Visit to Digs Inside & Out garden shop in Portland


When I heard that JJ De Sousa’s garden was on the itinerary for the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling, I excitedly planned a double-dose of her colorful, creative, offbeat style by arranging to visit her home-and-garden shop Digs Inside & Out.


Located on trendy Alberta Street (where my husband and I, pre-Fling, enjoyed a delicious lunch at Bollywood Theater PDX and dessert at Salt & Straw), Digs beckons with an eclectic and colorful assortment of tables, chairs, containers, and strangely beautiful accessories.


Take these light-bulb-head baby sconces, for example. Have you ever seen anything like them? Me neither. In fact, I was so fascinated by the store’s offerings that David had to seek refuge in a bar down the street while I poked around.


I could have brought home any number of chairs and pots — they were all wonderful. (I already own one of the vertically ridged pots, in red, which I picked up at Redenta’s in Dallas.)


Check out this wall display. Here’s what I lusted after at Digs: a tentacled squid planter!


How weirdly wonderful! Don’t they make you smile? I stared at them, wondering if I could bring myself to splurge on one and pondering how I could get it home. Update: These are made by Phoenix artist Diana Moulds (thanks, Jennifer, for the info).


While I thought it over, I kept browsing. JJ clearly loves orange! And doesn’t the wriggly snake picture remind you of the squid planters?


There was a definite goth element to the store, with its black-painted walls, writhing squids and snakes, skulls…


…baby heads…


…and ghostly ceramic hands outstretched on shelves throughout the store.


I liked this green-framed console with a natural, wood-plank shelf.


And the agave pillow and dusky purple chairs.


And the colorful metal hearts on the wall.


Well, everything, really.


Did I get myself a squid planter, you may be wondering? Yes, I did! I bought a tabletop version in blue that I could pack home in my bag, and it’s sitting in my living room in wriggly-legged splendor.

I can’t wait to show you JJ’s personal garden, in which you’ll recognize a number of items from her shop. She obviously buys what she loves.

Up next: A tour of the display gardens at bucolic Joy Creek Nursery and Cistus. For a look back at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, our first garden stop on the Fling, click here.

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

Visit to Desert Botanical Garden and Chihuly Exhibit: Desert twilight and Chihuly after dark


Have you ever visited a garden twice in one day? After a late morning/mid-afternoon stroll through Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden on April 4th, I returned just before sunset to enjoy the “magic hour” of light and see the Chihuly glass sculptures dramatically lit.

The low, warm light was indeed magical, incandescing these creosote fruits and turning saguaros into hulking silhouettes.


I love that DBG is open to visitors for 12 hours each day, from 8 am to 8 pm; if you’re a member you can enter as early as 7 am on certain days. Early arrival is much better for photography, for beating the heat, and for seeing a garden with few other people. Late departure, as I found, is pretty awesome too.


I headed for the Wildflower Loop as dusk fell, where silvery Agave colorata and pink evening primrose, along with other wildflowers, continued to shine.


The lilac and ivory seedpods of paperbag bush (Salazaria mexicana) glowed in the fading light as well.


Closeup of paperbag bush


Lilac and ivory in the larger landscape


The birds and I enjoyed the majestic saguaros…


…catching the last rays of the setting sun.


This hummingbird busied himself at the ocotillo snack bar for a pre-bedtime snack.


I wasn’t the only one shooting the evening light. Behind the photographers, on the butte in the distance, you can see the Chihuly installation “Desert Neon” — a line of neon cacti marching up the hill.


The saguaros themselves seem to be giving the finger to the universe.


It was nearly dark by the time I left the Wildflower Loop. The gardens were festive with laughing people, and no wonder — a wine bar had been set up in one of the plazas. The Chihuly pieces were illuminated for nighttime viewing.


I only saw a few of them, as I was dead tired by this point and ready to find my hotel.


The sculptures’ bright colors really stood out at night, illuminated against the subtle gray-greens of the cacti and succulents around them.


This Chihuly “sun” piece was my favorite, glowing brightly after the desert sun had gone to bed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this 5-part series on my visit to Desert Botanical Garden. For a look back at the Edible Garden, palo verde splendor, and Chihuly balloons, click here. You’ll find links to the other DBG posts at the end of each post.

