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Elephant Ears at the Oregon State Fair

Elephant Ears at the Oregon State Fair

Anne Jaeger

If you like elephant ears at the fair, let me show you biggest you’ve ever seen. I’m not talkin’ about your run of the mill elephant ears; these are low calorie, in fact, they are NO calorie! I’m sure you’ve surmised by now that these aren’t the edible elephant ears, but they’ll amaze you just the same. You’ll find them August 26th through September 6th at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem. ‘Black Magic’ elephant ears are just one of the amazing and very tropical plants at the Hart of the Garden District at the fairgrounds this summer.

Every year, Doug Hart of Harts Nursery in Jefferson, Oregon takes on the two and a half acre garden almost single handedly. And I’m always in awe of what he comes up with. Hart has one goal in mind; he says “I want the fairgrounds garden to look like it did when I was a kid, only better.”  This plants man hits the mark and exceeds it. For instance, if you have no idea what to put in that ugly shady spot in your garden, swing by and take a look at the eye catching shade garden. It is so bright and beautiful, you’ll never complain about shade again! (By the way, you’ll find the garden district over by the old school house on the west side of the fairgrounds. And I’m sure it’s not by coincidence that it’s right next to the “Green Gate” on 17th street in Salem.)

This year, you’ll also be the first to see brand new introductions into the plant world. It’s great to see how these new plants actually perform in a garden, instead of having to guess what it might look like when it finally gets planted out of that four inch pot. You have GOT to see the size of the leaves on the brand new coleus plants. No wonder it’s called the “Kong” series. The leaves are the size of King Kong and it’s a shade plant to boot! Doug Hart laughingly calls them “shade plants on steroids.” These wonders come in all sorts of colors; red, pinky-rose, bright green. And if you’re not sure what a coleus is— take my word for it— coleus is one of those annuals with leaves so bright you don’t need a flower. And I’m so “flower crazy” I never thought I’d hear myself say that.

I also hope you’ll wander over and take a gander at the hardy bananas. Yes, you can grow these year round in your garden too! Heck, these bananas are so sturdy they grow lin Wisconsin! Doug Hart sets them off nicely with lots of edgy black and chartreuse green potato vine growing under foot.

Oh and one more thing. If you love tomatoes but can’t for the life of you figure out what all these new named varieties are about, stop by the garden district and see for yourself. So many people are interested in the “Tomato Trial” bed, there’s usually a path worn into the ground around it. Anyway, you’ll see how the old traditional Beefstake, Willamette and Early Girl tomato plants perform compared to the King of the Garden varieties grown specifically for our climate.

So, when you mosey through the State Fair in Salem this summer and you’re tired of the carnival barkers, the pitchmen and your tummy is bulging from eating too many elephant ears, come kick back, relax and get an eye full of the elephant ears in the Hart of the Garden District. See you at the fair!