Strolling into danger — Danger Garden, that is

Every three years I manage a trip to Portland, and each time (2014 and 2011) I’ve been fortunate to visit the garden of my friend Loree Bohl — fellow spiky plant lover, the prolific blogger of Danger Garden, and a collector-gardener with an incredibly artistic and meticulous eye for detail. The way she combines foliage and texture, her disciplined yet bold use of color, her artful arrangements of containers and natural ornaments, and her obsession with stab-you-in-the-shin-if-you’re-not-careful plants have me crushing on her garden every time I see it.

I enjoy Loree and her husband, Andrew, as much as the garden, which ironically almost cost me my planned photo shoot at the golden hour. We arrived late one afternoon in mid-August, and after introducing our husbands and my daughter to each other, we headed straight out to the sunken patio to enjoy a beverage and catch up.

It was lovely talking with them, and time slid by until Andrew stood and announced he needed to walk the dog before dinner. I jumped to my feet, saying something like, “Oh my god, I haven’t looked at the garden yet!” Loree laughed, and I belated turned my attention to the garden I’d been sitting in for an hour, and oh, it took my breath away again.

The pitcher plant saucer planters by the stock-tank pond grabbed my attention first. And just look at that big, beautiful Agave ovatifolia while we’re here!

I believe Loree added these fairly recently, using her trademark invention of poultry-feeder covers as planting saucers atop galvanized steel posts. Yellow-green glass chips and chunks of slag glass, seashells, and frosty-gray tendrils of Spanish moss, with mouthy pitcher plants rising cobra-like above, give these striking planters a Lotusland vibe.

Panning right, Sammy the Yucca rostrata dominates the scene — my, how he’s grown in 3 years — and Loree’s collection of agaves in silver and chartreuse pots adorns one corner of the patio.

A closeup. I covet that Queen Victoria agave at middle-left and the ‘Sharkskin’ at back-right.

They’re all fabulous.

More! Just imagine — Loree totes all these into a covered shelter each fall, to protect them from Portland’s wet winters, and brings them out again in spring. A lazy gardener, she is not.

The low concrete retaining wall along one side of the sunken patio makes a perfect display perch for smaller pots.

These white pots remind me of cookie cutters. I like how they show off the star-shaped forms of the agave and red aloe.

An orange shade pavilion houses the potted succulents in winter, when Loree and Andrew enclose it with plastic sheeting corrugated plastic panels. But in the warmer seasons it’s a charming hideaway for two with a view of the sunken patio.

Playing off the orange pavilion, Loree adds orange and contrasting charcoal pots to the mix. Gah, everything is perfect! How does she do it??

Hanging planters bring the garden to eye level under the pavilion, as do more of Loree’s saucer-and-post pedestal planters. The vintage Danger sign is attached to the metal planter via magnets.

A red Circle Pot from Potted elevates a bromeliad and tillandsias.

A wide view. On the upside-down galvanized container by the orange table…

…Loree arranged a still-life of poppy seedheads, tiny plants, and a few other found bits.

Loree is even more crazy for galvanized-steel stock tanks than I am. They shine out from shady nooks throughout her garden.

This arrangement adorns a shady gravel garden to the left of the pavilion.

Steel pipe remnants (duct pipe, maybe?), turned into planters, are mixed in.

One acts as a pedestal for an exquisite fern-and-moss arrangement that seems to be planted in mounded soil (surely not!) atop a square concrete paver. Update from Loree: “The plants that appear to be planted in mounded soil on a concrete paver really are! It’s a method of planting called a fern table. I wrote about it at Danger Garden.”

Pipe planters with a rich assortment of shade lovers, plus more Spanish moss cascading down the side.

A chartreuse Circle Pot hanging from a big-leaf magnolia beckons you along a concrete-paver path out of the sunken garden.

Below, details of another succulent-pot arrangement — look, a funnel planter! — stop you in your tracks.

Looking back toward the patio — so many cool plants and such lushness

The garage wall, painted a rich brown, shows off another beautiful arrangement: two saucer-and-post planters and a piece of wire mesh framing two pie-pan planters (at least that’s what I call them; I have three from Target in my own garden). Below, a mix of chartreuse and emerald foliage.

Begonias and silver ponyfoot

Maidenhair fern

A vertical piece of cattle panel acts as a trellis, supporting a jungle-like vignette of bromeliads, tillandsias, and Spanish moss.

Loree has a knack for offering up plants like exquisite gifts. Here you go! Look at this!, they seem to say.

This part of the garden retains a tiny, geometric lawn — a bit of openness that offsets the densely planted beds surrounding it, and a green echo of the paved sunken patio nearby.

Bold-leaved agaves and palms mingle with more saucer-and-post planters that hold smaller plants up for inspection.



A burgundy grass stands tall in a ribbed silver pot alongside a pincushion-like agave.

There are flowers in Loree’s garden. They’re just not the main focus.

Rose of Sharon and a chocolate mimosa add height, but notice the echoing colors below, along with chartreuse Japanese forest grass.

