Garden magic and whimsy at Floramagoria: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

As we entered the intriguingly named Floramagoria garden on the recent Portland Garden Bloggers Fling, thunder rumbled and raindrops pelted our group of 40 or so bloggers. The reasonable — and hungry — among us ran for the two covered pavilions with box lunches in hand. The die-hard photographers, however, saw the brief shower as an opportunity to get softly lit images with few people in them. You know which group I was in. Oh boy, did this garden deliver on wow moments, perfectly framed views, bold foliage, flower-power color, whimsy and naughty humor. Let me give you a rainy-day tour.

I’ll start with the most mouth-dropping view: the axis from the owners’ back door to the orange back wall. Poured concrete laid in geometric blocks widens and narrows, creating distinct spaces and slowing the foot and eye with inset beds like this grassy parterre…

…and a mosaic floral “rug.” Its colors reappear in the pumpkin-colored wall, turquoise pots and chairs, cobalt-glass fire pit, and golden and green flora.

The mosaic “rug” is a tapestry of flowers, leaves, and insects and an absolute work of art.

The enormous, mossy gunnera leaf is a Little and Lewis piece. (We saw another of these in the Lane Garden at the Seattle Fling.) In concert with bold-leaf, tropical plants like brugmansia, castor bean, and banana, not to mention a bamboo dining pavilion to the right, this area feels like an exotic garden carved out of jungle rain forest.

Temps were cool on this day, and one of the owners lit the fire pit when we arrived.

Like exotic gateposts flanking the entry to the fire pit patio, stone shrines on pedestals contain…baby heads! (What is it with baby heads these days? I saw a whole day care’s worth at Digs Inside & Out.) A mix of golden bog plants surrounds this shrine, including cattails and pitcher plants.

Carnivorous flora with questing mouths

The cross-axis running through the grassy parterre (shown in the top photo) creates a different effect, less tropical and more English-style perennial border. A covered deck, just visible at left, adjoins the house and provides a place to enjoy the garden even during the rainy months (or on summer days like this).

Gosh, which way to turn? Let’s take a closer look at the contemporary covered deck. Steel posts support a triangular metal roof, and a blue plexiglass wall provides shelter, privacy, and mood lighting.

A quick peek at the back: translucent, blue plexi panels admit light and reflect drooping conifers.

Wait — is that our Fling host, Scott of Rhone Street, manhandling a mannequin? Hmm, I guess what happens at the Fling doesn’t always stay at the Fling. But I am opting not to show the seating area of the covered deck, which was jam-packed with bloggers eating their lunches. Nope, no one wants to be photographed while chewing. Just over Scott’s shoulder…

…is a beautiful porch light — a bug with 3-D wings and antennae.

Another one. Aren’t these marvelous? Bugs are a decorative motif at Floramagoria.

As are gnomes. This one is a bit naughty.

Oh look — tentacles! I’m definitely detecting a Digs/JJ De Sousa influence here.

The view from the deck. Hefty bamboo poles, painted orange, add spiky structure and year-round color. Rudbeckia makes a cheery color echo.

Panning right, purples take over.

And here’s a wider view across the garden. That’s the tropical cabana at upper-left, which I’ll show you soon. Believe it or not, this garden is only 3 years old. The owners tore out their former, 10-year-old back garden in order to rework it with the help of designer Laura Crockett of Garden Diva Designs. That takes guts. I’d love to have seen before-and-after pics.

A metal-grate bench runs along the perimeter of the deck.

The deck overlooks a patio accessed via large glass doors in the living room.

A clean-lined metal arbor frames the view, and string lights create a party atmosphere, as does music piped through the garden. Can you imagine looking out at this view from your living room?

Looking slightly right

Painted-stucco seat walls define the patio and provide plenty of display space. More babies! More pitcher plants too.

Fiery coleus, in pots to match

In this longer view, you can really appreciate the magnitude of their potted-plant display.

Succulents and cacti in soft-blue pots are lined up along much of the wall, where the garden segues into a dry garden.

In the corner, terracotta pots add complementary orange, while chunks of slag glass continue the blue theme.

