Old Germantown Gardens: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

The first private garden on the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling tour last weekend was, at 2 acres, large enough to accommodate our entire group of approximately 80 bloggers. Old Germantown Gardens, created over 23 years by Bruce Wakefield and Jerry Grossnickle, is a masterpiece of a garden built on a steeply sloping hillside.

The garden drops off sharply behind the house, and a 2nd-floor deck overlooks the sunny spaces below. Here’s a slightly different view. Just look at the wonderful use of form — all those spheres, pillars, and cones — which adds structure in counterpoint to billowing perennials.

Also, I’m smitten by the golden hues of the conifers used in such abundance throughout the garden.

Undulating terracing laid by the owners tames the slope. They designed, built, and planted the entire garden themselves and unbelievably still maintain it as well, which takes 20 hours per week from each of them. (See Portland Monthly‘s 2009 story about the garden’s evolution.)

Eighty people can find solitude in this spacious garden, or they can enjoy numerous seating areas strategically positioned high and low.

Looking the other direction from the upper deck, you see a narrow lawn surrounded by English-style flowering borders, with a backdrop of tall evergreen and deciduous trees.

A conical punctuation mark echoes the golden tree in the background.

It’s reminiscent of this smaller-scaled scene in the entry garden, so let’s go back out there and start our tour, as I did, along the front walk and onto the patio hugging the rear of the house.

Sunlight floods this area in the afternoon, turning yellow dahlias into miniature suns, their dusty-black leaves adding dark drama below.

In a shady bed by the front door, a sleek cat sculpture stands watch.

The garden spreads out behind the house, accessed via a spacious patio that contains a plunge pool and a large greenhouse. The pool would have felt wonderful on this hot day, but it was more fun to explore.

Bold, tropical foliage and luscious blooms demand one’s attention.

A few steps down, a bistro table and chairs offer an invitation to rest amid tropical lushness.

Lilies scent the air.

Now it’s time to take the plunge, down into the terraces. This is a garden you can explore for hours and still not see everything — but I did try.

As you descend, thoughtful focal points, like this bench and sun under an arching hedge, are placed so as to entice you onward. Anyone who thinks they don’t like formal elements in a garden might take a close look at how these columnar and rounded plants are used for structure amid looser planting beds. You just know this garden is equally stunning in winter.

On the hottest, sunniest slope, a dry garden reminded me of Austin, with Yucca rostrata, agaves, euphorbia, grasses, and drought-tolerant perennials.

Below that, however, golden conifers showed that we weren’t in Texas anymore.

Hot-colored flowers soaked in the sunshine.

As did peach dahlias

Continuing to descend the sloping paths, I entered a shady, forested garden. Curving gravel-and-timber paths lead down and down…

…past stacked-stone walls crested by waves of lush greenery…

…surrounded by luxuriant groundcovers and shrubs…

…and along a sinuous line of precisely stacked firewood. Seriously, is this an art installation? It’s too far from the house to be useful on a daily basis.

Soon the path climbed again. As the sunlight increased, daylilies appeared.

From shade to sun — a golden aura

Lilies rose above chartreuse grasses, their golden flowers filled with sunlight.

Sparklers of allium heads seemed to sizzle amid golden-flowering perennials.

Steely blue globes — so touchable

I’m a sucker for red though, and crocosmia and daylilies along this path stood out so beautifully among the green foliage.

More crocosmia — like the inquisitive heads of a flock of birds

One more

This arbor leads down to the shady forest garden. To the right is the path to the crocosmia.

Oh, okay, one more!

Lavender clematis is awfully pretty too.

Banana-yellow lilies overlook a small pond and wetland garden.

Water lilies offer their starry blooms, and a bench a place to enjoy them.

These copper-finned fish stood in the water and turned in the breeze.

Looking back up at the house from here you see the deck from which I shot the first pictures in this post.

But plenty of smaller vignettes along the paths were awaiting discovery as I made my way back up, like this giraffe sundial…

…and textural, walnut-colored pot half-hidden in greenery.

I loved this combo of pink spires and mossy-brown magnolia.

Just when you think you must have seen all the major features in this garden, this appears: a pair of variegated yuccas in pots flanking a short stair, their spiky shadows etched on the paving.

Looking down you see a hidden conversation area with a pair of blue Adirondacks sheltered under an arching, iron gazebo.

The yuccas, glowing in late afternoon sunlight, were magnificent.

More clematis

And now we’re looking back up toward the entry garden again, a weeping cypress (maybe; I know better than to attempt plant IDs away from home) marking the edge of the driveway. Wow, what a garden! I could have spent another hour or two here, as I had time for only one pass through.

But we were off to the last garden of the day, and could it possibly be as amazing as this one? Come along and find out.

Up next: Westwind Farm Studio gardens, designed by ornamental-grasses guru John Greenlee. For a look back at the bucolic gardens of Joy Creek and Cistus nurseries, click here.

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

Joy Creek and Cistus Nurseries: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling

After touring Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland, the two Fling buses headed out to scenic, agricultural Sauvie Island for our visits to two premier nurseries: Cistus and Joy Creek.