Exiting the back garden through a steel cut-out agave gate…

…you see an intriguing mix of agaves and tomatoes in a narrow bed along the driveway.

The front garden is planted dry-garden style, in gravel, with sun-loving spiky plants galore. A concrete walk leads diagonally from the driveway to the front porch, giving visitors an eyeful of bold plants with leaves of powder blue, emerald, chartreuse, and burgundy to almost black.

A whale’s tongue agave shines amid green and dark-leaved plants that echo the rich-brown hue of the house. Hot-pink bougainvillea adds a major dose of flower color.

Whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), my fave

Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ in center, with sea holly (Eryngium maritimum).

We can grow this combo in Austin: whale’s tongue agave, beaked yucca (Y. rostrata), and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida).

The glowing mahogany bark of manzanita, curling up like wood shavings

Yucca desmetiana ‘Blue Boy’, black mondo grass, and ‘Seafoam’ artemisia

What a garden! Loree, thank you for the lovely garden visit with you and Andrew!

It was wonderful to live a little more dangerously for an evening.

Up next: The Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland. For a look back at the Columbia River Gorge, waterfalls, and flower farms, 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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20 Responses

  1. Danger danger, a serious case of envy greening up here. My what a wonderful collection of plants and most admirably displayed. How I long for a greenhouse or a building with lots of windows and heat for winter.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Wouldn’t that be handy for our succulent collections, Lisa? 80% of the time, in Austin’s mild winter, I can just throw a sheet over mine and/or cluster them near the house. But we do get enough hard freezes that I have to do the freeze dance with the pots I can’t chance losing — in the house for a night or two and back out again, in and out again, in and out again. —Pam

  2. Great post. I am always in awe of Loree’s garden and love seeing it through your eyes. Plus that is a brilliant concept to have the winter greenhouse be summer seating. Alas, in our cold climate I’d need a heated greenhouse so it is not going to happen.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      If I had a greenhouse, I’d definitely be more of a tender succulent collector. As it is, I try very hard to restrain myself because I can’t add any more pots to my winter freeze dance (see my reply to Lisa, above). —Pam

  3. You did a great job capturing Loree’s garden even in the fading evening light! It’s always a pleasure to see her garden. So many good ideas on one garden. If only I was handier with tools!

  4. Jenny says:

    Loree has a stunning garden. One would think it was acres but I’m pretty sure it is actually a fairly small space in which her plants are perfectly positioned. And with so many interesting planters as well. But I am particularly impressed with the health of her plants. What a treat to see it through your lens and with your words.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      You’re right, Jenny. Her garden is not actually very large, although the narrow back yard does go back a nice ways, giving her room for the divided space of lawn garden and sunken patio garden. The pavilion is tucked into a little extra space behind the garage. —Pam

  5. I don’t know how you do it Pam, you always make my garden look so good!!

    We graduated (Andrew redesigned his invention) from plastic sheeting to corregated plastic panels for the “greenhouse” walls a few years back, complete with a plastic roof under the metal one — this does allow for a little heating if temperatures really take a dive.

    The plants that appear to be planted in mounded soil on a concrete paver really are! It’s a method of planting called a fern table. I wrote about it here:

    And finally the crinkly-leaf plant by the Euphorbia is Eryngium maritimum. I look forward to your next visit in 2020! I wonder what the garden will look like then…

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks for the updates, plant ID, and answering my question about that fern table (so cool!). I’ll add the info to my post. As for making your garden look good, that’s all you, girl. —Pam

  6. Kris P says:

    Seen in its entirety (or nearly so) in your post, Loree’s garden looks like a fabulous art installation. I’ve seen many, but certainly not all, of the creative planters in her posts. I loved that still life on the upside-down galvanized container, which I don’t recall seeing before. I was also surprised by the sheer number of bromeliads she’s collected, all the more interesting because I’ve been trying to come up with ways to use my own. Thanks for sharing the post, Pam. I hope to see Loree’s garden in person one day too.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I hope you’re able to, Kris. It’s an inspiration. Plus, anytime you can see a garden in person that you’ve long admired online, it’s a joy. That’s how I felt visiting your garden too! —Pam

  7. David Petersen says:

    It’s nice to see all of her garden at once. I just LOVE that agave gate! Wow! Loree is at the top of her game. Her plants look so happy and her garden looks PERFECT! Thanks for the wonderful garden tour Pam.

    David/Tropical Texana

  8. Alison says:

    This post was a delightful look at Loree’s garden that made me feel like I was there admiring it with you. It’s a great garden and your photos are superb.

  9. Phillip says:

    This is on my “must do” list. I have met Loree on several occasions but haven’t made it to her garden yet. Your photos are wonderful.

  10. Lori says:

    Oh, I love Loree’s garden so much. It really feels like sculpture with plants, doesn’t it? Everything is just so perfectly balanced and arranged. I adore those galvanized planters as well, but no way in hell would they last more than a night in my garden, what with my wily raccoons.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Sculpture with plants — yes, I always think of her garden as art made of plants. I mean, that’s what any garden should be, to one degree or another, but Loree definitely takes it to a higher level. —Pam

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