Remembering Brewster Rogerson (1921-2015)

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….

More From This Author
Brewster Rogerson and Linda Beutler strolling in the Rogerson Clematis Collection. Photo: Larry Beutler

Brewster Rogerson and Linda Beutler strolling in the Rogerson Clematis Collection. Photo: Larry Beutler

At an otherwise uneventful Hardy Plant Society of Oregon board meeting in the late 1980s Brewster Rogerson identified Clematis integrifolia for Lucy Hardiman. I had purchased the plant, mislabeled Clematis montana, and introduced it to Lucy’s garden, which I shared with her as both one of her tenants and as the sister I should have had.

Lucy and I were amazed to learn that fully a quarter of the 300 or so clematis species worldwide are herbaceous perennials. While she managed to walk away from this nugget of revelatory information mainly unscathed, I, on the other hand, being of a more addictive personality, fell in love with both the genus and the man.

I was predisposed to like Brewster because he had been a professor of English Literature, and that was my major, too. He was a Shakespeare and Milton man. We also shared a love of Bombay gin. He was a martini man, and his glass will have a place of honor in the Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection’s new office later this summer.

This is the first known picture of Brewster with clematis taken in 1975 in Manhattan, Kansas. The clematis is 'Rouge Cardinal'.  Photo: from the Rogerson Clematis Collection Archives.

This is the first known picture of Brewster with clematis taken in 1975 in Manhattan, Kansas. The clematis is ‘Rouge Cardinal’. Photo: from the Rogerson Clematis Collection Archives.

The Rogerson Clematis Collection

In 1971 Brewster purchased his first four clematis vines to enhance the house he had built for himself in Manhattan, Kansas. By 1975 he described himself as a collector of the genus in a letter to his friend Pamela Harper. Once retired, Brewster determined to move to a more amenable climate, the Pacific Northwest. In 1981 he brought his plants first to Eugene, Oregon, and then to Hillsboro in 1986. The clematis were all in containers, housed at Gutmann Nursery—a beautiful collection that happened to be alive!

Brewster became a renowned scholar of the genus and was considered the American expert in this field until the time of his passing. He was a founding member of the International Clematis Society, and wrote 100 entries in their Clematis of the Month feature, publishing his last plant description in March 2015. Brewster was generous with his plants as well as his knowledge.

Brewster studying Clematis 'Fond Memories', bred by his friends Jon and Ruth Gooch of Thorncroft Nursery in the UK. Photo: from the Rogerson Clematis Collection Archives.

Brewster studying Clematis ‘Fond Memories’, bred by his friends Jon and Ruth Gooch of Thorncroft Nursery in the UK. Photo: from the Rogerson Clematis Collection Archives.

The Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection (FRCC) took over the ownership of Brewster’s clematis in 2005 (at that time 450 taxa, 900 plants), and in partnership with the City of Lake Oswego moved the clematis to Luscher Farm in December of that year. Brewster moved to Lake Oswego and when he felt up to it, visited his plants weekly, Thursday mornings with me, and other days with various volunteers until the autumn of 2014, when his health began to fail (at that time the collection numbered 700 taxa, 1,600 plants).

Judging from this baby picture, Brewster’s future might be seen as something of a foregone conclusion. Photo: from the Rogerson Clematis Collection Archives.

Judging from this baby picture, Brewster’s future might be seen as something of a foregone conclusion. Photo: from the Rogerson Clematis Collection Archives.

Brewster Rogerson, 94, passed away on May 26th, 2015.  The Friends of the Rogerson Clematis collection will hold an event in his honor later this summer. Watch for further details at www.rogersonclematiscollection.org.

From the Rogerson Clematis Collection website:

“We shall miss the rigor of his scholarship, the wit of his writing, the breadth of his vision, the firmness of his guidance, and the unique and not inconsiderable pleasure of his company. We are honored to carry his legacy forward.”

Brewster Rogerson with Penny Vogel of Kinzey Faire in Estacada, Oregon. Photo: Linda Beutler

Brewster Rogerson with Penny Vogel of Kinzey Faire in Estacada, Oregon. Photo: Linda Beutler


Donations in Brewster’s name may be made to the Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, PO Box 734, Lake Oswego, OR 97034, or www.rogersonclematiscollection.org. All donations to FRCC are tax deductible. Questions may be directed to 971-777-4394.