In the Thicket of things: An urban boutique nursery in Portland


Sopping up a plateful of sausage gravy with fluffy, fist-sized biscuits at a picnic table outside of Pine State Biscuits, I glimpsed an open gate and profusion of plants just a dozen yards away, tucked behind a nearby building. We were in Portland, Oregon, on a mid-August morning, enjoying breakfast at a popular spot on N.E. Alberta Street (the line to get into Pine State wrapped around the building but moved fast). After we put away our biscuits, we strolled over to browse the nursery, charmingly named Thicket.


It’s an adorable, enticing boutique nursery, filled with plants I was sure I could not grow here in Austin, so I simply window-shopped.


They have a nice selection of small pots for the urban or porch gardener…


…scrumptious plants for small urban yards…


…and trendy pitcher plants for container ponds.


And what have we here? A nice succulent selection too!


Lovely succulent containers adorn the nursery. I liked this one with pastel echeverias and an echoing ‘Blue Boy’ Yucca desmetiana.


Lipstick-pink bromeliads in a galvanized tub are eye-catching too.


A succulent tapestry


I want them all.


Notice the fall-like foliage of the trees in the background, echoing the orange crocosmia blooms in the foreground. Nope, it wasn’t fall color. Just an example of the rich foliage colors available to those in the Pacific Northwest. No, I’m not bitter.


Wouldn’t these succulents look pretty planted up in a rusty old wheelbarrow?


I’m glad we had the opportunity to get lost in Thicket one morning, with bellies full of biscuits, before setting off on other Portland adventures.

Up next: The beautiful Portland Japanese Garden. For a look back at Portland’s classical Lan Su Chinese Garden, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, part 2: Succulents, Ocean Trail, and Dahlia Garden


In my last post I showed you the Perennial Garden and Heath and Heather Collection at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Ft. Bragg, California, which I visited in early August. Today let’s continue the tour, starting with the Succulent and Mediterranean Gardens.

My first thought upon seeing this beautiful garden of agaves, cactus, and other dry-loving plants was, Not fair! How is it that they can grow cool-summer plants like fuchsia and heather and heat-loving desert plants? The gardening world lacks justice, but I enjoyed the scene all the same.


Both succulents and Mediterranean plants appreciate good drainage, and mounded and gravelly planting beds keep their feet dry — a trick we can use in Austin too, to keep desert plants from drowning in rains like Hurricane Harvey just delivered.


Spikes and hot color!


Variegated agave and a winecup-looking flower, with Australian peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa ‘Jervis Bay Afterdark’) in the background.


Aloe, aeonium, and pig’s ear (Cotyledon orbiculata) succulents


Agave stricta, I think, and its fish-hooked, black-flowerbud bloom spike


A closeup of the agave flowers. Most agaves bloom once and then die, going out in a blaze of glory.


Houseleeks (Sempervivum calcareum) in bloom


On the Mediterranean side of the path, Australian beauties like grevillea spread their feathery foliage and curlicued, peach blossoms.


Touchable texture


Now at last we were ready to take the ocean trail to the Pacific, a half-mile walk through an extensive natural area populated by deer. This rustic gate made of branches helps keep deer out of the main gardens.


The ocean trail leads through a lush wooded area with ferns and a trickling stream. Crocosmia were growing wild here.


Farther along, a coastal pine forest of craggy trees makes an essential windbreak that protects the main gardens from the punishing wind and salt air of the ocean. I spotted a trod-on flower, pressed into the trail as if pressed between the pages of a book.


It was a pleasant stroll to reach to the coastal bluff offering views of the Pacific Ocean. In winter and spring you can spot migrating gray whales, I read. The trail meanders through a coastal prairie atop the bluff before circling back past an event lawn and then to…


…the Dahlia Garden, which was in full bloom in early August. The garden is located outside of the deer gate because dahlias are deer resistant, according to the garden’s website. I used their photos to try to identify the dahlias I photographed, starting with peachy-orange ‘Marmalade’.


