bamboo garden birthday

Yesterday was R’s birthday. I asked him what he would like to do, fully expecting a visit to the Portland Art Museum and/or galleries around town. But no, he wanted to take a trip out to Bamboo Garden in North Plains. One of these days, we must take this little drive on a beautiful day…which yesterday surely was not.

driveway of Bamboo Garden

But no matter what the weather, coming to this 20 acre bamboo haven just outside Portland, Oregon is a treat.

bamboo forest

Here’s a little closer look at that bamboo forest behind the fence that greets you as you drive in.

bamboo fence

Of course the fence is fashioned from bamboo canes.

outdoor hanging bamboo sculpture

…just the first of many imaginative uses in evidence. This woven piece hanging in the trees is probably close to 25′ long.

bamboo doorway

Pass through this doorway and you will find more…

bamboo sphere sculpture

like this woven sphere hanging in a greenhouse filled with an assortment of potted bamboo

hanging tillandsias

and even some Tillandsias.
bamboo pod sculpture

On the warehouse side hangs this pod sculpture woven from bamboo

poles of all lengths and diameters

Just in case you can’t wait for your own bamboo forest to produce the materials you need, that warehouse is chock-a-block piled high with poles of every length and diameter.


Plus a propagation area with tables full of tiny starts just getting underway.

our guide

Once we had met our guide and described to her our needs.

electric cart

we were invited to hop aboard one of the electric carts, and away we went…

clump of bamboo

past clumps

mixed bamboo border

along mixed borders and through forests

pond and greenhouses

all the way to the bottom of the property, where extensive greenhouses overlook a large pond.


The signage is clear and informative, but hardly necessary because our guide kept up a running commentary, with stops along the way so we could take a closer look at anything that tickled our fancy. We were after timber bamboo, and we wanted something that would spread quickly (we’re no spring chickens, after all). Since we have managed to kill our last two trials, we opted to take home only one tub of the recommended Phyllostachys vivax. We left armed with two care sheets and a lot of verbal support for our efforts. If all goes well, we will definitely be back to give P. atrovaginata a try. Nicknamed “incense bamboo” the canes smell just like lemongrass when chafed.

Sasa veitchii

Sasa veitchii is another that will haunt my dreams until I can get back there and claim a pot of it to introduce as ground cover. Couldn’t have had a better birthday if it had been my own.

the good, the bad & the “oops!”

I will start with the very, very good:

Stewartia rostrata, Eryngium agavifolium, Linaria purpurea & ??? with open gardens book

That would be HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon). Last week I received the Open Gardens book, 132 pages filled with descriptions and directions for members’ gardens and a schedule of dates when they will be thrown open for us to visit. Lots of new gardens this time, and several must-revisits. All gardens evolve, so going back to favorites is always a new experience. Then, on Sunday, the annual meeting featured Marietta O’Bryne showing slides and talking about the fabulous gardens she and Ernie have developed in Eugene OR. I found myself scribbling furiously in the dark, but the main attraction was Marietta herself, whose infectious personality and love for her subject, “The Vocation is the Garden: Our Life in Our Garden” put us all on a “just friends” basis. We have hosted many famous gardeners (the likes of Christopher Lloyd), but none would outshine the O’Brynes.

See those little glassine packets next to the book? Those represent another great feature of any HPSO event: 50 cent packets of seed gathered from members’ gardens. I picked up Stewartia rostrata, Eryngium agavifolium, Linaria purpurea and a mystery package whose label got lost along the way.

seed starting trays

I even picked up some seed-starting set-ups to give them a fighting chance. My success rate with seeds has been spotty, but it is a thrill to add something new to the garden this way.

pots on windowsill

My usual method is to use little clay pots set on gravel in these long, narrow trays that just fit on the windowsill in my studio. This works just fine for easy starters like zinnias and sunflowers. This year I’m trying out some Love Lies Bleeding and some Bells of Ireland this way. Many of these things are said to do well sown directly in the ground, but I think the birds get them or something, cuz you couldn’t prove it by me. I’ll probably mix up the leftovers (that windowsill fills up fast) and strew them around just to see what happens.

sunflower seed sprouting

Inside the Botanical Interest packets, it says that a sunny window will not be adequate to get things going, but the zinnias and sunflowers that I started a week ago are beginning to put in an appearance even though sunshine has been in short supply around here.

