Loree Bohl’s Danger Garden: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

One of the most anticipated gardens on the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, Oregon, recently was Danger Garden, the plant-lustful playground of one of our hosts, Loree of Danger Garden blog fame.

With an adoration for spiny, spiky, and bold-foliage plants and an artistic eye for design and for container styling, not to mention the discipline to hew to a restricted but high-impact color palette of orange, lime green, black, and silver, Loree’s garden is a visual treat, with jewel-box vignettes at every turn.

Of course on this occasion there were forty jewelers with loupes inspecting and admiring each and every facet. Half our group at a time descended on Loree’s small garden, making for an elbow-jostling viewing experience. At least one blogger accidentally met an agave, spine to leg, proving that Danger Garden is well named.

And she was a total sport about it because the thrill of danger is, well, thrilling.

This was my second time to see Loree’s stunning garden.

I last visited Danger Garden three years ago, just before the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling, to which we drove together from Loree’s house.

On that visit, the garden was all mine to photograph (rubs hands together greedily).

This time it was more of a party!

I enjoyed seeing how the garden has evolved…

…and grown since my last visit.

Some areas, like her orange shade pavilion, are as I remember them.

Others are new since then, like this container garden, stock-tank pond, and fence where a hedge once stood.

Decorative elements, like this dish planter on a pedestal (one of a trio), have also been added (click the link for Loree’s how-to).

Loree’s front garden, a sloping former lawn that she’s converted into a drought-tolerant gravel garden, was newly planted when I visited three years ago. Since then it has filled in beautifully and was aglow with afternoon light when we visited.

Giving the plants a run for their money in terms of camera attention, however, was Lila, aka Pony, companionably relaxing in the arms of Andrew, Loree’s husband and garden assistant and all-around nice guy.

And here’s the whole charming family. Thank you, Loree, for sharing your garden with the Flingers and for co-hosting a truly excellent Portland Fling!

Up next: The bold, orange-crush, whimsical garden of JJ De Sousa. For a look back at serene, green Portland Japanese Garden, click here.

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

Westwind Farm Studio: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

Both buses filled with 80 hot, tired bloggers bumped into a lavender field at the end of the first touring day of the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, Oregon, in mid-July. I tiredly thought, “How nice, a lovely field of lavender.” But what I didn’t realize was that a breathtaking garden awaited just down the hill, perched on an overlook with the hazy, blue undulations of mountains in the distance.

After the appetizer of lavender rows and a hillside stroll through grasses and past olive trees, we paused under a tree where a server stood behind a table, pouring wine. One of our party, a man wearing a straw hat with bouquets of grasses and flowers tucked in the brim, began talking about his recent redesign of sections of the garden. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized ornamental grass expert, nursery owner, and author John Greenlee had been touring with us all day.

I reviewed John’s book The American Meadow Garden in 2011 and am a fan of his inspired work with grasses. Seeing his work in person was a treat.

After admiring the tall grasses of the hillside entry…

…I stepped through the portico between driveway and house…

…and entered the “civilized” house garden, zenlike with the clean, angular lines of a yoga house, swimming pool, and rectangular lawn. All my tiredness fell away as I took in the scene.

A flowery, grassy garden flowing down the slope above the pool, which attracted all eyes except those with their feet in the pool, is anything but zen. I love its frothy exuberance.

Where the lawn abuts the garden, it takes on the look of a mown space in a meadow — a neat trick. Steps lead up from the lawn to a patio with a vine-draped, stacked-boulder fireplace. From there, a path serpentines its way up the slope to a greenhouse and then back down a different route. The garden, said Greenlee, always wants to revert back to forest. It’s a battle to keep it at bay, he told us, in order to create sunny spaces for flowering perennials and meadowy grasses.

I like how boulders are used to “soften” the angular lines of the steps, blending them into the garden and holding soil in place as well.

On the patio, there’s the amiable Jim Peterson, publisher of Garden Design, his wife Val, and Kate, a Portland blogger.

A dahlia-and-sedge vignette by the patio

The view up the slope

And down to the yoga house

A hidden, tea-stained pond surprises amid grasses and ferns.

A small stream tumbles down the hill to feed the pond.

Starting up the hill — shazam! A daylily and lamb’s ear gauntlet!

Jean braves it, as colorfully clothed as the daylilies themselves.

Sweet peas — still blooming in mid-July. I’m used to seeing them in spring in Austin.

Of course our daylilies are mostly done too, but those in the Pacific Northwest were just getting their groove on.

They segue into beebalm, one of my favorites, further up the hill.

A quick peek inside the greenhouse rewarded me with this succulent and cactus combo.

Making my way back down to the pool, I stopped to admire a monumental, rusty steel sculpture placed so as a frame a view of the distant mountains from inside the yoga house. (I wish I’d thought to walk around for that view myself. I only notice it now.)

It color coordinates with the rudbeckia quite nicely.

It’s a pool party!

Though we’re looking at the back of people’s heads, this image gives you a sense of how the uphill garden relates to the pool area.

Turning the other direction, the view opens up to Mother Nature’s garden. The sun-warmed meadow that allows enjoyment of the view is part of Greenlee’s design, which involved clearing out a lot of Douglas fir. There are plenty remaining, he pointed out.

A fiery stand of beebalm attracted not just me…

…but a busy hummingbird as well.

Crocosmia and Russian sage — fire and ice — edge the overlook.

Ghostly eryngium and butter-pat blooms of Jerusalem sage

Looking back, a mown path curves between abundantly planted perennial borders.

A winding drive leads further down the hill, through tawny grasses…

…and Italianesque olives and cypresses (I think?).

Grapes trained along steel arbors are echoed by a blue, steel sculpture of grape leaves. This is part of what makes Westwind a “farm studio,” I expect, along with the lavender field just above. It was a gorgeous and calming end to the first day of the Portland Fling.

Up next: The serenely beautiful Portland Japanese Garden. For a look back at the hillside splendor of Old Germantown 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.