open garden season is here

Jenna Baker

Meet Jenna Baker, garden designer extraordinaire, HPSO member and all-around gracious host. What a way for me to kick off Open Garden season. Mothers’ Day was the last scheduled open day, but you could make an appointment or check out Jenna’s Garden Boot Camp.


This is a large property, as you can see looking up the long walkway to the house.


After two sets of stairs have led you past long borders, we reach the last stretch of walkway, flanked by clipped boxwoods and large clumps of perennials.


The surprise of magnificent Cardoons used as border plants…


Roses are worked into the borders to show off to their very best advantage. I realized that my general antipathy for roses comes from “rose gardens”, where they are all crammed together in more of a “rose ghetto”.


Tucked in here and there, surrounded by greenery, their distinctive form and fragrance can be appreciated.


Not to mention the way companion plantings cloak the often unattractive form of the rose bush’s nether regions.


Another surprising element that I loved was this serpentine boxwood hedge. Its sinuous beauty made me wonder why straight lines and rounds are the norm.


The occasional closely clipped round can add an interesting element to a mixed border


Echoed by looser rounds nearby.


Drifts of ground covers, like this geranium, tie everything together.


Some magnificent ancient trees came with the property, like this gigantic cedar.


If you know cedars, you know that not many things will grow in their purview. A petticoat of lacy ferns is the perfect coup.


Never have I seen a Beech tree of these proportions.


A view from the driveway gives you some idea of how it dwarfs normal sized trees.


Here we’re looking out at the orchard through the scrim formed by the tricolor birch tree. It’s canopy creates an opportunity for shade plantings. I had to eliminate some photos to keep this from turning into a gardener’s version of ‘War and Peace’ but tust me, they’re wonderful.


Not easy to make a garden of this size feel intimate, but this one does. This is just one of several seating areas that invite you to stop a while (and even bring your own picnic lunch).


Long borders flank a bocce court.


Flowers, like these perfect delphiniums, are used discreetly, always surrounded by enough greenery to give them their due.




In some gardens, it’s all about new and exciting plant material getting added to the wish list. Here, the plants are familiar but used so masterfully that they seem new and exciting. As I drew near to study the Clematis, I was engulfed by a heavenly scent. Sniffing my way around the whole area, I failed to identify its source. Jenna knew just what I was talking about and now Azalea ‘Northern Lights’ has made it onto my wish list.


A dry border edges the parking area.


Lack of water does not mean lack of beauty. A Cistus spills around a rusty piece of art, placed as discreetly as other elements.


Just beyond the parking is a small sales area, where I found this ‘Black Sprite’ Centauria.


And ‘Flamenco Mix’ Kniphofia, which starts out orange and fades towards yellow as it ages.


Tucking my new purchases into the plantmobile, I reluctantly leave Rosemound Farm behind. Farmington Gardens is on my way home, so we’ll stop there next.

garden bloggers’ spring swap

Ask most gardeners and they will say that they are shy introverts. You wouldn’t know it if you dropped in to one of our get-togethers, where the groupings are lively and newcomers are quickly assimilated into happy-making plant talk.


It doesn’t hurt to have a host like Patricia (Plant Lust), seen here flanked on the left by Heather (Just a Girl With a Hammer) and on the right by Loree (Danger Garden). Tricia provided mimosas and all sorts of delectable tidbits to power our gathering, which grows larger as everyone wants to get in on the fun.


A big paqrt of that fun was getting to wander around Tricia’s garden. Hard to believe that it has been only a year in the making…so far.


Here’s Linda (Whatsitgarden) with her sidekick, Rosie, admiring one of the borders.


Pardon me, Jenni, far right, for showing your pretty face all scrunched up in concentration as you describe something important to Laura (Gravy Lessons) and her pirate, Charlie. Also, Jenn, I haven’t linked to you, because when I do, I get an ad for domain names. Can you set me straight?


There are still some blank spaces. That’s a good thing, because we plantaholics love nothing so much as a plant sale or swap. Darn, I failed to get a shot of all the plants that showed up here. Trust me on this: there were lots and they were good! I had to leave early, but I’m sure they all found new homes and a few will be filling in some of those blank spaces.


Now let’s take a look at some of the things that nearly wound up in the swap. It’s easy to think you’re not big on Peonies until you actually experience them. How tragic would it be to dig out this fabulous white one?


Or this magenta magnificence.


