05 Jun Forest Street and May 2020 Garden of the Month
For people who love gardens and gardening.
Photos of trees, flowers and gates.
I began my Forest Street walk at the intersection with Liberty Street, one block uphill from Ashland Street.
Deodar Cedar tree
A Deodar cedar tree on the uphill side provided my first uplifting moment and photo opportunity (photos on the left and top right, below). This is a young Deodar cedar. If you want to see an elder, go to the Safeway supermarket on Siskiyou Boulevard. There you will find Ashland’s 2002 Tree of the Year, a pair of majestic Deodar cedar trees (photo on bottom right, below).
This “gate with a heart” at 796 Forest Street next caught my eye. It doesn’t take much to transform a simple gate into something special.
The Japanese maples and rhododendrons at 776 Forest Street provide contrasting shapes and colors.
Ashland Garden Club “Garden of the Month” for May 2020
The highlight of my walk along Forest Street was the May 2020 Garden of the Month. Each month, the Ashland Garden Club chooses one garden in Ashland to feature. This is how Ruth Sloan of the Garden Club introduced the garden:
“The wonderful garden at 720 Forest St. is a labor of love for homeowners Vicky Sturtevant and Alan Armstrong and is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for May. They have deftly combined edibles with ornamentals in this space they have gardened since 1983. It is a heavily shaded lot, particularly the upper, forested quarter-acre parcel that they purchased separately. In all, they have a half-acre that they manage beautifully. The hardscape was designed by Covey-Pardee Landscape Architects in 2009. Eric Cislo welded the gates and Ted Loftus constructed the stone walls.”
Viewing the garden from the street, you can only see a small part of what makes this labor of love special. So I will take you behind the scenes for highlights of the garden, some history of the garden, and share several of Vicky and Alan’s delightful family stories.
Garden in 1983 and 2020
The house was built in 1951. Alan and Vicky purchased it in 1983. When they bought the house, the yard consisted of lots of lawn, lots of concrete and not much else. In a story many of us can relate to, Vicky explained to me it was their choice. When they were looking for a home to buy, the couple had small children who were always outside riding tricycles, bicycles and other wheeled vehicles. “When we bought the house,” Vicky told me, “our real estate agent asked what we wanted, and I said ‘a lot of concrete.’” She got what she wanted…but…Vicky went on, “We spent the next 30 years getting rid of concrete!”
Here’s a visual for you. The first photo shows the house and front yard in 1983, when it had lots of lawn and lots of concrete.
The second photo shows the complete transformation. Taken in early May 2020, the front yard is now lush with blooming flowers and trees, a grape arbor, and a dozen varieties of vegetables not visible in this photo.
The white flowering tree on the right is a dogwood. The small plant to the left of the path with intense magenta blooms is a native penstemon. This beautiful slate pathway extends around to the back of the house.
My wife and I visited Vicky and Alan’s garden later in the month of May, so we saw different plants in bloom than Ruth and Larry saw during their early May visit for the Ashland Garden Club article.
More Larry Rosengren photos for the Ashland Garden Club
Larry took a photo of the Redbud tree at peak bloom in early May. By the time I toured the garden in late May, the tree was filled with green leaves rather than magenta blossoms.
In this back yard photo, Larry caught three species of rhododendron blooming at the same time, right next to each other. The rainbow of lavender, magenta and white flowers side by side is a treat.
Vicky and Alan love to discover and nurture plants native to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. I took photos of seven native plants. The first one is special. I’ll tell you why.
You might be wondering, as I did, why this wildflower is called “Alice’s fleabane.” I have two explanations for you, so you can take your pick.
Number 1: When Vicky and Alan’s five year old granddaughter was introduced to this wildflower during a walk around the garden, she said, “This is my plant.” Now eight years old, every time she comes to visit her grandparents, she looks for Alice’s fleabane and loves to claim it: “This is my plant.” Why would she say this? I expect you already figured it out — her name is Alice.
Number 2: Born in 1859, Alice Eastwood was a pioneering botanist, a passion that began when she was very young. Here are the two books she received as high school graduation gifts: Porter and Coulter’s Synopsis of the Flora of Colorado (1874) and Gray’s Manual of the botany of the northern United States (1878).
After graduation, she lived in Colorado for 14 years, where she taught high school for income and spent every spare hour collecting plant specimens in the mountains. Her scholarly articles brought her attention, and she was asked to become the Curator of Botany for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. She held this position from 1893 until 1949, a total of 57 years! “By the end of her tenure, she had added a total of 340,000 specimens to its collection and had built up a fine botanical library with her own funds.” [Mathrani]
A number of plants were named after Eastwood, including Alice’s fleabane (botanical name Erigeron aliceae), which is a wildflower native to the meadows and woodlands of the Pacific Northwest. If you walk the slopes of Mt. Ashland, you might see this wildflower.
Shrub tan oak
Shrub tan oak is native to the Oregon coast. It has abundant small acorns that are food for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, deer and other animals. The tan oak in this garden is a dwarf variety.
Now we go from small acorns to small berries. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, “Birds and a variety of animals (e.g., squirrels, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, skunk, deer) love the fruit. Bears also eat the fruit as suggested by the common name of oso berry (oso from Spanish means bear).”
