Interview The Gardener: Tracy Hyland

Interview The Gardener: Tracy Hyland

Tell me about the tree you're standing next to in this photo.

As of this spring, it's my new favorite tree! It's called the Gordlinia and in addition to having these beautiful camellia-like white flowers in the late summer when so few other trees are blooming, the semi-evergreen leaves turn the most gorgeous yellows and reds in winter, before returning to this lush green color. It's a perfect compact tree that is a hybrid between the Gordolinia and the Franklinia, which has its own fascinating story!

What’s your earliest plant-related memory?

One of my earliest horticultural-related memories probably took place when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. During the Christmas festivities, I received a picture book from my aunt and uncle about how to propagate an avocado plant with an avocado pit, toothpicks, and a glass of water. It wasn't long after that I asked for a rototiller for my birthday. At the time, I was embarrassed by my interest in plants and didn't talk about it with most of my friends. It wasn't until I was in college that I felt I could share this early memory with friends.

What got you hooked on plants?

I credit my Grandma Betty with my interest in plants. I loved visiting her modest house and garden on River Road in Milwaukie. My sister and I would look for four-leaf clovers in her small patch of grass and gorge on delicious raspberries, strawberries and figs in the back yard. I marveled at the kiwi fruit she had growing along her fence- an exotic fruit in the 70s that was not widely available in the grocery stores. Any time I see a sweet pea flower, I immediately think of my grandmother and the pastel colored flowers represented on the wallpaper in her guest room and creeping up the side of her house.

What are your plant obsessions?

I'm not much of a trend follower or setter, but I do find that I have gone through various phases when it comes to plants. In my twenties, I was all about perennials and medicinal herbs. In my thirties, I immersed myself in learning about and growing edible plants. Now in my forties, my interests lie in native plants and woody ornamentals - particularly evergreens. What's surprising is that, in recent years, I've made room in my garden for roses- plants that I swore I would NEVER grow. In my twenty year-old mind, I thought roses were for "older" gardeners. Well, I'll be fifty in another year... Could it be that I am at that stage already - old enough to appreciate the fragrance and beauty of a hybrid tea rose?

How would you describe your gardening style?

I'd characterize my gardening style as free form - which might be better interpreted as tasteless. My landscape design training tells me to do otherwise, but my natural curiosity and desire to know the plants I sell makes my garden a kaleidoscope of color and a collection of onesies. There's no unifying color theme or design, but there is beauty in the chaos and, more importantly, diversity in the texture of my plant palette. When talking with guests, I draw upon my experience from growing things at home, and I love that my garden is a living laboratory - a mishmash of oddities and beauties!

What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had with a guest here at the Farm?

I've had a couple from the state of Hawaii tell me that not a single plant can be found on Molokai that is native to the island. Apparently, every plant on the island is a non-native, many of which are also invasive. The gentleman regretted to inform me that the island has lost all of its original botanical treasures. His wife was eager to inform me that many common garden plants cannot be grown on the island because of the insect pressures. Tomatoes must be grown in screen houses. I would have thought you could grow just about anything year-round in Hawaii! So sad and interesting... After our conversation was over, I was left to wonder how those tomato flowers get pollinated.