A magnificent old apple tree nearly got the axe, until judicious pruning saved the day. This is a garden to keep an eye on, as Patricia continues to work her magic.


I was on a tight leash, heading for the next thing, but who could resist a handmade sign saying “Dahlias” leading down a side street? Not me. It led me to this guy with a lineup of bulbs (tubers?) for $2.50 each. He helped me pick out the best ones, with some growth showing. I came away with a couple of small ones to be put in pots: ‘Jitterbug’ and ‘Velda Inez’ and two larger ones to test out the new herb protection theory: ‘Black Satin’ and ‘Majestic Kerkrade’. I hope to show you results come August. All in all, it was a memorable day.

ANLD highlights


As promised yesterday, I’m going to show you some of the highlights of this Saturday’s ANLD tour from my point of view. One theme that ran through several gardens was the use of cor-10 steel edging to define paths. I especially loved the sinuous one above.


Fine attention to detail is one of the hallmarks of these installations, as here, where several elements come together and dovetail perfectly.


This was another path treatment that appealed to me.


I’m lifting lots of ideas for plant combinations from this tour…loved the purple poppies with the Kniphofia ‘Timothy’.


Dynamite color combinations needn’t rely on flowers.


Seating areas offer another opportunity to play with color. I love the way these chairs add a zesty zing to the chartreuse tones of the foliage.


Taking advantage of a small porch pulls the garden right into this seating area. I failed to photograph another seating area where I sat a while (but Danger Garden captured it perfectly). It took advantage of a driveway with large planter boxes that were on wheels so they could be moved aside when access to the garage was needed: one of many examples of the problem-solving approach taken by these designers.


Use of materials is another interesting feature of the tour. Here, the material was poured, then carved to resemble stone.


Nearby, in the same garden, the same material was used simply, as poured, to form raised planter boxes (personally, I preferred this approach).


Here’s another approach to raised beds.


A close relative of the raised beds is this formal retaining wall of cast concrete.


We were served lunch at Garden Fever!, where service is served up with a sweet smile and you can find many of the things you’ve been falling for on the tour.


Case in point: This charming wall pocket and most of the plants it contains.


Each Designer is paired with an artist. In this case resulting in a large slumped glass luxury bird bath.


Everyone fell hard for this garden gate. Other bloggers (links in yesterday’s post) featured close-ups, so I will give you more of a long view of its placement in the garden. This artist also created a new twist on a bottle tree that must be seen to be believed.


I failed to ascertain if this was the work of an artist or the garden designer. Which goes to show the fine line between the two. At any rate, the carefully placed stones are part of a fountain.


Many times the placement of ordinary elements like this large, empty pot, could pass as garden art.






Several of the gardens had structures. This one had an eco-roof.


The large deck off the back of the house is the result of close collaboration between the designer and the owners. They wanted several large areas for seating and/or staging groupings of potted plants. Most of the owners made a point of the problems that were creatively solved by the designers.


I was especially taken with the planters designed by owner David P. Best. I love the assymetrical shape, which was not an easy thing to convey to the fabricator. This one, near the basement door, is painted a light color and planted with Rosemary. Another, on the front porch, is equally handsome in a darker color and planted with some sort of rush.


A longer version.


Notice how the foliage of the maple exactly matches the color of the door? If this were to happen in my garden, it would surely be a happy accident. I have no doubt it was intentional in this case.


So…have I managed to pique your interest in spending your Saturday strolling through six enchanting gardens, engaging in stimulating conversation with artists, designers and owners and filing away your own set of inspirations for future projects? You might win two tickets by backtracking to yesterday’s post and leaving a comment. Barring that, you can purchase tickets at Portland Nursery, Cornell Farms, Dennis’ Seven Dees, Garden Fever!, Xera Plants or online at

ANLD in a vase…and free tickets


I’m taking a different approach to Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme this week. The six gardens in the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers (ANLD) were all dressed up for the pre-tour, and most sported flower arrangements. Like the gardens themselves, each had a unique personality.


These gardens are chock full of ideas: plant combos, hardscaping, garden art and structures. The designers, artists and owners will be on hand to answer questions and expound on their concepts and their experiences working together.


The tour happens Saturday, June 28 10am – 4pm and I have a pair of tickets to give away to some lucky local who leaves a comment here. I will need contact information so that I can get these in the mail to you by Thursday morning.