‘Victoria Ann’ dahlia


An unknown pink ball dahlia


‘James Albin’ dahlia


‘Honka’ dahlia


An unknown red


‘Gonzo Grape’ dahlia


‘Victoria Ann’ dahlia


‘Crossfield Ebony’ dahlia


‘Ryan C’ dahlia


Hot-colored beauties


‘Bright Star’ dahlia


More ‘Bright Star’


Unknown red dahlia


More ‘Ryan C’?


A bee doing a split to get in there.


Unknown yellow


Unknown red


Unknown pink and white dahlia


‘Sterling Silver’ dahlia


Shades of red


One last closeup of these gorgeous flowers


Heading back to the main gardens, I spotted some naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna), pretty pink-flowering bulbs I’d seen blooming all along the coast at the ends of driveways and by mailboxes, clearly a popular passalong plant.


Prehistoric-looking Gunnera manicata was in bloom too, its low-growing flowers resembling spiky ears of corn.


Back in the perennial garden, my daughter found a bench to lounge on, surrounded by lush foliage including…


Melianthus major ‘Antonow’s Blue’


Richly colored flowers dazzled my eyes.


Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’


‘Harlequin’ French marigold (Tagetes patula ‘Harlequin’)


Bidens ‘Beedance Painted Red’ and Bidens ferulifolia ‘Goldmarie’


A yellow Helenium and dark-blue salvia


Lavender-headed alliums atop mossy green stems


If you’re smitten with a particular plant in the gardens, you might be able to find it in the on-site nursery, which is appealingly displayed.


I longingly browsed but did not buy for my Death Star-blasted Texas garden.


In the gift shop, I was thrilled to find a copy of my book The Water-Saving Garden for sale. Thanks for carrying it, MCBG!


Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens wowed us, and I’m so glad we were able to visit during our road trip.

Up next: Supersized trees in Redwood National Park and a hike in Fern Canyon. For a look back at part 1 of my visit to Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, including the colorful Perennial and Heath/Heather gardens, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Cactus & Succulent Society hosts its Fall Show and Sale on September 2 & 3, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road). Come see rare and beautiful cacti and succulents and shop for plants and handcrafted pottery. Admission is free with paid entry to Zilker Botanical Garden ($2 adults, $1 children and seniors).

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Garden of Gary Ratway and Deborah Whigham and their Digging Dog Nursery


Stepping through a dark-leaved doorway in a beech hedge into the display gardens at Digging Dog Nursery, located in Albion, California, you feel a bit like Alice falling into the rabbit hole. What awaits on the other side? A potted boxwood draws you through the hedge…


…and then wow! A ribbon of emerald lawn leads you past a deep bed of flowering perennials, shrubs, and trees, set off by a mist of blue catmint in front.


Owners Deborah Whigham and Gary Ratway, the husband-and-wife team who founded Digging Dog 35 years ago and operate it as a mail-order nursery of unusual and hard-to-find plants, kindly allowed me to stop by earlier this month, on a day the nursery was closed. I was passing through on a family road trip up the Northern California coast, and I was thrilled to visit the nursery’s display gardens that I’ve heard so much about over the years.


Fog was settling over the gardens on that late August afternoon, softening the light and making foliage and flowers, like these eryngium, seem to glow.


I didn’t recognize most of the plants, so I can’t ID them for you. You cool-climate gardeners may know them anyway, and we hot-climate gardeners probably can’t grow them. So let’s just soak in the beauty, shall we?


Flowers the color of crushed peppermints


Looking back along the path


Steely blue eryngium


At the end of that long grassy path, steps are planted with geranium and other low growers.


From the steps you get a view of another long path, and an unusual sight…


…weeping silver pears (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) trained on vertical arcs of rusty steel along the path. They remind me of leaping dolphins, or the crests of large waves.


A tidy pot of horsetail reed acts as a focal point and marks a crossroads where another path leads off to the right.