Cistus is a plant lover’s mecca, with rare and interesting plants from all over the world, including no small number that are quite at home in Austin, like these Yucca rostrata.

I am rarely tempted by plants when traveling, however, which makes me the odd woman out among plantaholic Flingers like my traveling companion Diana , browsing the plant tables on the right. Seattle-area blogger (and contributor to Lawn Gone!) Christina, whom I was excited to finally meet, seems to be directing Diana for a photo, or perhaps illustrating how large her euphorbia has grown. Like me, she’s an obsessive photographer on tour, always working a garden for the perfect angle.

Instead of plant shopping, I took photos of friends, including this one of Austin bloggers Laura (left) and Sheryl (right). In the middle is talented photographer Hoover Boo, as she’s known online, from southern California.

Two things to note: I am so proud to be part of the Austin garden bloggers, who totally rocked the number of bloggers from one city (aside from local bloggers) at the Fling. Shout-out to fellow Austinites Diana, Vicki, Caroline — all veteran Flingers — and newbies Sheryl, Laura, Ally, and Chris. Our group of 8 had a lot of fun, especially with former Portlander Sheryl as tour guide in the evenings, but one thing we forgot to do was take a group photo. Oh well, next time!

I was also delighted to run into former Austin blogger/designer and current Portland resident David Meeker, who was working the register at Cistus. What better way to teach oneself the ins and outs of gardening in Portland than to work in one of its best nurseries?

Cistus is great, but my favorite of the two nurseries is Joy Creek, purely for its rural charm and photogenic gardens that envelop a house belonging to one of the owners.

Sunny and shady gardens invite strolling and inspire plant purchases.

The sunny gardens are a fiesta of color. Beebalm…

…and croscosmia are two of my favorites.

I adore this ghostly eryngium too.

And these fir cones that resemble spooled cords.

Come on in and enjoy the gardens, says this open gate.

A golden walk between ligularia and acuba

Rudbeckia in sunset hues

I like this juxtaposition of eggplant-purple and chartreuse.

Shade was welcome on this surprisingly warm day. Temps the first two days of the Fling reached the upper 80s and low 90s (33C), but in the shade the low humidity kept things comfortable.

Clematis is a specialty of Joy Creek, and numerous varieties were displayed on wire trellises.

Such rich color

Fling friends: Brandon and Judy, Fling sponsors from Botanical Interests; and Gaz and Mark, all the way from England.

A local

A barn in back of the house serves as the retail area, where plants are appealingly displayed in vignettes on tables and on the ground. I’ll take the whole set, I wish I could have said.


Pink, yellow, and orange — electric!

Bloggers snatched up these birdhouses with roofs that can be planted — so chic.

Soon it was time to reboard the buses, stuffing plants into overhead bins or under seats, and head to our first private garden of the Fling.

Up next: The hillside splendor of Old Germantown Gardens. For a look back at my pre-Fling visit to Digs Inside & Out garden shop, click here.

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

Visit to Digs Inside & Out garden shop in Portland

When I heard that JJ De Sousa’s garden was on the itinerary for the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling, I excitedly planned a double-dose of her colorful, creative, offbeat style by arranging to visit her home-and-garden shop Digs Inside & Out.

Located on trendy Alberta Street (where my husband and I, pre-Fling, enjoyed a delicious lunch at Bollywood Theater PDX and dessert at Salt & Straw), Digs beckons with an eclectic and colorful assortment of tables, chairs, containers, and strangely beautiful accessories.

Take these light-bulb-head baby sconces, for example. Have you ever seen anything like them? Me neither. In fact, I was so fascinated by the store’s offerings that David had to seek refuge in a bar down the street while I poked around.

I could have brought home any number of chairs and pots — they were all wonderful. (I already own one of the vertically ridged pots, in red, which I picked up at Redenta’s in Dallas.)

Check out this wall display. Here’s what I lusted after at Digs: a tentacled squid planter!

How weirdly wonderful! Don’t they make you smile? I stared at them, wondering if I could bring myself to splurge on one and pondering how I could get it home. Update: These are made by Phoenix artist Diana Moulds (thanks, Jennifer, for the info).

While I thought it over, I kept browsing. JJ clearly loves orange! And doesn’t the wriggly snake picture remind you of the squid planters?

There was a definite goth element to the store, with its black-painted walls, writhing squids and snakes, skulls…

…baby heads…

…and ghostly ceramic hands outstretched on shelves throughout the store.

I liked this green-framed console with a natural, wood-plank shelf.

And the agave pillow and dusky purple chairs.

And the colorful metal hearts on the wall.

Well, everything, really.

Did I get myself a squid planter, you may be wondering? Yes, I did! I bought a tabletop version in blue that I could pack home in my bag, and it’s sitting in my living room in wriggly-legged splendor.

I can’t wait to show you JJ’s personal garden, in which you’ll recognize a number of items from her shop. She obviously buys what she loves.

Up next: A tour of the display gardens at bucolic Joy Creek Nursery and Cistus. For a look back at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, our first garden stop on the Fling, click here.

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