Tomorrow, I will share some of the highlights as I saw them. In the meantime, The Mulchmaid did a comprehensive post and The Girl With A Hammer is also giving away tickets. You can purchase tickets at Portland Nursery, Cornell Farms, Dennis’ Seven Dees, Garden Fever!, Xera Plants or online at

Old Hurlburt School Gardens in Corbett

Kathleen Shelman

I met Kathleen Shelman when we both worked the HPSO booth at the Yard Garden & Patio Show. She’s warm, fun and funny and knows her plants. I’ve long been meaning to visit this garden. My long-time friend Tim Mackiness is the son of Faith, whose garden this was originally. Faith was instrumental in the formation of HPSO. Tim’s wife Judy Nylin was my first gardening mentor. In other words, the stories and connections go way back, criss-crossing all the way.

big flower and shrub border

I’m kicking myself for not taking more long shots of the garden as a whole. This is the first garden room (showing about a quarter of the border surrounding a large grassy area). There are two more, divided by clipped hedges like the one you see at the back here.


The borders are deep, densely planted and perfectly maintained.

more border

Most of the plants are familiar. The genius of this garden is the masterful juxtapositions and manipulation of color.


Kathleen graciously walked around with me. She said that precious little weeding is needed because of the density of the plantings and the biggest job is staking everything early on. You have to look hard to even see the rusted metal structure holding up the tall plants. Even when you do spot it, it fits in with the scheme of things. Those giant evergreens in the background add a majestic touch.


Plenty was in bloom, but always set of by a background of foliage, as with this Eryngium aglow against a symphony of greens.


other side of the hedge

Looking back toward the house from the other side of that hedge we are in the veggie garden, which I failed to photograph. Here, you just see some of the flowers that surround the garden shed, but believe me: this is a vegetable patch to be reckoned with.

vine covered cottage

If, indeed, you can call a vine-covered cottage like this by so humble a name as “shed”>

shady seating area

Back near the house an inviting shady seating area is decorated with vignettes like this…

towering trees

and surrounded by towering trees.


My photo doesn’t come close to doing justice to this slender shrub, but I hope I got the name right: Cephalotaxus. I’m going to be on the lookout for this one.

crocosmia emerging

I find Crocosmias at their most seductive when they are just emerging.


And as if Kathleen’s personal attention were not enough, her darling duckling ambassadors were there to give me a proper send-off. It’s a bit of a drive to reach this garden, but a beautiful one along the Sandy River, and having just visited Jane’s garden, I was well on my way. This was the last open garden for this year, but next year I urge you to watch for it. You could even use it as a springboard for a drive up the Gorge.

a visit to Longview Ranch

good food

Jane, aka The Mulchmaid and Ben, aka the Mulchman invited local bloggers to visit their gardens on Sunday. Here Heather, Laura, Linda and Laura’s Pirate (yes, we finally got to meet him) gather around the yummy treats Jane had laid out for us.

a closer look
I need to zoom in so you can see the cunning centerpiece, a stone-shaped white pot with succulents. That Jane has such good design sense.

Ben & Anna

Here’s Ben telling Anna about his Native Garden. Drawn by the sound of voices, we went directly to the back yard, which is Ben’s bailiwick.

gravel path

He has created such a sense of enclosure that it’s hard to believe you’re in an urban neighborhood. Doesn’t this look like a lakeside trail?

dogwood berm

Gravel paths wind around berms bordered by smooth river rocks, an unusual treatment done exceedingly well.

Acanthus mollis

Jane’s part of the garden is entirely different but no less well thought out. Her background as a master gardener is everywhere in evidence: every plant is in tip top condition, like this magnificent stand of Acanthus mollis.

Melianthus major

Compositions like this one, featuring Melianthus major let you know that placement of every element has been carefully considered.