Aeonium ‘Voodoo’

Now here’s another good thing. We succulent lovers have long bemoaned the paucity of labeling. Most sellers will offer a collection of varied plants referred to en masse merely as “succulents”. The above tiny pot came from Home Depot, fully identified as Aeonium ‘Voodoo’ A.undulatum x arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ followed by instructions for its care. I went to the provider’s web site and found all sorts of info in a clean, attractive, easy to navigate format.

fallen bird’s nest

A fallen bird’s nest with smooth pebbles to simulate eggs makes a nice centerpiece for our outdoor table.


I did everything I could to give this Agave neomexicana a home to its liking: raised berm, lots of grit in the soil mix, gravel mulch, planted high, sunniest spot (Loree…did I forget something critical?). Can’t blame the poor thing, with the kind of weather we’ve been having. It looks like there may be some life left in the central, upright part. Should I cut away all those distressed leaves and see if summer will cure what ails it?

Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies

See those dried up flower scapes on my Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies’? Those were plump and promising before the snow and plunging temps hit. The rest of the plant is in prime condition, but I do have bouts of envy when I see photos of the glorious blooms others have experienced. This seems to happen every year. Maybe I should put a sock over the buds next time?

the deer’s Italian cypress

When it isn’t the weather, it’s the wildlife. On the bright side, the deer seem to have singled out this one Italian cypress to nuzzle when they feel the need. They like ’em young and supple, so I guess if it lives long enough they will leave it alone. When the deer turn their liquid gaze on you, it is hard to deny them anything.

rhododendron sinogrande

Our Rhododendron sinogrande emerged from winter wraps (perhaps prematurely) looking a lot better than it did last year. I’m still waiting for evidence that we have gained a zone.

good rhody leaf

We have many Rhodys (R’s passion), some of which are looking glorious,

rhody with thrips

while others have that rusty look that comes with thrip attacks. I will use a dormant oil spray as directed to see if that fixes this particular problem.

nibbled rhody

Still others seem to have been nibbled by something bigger than a thrip. Maybe that spray will make them less appetizing.

new bed? oops!

This one qualifies as an “oops!”, meaning I brought it on myself. I wanted to extend an existing bed, but because of all the gopher activity, I wanted to excavate and line the bottom with wire mesh. I got about halfway there when the rain set in, turning everything into a loblolly. R’s sister and her husband were visiting for the holidays. Kath noted that water was gushing in that area. Sure enough, a water pipe had sprung a leak. What a way to entertain guests: R and John were up to their shoulders digging a trench and repairing the leak. I won’t be able to set this eyesore to rights until the muck dries out. Would you believe that no one laid a guilt trip on me for this misadventure? Guess they knew I could do that all by myself.

if you fancy foliage

tufa trough with moss and sempervivens

Moss rules in our Pacific Northwest garden. Just about anything left out long enough will begin to take on a patina of moss, like this tufa trough planted with sempervivums. I have tried other things in this trough, but this is what’s happy here, and I finally decided to stop fighting it.

moss trumps grass

In back of the house, where the cedar trees provide shade most of the day, moss is choking out the grass. Fine with me: no mowing, a lovely shade of yellow-green, and walking on it with bare feet is a spongy delight.

Selaginella krausseana ‘Aurea’

In fact, I like the stuff so much I even plant it. The above is spike moss, or Selaginella krauseanna ‘Aurea’, which spreads rather slowly (note to self: buy more). Many plugs of Irish moss planted in other beds are beginning to merge into a plush carpet.

Epimedium x warleyense

Capturing a rare ray of sunlight, the new leaves of Epimedium x warleyense fairly glow against the natural mulch from the cedar trees.

Aguilegia ‘Swallowtail’ foliage

Lacy leaves of Aguilegia ‘Swallowtail’ columbine.

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ is looking uncharacteristically healthy, but failed to hold on to it’s dark coloring.

Euphorbia martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’

On the other hand, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is reliably colorful year after year. Soon enough, the acid green “flowers” will cover them all and they will all look the same…that’s why I like them best about now.

neighbor’s leafless tree

The bare branches of this neighbors’ tree start deep ocher near the ground and gradually morph into flaming orange twigs reaching for the sky.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Tuffett’

Speaking of morphing, the Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Tuffett’ takes on a dusting of coppery tones in the cold of winter, then reverts to solid gold when things warm up.

