Sunset at magical Cannon Beach, Oregon


I’m not a beach person. I don’t enjoy lying in the sun, sweating on the sand, nor do I like to swim in the ocean. You don’t do any of that at Cannon Beach, in Oregon, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Instead you sit around campfires dug into the sand high on the beach, wearing sweaters and scarves against the chill, and watch the sky fade from blue to gold as the sun goes down over the Pacific. (Or you watch the fog roll in — that’s lovely too.)


Cannon Beach is an hour and a half northwest of Portland, a charming seaside town of gray-shingled cottages and a friendly collection of shops and restaurants. Its wide, sandy beach overlooks the famous Haystack and Needles — basalt sea stacks — marooned in the surf, eroded long ago from the mainland.


There’s a natural majesty here, and a sense of wonder.


At low tide you can walk out to the monolith and see tide pools, but we’ve only ever seen it surrounded by the crashing, icy surf of the Pacific Ocean.


We visited late one mid-August afternoon, stopping for dinner in town before taking a sunset stroll along the beach. I expected fog, but the day was clear and fine.


As the sun dipped lower, other families stood facing west, watching a golden path appear atop the waves. (These kids remind me of my own two, only a few short years ago.)


Bird in flight along the shore


As we sat in beach chairs with our toes dug into the sand, the sun dropped lower…


…and lower…


…and finally sank below the horizon, turning the evening sky rose, blue, and pale yellow. Campfires sprang to flickering life up and down the beach.


What an entrancing twilight view. This is the beach life I love.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my garden and nature posts from our road trip up the northern coast of California, over to Crater Lake, and up to Portland. For a look back at my visit to the luminous Portland Japanese Garden, click here. You’ll find links to my earlier posts at the end of each article in this series.

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.

Blue fantasy in the garden of Linda Hostetler: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


I saw some truly wonderful gardens during the Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling last week, and one of my favorites was that of landscape designer Linda Hostetler in The Plains, Virginia. From the street you admire a handsome farmhouse-style home at the end of a wide, curving lawn hugged by lush mixed borders accented by burgundy Japanese maples.


There’s much to see here, but like everyone else, I hustled into the side-yard path, eager to see everything before we had to get back on the bus.


I paused to admire this shade-loving combo of ferns, heuchera, and sedge, framed by a pretty groundcover.


The path leads to a comfortable stone patio in the side yard, which overlooks a froggy pond. White hanging lanterns, concrete ornaments, and variegated and white-flowering plants brighten and set a serene mood in this shady space. Beyond the dining table…


…two chairs offer a spot for quieter conversation.


From the patio, you look on a charming pond freshened by a stair-stepping waterfall nestled into a heavily planted slope.


I spotted several frogs floating lazily in the pond…


…seemingly as content as this napping sprite.


An opaque glass orb pairs with creamy variegated grasses, ferns, and hostas to light up the shade.


Adding rustic charm at one end of the patio is a barn-like shed adorned with hanging pots, pieces of wrought iron, a birdhouse…


…and old tiller blades resembling flowers or suns.


It would have been easy to miss this back door framed by arching tree branches, but I’m glad I didn’t. It was a pretty, understated moment.


From here, the garden gets louder — in a fun way! You step down into the rear garden, a much more colorful and playful space in which cobalt blue takes center stage.


Blue umbrellas scattered here and there shade blue-painted chairs and tables. Blue pillows soften a stone bench cleverly built into a retaining wall.


Hot pinks, reds and maroons, and chartreuse yellows add even more joyful jolts of color.


Linda found these steel orbs at HomeGoods and spray-painted them blue, yellow, and orange.


The entry path curls into a yellow-brick-road-style spiral inset in a small lawn. Exploratory paths lead off in various directions, marked by blue arbors.


Here are Judy and Jason of Garden in a City. Low boxwood hedges curve along this narrow path, drawing you in.


Stone steps lead up to a hidden patio tucked under a blue umbrella.


Deeper in the garden, a blue gazebo holds court in a clearing. As you get closer you see a blue birdcage hanging in the center, with something unusual inside.


A captive agave!


Taking another path through a blue arbor…


…you discover a sunny pond flush with waterlilies. The pond is fed by a stream that winds its way across the garden, crossed by occasional wooden bridges. In the foreground, a potted cordyline echoes wine-red Japanese maples.


I adore Linda’s garden art, including these metal cattails near the pond — simple pieces of steel pipe welded to slender rods.


Linda’s garden art is also created through plants, like this fire-pit seating area, with flames evoked by the form and color of plants.


Croton provides tongues of yellow and red flame, and a small cypress (I think) adds a twisty, fire-like shape in the center. So clever!


Nearby, a carved elfin face is tucked into a piece of mossy weathered wood.


The mossy limbs give this small piece of art, which might easily have been overlooked, greater presence.


Here’s new Flinger Jen McGuinness of Frau Zinnie taking a picture, her hat echoing the crocosmia behind her.


Jen has such a great smile and is just as friendly as she looks. Meeting other bloggers is a big part of why I enjoy going to the Fling each year.