This is one way a collector can cut loose in a garden with a strong design: unify a collection with similar pots and display them en masse.

The dry garden starts on one side of the patio…

…and runs along the foundation.

An aloe in a pot to match

Spiky agave next to an olla

Turning to the left and looking down the path toward the side fence, I stopped to admire a tall Yucca rostrata. But what really grabbed me was another Little and Lewis piece (I think) by the fence.

Like an egg out of Alien, the “petals” of this floral-style container open to reveal pitcher plants tucked inside. The surrounding plants make up a stunning vignette.

More pitchers are planted in a spherical container.

And more yet

A Little and Lewis bench offers a spot to enjoy the scene.

But the star of this area is a Little and Lewis column-fountain centered in a terracotta raised pond, framed by a cobalt-blue wall. Shazam!

Vying for fabulousness is this focal-point pot in the center of the gravel garden. I have no idea what the plants are — but I LOVE them. Update: The plants are Melianthus underplanted with Begonia boliviensis. Thanks, Vanessa!

Notice the little pots of succulents and sea-green slag glass alternating around the base of the container.

In all its wide-view glory

Big moments like the focal-point pots, fountain, and cabanas may elicit the most oohs and aahs, but numerous, smaller details are what really add personality to Floramagoria, from pots tucked here and there…

…to fun tiles set in the paths…

…to plastic dinosaurs rampaging among the beetles and ants. Even with a collection of high-brow art like the Little and Lewis pieces, the gnomes and dinos indicate that the owners don’t take themselves or their garden too seriously.

It’s a place of discovery and delight.

A greenhouse gives the owners a place to overwinter their tender plants. But is there room for them all, I wonder?

During the warm, dry summer months, it’s a place to display a few treasures with the doors wide open. A working chandelier is dressed up with tillandsias tucked among the crystals.

I like this glass pyramid paired with steely blue eryngium.

Astrantia and Japanese forest grass, two Pacific NW plants I lust for

The back side of the cobalt wall is painted mossy green and hung with staghorn ferns.

An enormous Douglas fir or redwood (not sure which) puts this garden in deep shade. Hostas, ferns, and other shade plants complete the woodland look. Quirky art like a hanging UFO and Marcia Donahue “necklace” add personality.

Is this a birdhouse?

Colorful bug paver

You can enter the tropical pavilion, at left, from the shade garden.

A spacious seating and dining area is sheltered by a bamboo-framed roof. Over the table hangs a striking metal light fixture.

The hosts generously provided us with cookies and lemonade here.

Fun, fused-glass bugs crawl over chunky wooden spheres in one corner of the cabana.

Heading out through the tropical, colorful garden, I catch Barbara of bwisegardening snapping some shots too.

Behind the deck in the side garden is one of the funnier displays at Floramagoria: a wooden duck “diving” into a succulent-planted birdbath.

In the window of a rustic garden shed, a curious chicken peers out.

Inside, a tidy display

Bouquets in glass jars add a cheery note.

This is a happier phrase in Portland than in Austin, I think.

The rest of the side yard is devoted to beekeeping and edibles in stock tanks.

Glass bees on stakes surround a yellow beehive.

Out front, it’s another world entirely: naturalistic rather than formally designed, serene rather than quirky, green rather than colorful.

It’s very beautiful too, of course, but you’d never know what awaits you in back.

Every space is gardened up, including this side strip along the driveway.

A modest but patriotic front entry and grilling station

I adored the metal art found throughout the garden.

This metal ribbon reminds me of Scott’s metal pieces at Rhone Street Gardens.

One last glimpse of a colorful vignette from the back garden, and it’s time to end this lengthy virtual tour. Floramagoria was one of my very favorite gardens on the Portland Fling, full of personality, color, wit, and strong design of both plants and hardscape.

Up next: The surprisingly xeric, experimental, and contemporary garden of John Kuzma. For a look back at the inviting, art-filled Dancing Ladies Garden of Linda Ernst, click here.

