Splendor in the grass at Rhone Street Gardens: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

The 3rd and final day of touring on the recent Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, Oregon, dawned cool and misty — exactly what Portland should be, at least according to heat-shunning me. After two days of unusual heat, I was thrilled, even when it started to thunder and rain began to spatter at our first stop, Rhone Street Gardens.

Rhone Street is the tiny, tightly packed, meadowy garden of Scott Weber, whose blog, also called Rhone Street Gardens, always delights me with his luminescent photography and light-hearted humor.

Like Loree of Danger Garden, while serving as unflappable co-host of the Portland Fling, Scott somehow managed to groom his garden to perfection and opened it to the 80 or so bloggers on the tour. And one stray hen.

Scott’s garden is on a sunny (when it’s not raining) corner lot.

Let’s start our tour at the driveway, which is a parking zone not for cars but for plants in all manner of galvanized containers, plus a shiny, metal-sided shed topped with a green roof.

Look what you can grow on a shallow, exposed roof in Portland’s mild climate: airy grasses and tall verbena. I love the light-reflecting metal siding on the shed.

Looking down, you see how Scott blended the driveway paving into the back path and patio. Shiny galvanized steel glints throughout the garden on pots, edging materials, and the shed.

Scott’s plants tend to be soft, airy, and billowy, like this Verbena bonariensis — such a contrast to his co-host’s “dangerously” spiny garden.

Looking the other way, down the path toward the back fence, white lilies and an arching, blond-flowering grass catch your eye.

Seating for two: a small, wooden table and two chairs tucked into the feathery grasses is the main focal point for the tiny back patio, which is essentially an enlargement of the path where it turns the corner.

Perfection! Even if Scott never sits here (and I suspect he’s always too busy photographing or actually gardening to sit down), this is such an inviting seating area and serene focal point framed by grasses, lilies, and other flowering plants.

A wider view

I would never have thought to plant a grass in a small, cylindrical pot, but it works wonderfully.

Those white lilies, ‘Silver Scheherazade’, are scene stealers.

The delightful Ricki of Sprig to Twig blog (also from Portland) color-coordinated with them.

‘Sarabande’ lily smiles down on pink astrantia, a plant I absolutely covet.

I like the silver-white foliage of this plant. A thistle, perhaps? It’s probably the spikiest plant in Scott’s garden.

Moving out front, Scott has gardened up every inch of the narrow strips running alongside his house, packing them densely with grasses, flowering perennials, and a few shrubs and small trees.

Both sides of the sidewalk are gardened, and as you walk down the sidewalk you want to reach out your hands and brush the soft, billowing plants on each side.


Purple coneflower

And looky there — it’s the always cheerful Janet of The Queen of Seaford, who blogs from my childhood hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina.

Scott’s garden is a gift to the neighborhood as well as a pleasure ground for himself (and the neighboring cats).

Scott shies away from garden art that calls attention to itself, preferring instead metal pieces that resemble flower buds or seedpods…

…unfurling fern fronds…

…and cattails.

The ballerina-skirted Echinacea pallida dances with a white verbascum.

Seedhead of Scabiosa ochroleuca

Scott boldly places a few containers right out by the street. I love this color-echoing combo of a bronze potato vine and a grass (rush?) with dark seedheads.

And this one — bronze, purple, and chartreuse, such a Pacific Northwest color scheme.

Another lovely, tawny-flowered grass

Sinuous spires of agastache and verbascum

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

Boots, Scott’s cat, surveys his domain from the front porch. Next to him, a pretty rain chain dangles from the eave.

When it rains, it fills a water-storage barrel, coming in handy during dry stretches in the summer.

Tucked against the house is Scott’s new, second sitting area. Screened by plants and partially hidden from passersby, it affords a quiet view of the street.

And here’s Scott, the man behind all this meadowy beauty.

It was a huge treat to visit Scott’s garden in person after seeing it on his blog for so long. Many thanks, Scott, for sharing it with us!

Up next: The artful Joanne Fuller Garden, one of a neighboring pair we visited. For a look back at the charming, colorful Chickadee Gardens, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Portland Japanese Garden: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

The second day of the 7th annual Garden Bloggers Fling, held in Portland in mid-July, began in the renowned Portland Japanese Garden, often described as the most authentic of its kind outside of Japan.

I had visited a few days earlier with my husband on a hot, sunny morning. It was a pleasure to see it again, and I already knew where the cool, shady places were — like under the skirt of this Japanese maple.

It’s a good garden for hot weather. Water trickles from bamboo fountains throughout the garden, offering its cooling music.

Ponds, streams, and waterfalls abound as well, surrounded by a tapestry of greenery.

While water is absent from the dry garden, raked white gravel represents the sea surrounding mossy islands. The scene, I learned, is meant to be appreciated as you would a painting, from a single perspective. You do not enter the garden but view it from a veranda.

