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Plant nerds enjoy celebrations

Garden Muse

Several days in a row, lately, when I came in from the garden and slipped off my boots, my socks were damp. I couldn't believe that my good old Muck boots were leaking. I'd had these old friends for so many years, I thought they were immortal. Not so.

On the way to an appointment in Northeast Portland, I popped into Garden Fever (www.gardenfever.com) to see if they had any in stock. I decided to splurge and buy two pairs of the Daily Lawn and Garden Clog. My first color choice, Mudmuck Brown, the best camouflage for mud splatter in my soppy garden, didn't come in my size, so I settled for Garden Green, pretty close.

In hopes of somewhat drier days to come, I grabbed a pair of slightly more feminine looking Dusty Pink Houndstooth. But truthfully, either pair, together with my orange fleece pullover and old blue sweats, would only identify me as a Plant Nerd.

In case you're wondering, Plant Nerds are those mad gardeners who'd sooner spring for clodhopper waterproof boots than a stylish handbag. We celebrate Nerd Night (more details in a later column), to be held this year on the Friday evening, March 18. Ardent gardeners will line up hours before the doors open, for the best seats. Once inside, they'll throng around the sale tables overflowing with choice plants.

After the buying frenzy, everyone will settle down and watch specialty nursery owners show slides of their favorite offerings for 2011. At intervals, the Chorus of the Goddess Flora will sing show tunes, with parody lyrics reflecting our obsession with plants. Gifts of soil, sample plants and fertilizer - as well as door prizes galore - will make everyone happy.

Plant Nerds enjoy an ongoing series of celebrations. Forget about Valentine's Day - February marks the Hellebore Open Garden Days at Northwest Garden Nursery in Eugene (www.northwestgardennursery.com), the Northwest Flower Show (www.gardenshow.com) in Seattle, as well as the Yard Garden and Patio Show (www.ygpshow.com) right here in Portland.

Plant Nerds love specialty nurseries for their unusual plants. I've already marked my calendar with big asterisks for the March 12 open house at Edelweiss Nursery in Canby (www.edelweissperennials). Knowledgeable plantsman Urs Baltensperger takes time to tell you what each plant needs, and its ultimate size and shape. He visits overseas nurseries, especially in his native Switzerland, gathering up cutting-edge hardy perennials to propagate.

Last year, I scooped up a flat of colorful hens and chicks to adorn two leaking birdbaths - now they're both sculptural focal points. His assortment of red hot pokers (Kniphofia) was irresistible - several of those contribute vertical thrust to my island beds. Over the years, I've added many of Edelweiss's unusual hebes, cranesbills, cyclamens and epimediums to my garden.

Plant Nerds who love roses save the evening of March 21 at 7:30 for the Portland Rose Society's Vendor Fair (www.portlandrosesociety.org). To stock up on plants and munch on fresh warm donuts, on April 2 we'll drive to Fir Point Farms in Aurora for Garden Palooza (www.gardenpalooza.com). We'll hit the Clackamas County Master Gardener's Spring Garden Fair (www.clackamascountymastergardeners.org) for another round of plant hunting and lectures on April 30 and May 1.

Plant Nerds live for garden tours, waiting eagerly for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's (www.hardyplantsociety.org) open garden booklet, chock full of private gardens to visit. We mark our calendars for the Inviting Vines Open Gardens (www.rogersonclematiscollection.org), featuring clematis, held on May 28, and the Garden Conservancy Open Days tour of Portland gardens (www.gardenconservancy.org) held on July 16.

Like a flock of birds, we fly off to to these destinations, landing to shop, learn, and talk plants. Years ago, I wondered why gardeners in their 80s would continue going to these events. Didn't they know enough about plants yet? Didn't they have enough plants? Finally, it dawned on me - they're not going for information, or for plants - they're going to play with their friends!

These gatherings are Plant Nerd parties, where the big extended family of plant lovers who understand each others' over-the-top love for the garden come together to celebrate and share.

We Plant Nerds are a diverse and inclusive group, of all ages, races, faiths, and plant preferences. Won't you join us for some of these ongoing festivities? And if the event is outdoors, don't forget your waterproof boots and rain jacket.


Coming Events

• Portland Dahlia Society program on New Dahlia Introductions for 2011, 6:30 p.m., Feb. 8, Rose City Park United Methodist Church, 5830 N.E. Alameda, Portland. Admission free, meeting open to the public. For more information, call 503-246-8632.

• Al's in Sherwood presents Pruning Roses: The Basics, with Rich Baer, President, Portland Rose Society; 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Feb. 5, 16920 S.W. Roy Rogers Road, Sherwood. Seminar free and open to the public. Call Patty Howe, 503-726-1162 for more information.