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'A living museum'

Linda Beutler and the Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection preserve the stories of more than 1,500 plants


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Curator Linda Beutler tends to one of the 1,500 plants in the Rogerson Clematis Garden at Luscher Farm. Its like managing a living museum, she says.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Flowering clematis plants turn the Rogerson Garden into a showplace of brilliant colors. This one is a Fairy Blue Crystal Fountain.Officially, Linda Beutler is known as the curator of the Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, but the Lake Oswego woman’s role extends far beyond caring for the group’s 1,500 plants and insuring the integrity of the collection.

Beutler is also the keeper of stories deeply rooted in Luscher Farm’s Rogerson Clematis Garden — stories of grace, courage and inspiration that propagated before and after the First World War.

In short, Beutler keeps the collection’s stories alive.

“It’s like managing a living museum,” she says. “My work just happens to be alive.”

Located just outside Lake Oswego at 125 Rosemont Road in West Linn, the Rogerson Clematis Garden thrives in an environment that brings some 123 members to care for more than 700 varieties of clematis. Normally open to the public every day from 8 a.m. to dusk, it will be the centerpiece later this month of the ninth-annual Inviting Vines Garden Party and Tour.

The special event, which is scheduled for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, will also include two additional gardens — the Ainsworth House in Oregon City and the Tuttle Garden in Rivergrove. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at rogersonclematiscollection.org/events.

During the tour, Beutler will be selling copies of her new book, “A Plant Lover’s Guide to Clematis,” at Luscher Farm, where Brewster Rogerson first brought his collection in 2005.

Rogerson, for whom the collection is named, was a “natural born collector” who gathered first editions of great works of literature and old recordings of opera singers, Beutler says.

“Then he collected clematis,” she says. “He considered them beautiful objects that happened to be alive.”

Rogerson was an English professor at Kansas State University when he made an “impulse purchase of four infant vines in the early 1970s,” he wrote before he died last May. As he neared retirement in 1981, he moved to Oregon to focus on his young plant collection.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Rogerson Clematis Garden isnt involved in breeding new plants, but its volunteers do grow some of the world's most unique clematis varieties.

Two decades later, he brought the collection to Luscher Farm. And today, the garden is home to more than 1,500 plants that flourish under the Friends’ care, even though for many, home is thousands of miles away.

“They are very, very adaptable,” says Beutler, the first American president of the International Clematis Society. “I think assumptions are made on the climate where they were found, but then you move them into a garden and they do just fine.”

Clematis are natives of every continent on Earth except Antarctica, and the Rogerson collection includes plants that hail from the alpine mountains of Asia to the frozen lakes of Siberia, both natively or bred as a hybrid.

“We try to make them happy and remind them of home,” Beutler says.

Clematis come in all sizes and colors. Creating hybrids — the result of two species bred together — has become a hobby of many collectors worldwide and often creates unexpected results.

“Plant breeding is a lot like a gambling addiction,” Beutler says. “You think you know what’s going to happen, but there’s so much more going on under the surface. The complexity of the genus never ceases to amaze me.”

Though the Rogerson Collection isn’t involved in breeding new plants, it does offer some of the world’s most unique clematis — including “Regina,” a hybrid that Beutler believes can only be found in the U.S. at Luscher Farm.

“Regina” was bred by Brother Stefan Franczak, a Jesuit priest in Warsaw, Poland, while the country was controlled by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It was gifted to the Rogerson Collection, along with 37 other Franczak hybrids, after Rogerson and Beutler returned a lost Franczak hybrid, ‘Halina Noll,’ to a Polish garden in an effort to restore the monk’s collection.

The Rogerson collection also grows clematis that bloom atypically, such as one that blooms 365 days a year and others that only bloom in the winter months.

“If you think of it from a biological, evolutionary standpoint,” she says, “when a plant blooms when nobody else is blooming and whenever pollinators are around, it’s the only game in town!”

In addition, the collection features much-admired “showgirls,” as Beutler calls them — clematis that are well furnished and vibrantly colored, and natives that are often quaint and modest. Both live in the Founder’s Garden, an area that pays special tribute to Brewster Rogerson’s legacy.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Gardeners can buy clematis plants from the Rogerson Collection, which is generally open to the public every day from 8 a.m. to dusk.

There, the collection cares for Rogerson’s favorite clematis. Of course, he had many — about 40, Beutler says — but one that stands out is “Sharpie,” a pointy purple hybrid that grows prominently.

“Everybody wants ‘Sharpie,’” Beutler says, and so the curator and her volunteers are doing their best to make it abundant enough to sell to visitors — and keep the garden’s story alive.

For more information about the Friends of Rogerson Clematis Collection, go to www.rogersonclematiscollection.org.

Contact Andrew Bantly at 503-636-1281 ext. 117 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

IF YOU GO

What: Inviting Vines Garden Party and Tour

When: Saturday, May 28, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Rogerson Clematis Garden at Luscher farm (125 Rosemont Road, West Linn) and at two additional sites in Oregon City and Rivergrove

Tickets: $20, available online at www.rogersonclematiscollection.org/events