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.

42 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is one of those outstanding gardens. It takes a vision to bring this type of landscape into such a beautiful space. What an inspiration.

  2. Jenny says:

    I am really enjoying your garden travels. This makes me want to go to a nursery today and inject a little more color!

  3. Rebecca says:


  4. Scott Weber says:

    Gorgeous post, Pam…makes me even more sad that I missed this garden…I’ll have to find an excuse to visit it soon ;-)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m sorry you had to miss it, Scott. But I thought that was your fabulous picture of the Fling planners with their feet in the pool during the scouting session? That is my favorite pre-Fling promo photo you posted. —Pam

  5. Ally says:

    It was so hot that day! The cold wine and the fabulous views were oh so welcome. The pool looked very refreshing, but I was too busy exploring. I saw the hummers enjoying that red monarda more than once. It’s such a great hummingbird plant. Thankfully, the purple one does well in my garden, but I’d love to have that red one too.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, it sure was hot that day. I arrived hot and tired but was soon refreshed by the music, the beverages, a breeze coming up the hill, and most of all by the beautiful views. —Pam

  6. paula says:

    Gee Mr Greenlee looks a little like Paul Newman in this photo.

  7. Ah thanks for this tour. I missed this one when we pre-toured last summer and had to sneak out early and back to the hotel for prep so I missed it again. Someday!!!

  8. Sue Nazar says:

    Pam, Such a beautiful vision..and did I hear that someone said it was hot there? I hope that I get to see this some day. Leaving for Seattle and points Northwest in a few weeks. Sorry that I missed this. Outstanding pics as usual, Pam

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks, Sue. I hope you have a great trip to the Pacific NW — one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Yes, the curse of the Fling — it was hot (upper 80s and low 90s) the first two days, as well as a few days before the Fling when David joined me there for a short vacation. However, the shade was always comfortable since their humidity was lower than ours, and evenings were very pleasant. On the last day of the Fling, we had a few brief thunderstorms (unusual for them, I understand) in the morning and drizzle at lunchtime. It brought the temps down into the 60s — which chilled some people but was right up my alley! I even loved the drizzle, which made the gardens soft and photogenic. —Pam

  9. Thank you! I’d wanted to see more pics of this garden in particular. How cool that Greenlee was with you!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      You would have loved this garden, Benjamin. So many beautiful grasses! And Scott’s at Rhone Street too. I’ll have pictures of his eventually (it was on the last day of the Fling). —Pam

  10. TexasDeb says:

    One inspirational garden space after another. It would almost be an overload but for the very different points of view shown.

    I am smitten! That red monarda! It simply sings. Is that even available here in Central Texas? I’ve only ever seen purples hereabouts.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Good question, Deb. ‘Peter’s Purple’, which is very successful here in Austin, is marketed as a heat- and mildew-resistant monarda for hot climates, so I suspect the red one is not. But you never know till you try! —Pam

  11. ricki says:

    Not easy to capture the sweep of this garden, but you did it grandly…nd at the end of a long, hot day.

  12. This post makes me so happy that you’re at the Flings to capture the “best of” shots for us to relive later. I was simply too hot and tired to enjoy this garden as I would’ve liked. Top that with a camera battery that died just as we pulled up and I really didn’t do this garden justice. Love, love, love your Fling posts so far and looking forward to the rest.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Vicki, thank you, although there’s a lot to be said for just sitting and enjoying the view. I never do that, and I often think I’m missing out by not doing so. But the lure of photographing and capturing the moment is always too strong. So maybe your battery failure, painful as it must have been, was really a blessing in disguise. I hope you sat with your feet in the pool for a bit. —Pam

  13. HB says:

    We certainly hit Peak Monarda that weekend. You got great photos. I really enjoyed that place also. The garden managed to be worthy of the site itself which was so choice. And ah, that Monarda!

  14. Jean says:

    I really loved that place and wish we had had more time there since there was so much to see. My faves were the hill garden and the garden behind the house looking toward the city. It was difficult for me to take pics while holding a wine glass so I’m happy to see all your shots! :-)

  15. Kris P says:

    Your pictures are incredible, Pam! The colors are so sharp. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a mass of daylilies in bloom anywhere.

  16. ks says:

    How I loved this garden..it effected me in a very visceral way — The Old Germantown garden was what I know I would have if the property and the resources were available to me ( I hold fast to the traditional English herbaceous border with all it’s impracticalities) but this garden would be the long lost boyfriend that I never had the discipline or strength of character to keep. I could never have it, but I would always want it.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      KS, I chuckled over your characterizations of the two gardens. You’ll have us all thinking of gardens in terms of boyfriends: the bad boy, the hunk, a mama’s boy, an eligible bachelor, etc. :-) —Pam

  17. Lisa C. D. says:

    Wow! great pictures!! I think maybe I should just leave mine and enjoy yours!!!

  18. Heather says:

    Hooray, you got the hummingbird! SPECTACULAR photos.

  19. Andrea says:

    Pam, you captured this garden wonderfully! Your photos are beautiful and helped me remember many special things about this site. You were even fast enough to get a shot of the hurried hummingbirds! Love it!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Or slow enough — I stalked and waited. I’m hoping I caught a hummer in action in the Bella Madrona garden too but haven’t had a chance to look yet. :-) —Pam

  20. Rose says:

    When we left Old Germantown Gardens, I thought–“how can anything top this?” But Westwind was so different and so beautiful that I enjoyed it every bit as much as Germantown–and the pool didn’t hurt in my enjoyment:) What I loved about this place was the natural feel to it all–it felt as though Nature had designed the garden, and we could just sit back and enjoy it. Congrats on the hummingbird picture; they were too fast for me. Fantastic photos!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thank you, Rose! This garden really was a spectacular way to end the first day of touring, and the pool and cool breezes coming up the hill sure didn’t hurt. —Pam

  21. Sherry Park says:

    Oh, lucky, lucky you! John Greenlee is one of my heroes and the American Meadow Garden is my all time favorite book. However, not to be slighted, yours is the first blog that I check daily, looking forward to something good to start my day with…along with my coffee. Thank you!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Sherry, thank you for being such a devoted Digging reader! I am flattered. And yes, I do feel lucky to have seen one of John’s gardens with him there to tell us about it. —Pam

  22. Les says:

    Rudbeckia and steel, who knew?