Agastache in border

Crocosmia and Eucalyptus


cala lily & Eryngium


Rounding the corner before entering the Northwest Garden in back, there’s a last delicious taste of Jane’s finesse. Thank you so much, Jane and Ben, for your generous hospitality. It was a Sunday to remember.

floramagoria (Quirk & Neill open garden)

dead duck

Where would we be without second chances? This dead duck could sure use one. Well, if you missed out on the ANLD tour does HPSO have a deal for you! Monday evening, 4-9pm, this outstanding garden will be open to members and their guests (if you’re not a member, this would be a fine reason to join). For you poor, deprived souls who live too far away, I’ll do my expanded coverage now.

front garden

The front garden is relaxed Northwest style, incorporating large boulders and lots of evergreens (nary a blossom in sight).

rocks nestled in greenery

See how the rocks nestle into the greenery as if placed there by Mom Nature herself.

texture & color

Playing with texture and the many shades of green keeps things interesting.

hen & chicks

Moving along the narrow pathway from front to back, we begin to sense that something different is in store. This hen with her chicks is a hint, the duck I led with is a “dead” giveaway: these guys have a sense of humor.

bolted lettuce

Almost as stunning as an Echium, why fight it? Allow that lettuce to bolt.

cute display of burro’s tails

Cute way to display burro’s tails, don’t you think?

first peek into back

The first peek into the back garden announces that the subdued palette will be left behind.

grating material

The rusted grating used for this table/shelf was repeated underfoot, a brilliant maneuver to keep gravel from straying from paths.

garden view

Color is used liberally, but tastefully, with dense layering.

painted bamboo

Flowers are only part of the story.


Grasses planted in the middle of a paved area reminded me of a big, friendly shaggy dog.

Asian influences

Asian influences appear in the design of the pavilion and the stone lanterns guarding it. As some have noticed, that is Scott of Rhone Street Gardens, who did his own post on the tour here, as did Loree of Danger Garden fame and that girl with the hammer, Heather. Each person saw the tour through a different prism, so it’s fun to compare.

stone lantern

Another angle reveals the plantings surrounding one of those stone lanterns.

mosaic carpet

Whimsical touches just keep coming. Peter, The Outlaw Gardener, did a post that included several mosaics by Clare Dohna. This looks like her work.

fountain and fire pit

It was when I came upon this scene that I began to have the niggling feeling that I had been here before. Working with designer Laura Crockett, the owners had totally transformed their gardens while keeping some of the elements of the earlier version. Indeed, I had written a post in 2009 raving about that incarnation.

caterpillar on driftwood globe

A globe formed of driftwood hosts a fused glass caterpillar. It was hard to tell where the designer left off and the owners took over.

plant geeks

But these guys are plant geeks, and that is everywhere in evidence.

light fixture by Gina Nash

On this tour, each garden featured the work of an artist. Here, in the pavilion, you see the work of Gina Nash, who works with recycled steel.

colorful bar stools

Even the bar stools have a tropical feel.

whimsical weather vane

The stunning design provides the backdrop for a garden that is all about plants. I’ll shut up now and just show you some of them.










Most of us garden on a humbler scale, designing as we go. For us this garden is a treasure trove of ideas. On the other hand, it is an example of what works when you seek out the right designer. You can have a showplace where your own personality shines through. These owners were absent the day of the pre-tour, but others sang the praises of their designers as good listeners, sensitive to the special needs of their clients and the site.

ANLD garden tour coming up


Mark your calendars: Saturday, June 22, from 10am to 4pm, you can tour seven professionally designed gardens on Portland’s west side. The tour is organized by the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers. Tickets are $20, with all proceeds going to scholarships for design students. This is a wonderful opportunity to see the results of professionals in action, with ideas ranging over a variety of styles and all incorporating unique works of art. Looking for a designer to work with you? You may find the perfect fit here. Looking for inspiration? It’s a sure bet you will find some here.

The above photo was taken on a previous tour, which I featured here. You can find further information about this year’s tour on the ANLD Facebook page.

mom’s day delight

the Cecil & Molly Smith Garden

After phone conversations with both chillen and a lazy breakfast, my idea of the perfect way to spend the day was a drive through the country to visit the Cecil & Molly Smith Garden in St Paul. Richard is a big fan of Rhododendrons, the stars of this garden. My main interest was to see how they had been used and the companion plants chosen. In the above photo, the orange dangling blossoms are an unusual form, R. ‘Lady Chamberlin’.


Paths criscross the long slope of the garden, making it easy to get a close-up view of the many well-labeled specimens.

towering firs

Towering firs provide dappled shade. We heard grumbling from those who bemoaned having missed the peak bloom time. I found sparser bloom more to my liking than the gaudy collision of color that can result from too many Rhodys blooming at once.

Mahonia bealei

Several understory trees keep things interesting. Mahonia bealei rises from a bed of false Solomon’s Seal and liriope.

Acer griseum

Acer griseum’s peeling bark adds to the interest at eye level, while its leafy upper reaches cast lovely shadows.

sapling trunks

Beyond the maple, smaller trees congregate.

