clematis is challenging given the glut of misinformation persisting around the genus. A person enamored of mysteries and legends can understand why a curious gent like Brewster Rogerson began collecting these plants over 40 years ago. The breadth and depth of the gene pool is fascinating, and new species are still being discovered; few other genera consist of such a diverse band of comingled species, untouched by taxonomists. The genus includes approximately 300 species found on all the major continents except Antarctica. Our botanic garden boasts nearly a third of these in the collection.

You could say the Rogerson Clematis Collection has entered the garden-as-textbook phase of its story. Begun in autumn of 2006, the gardens at Luscher Farm Park have grown, bed by bed, into a series of themed plantings that tell the story of how and where Clematis are grown and bred, connecting our gardens with breeders and plant explorers all over the world. The FRCC’s educational mission places the organization in a unique position to clarify misinformation by demonstrating a variety of planting combinations and practices. Repeat visits to the display gardens throughout the year provide both inspiration and answers to many common clematis-growing questions.

Clematis ‘Kacper’ and Caryopteris ‘Summer Sorbet’ are garden companions with a long season of interest and bloom. Photo: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

Clematis ‘Kacper’ and Caryopteris ‘Summer Sorbet’ are garden companions with a long season of interest and bloom. Photo: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

How can clematis be added to existing gardens? By growing them into shrubs and trees you already have. Generous donations of woody plants from nurseries throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond allow most clematis in the Rogerson Clematis Collection to grow as they would in the wild, by scrambling into a living host.

Clematis ‘Caerulea’, an herbaceous perennial selection of C. integrifolia, thrives in full sun in the Front Bank garden. Here it’s shown blooming alongside × Halimiocistus wintonensis ‘Merrist Wood Cream’. Photos: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

Clematis ‘Caerulea’, an herbaceous perennial selection of C. integrifolia, thrives in full sun in the Front Bank garden. Here it’s shown blooming alongside × Halimiocistus wintonensis ‘Merrist Wood Cream’.
Photos: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

Do all clematis want their feet in the shade and their heads in the sun? In the Front Bank garden, plants thrive in full sun, proving that not all clematis want shaded roots. The Bird Habitat garden and Heirloom Garden on the north and east sides of the vintage farmhouse feature clematis that flourish in less than full sun.

What’s the true merit of the new clematis bred for
containers?
Since Brewster Rogerson grew all of the plants in his collection in plastic pots, this is a hot topic at the gardens. Our longtime volunteers are very well aware of which clematis tolerate constant confinement and which fizzle out once their roots reach the walls of a pot. Our experience leads us to believe that some of the newest “container” introductions will, over time, get much taller than advertised—or dwindle away.

The Bob and Carol Gutmann Greenhouse was constructed for Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection in the autumn of 2005. Photo: courtesy of the Rogerson Clematis Collection

The Bob and Carol Gutmann Greenhouse was constructed for Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection in the autumn of 2005. Photo: courtesy of the Rogerson Clematis Collection

Several areas of the garden are dedicated to breeders and regions one might not think of as being particularly “clematis-y.” Three island beds dedicated to the prodigious output of Brother Stefan Franczak of Poland, and his mentor Wladislaw Noll, contain hybrids generously donated to FRCC by Szczepan Marczynski, a clematis breeder and nurseryman in Warsaw, Poland.

In addition to Poland, throughout the Cold War clematis were bred behind the Iron Curtain in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, East Germany, Russia, and Ukraine; a fact that was suspected but largely unverified until after the fall of the Soviet Union. These beautiful clematis, grown by a tenacious and dedicated handful of breeders, are featured in the Baltic Border.

Clematis ‘Lambton Park’ (Tanguitica/Orientalis Group) flowers from early summer into autumn. Photo: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

Clematis ‘Lambton Park’ (Tanguitica/Orientalis Group) flowers from early summer into autumn. Photo: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

The toughest and most durable clematis are native to remote and harsh environments. The gift of seed collected by Panayoti Kalaidis from the steppes of central Asia and a subsequent visit to the Denver Botanic Garden convinced us to gather species and hybrids from that region in an area of the garden we call In Steppe.

Clematis ‘Sparkle Plenty’ is an FRCC introduction from a seedling salvaged by Brewster Rogerson.   Photos: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

Clematis ‘Sparkle Plenty’ is an FRCC introduction from a seedling salvaged by Brewster Rogerson.
Photos: courtesy of Rogerson Clematis Collection

It would be easy to fill these pages with stories and tips from the Rogerson Clematis Garden. A Spring Border is dedicated to the earliest flowering, small, bell-shaped clematis and two beds contain plants recommended on the International Clematis Society’s “Clematis for Beginners” list. Even our founder, Brewster Rogerson, has a long border featuring his favorite clematis. Brewster never made planned crosses, but he never threw away a seedling. Many of these plants live on in our test garden.

The Rogerson Clematis Garden at Luscher Farm is open from dawn until dusk daily. Grab a brochure at the kiosk under the copper beech, wander through the gardens, and listen carefully. Our clematis will tell you their stories.