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.

New shade sails and other garden goodness


We’ve always wanted shade for our deck, which is one of the few spots in our yard not overhung by live oaks. Facing south, it gets blasted by the Death Star all day long, and even our kitchen table overlooking the deck gets unpleasantly toasty by midafternoon.

A solution has proven tricky. The back of our 1970s ranch sports an unlovely variety of rooflines, making it difficult (and expensive) to build a pergola or attach an awning for sun relief.


Shade sails to the rescue! We’d thought about installing shade sails over the years but couldn’t find a local pro who’d take on a smaller residential project like ours. (Shade sails are popular in Austin in commercial or schoolyard settings, where they are used to shade playgrounds, sport courts, and restaurant patios.) We looked into ordering a sail from Coolaroo and hanging it ourselves, but so many DIY sails end up looking like loose, flappy tarps, and we weren’t confident in our ability to anchor it so that a strong wind wouldn’t rip it off our house — or rip a fascia board with it.


Happily, I finally found a professional installer right at the time we were refinishing our deck. Greg at Mueller Highlife custom ordered and installed two shade sails for us, one floating over the other, which function as a modern awning for our windows and back door and partially shade the deck.

For full shading, I could have ordered a larger rectangular sail, but I was determined not to block our view of the tree canopy, which we enjoy from our kitchen/dining windows. So we sacrificed on maximizing shade in return for an unobstructed view from indoors, and I’m happy with the compromise. And Greg did a great job, so give him a call if you need a sail for your yard.


Garden-wise, I’m enjoying all the beauty of late spring, including the beautiful flowering of a potted cactus.


It’s always incredible to me that spiny, seemingly inhospitable cacti can put forth these luscious blossoms.


The stock-tank pond is always a source of pleasure during the warmer seasons.


In Moby’s old spot, the new whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia) is settled in, with silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) and pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) filling in around it. In the lower terrace, ‘Macho Mocha’ manfreda, ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia, and a volunteer datura are ready for summer’s impending heat.


Moby 2 and pineapple sage


From the upper patio, here’s the succulent-filled cinderblock wall.


And the tentacle wall is coming along with the addition of a blue, beaded cephalopod from my friend Linda in San Antonio (to the right of the chartreuse pot).


Out front, ‘Green Goblet’ agave is recovering from deer-antlering damage in a bed of woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata), with a mullein’s yellow flower spike echoing the yellow blooms of Jerusalem sage in the distance.


I hope you’ll be enjoying your garden too this weekend!

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

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers 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.

RH Austin rooftop garden showcases contemporary outdoor furniture


Three weeks after its grand opening, I climbed the glittering, mirrored grand staircase at the 62,000-square-foot mansion known as RH Austin (Restoration Hardware, rebranded), one of the anchor stores in the new Northside section of The Domain shopping center in north Austin. After a cursory inspection of the posh but oppressively muted gray, black, and white interiors displayed on the lower three floors (y’all know I adore color; they have fabulous light fixtures though!), I reached my intended destination: the 4th-floor rooftop garden terrace, 11,000 square feet of modern patio furniture and accessories beautifully displayed in outdoor rooms accented with artfully potted succulents, mosses, agaves, yuccas, olive trees, and even native cenizo.


It’s a wow-inducing space, a green roof with party-ready cushy seating, statement-making outdoor chandeliers, fountains, and gas firepits.


Arbors and fabric canopies provide a sense of enclosure and shade, making for comfortable browsing even on a warm day. Although they’re for display only, I coveted these swagged, retractable canopies for our baking hot deck. Shade is essential in Texas, and so few quality options are available to homeowners making their own gardens. (Installers in Austin, let me know if you do these! Leave a comment below.)


Scrumptious bowls of succulents and other plants adorned tables throughout the terrace. I asked one of the managers about the plants, and he told me they’re not really for sale, although for the right price…maybe. But generally, he said, the plants are there to enhance the furniture displays and make the place seem like a real patio garden, not just a bunch of furniture, plus they offer design inspiration.


Even sans price tags, I bet they’ll get a lot of people wanting to buy their containers. They’re beautiful.


Wouldn’t you like this to be your “home away”?


I love that circular fire table.


Olive trees and yuccas in pots offer greenery and symmetry.


Another lovely succulent bowl


And a shallow trough planted with moss. I don’t see how this could hold up under the Death Star here in Texas. But maybe in the shade…if you mist it every day?


Notice that RH’s restrained color palette — gray, tan, white, and black — is all that’s offered for outdoor furnishings too. But I don’t mind it in a garden setting, where it feels restful and modern and blends with silver-hued plants like cenizo.


Good outdoor lighting is often overlooked in a garden (including, sadly, my own), but RH has that covered too. Check out these 1970s-reminiscent basketweave-style chandeliers.


You’d need to use them in a covered space so they’d last, but I bet they make a cozy, shadow-casting light.


I’d love to see them glowing at night.


One more look


Another beautifully styled seating area, with potted olives, cenizo, sedum, and other succulents adding living color.


A tire-shaped white bowl displays a froth of green sedum.


I like this zinc fountain too, with enough spillage to mask street noise. Just fill it up, plug it in, and voila.


Agave in a bowl of what looks like weathered tropical hardwoood — great texture.


Candy-colored succulents in another wooden bowl


Contemporary dining tables and chairs that look like they’d be at home indoors, sheltered by retractable fabric awnings


At the center of the green roof, a sunny space is anchored by four gray sectional sofas shaded by giant white umbrellas. Long rectangular fire tables provide a place to set a drink or warm your toes on a chilly evening.


Another view, with Koosh ball-shaped Yucca rostrata shimmering above square black pots.


One last look at the rooftop garden


RH Austin has a couple of ground-level garden terraces too, with more of a courtyard feel thanks to high walls.


All of their outdoor spaces offer plenty of inspiration, especially for gardeners who love modern or contemporary classic style…and who have deep pockets.

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

Austinites and native-plant shoppers, I’ll be at the member’s day Fall Plant Sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Friday, October 14. I’ll be signing books from 1 to 3 pm in the Wild Ideas gift shop. Even if you’re not a member, of course you can still come on out and see the gardens and stop in at Wild Ideas. I hope to see you there!

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets are on sale at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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