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Meet HPSO Member Matthew Hubbard and Visit his Open Garden

Meet Matthew Hubbard, HPSO member and gardener in SE Portland, Zone 8. He shares more stories and photos of his garden on his blog, The Garden of the Lents Farmer.

Matthew and Cosette with Peony ‘Red Charm’ and Peony ‘Prairie Moon’

Matthew has been sharing his garden with HPSO members for 6 years as part of the Open Gardens program, and this year his garden will be featured in a SE Portland Mini-Tour of  member gardens on May 7th! HPSO Members, please log in to the Member Center and scroll down to the Open Gardens section where you will find the full details for this Mini-Tour.

What do I wish I’d known when I started my garden?

The main thing I wish I’d known was to plan for an in ground watering system! I’m still using a combination of conventional sprinklers and hand watering in a garden that I’ve expanded substantially over the years. Hand watering takes a long time and can be especially unpleasant during excessive heat waves and smoke-filled brown skies. Adding an automated watering system this late in the game would be challenging.

I also wish I had done a better job spacing out evergreen shrubs that would eventually get large. Shrubs just seem so small and far apart when first planted, consequently I planted a few too close together and now they are fighting for their rightful spots. Some got too big and just had to go!

What is the happiest accident in my garden?

I planted Spiranthes cernua (Nodding Lady’s Tresses orchid) as a bog plant to be grown in a tub along with carnivorous plants like Sarracenia and Dionaea. Spiranthes bloom very late in the season (October) here in Portland and have a spike of fragrant white flowers. Not only has Spiranthes done well in the peat bogs, it has done well in other parts of my garden too. I won’t yet call it “weedy”, but it has moved around the garden on its own and seems perfectly happy to grow in regular garden soil in much drier conditions. It’s been a fun plant to give away and other gardening friends have had success with it too. It’s super easy to pull out, so I’m not too worried about it becoming a pest.

Spiranthes cernua

What garden has most influenced me?

My garden, with its mixed plant perennial border style of gardening, is definitely most influenced by my mom’s gardening style. My mother, Jean, has always loved flowers and growing unusual plants of all kinds. Growing up with her gardens in Madison, WI, I was always eager to help out with garden projects. It didn’t matter if it was weeding, planting, watering or going plant shopping. Each house we lived at had its own unique garden, often mixed perennial flowers/shrubs and a pond with hardy water lilies and emergent plants. She also grew a lot of tropical orchids, African violets, and cactus in the house, which I often took responsibility to tend and water. Her love of houseplants also influenced my indoor gardening proclivity. Together, we learned the joys of gardening and finding hidden plant gems.

What are my 3 favorite peonies?

Paeonia mascula ssp russoi — This species peony is always the first to bloom each spring, sometimes as early as the last week in March and it’s a beautiful purplish-pink with a lovely clove fragrance. For me, it’s the harbinger of the coming spring peony season.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Leslie Peck’ — Leslie is a midseason Japanese form with intense pink guard petals with inner petaloids etched in peach and pink. It looks like “fire in a bowl” and is just a gorgeous flower.

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Black Panther’ —Black Panther is a semi-double flowered, midseason tree peony with nicely fragrant dark maroon flowers that often look “black” in color. The spring foliage also emerges a dark maroon with very lacey leaves.

Paeonia mascula ssp russoi and Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Black Panther’

What plant did unexpectedly well in my garden?

As a Portland gardener, it’s easy to dabble in zone denial plants from Australia and New Zealand. One in particular shrub in my garden is Callistemon pallidus (Lemon Bottlebrush). The flowers are pale yellow and the foliage is an interesting gray-green that looks good year-round. I didn’t expect this shrub to survive extreme cold (and yet I planted it anyway) and it did die to the ground after the bad winter of 2014, but it came back from the root zone with a vengeance and has done well ever since. It’s a unique feature of my garden and I love it even with its pallid yellow and slightly stinky flowers.

Callistemon pallidus

What are some of the more unusual plants in my garden?

The past 7 years or so I have dabbled in “bog” gardens to grow carnivorous plants such as Dionaea (Venus Fly Traps), Drosera (Sundews), Pinguicula (Butterworts) and Sarracenia (Pitcher Plants). I’ve had great success with these plants and they are fun to grow and watch. I recently added some terrestrial bog orchids to accompany the carnivorous plants. This year will be the first spring for some of the bog orchids and I am eagerly waiting to see how well they survived (or didn’t survive) winter.

One of the small trees that always gets comments during spring open gardens is Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Flame Tree). In late spring/early summer this tree is loaded with scarlet red tubular flowers and becomes a buffet for the local hummingbirds. When not in bloom, it’s a pretty slender evergreen tree in mild winters.

Embothrium coccineum

I have grown hardy water lilies in 300 gallon horse troughs for almost two decades. The large troughs act as small pools for goldfish and each contains 2-3 hardy water lilies planted in pots sunk to the bottom. I have experienced negative reactions to growing water lilies over the years as they can be invasive in some areas but certainly not while grown in tubs. It’s hard to rival the beauty of a blooming water lily flower such as Nymphaea ‘Wanvisa’, Nymphaea ‘Perry’s Almost Black’, or Nymphaea ‘Texas Dawn’.

Nymphaea ‘Texas Dawn’ and Nymphaea ‘Wanvisa’

Thank you, Matthew, for sharing your beautiful garden with us!

HPSO members, be sure to log in to the Member Center and check out the upcoming SE Portland Mini-Tour featuring Matthew’s garden, along with several others, on May 7th, 2022.

Not an HPSO member? You can learn more about how to join and visit stunning member gardens such as Matthew’s by clicking here.

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