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

51 Responses

  1. What an incredible place! I am going to look over the photos again and again because they are so fantastic. What a delightful couple they must be.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I spoke with them briefly as I hid out under the eave of the back door during a heavier rain shower. A personal tour of their garden with the owners would be heaven. I bet they have a lot of stories about each detail. —Pam

  2. Cheryl says:

    OMG! I’m afraid they’d never get rid of me were I ever in their garden. There isn’t a single photo here that didn’t make me drool or laugh. What a wonderful, well planned yarden! I absolutely LOVE it. Thanks for the GREAT photos!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them, Cheryl! I worried I’d overload everyone with so many images, but I’d already cut out so many, and I wanted to show all my favorite scenes. —Pam

  3. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I loved this garden and it’s inclusion of so many cool pieces by artists with whom I’m familiar! Thanks for your great pictures and the memory of being in this groovy garden!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I thought of you when I saw the Marcia Donahue necklace, Peter, because I wouldn’t have met her or seen her garden if it weren’t for you. —Pam

  4. Andrea says:

    You captured it splendidly! In fact, you found some things I didn’t even see… Although I took many photos of this garden, I don’t think I saw the back of the cobalt wall…or that little area. Anyway, your photos are amazing and I love how you captured the BIG and small of Floramagoria! That is a keeper of Scott! Ha, ha!

  5. HB says:

    Hahaha that pic of Scott is funny. You got great shots of the garden. That place was so fabulous.

  6. This was, I believe, my favorite of the tour. Unbelievable and so many take-away ideas. You captured it beautifully, Pam! Lovely. Thanks you for sharing!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Tamara, I can’t tell you how envious I am that you locals get to see this garden on tour from time to time. I’d love a second visit! It’s an amazing place. —Pam

  7. Guida Quon says:

    I LOVE this garden………

  8. Mark and Gaz says:

    This garden was such a joy to see, magic! Very very inspiring! We weren’t prepared for what we were about to see as soon as we emerged from the side passage…

  9. VP says:

    A great tour, thanks Pam. I wasn’t feeling too well at Floramagoria, so only took a few shots of what is a marvellous garden, filled with so many ideas, deft finishing touches and great plants. Did you find the mosaics hidden in some of the planting? Making some of my own will be my take-home project from this garden.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m not sure I saw those mosaics, VP. Did you get any photos? I look forward to seeing what you create from the inspiring examples in this garden. —Pam

      • VP says:

        I did Pam, but not very good shots. They’re enough for a reference point along with those cute bugs for future projects :-)

  10. Rebecca says:

    I’ve enjoyed several post about this garden….you captured it from fresh angles! I liked seeing inside the potting shed, and all the shades of blue/turquoise, etc. really stood out to me this time as not just “accents”, but “theme”… Of course the incredible variety of plants is Amazing!

  11. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I don’t think you could show too many photos of this place. WOW I love the calm outer garden as well as all the exuberance of the back garden. I can’t imagine growing pitcher plants so well. Like some of your other readers I will be looking at this again and again. Love it.

  12. Jean says:

    You did a great job of capturing this stunning and fun place (I knew you would when I saw you snapping away in the rain while I ate my sammie!). There were so many interesting things and the sense of design was strong. I got lots of ideas from this garden. BTW, did you see their stunning living room ceiling?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Gosh, I’m trying to remember. I did peek into the living room when I was hiding under the eave from a heavier shower. But I just don’t remember much about the inside. I guess my head was still in the garden at that point. —Pam

  13. sandy lawrence says:

    A perfect mix of wide angle shots and closeup detail, awe and chuckles. I agree with others; I’ll be returning to this great photo spread repeatedly. I would hate to have to choose a favorite area in this garden. What inspiration! And thanks for delaying your box lunch.

  14. Amazing garden, love all the pots around the dry area.
    The statues and other bits are really fun. I tried it in my last garden, but had to remove them when friends and family started giving me new ones every christmas and birthday as they decided I collected them.

  15. Lori says:

    Holy crap, this is incredible! I am gonna have to look at this again later. I love every single thing I’ve seen in this garden. So many fun details! Such strong design! Just picture me clutching my heart dramatically and swooning, because that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.