Along the stream, hostas, Japanese forest grass, and other plants create a green tapestry.


In a back corner, nearly hidden by mahonia and hydrangea, I spied that most Southern form of folk art: a blue bottle tree.


There is not a bad view in the entire garden.


Color echoes and contrasting forms make for satisfying views at every turn.


We had nearly an hour to explore, but I could easily have spent another hour or two wandering the paths.


Here’s Gryphon Corphus, a regular Flinger from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, who is always photogenic as she strolls barefoot and floral-dressed through the gardens.


I leave you with one last vignette from Linda’s garden: a heuchera perfectly echoing the blue hue of its glazed pot, set in a clipped, evergreen spiral…


…harmonizing with purple coneflowers and lilac hydrangeas.

Up next: Casa Mariposa, our host Tammy Schmitt’s garden, plus a few stops along the way. For a look back at an English-style garden of rural elegance in Middleburg, Virginia, 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 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.

Bald cypress creek, beer patios, & other comforts in Comfort, Texas


For our 27th wedding anniversary last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed a weekend away in Comfort, Texas, a tiny Hill Country town two hours southwest of Austin. After reading about the stylishly rustic charms of Camp Comfort in seemingly every regional magazine (Tribeza, Southern Living, Texas Monthly), I’d booked us a room for two nights over Memorial Day weekend.


Camp Comfort is an utterly charming B&B, built motel-style in what was formerly a 2-lane bowling alley and social hall dating to 1860, plus several freestanding cabins.


A row of 4 rooms occupies what used to be the bowling alley, and the cabins cluster at the far end…


…overlooking a scenic view of Cypress Creek.


The restored social hall contains a servery for help-yourself breakfast, free cookies all day, and plentiful seating…


…each table adorned with a bouquet of fluffy cotton stems.


A couch and chairs at one end is flanked by a triangular shelf stacked with board games for old-school entertainment.


The owners constructed the shelves, and for that matter the guest rooms’ floors, walls, and doors, from wood salvaged from the bowling alley.


The place seems tailor-made to be rented out in full by wedding parties, and one such newlywed couple had written their thanks to the owners on a roll of paper towels by the door.


The rooms and cabins surround a spacious gravel courtyard outfitted for lounging and parties with a fire pit, orange Loll chairs, a grilling and dining area under a vine-shaded arbor…


…and a band stage.


We stayed in room #3.


Inside, a photo of the social hall pre-transformation hung over the bed. Cushy, teal swivel chairs in front of a TV, a small kitchen, a desk, and a spacious bathroom with a soaker tub made up the lovely retreat.


The view from our room


The Texas flag painted on the back of a neighbor’s shed


We spent a lovely evening around the fire our first night, sipping champagne and talking with another couple from San Antonio who were celebrating a birthday.


We met Phil, who owns the place with his wife, and who did all the restoration and construction work himself, with his wife as the designer. He encouraged us to go for a swim in the creek behind the camp, and on the second day we did.


Cypress Creek is beautiful.


Towering bald cypresses line the creek like columns in a cathedral made by Mother Nature.


In the clear, green water we could see fish guarding their nests, cleared-out circles on the creekbed.


Aside from the fish, we had it all to ourselves, no one else around.


We waded into the chilly water alongside cypress toes, careful not to disturb the fish nests…


…and paddled among the trees to the swimming hole, which Phil had told us was 10 feet deep. It was magical.


The first night we enjoyed an excellent pizza at Comfort Pizza, where you have to call in advance to reserve your pizza dough. They only make so much each day, and if they run out you’re out of luck. One pizza is plenty for two, especially with a Greek side salad, which was also tasty. We washed it all down with Shiner Bock, a local beer. (I also highly recommend High’s Cafe for lunch, particularly the Veggie-licious with hummus instead of cream cheese, and 814 A Texas Bistro for dinner; be sure to make reservations.)


After dinner we strolled along High Street, Comfort’s quiet main street lined with well-preserved historic buildings occupied by a boutique hotel, antique stores, an art gallery, a yarn shop, and a refreshingly different elephant shop. Not a single T-shirt/postcard/fudge shop did I see.


Charming old homes and guest houses line the street as well, including one whose front fence was awash with garlands of hot-pink queen’s wreath vine, also known as coral vine (Antigonon leptopus).


I’d thought queen’s wreath bloomed only in late summer/early fall, so I was surprised to see it in full bloom in early summer.


A few tendrils had entwined into a green heart at the front gate, and we pretended it was just for our anniversary.


At Miss Giddy’s gift shop and nursery across the street from the pizza place, a garden of container-planted, colorful zinnias…


…was guarded by a friendly, sunflower-faced scarecrow.


A towering, dried agave bloom stalk stood in another part of the garden, its branches holding a collection of white birdhouses.


The road back to Camp Comfort took us by a pasture with grazing longhorns.


Back at our B&B, we enjoyed one more sunset along Cypress Creek.


What a beautiful place!

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

Calling all pond lovers! The Austin Pond & Garden Tour is coming up June 3rd (North Austin ponds and night pond) and 4th (South Austin ponds). Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online and include entry to all 20 ponds.

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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