The large white fragrant flowers make the Western azalea (botanical name Rhododendron occidentale) a pleasure to have in the garden. This azalea is native to Oregon and the Pacific coast.
High bush cranberry
I visited the garden when white flowers were blooming on the High bush cranberry. Don’t confuse this plant with juice and cranberry sauce cranberries grown in bogs in the Northeastern U.S. and along the Oregon coast. High bush cranberries tend to be so bitter that even birds don’t readily eat them until winter, when they freeze and thaw several times and become a little sweeter.
Native to the Oregon coast, Salal is widely used to add greenery in floral arrangements. You can see how bright and shiny the leaves are.
Here is another wildflower that grows on the slopes of Mt. Ashland.
Wintergreen (not native)
Wintergreen is not an Oregon native, but is native to woodlands of Eastern North America. I love wintergreen scent and flavor, so when Vicky told me to crush a leaf and smell it, I went right for it. Ah, it was wonderful.
The lovely pond
The creation of the pond is another family story, starring their 11 year old twins. “Our kids dug the pond in 1993,” began Alan. “It started as a little hole to fill with water to put their frogs and salamanders in.”
My first observation – the “little hole” turned into a big project!
My second observation – the parents must have done a lot of the digging.
Creating the back yard pond was a family project. After 20 years, the pond was leaking too much water, so they had the pond liner, pump system and waterfall professionally replaced in 2013. Bright yellow iris were blooming at the edge of the pond the day my wife and I visited.
The pond became a family project in another way. During the 1990s, as they made trips to the coast, the family would stop along the Smith River to collect round river rocks. You can see these around the bench, a relaxing place from which to enjoy the pond, koi and yard.
I asked Alan if they had problems with bears visiting the pond. He surprised me by replying that local bears were much more interested in their large compost pile up the hill than in the pond.
The forested “up the hill” yard
In 1986, Vicky and Alan were able to purchase the forested lot next door, up the hill from their house and yard. As you can see in the 1986 photo, the lot was thick with trees and brush. Vicky told me, “The back yard (cement and lawn) was dark and dank until we thinned the trees,” which they did gradually through the years. She explained, “Most of the manzanita, mountain mahogany, oaks and mountain laurel are gone – partly because of the shade but also the understory serves as ladder fuels.” As you can see from my 2020 photos, the forested slope is quite open now.
Berries, berries and berries
We had one more stop on our garden tour – the berry patch. They are not ready to eat in May, but here’s the order in which Vicky and Alan will be harvesting them.
Strawberries, planted along the driveway, come first. Rhubarb is growing behind the strawberries.
Blueberries are next, followed by marionberries. Note that these two varieties are under a netting to protect them from the birds.
The raspberries ripen later in the summer. Alan prunes them vigorously during the winter to slow their maturation, so they don’t have quite so many berries ripening and needing to be processed simultaneously.
My final photo in Vicky and Alan’s beautiful garden was a quirky one. I spotted a dramatic, deep purple bearded iris near the berry patch. Then I saw the purple garden hose on the ground behind it. I couldn’t resist the color combination. So this photo is offered for people who love purple.
The rest of Forest Street
Moving on along the street, I spotted an unusual garden gate at 682 Forest Street.
Then Forest Street ends at a fence in front of a large open field. Or does it?
A sign by a narrow pedestrian opening in the fence says it’s private property, but walking through is okay.
From the opening, the path takes off in two directions. I can see that one way leads to Ashland Street. I follow the other path, and come to a street with three houses. But there is no street sign. I follow the street around a bend, up a steep hill, to the intersection with another street. Still no street sign. Frustrated with my inability to find the street name the old-fashioned, “shoe-leather” way, I go high tech.
Using my camera/phone/calendar/map, I zero in to my exact location on earth and learn that I am at the other end of Forest Street! I can imagine confused delivery drivers and guests trying to find these three Forest Street houses separated from the rest of the street by a large field.
Here is a view down the “west” section of Forest Street, taken at the intersection with Weller Lane.
Here, Forest Street looks more like “forest” Street than on the “east” section of the street.
Of the three newer houses in this section, this Japanese maple tree and the nearby front door stopped me with their beauty. Japanese maple trees are often lovely, but the leaves are usually either all green or all red. I tried to capture the variety of colors in this Japanese maple, but my camera was not able to do it justice.
The three house numbers on this isolated block of Forest Street are 615, 611 and 607 Forest Street. Right next door, I came to a house with big numbers 610 on the gate.
This must be 610 Forest Street, right? No, wrong. This is 610 Ashland Street, built on a flag lot three houses away from Ashland Street. I almost feel like I stepped into Ashland’s version of the Oregon Vortex.
Here is the path back to the east section of Forest Street and regular life.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy my article about the Garden of the Month on Ohio Street.
Or my article about the Garden of the Month on 8th Street.
Armstrong, Alan and Sturtevant, Vicky. Personal communication, photos and garden tour, May 2020.
Anon. Oemleria cerasiformis (common name Oso berry or Indian plum), Missouri Botanical Garden website. (accessed 5/27/2020)
Mathrani, Varsha. “Alice Eastwood: Pioneering botanist, explorer & naturalist, lifelong lover of flowers & plants, California Academy of Sciences Curator of Botany,” Living and Working with Nature website. (accessed 5/27/2020)