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Brewster's legacy blooms in the garden

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Nancy Dunis learned alot about clematis and life from her friend, Brewster Rogerson.

Brewster Rogerson’s name and reputation blipped on my radar screen as a clematis guru 15 years ago, but I didn’t actually meet him until 2007. It was at Plant Nerd Night; I remember it well. Who could forget an event with a name like Nerd Night? Was it a night for plants to come together or a night for people?

It was an evening for gardeners — aka plant nerds — to gather to hear about new plants from Northwest growers. It was also an opportunity for plant nerds to succumb to their shopping addiction known as plantaholism. What a frenzy: people standing four deep in front of vendor tables jockeying for a position to pick up the plants, ask questions and purchase them.

Brewster was in attendance at the Clematis Society vendor’s table. I had heard so much about him. Oh my, I really wanted to buy a clematis on his recommendation, but I was so intimidated. Finally I got up the nerve to approach him. I did buy clematis durandii — one of Brewster’s favorites — but more than that, I wanted his autograph. How nerdy is that?!

I have that autographed piece of paper tucked into in my garden journal. I will treasure it always, but more so now as Brewster’s health becomes more and more fragile. At 96, Brewster’s mind wants to get up and go but the body is saying, “I can’t keep up.”

But keep up he did for many years, until his limited vision prevented him from driving. A call went out to Friends of Rogerson Clematis Collection members asking for someone to transport Brewster to the Rogerson Clematis Garden, which he founded with the help of many other clematis lovers.

What a great opportunity to get to know him one-on-one. I volunteered.

For three years I chauffeured Brewster to the garden. Every other week I would arrive at Carmen Oaks. He’d be ready, sweater and glasses in hand, waiting and watching for my red chariot.

Even though his vision was limited, Brewster loved to visit the garden. He could supervise what was going on with his beloved plants; do some pruning if needed; and admire any clematis that were in bloom when he was there.

I always looked forward to these visits. We talked about clematis, yes; but we also talked about our love of the MAC computer. I would never admit this to Brewster, but I remember how impressed I was that he knew so much about using the MAC — at his age! He often gave me advice about fixes when I was having issues. We shared jokes; talked his favorite foods — ginger marmalade and good martinis. We laughed about the elderly ladies at Carmen Oaks who always wanted to dine at his table. Brewster’s attitude: Don’t bother me. However, on occasional visits to the garden he would take cuttings of blooming clematis to his women. This always made me chuckle.

I learned a lot from Brewster: “Always cut below the leaves! Never leave a stubby stem showing and don’t cut all the vines at the same height,” he would tell me.

I miss our time together, Brewster. I will always look back on those days with fondness and affection. Thank you for making that trip from Kansas to the Northwest with your van full of your collection of potted clematis. That story is coming soon. God bless you, my friend.

Nancy Dunis is a member of Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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