Cactus Club Goes on the Road

Greenhouse at The Potted Elephant

Our club spent the weekend of June 15 & 16 exploring the cactus and succulent highlights of northwest Oregon.  We kicked off the trip with a visit to The Potted Elephant greenhouses, run by the highly engaging Cory and John.  These guys love plants and there was a definite vibe.  They set a high bar for the other stops along the way, none of which disappointed.  We left their place with the beginnings of our trip plant collection. 

From there we moved on to the Rare Plant Research Center where Burl Mostul and his wife have created a beautiful Mediterranean home.  Since our last visit they have planted grape vines and now run a family winery named after their home, Villa Catalana. We toured the greenhouses where plants were lined up and labeled for sale, thereby increasing the number of plants in the trunk.

We then left the general Portland area and headed south to Salem for a Master Gardener tour of the Marion County demonstration garden.  After seeing the xerigraphic garden, we wandered throughout the rest of the gardens to see a variety of experimental projects.  The gardeners have been experimenting with strategies for growing vegetables in low water situations and had some interesting strategies to share.

Being tired from the long day, we went to our motels for a short break before meeting for a seafood dinner.  Joining us was Kevin Vaughn, known for his hybridization work with Sempervivums, iris and other plants.  We chatted him up during dinner, learning that he started hybridizing at age 9, plays the oboe, and worked for the USDA for 30 years in Mississippi. 

After a good night’s sleep, we headed to Kevin’s home on the south side of Salem and examined evidence of his hybridizing talents.  With many gasps and exclamations we walked from one Sempervivum bed to another, witnessing the progression of his seedlings to adulthood and possibly into production for sale. 

We reluctantly left the magical world of Kevin and his yard and went to Rita Lee’s nursery by way of Adelman Peony Gardens – closing for the season and offering sale prices.  Can’t pass that up!   Rita Lee’s Nursery started as the result of a packet of mixed cactus seeds brought back from Arizona as a souvenir.  Now there are 5 amazingly organized greenhouses, with meticulously grown cactus and succulents.  We left with more plants, plus a free one!

We spent a couple of pleasant hours in the company of the Oregon Cactus and Succulent Society.  Laura Watson’s shady backyard in Portland was cool and refreshing on the warm day.  We enjoyed a nice lunch, talked plant sales, programs, and speakers with fellow cactophiles then sped off to Suburban Succulents in Vancouver, WA. 

This, our last stop, brought us to the home of Adriane Savelli, owner of Suburban Succulents.  She propagates plants like crazy in her garage, the whole project overseen by two bunnies, who provide the fertilizer.  She gave us the full tour including the window sills, patio, greenhouses, even the vegetable garden.  We enjoyed tasty snacks while talking plants and entrepreneurship in the succulent world.

Succulent Propagation ArtWe had plenty of time to reflect on our fabulous experiences as we drove home in Sunday traffic, complete with the requisite 4 mile back up.