The links that tie our Garden to the people of southern Oregon continue to be revealed, and last year I was very fortunate to experience some of what has made the story so rich. In mid-May of 2008 I drove to the Umpqua River, a trip that originated with a chance meeting in June 2005, when Executive Director Karen Young traveled to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in SW Oregon for an organized day hike. Participants were there to see Kalmiopsis leachiana in bloom. Among them was Edson (Ed) Davis, a retired mill worker who lived in Brookings for over 50 years before settling in Glide with his wife, Opal. Karen invited him to visit LBG. In the summer of 2007, Ed and his daughter, Lenore, spent an afternoon touring our Garden. They invited us to visit, and from that moment I committed to the idea.
Lenore had my dog and I jump in her old SUV, and we climbed a very steep dirt road to her family’s 61-acre property high above the river. I was captivated by it the moment we emerged from the forest. Named Restful Ridge, it is a lovely meadow abutting national forest. After Ed greeted me, I began to learn the features and legacy of their beloved property and its environs.
In 1949, Ed’s parents, Helen and Wes, bought the property and built a two-story cabin and several other structures. A simple trail connected the property to the highway, and supplies had to be brought up by burros. Helen and Wes lived there for 19 years, and during this time they became aware of the Leaches’ botanical pursuits. They realized that plants fitting the description of Kalmiopsis leachiana were growing on and near their property. They wrote the Leaches, who eventually traveled to Restful Ridge to see the specimens. Ed did not have additional information on this meeting but mentioned there was occasional correspondence between his parents and the Leaches for years.
Over the next 48 hours, I reveled in the botanical treasures of Restful Ridge and beyond. Iris chrysophylla (yellowleaf iris) and Calochortus tolmiei (cat’s ears) blanketed the sunny hillsides, while Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone) and Calocedrus decurrens (incense cedar) reached for sunlight in the dense forest. It was a thrill when Ed and Lenore led me to two populations of blooming Kalmiopsis fragrans. (You may recall from the winter 2007/2008 newsletter that the genus Kalmiopsis was reclassified into two distinct taxa. K. fragrans is endemic to a narrow segment of the Umpqua National Forest.) The first consisted of many long, trailing specimens that stretched across a rock outcropping in deep shade. The second was stunning. After a long off-trail hike through the forest, we came to a steep slope with a much larger outcropping. In areas of partial sun exposure, immense patches of K. fragrans carpeted the ground and draped from overhanging rocks. High upon the prominence, small specimens, some with only a single bloom, filled crevices under a hot sun. I realized, as I have many times before, that seeing unique plants in their natural setting far exceeds any environment we create for them in our gardens.
Shortly before I left for home, Lenore emphasized that when some people visit Restful Ridge and its surroundings, they just “don’t get it”. It was hard to imagine that some visitors do not sense the palpable and meaningful convergence of memory, love, and natural treasures there. Understandably, the Davis family maintains a protective attitude toward the unique features of the landscape. It was a tremendous privilege to experience it.