Did this taste of March foliage whet your appetite? Pam can introduce you to much, much more.

late bloomers in March

Everyone has been talking about what a “mild winter” we have had, but nobody seems to have informed the plants. They are all dragging their heels, compared to years past. Oh, well…here are a few shots I was able to squeeze in between rain/snow storms over the last couple of days.

white primroses

Last month I showed you blue primroses, the earliest, but now the white ones are joining in. They are the biggest and longest-lasting. They also show up to greatest advantage, sprinkled around the forest floor.

Stachyrus praecox

One of the many pieces of information picked up from blogging is that when I bought this Stachrus praecox, what I was really after was Stachyrus salicifolia ‘Sparkler’ for its long, dangling beads. The photograph that I carried around with me for ever so long misidentified it. These little blooms on bare branches are sweet, though, and more than welcome here.

tete a tete narcissus

Moss is king, covering the knarled roots of the ancient cherry trees. Many clumps of Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’ brighten the scene.

Viola odora

Common violets would normally be forming a fragrant carpet by now, but they are just beginning to show up by ones and twos…here again, popping up through carpets of moss.

Euphorbia wulfenii

The nodding heads of Euphorbia wulfenii show signs of being ready to raise their faces to the sun, if we ever get any of that rare commodity.

elderberry blossom

The wild elderberries at the woodlands edge are the first shrubs to leaf out and blossom almost simultaneously.

Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi

The other day the sky cleared (as my grandmother used to say, there was enough blue to make a pair of Dutchman’s pants) and the sunshine set everything to sparkling. I thought to myself “Aha! I can get in a walk today!” By the time I had been out for a mere half hour, I had been snowed, sleeted, hailed and rained upon and nearly blown off the road by high-powered winds. It’s good to have a windowsill filled with the sherbet-toned, nodding blossoms of Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi until friendlier weather patterns prevail. Garden bloggers in other parts of the world may have more to offer. You can find them by visiting May Dreams Gardens.

see my Q&A on the Herman Miller blog

Lots of stars aligned to make this happen. The famous furniture purveyor just released an outdoor collection based upon the classic Eames Aluminum Group Lounge Chair of 1958. That put them in a frame of mind to be considering garden-related subjects. One of their primary bloggers does a series based on music and the play lists of their interviewees “Where Life and Work Meet”. So the title of my book, BeBop Garden, got their attention and they sent me a few questions. It was fun to take off in a new direction, following someone else’s interpretation of “riffing and jiving in the plant kingdom”. If you click on the link to the collection in the introduction to the interview, you will be reminded of the genesis for so much of the outdoor furniture (cheap copies, all) that pop up next to the BBQ’s in every one-stop shopping center this time of year. Oh, to have the means to pop for the real thing! Chic elegance, thy name is Herman Miller, and I thank you for the opportunity to latch onto your coat-tails for a brief moment.

sending out an S.O.S.

overview of garden

This garden is perfect for someone who adores gardening and wants to spend at least a part of every day out there tweaking and grooming it. Trouble is, no matter how enthusiastically potential tenants claim to be just such someones, it never quite works out that way. The latest crop (delightful young business guys) could care less about the garden, and perhaps it’s for the best: we know it’s up to us…but what to do?

rock path and retaining wall with bergenia

There are some nice “bones”here, like the stone paths and retaining walls…this one with bergenia blooms spilling over the edge (after the blooms are spent, the plants get ratty and must be cut back).


Having spent years tucking bulbs here and there, spring is awash in little surprises like these anemones.

melianthus major

My first plant splurge was a Melianthus major from Gossler Farms. Amazingly, it took hold and spread to form what one might almost call a “grove”. My several attempts to dig up a piece of it to transplant to our current garden have come to naught.

pavers in central area

I don’t know if you noticed in the last shot, but around and between all of these “special” plants is lots of open ground…an open invitation to weeds. I just spent two full days doing nothing but weeding and am about halfway there. Part of our solution is to use pavers in the central area. I think we probably need to put down landscape cloth, mulch heavily and then find a good ground cover to use between…any ideas or other suggestions?

another overview

I begin to empathize with landlords who make uninspired choices, but I’m sure with a little help from my blogging friends we can find an elegant path to lower maintenance. Please help!