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Meet HPSO Member Anton Klemens and Tour His Collector’s Garden (2022 Lake Oswego Mini-Tour Participant)

Meet HPSO member and Open Gardens host, Anton Klemens, who gardens in West Linn, Oregon. Anton’s garden features his collection of over 600 plants, particularly rare conifers and Japanese maples. He shares his favorite plants and tips for growing beautiful conifers in this Profile.  

What gardens have most influenced me?

Long before my wife Jill and I moved to Oregon we planned our vacations around visiting gardens in the PNW. Two of those gardens from our first visit in 2007 and 2008 still inspire me today. Both gardens utilize raised beds, pathways, boulders and berms to display plants at eye level. Additionally, the gardens create a sense of tranquility and balance based upon the placement of each cultivar’s color, size, and shape. These are all attributes I’ve admired and incorporated into our garden over the years.

A view of the garden. Photo credit Anton Klemens.

The first garden is an American Conifer Society (ACS) reference garden – The Oregon Garden located in Silverton, OR. Over the past decade, I’ve had the privilege to work on several projects with a dear friend of mine, Doug Wilson, who’s been the conifer gardens curator for many years. The second garden is none other than the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden located in Boring, OR. This garden has inspired me from the multiple visits over the past 15 years as I observed the transformations and expansions within the garden.

Picea orientalis ‘Sunrise’ & Acer palmatum ‘Tamukeyama’. Photo credit Anton Klemens.


Abies koreana ‘Blue Emperor’. Photo credit Anton Klemens.

What are some of the unusual conifers in my garden?

Pinus parviflora ‘Jilly Bean’– This pine is from a ‘Kinpo’ seedling selection that came from Iseli Nursery. It has very tight needles and grows less than 3 inches a year, making it a true dwarf. This plant was acquired during an ACS National Meeting and as a result, I was able to name the plant after my beautiful wife Jill.

Pinus parviflora ‘Sundial’– This pine is also from a seedling selection of ’Goldilocks’ from Iseli Nursery. The shape looked like a sundial, as it had a flat habit with a leader that looked like a gnomon. My wife named this cultivar, Sundial. I have since cut the leader from the plant. The naming of this plant also inspired us to name our Garden – Sundial Urban Gardens.

What are some of the unique Japanese maples in my garden?

The smallest Japanese maple I have is Acer palmatum ‘Sir Happy’, founded by Crispin of Crispin Creations. My specimen is about 10 years old and the size of a softball. With crinkled leaves setting on top of one another creating a sturdy dense mass of foliage, growth is much less than an inch per year.

Another favorite, which is also a seedling selection from Crispin Creations is Acer palmatum ‘Little Red’. This maple is in a container, stays very narrow and is about 3 feet tall. It maintains the brightest red of any of my maples and glows when the sun hits it. It’s the most striking color.

What does it mean to have a collector’s garden?

A ‘collectors garden’ means I never stop collecting! All seriousness, in my opinion, a collector’s garden can have multiple characteristics. What makes my garden a collector’s garden is the majority of the plants are not available to the general public as the cultivar might be under observation, very hard to propagate, only a few exists or is not profitable for a mass production to grow for a retail nursery. Also, many of the plants that I have are one of a kind selective seedlings or plants that came from a witches broom, which is a mutation on a plant that is removed and grafted. Only after several years of sharing cuttings and brooms of rare selections with other collectors, I acquired such a vast collection of rare conifers and maples.

Abies lasiocarpa ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ on sentry duty in the Sundial Urban Garden. Photo credit Anton Klemens.

Tips for caring for mature specimens in pots:

In the springtime when the maples just start to show their buds, I pull the plants out of the pot, remove as much soil as possible from the roots, selectively prune the roots and re-pot with quality soil (#9B potting soil blend) from Pro-Grow Mixes and Materials. I’ll do this every few years, depending on the size of the container. All my containers are on timed drip irrigation systems and I use spot spitters. Raising the pots on the plastic rolling caddies ensures proper drainage. This has worked well for me for more than a decade.

Martagon ‘Arabian Knight’. Photo credit Anton Klemens.

Acer shirasawanum ‘Moonrise’. Photo credit Anton Klemens.

Thank you, Anton, for sharing your amazing collection!

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