Past the horsetail pot, the path terminates at a wooden bench. But let’s turn right at the intersecting path, where you see…


…a raised circular pond, taller than any stock-tank ponds I’ve seen, encircled by perforated steel panels. Very cool!


Waterlilies float on the surface, including coral-pink ‘Colorado’, which I grow in my own pond. Beyond the pond, hornbeam columns and a wavy, Oudolf-inspired hedge add geometry and architecture to a meadowy garden. Pointy conifers make a sawtoothed frame in the distance.


I stepped around the pond and then looked back to admire those striking weeping pears, silver against a dark-green hedge, with the early-turning foliage of some other trees (I forget the name) beyond the hedge. In the foreground, small burgundy-leaved shrubs add yet more foliage color.


Here’s Gary, the designer of this beautiful garden. He’s also a landscape architect and founder/owner of Integrated Design, and a delight to talk with.


Tall grasses and flowering perennials mingle in harmony.


Great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), one of my favorites here.


Another view


Rattlesnake master rising tall and pale


Vivid crocosmia against a backdrop of tawny ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass


All these vivid colors, not to mention the cool weather (around 60F), made it feel like late October or early November to this Texan.


Hydrangea and grasses


My daughter took this picture of a globe thistle (Echinops) and shared it with me. I wish I could grow these!


One of many handcrafted benches in the garden


This small overlook offers a view of the hornbeam columns and wavy hedge.


Fuchsia dangling alongside the path. These were blooming everywhere in the Mendocino area.


Another lovely path with a bench at the end


Jerusalem sage (Phlomis) and red hot poker (Kniphofia)


Such beautiful scenes, everywhere I looked


Even the non-gardeners were enjoying the visit.


A small orchard and vegetable garden, sited where there’s enough sunlight amid all the tall redwoods on the property.


The walls and columns that provide architecture and create garden rooms are Gary’s creation, made of rammed earth, and blend in nicely with the plants and gravel paving.


A clematis scrambles up a column.


Inviting paths to explore, everywhere you turn. I could spend hours here.


More fuchsia


A nearly black shrub makes a perfect foil for bright-green fern and hot-pink anemone.


Anemone closeup


The peeling ginger trunks of paperbark maple glowed in the late afternoon light. (Thanks for the ID, Evan.)


At its base, a shining white anemone


A closer look


Gary and Deborah’s home is located on the property, behind the nursery. I’m not sure how much of the gardens is their personal space versus nursery display gardens. It seemed to blend seamlessly as Gary led us through. This, however, is their own back patio, where a sunset-hued succulent wreath hanging on a metal chair frame caught my eye.


Lovely


A grotto-like pond filled with waterlilies is accented with potted plants including a stunning Stachys ‘Bello Grigio’. On a back ledge sits a toy VW Bus, a reminder of one Gary once drove.


More glowing succulents and grasses (sedges?) on a dining table


And more unique pots and plants by the back door, including a giraffe-necked, nearly black aeonium.


I adore that pinched pot on the right.


One of Digging Dog’s many four-footed ambassadors


At the front of the house, you walk through a sparkler-like tunnel of giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea).


Grasses and rammed-earth wall panels


Huge thanks to Digging Dog owners Deborah and Gary for welcoming us into their home and garden and showing us all the beauty they’ve made there! It was a delight to meet them.


If you’re not familiar with Digging Dog Nursery, check out their online catalog and see what treasures you can find. If you’re in the area and want to visit, they do also sell retail, but check their hours, as they’re off the beaten path and not open to visitors every day. Their website lists their summer hours currently as Tuesday by appointment only; Wednesday-Saturday 10 am to 4 pm.

Up next: Dramatic coastal views at Goat Rock Beach, Mendocino, and Russian Gulch State Park. For a look back at the beautiful Sunset Test Gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Cactus & Succulent Society hosts its Fall Show and Sale on September 2 & 3, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road). Come see rare and beautiful cacti and succulents and shop for plants and handcrafted pottery. Admission is free with paid entry to Zilker Botanical Garden ($2 adults, $1 children and seniors).

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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