Honey Locust

Looking up, the light shining through the leaves of a honey locust is the perfect foil for the tracery of limbs and branches.


Care to sit a spell and soak up the atmosphere? Plenty of atmosphere provided by the rough bark of ancient trees and the forest smells surrounding a stone bench.

light and shadow

Light and shadow are major players on this stage. I love the way this tall Rhody is silhouetted against the play of light in the background.

R. occidentale

A fragrant Pacific Coast native, R. occidentale cleverly greeted us right at nose level.

R. uvarifolium

Amusing topknots of new growth were forming on R. uvarifolium.

R. yakushimanum

The new growth on R. yakushimanum gave it a multi-hued appearance, plus, its indumentum was showing. This, to me, was far more interesting than any flower.

R. ‘Snow Queen’

Which is not to say the flowers we did see failed to charm. R. ‘Snow queen’ is a case in point.

native ground cover

But what of those ground covers and companion plants I was interested in? In some areas they were all natives; plants that I recognized from our forest floor.

maidenhair fern

Pillows of maidenhair fern lined one path.

unknown ferns

These urn-shaped, flat-faced ferns covered large patches of ground and caught the light. They look like some that are in our woods, too, but I don’t know their name…maybe a juvenile form of the sword fern?


A small patch of primroses added a splash of color and textural variety to this vignette. The trees and specimen Rhododendrons were all clearly labeled, but not so the ground cover plants. A few that I recognized were trilliums, hellebores, bergenia, dicentra formosa, vancouveria, violets, pulmonaria, calas and fringecups.

scene 1

Let me leave you with a few scenes from this amazing garden:

scene 2

yep, that’s me

And yep, that’s me. R couldn’t resist sneaking a shot when I asked him to hold the camera while I scribbled notes. I hope your Mother’s Day was a grand one.


bloggers meet up

Linda’s house

Driving around her neighborhood, it wasn’t hard to spot Linda’s house, set back from the street and surrounded by horticultural wonders. We Portland area bloggers have taken to getting together in the spring and fall to swap plants and tall tales and, in this case, partake of some lovely home baked cakes.

the Washington crowd

Some of us are into the second year of doing this. Once the word got out, others joined in. In fact, Alison and Peter (in the middle of the above photo) even came all the way from the Tacoma area. Jenni, shown on the far right, did a fine post with links to the blogs of everyone who participated, so I will just give you a little tour of Linda’s garden.

outside the fence

Outside the fence, there’s plenty of “curb appeal” to tip you off that something wonderful is going on inside.

lawn and border

The large front yard is dominated by a patch of lawn surrounded by borders filled by interesting plants


a sweeping drive surrounded by more of the same (plants, plants and more plants)

corner bed

A large corner bed

dramatic front entry with Euphorbia wulfenii

and a dramatic front entry flanked by Euphorbia wulfenii in all its glory.

Eryngium agavifolium

I couldn’t resist pointing my camera at a few of the plants. This one is, I think, Eryngium agavifolium (Linda has a way with Eryngiums that leaves me green with you-know-what)/

Alchemilla mollis

Alchemilla mollis was earning its keep by capturing water droplets.


Love the color of this Primula

mystery plant

I’m hoping Linda will enlighten me as to the identity of this plant with the interesting foliage. (Linda came through…it’s celadine poppy from Joy Creek).


Ditto this one (some sort of Artemesia?) Yes, A. ‘Valerie Finnis’…thanks, Scott!

back yard pond

Moving around to the back garden, the first area offers seating around a small pond.

Acacia provissima

In the middle of the back garden, dividing it into two separate rooms, is this magnificent Acacia provissima, an inspiration to all of us who have tried, and failed, to bring one to maturity.

Cordyline centerpiece

On the other side of the Acacia, another zone-pusher holds court.

bamboo along fence

With bamboo growing along the fence line, a feeling of complete privacy is achieved, while still borrowing from towering trees in the surrounding neighborhood.

tub with tulips

Little vignettes are around every turn.

blue pot

And I’ll leave you with that parting shot, and thanks to Linda for hosting another great get-together. Thanks, too, to all who came, bearing interesting plants, entertaining stories and the good humor we gardeners are making famous. I loved seeing friends and making new ones. It’s amazing how quickly bonds form in this little sub-culture. Next time, I’ll show you what came home with me.