  16. What a fabulous garden. Love that ‘rug’.
    And, all this in THREE YEARS? Wow!

  17. I still remember the first time I visited this garden. It had been recommended by several people and when I pulled up out front I thought “ya, it’s nice but I drove all the way over here in rush hour traffic for this?” then I walked into the back garden and almost fainted. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times now and it never, ever, gets old.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I like the “wow–surprise!” aspect a lot. I mean, the front is lovely and enticing too, but the back garden is such a radical change from the public face. I envy you the multiple visits! Thank you, thank you, for getting this garden on the Fling tour. —Pam

  18. Ginny Sass says:

    I love these photos. They are so great. But I admit the baby heads do creep me out.

    Thanks for all you do.

  19. TexasDeb says:

    I’ve gone way past plant or even garden envy and now officially have Climate Envy of the Portland area. I suppose I’d tire of the cool and rain but right now? I’d trade that for hot and sunny in a heartbeat.

    Thanks for taking so many of the rest of us along on tour with you. Your photos and commentary are a wonderful way to enjoy other people’s gardens.

    Some day maybe we’ll get to see your “B” roll shots? The ones you decided were “too many” for your original posts? I’m betting they are all fabulous.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Deb, I was — am — SO envious of the gardening climate in Portland. Although, unfairly, it was nearly Texas hot for most of the days I was there (with lower humidity). I even think I wouldn’t mind the gray, drizzly winter. But who knows? I do enjoy our Texas fall, winter, and spring, and it won’t be long until the Death Star fades a little. But the drought situation just won’t improve, and that worries me. —Pam

  20. MA says:

    Loved this!

  21. Kris P says:

    Wonderful photos, Pam. I love the mosaic rug, the porch light, the humorous touches – and the plants, of course. I think you made the correct choice: the satisfaction provided by a box lunch is temporary but the satisfaction provided by these photos is endless!

  22. Felicia says:

    I’ve been patiently waiting for your post about this delightful garden. I love this garden so. Your photos are beautiful and have made me feel I was there. In watching other garden bloggers post about this garden I fell madly in love with those monster flower pots sitting on the wall. So much so in fact that I tracked down the artist whose name is James DeRosso. Do you have any outtakes for those cuties? And I’m with TexasDeb, I’d love to see the rest of the photos you took of this garden.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Felicia, I saw the darling monster pots but somehow neglected to get a picture of them — rats! I’m so glad to know who made them though. I popped over to James DeRosso’s website just now. Now, if you find out who made those beautiful bug lights, let me know, OK? ;-) —Pam

  23. peter schaar says:

    Pam, this has to be the highlight of the tours you have taken us on. Thanks for all the great photos. Scott’s “restraint” of the “guy” behind him is hilarious. My personal favorite is the mosaic rug. I covet it in the worst way! Of course, I also covet a place in my garden to put it.

  24. Nona says:

    This is absolutely amazing! The last few gardens you have posted have given me such inspiration. Wow,to think this is only 3 yrs old! I’m wondering how/if people ever go on vacation and keep things looking good and alive. Surely all the pots and such must dry out. Just wondering if you’ve ever posted about this or have any info you like aside from having every last thing on a drip line. I don’t live in a Portland climate, N. California valley I think can be a bit like Austin. I love vacation but hate leaving my garden. Anyway, these gardens have been incredible. Your photos are beautiful!!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      In dry summer climates like ours, Nona, I’m a big believer in only planting xeric succulents, cactus, and grasses in containers. I can leave my containers for two weeks in the summer without water. But for lushly planted containers like these, I expect you’d have to hire a garden-sitter to water while you’re gone or put everything on a drip system. —Pam

  25. Cameron says:

    Wow! Such inspiration. The designs are incredible. Thanks for the “tour.”

    Sigh. Maybe my heart will be back in the garden again one day.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I am sure it will, Cameron. I hope the garden is helping you to heal and get through the grief in the meantime. Thinking of you and wishing you peace. —Pam