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

Color-drenched walls and desert beauty in Steve Martino-designed Palo Christi Garden


Forget Easter egg pinks and lilacs. Yellow, I discovered two weeks ago, is the color of spring in Arizona. A sunny, egg-yolk yellow.


My friend David Cristiani introduced me to Phoenix landscape architect Steve Martino, who pioneered the use of desert natives in area gardens decades ago. Steve generously took time out of a busy spring schedule to show me two of his clients’ gardens in Paradise Valley. This is the scene that greeted me at the Palo Christi Garden. Like forsythia on steroids, green-trunked palo verde trees (Parkinsonia sp.) glowed golden against a denim-blue sky.


Near the driveway, a laser-cut metal pillar with an uplight is a beacon on velvety desert nights. Pincushions of golden barrel cactus pick up the yellow of the blooming palo verdes and brittlebush.


A low, chrome-yellow wall is, like the light pillar, another marker for the garden. In the desert, bloom color is fleeting, and rich color on walls brings energy to the normally subdued palette of grey-greens and blue-greens. Also, such colors stand up to the intense desert sunlight, which would wash out paler hues.


Steve told me that walls also allow him to design for shadow play. It’s smart to put that powerful desert sunlight to use.


Agave and purple prickly pear


Enjoying filtered shade is a massive Agave americana ‘Variegata’ — unless it’s ‘Marginata’. I’m never sure of the difference.


A close-up of palo verde flowers. The eye-catching green branches of this tree are able to photosynthesize when its leaves drop during times of drought.


A serpentine driveway meanders toward the house, giving visitors time to experience the garden before they’ve even parked. As you exit your car, this is what you see: a red wall with silver-blue agaves, lightly shaded by an airy Arizona native mesquite. Wow, what an attention-getter.


A gate opens to a walled courtyard garden with a trough-like raised pool, leading the eye from the house straight to the vista of mountains in the distance.


The raised pool as viewed from the side. A substantial arbor stands behind it.


Shade is essential in the desert.


The garden view. The style is naturalistic but densely planted, as a wash (wet-weather creek) would be. The wash, Steve explained, is where the action is in the desert, where you get an interesting assortment of plants.


Variegated agaves, like writhing octopi


A Yucca rostrata introduces more shadow play against the sand-colored wall of the contemporary-style house.


And a large niche in the garden wall offers a spot for display.


A wall also offers a beautiful backdrop for furnishings and accessories.


From inside the home you see another courtyard, with a second trough-style water feature that’s visible from the dining and living rooms. This water feature is aligned on an axis with the one in the entry courtyard, and large windows on both sides of the house allow views straight through, from one courtyard to the other. The troughs almost seem to run on a direct line through the house, and the surrounding garden is central to the experience of being in the home.


This courtyard is more open than the other, and more sparsely planted. The trough bisects the space, and a palo verde spreads its limbs over the right side while Mexican fence post cacti stand at attention on the left.


Mexican fence post cactus


Where the trough meets the garden wall, a gap reveals a taller blue wall, from which a simple pipe spills water into the raised pool.


Blue wall, yellow blossoms


Steve was working the scene too, taking as many photos as I did. He is serious about his photography.


The other side of the courtyard — you can see the door we entered through — is open in the center, with clusters of cactus and succulents near the windows, as well as another tree for shade.


The gravel floor blends with the sand-colored walls of the house, making the space feel even larger.


A gate hidden on the left side of the garden wall opens to a raised-bed vegetable garden.


Nearby, ocotillo shadows dance on a yellow wall.


A parting glance at the red wall and agaves. Why don’t we see more colored walls in Austin, I wonder? They are fabulous.

My thanks to Steve and the homeowners for letting me photograph this stunning garden. I have one more Martino-designed garden to show you soon.


But for comparison, I thought you might like to see the garden across the street from the one we just toured. It’s an example of traditional landscaping in Phoenix, landscaping on life support, representative of the aesthetic that Steve has been working for decades to supplant: a large, thirsty lawn, palms, cypresses, bougainvillea. A Mediterranean fantasy that turns its back on the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Scroll up to see Steve’s choices of native trees, shrubs, and perennials — plants that blend with the larger landscape while still providing the lushness of a garden oasis, not to mention a significantly smaller water bill. Which would you prefer if you lived here?

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