The overhanging roof of the veranda frames the view, blocking out the tall native firs in the background and bringing the scene down to human scale.

Just as the teahouse roof does for this mossy garden

A peaceful scene

In other parts of the garden, bright sunlight beautifully illuminated the leaves of hundreds of maples like stained glass.

This glowing Japanese maple shelters a stone lantern.

Nearby a dramatic waterfall cascades into a koi-filled pond.

Wending its way across one end of the pond is a traditional wooden zig-zag bridge. Koi trail along beside you, like pets expecting a treat.

The last of the irises were drooping on their stems under the hot sun.

A garden worker was clipping the spent flowers and placing them in a basket. I asked what she was planning to do with the flowers, thinking a few might be floated in a fountain or something, but she told me no, they would be discarded. A pity — they were still quite pretty in the basket.

A covered gate marks the passage between the pond and the teahouse garden.

Sunlight was gilding the garden.

Here’s Helen Battersby, host of next year’s Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto, on the moon bridge, taking in the view.

Pagoda sculpture

A carved image half-buried on a mossy hillside looks like an ancient relic.

The stone paths and bridges throughout the garden entice you to explore, but slowly, stepping carefully so as not to rush through the garden.

Here a casual stair of flat boulders meets a more formal, cut-stone stair…

…which serpentines down a gloamy slope between moss-draped boulders.

The stair is itself a work of art.

Moss, shrub, and tree wrap you in a green glow here.

Mossy boulders give a sense of timelessness to the scene, even as a stream trickles by and flowers bloom and fade, illustrating the passage of time.

I caught the end of a guided tour by Sadafumi Uchiyama, the Garden Curator, and immediately regretted not hearing his entire tour.

Mr. Uchiyama spoke eloquently about the purpose, symbolism, and techniques involved in Japanese gardens, giving me a much greater understanding and appreciation of the style than I’d ever have gotten on my own.

Here’s the zen garden, a garden composed entirely of stone, meant to be viewed, as with the other dry garden, from a single perspective. A wall encloses the scene, focusing your gaze on the gravel “water,” with raked ripples around seven floating stones, all seeming to point toward a tall, figure-like stone at the rear.

The scene is meant to be harmonious and pleasing to the eye, Mr. Uchiyama explained, but it also represents a Japanese legend about the Buddha sacrificing himself to save a starving tiger and her cubs, illustrating the virtue of compassion.

I’ll conclude with another glowing bouquet of sunlit leaves.

After leaving the Japanese Garden we walked over to the Rose Garden amphitheater, where we had a group picture made. Here we are, the Portland Flingers — what a fun group!

Up next: Fling co-host Loree Bohl’s spikylicious Danger Garden. For a look back at the John Greenlee-designed Westwind Farm Studio gardens, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Lan Su Chinese Garden: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

Austin and Portland, Oregon, are soul-sister cities, sharing a love of “weirdness,” food carts/trucks, huge independent bookstores, and tattoos, as I can attest from my recent visit. Austin and Portland also share a vibrant gardening culture and even the same hardiness zone (8b), although our climates couldn’t be more different in terms of rainfall patterns and summer heat and humidity.

Last weekend I spent 4 days touring gardens and jabbering with fellow bloggers during the 7th annual Garden Bloggers Fling. Around eighty bloggers from all over the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and even Spain attended to see Portland’s best gardens. Here’s my friend Dee enjoying a cup of tea at one of our first stops, Lan Su Chinese Garden.

Lan Su is a walled oasis shoehorned into downtown Portland, overlooked by tall office buildings but sheltered and inward-looking.

Built by craftsmen from Portland’s sister city in China, Suzhou, it’s constructed in the style of a wealthy Chinese family’s private home and garden in the 16th century, and encompasses a walled compound of buildings, planted courtyards, and a central pond filled with lotus and water lilies.

Piered bridges crisscross the pond, offering picturesque views throughout the garden.

There are long views across the pond.

But overall the garden has a feeling of intimacy, with intricate details that speak to the craftsmanship that went into this garden. Carved wooden windows overlook the pond, framing willow branches.

Pebble-mosaic paths wander through the courtyards.

And cut-out windows, resembling stylized flowers, provide glimpses of the outside world.

This garden is as much about the hardscape (buildings, bridges, paths, doorways, etc.) as the plants. Still, the plant collection includes hundreds of species native to China, including, according to the website, “more than fifty specimen trees, many rare and unusual shrubs and perennials, and curated collections of Magnolia, Peony, Camellia, Rhododendron, Osmanthus and bamboo.” A quote by E.H. Wilson describes China as the “Mother of All Gardens,” home to tens of thousands of species, including many commonly planted in our home gardens today.

I’d visited Lan Su with Loree of Danger Garden three years ago, before the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling, and I am glad to have had a second visit.

Up next: My visit to a playfully hip, semi-goth garden shop on Portland’s Alberta Street, Digs Inside & Out, which I visited on my own before the Fling.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.