Copyright © Sheryl Williams - Yardfanatic 2016. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Zen to Zowie - Gardens in Portland

Portland in the summer makes you forget about the other nine months of gray. Officially there are an average of 68 days that are full sun compared to the 115 here in Austin.  The difference of course is the "Oregon Mist" that falls and keeps everything watered.   No finer irrigation system  exists for those plants that have proper drainage.  True verdant fecundity.

My visit to Portland included some of my favorite public gardens and a few private gardens that have been featured on other PDX tours. To be honest, I have been apprehensive about my visit.  I have suffered terrible bouts of home sickness and was worried that this would plunge me into a funk.  Especially since it's Oregon PLUS fabulous gardens.

I'm happy to report that I'm home and in pretty good shape.  I DO miss the hydrangeas but the truth is, other than this lovely climbing hydrangea, they can be a pain to grow.  Those big ole leaves wilt in summer no matter how much you water.  The climbing variety is better but needs constant pruning.  The stems are brittle and can't be easily fashioned into wreathes like grape vines.  I do have one hydrangea in my Austin yard - a carefully shaded oak leaf that gave me a little bloom this spring and should pop out some red foliage this fall.

This lovely vine was in the Lan Su Chinese Garden.  When this garden was first installed I could not even imagine how they could put a garden in old town.  Not only did the designers pull it off, it is a peaceful respite from the bustle of Portland.  The plants, the water, the carefully placed pebbles in the pathways are all designed to embrace the visiter in a sense of peace and well-being.

We also visited Timber PressCistus NurseryJoy Creek NurseryOld Germantown Gardens and Westwind Farm Studio.  Westwind Farm Studio features a lavender field and the day we were there was part of the Oregon Lavender Festival.

This staircase choked with daylillies at Westward Farm Studio really illustrates the English-style gardening that one associates with Portland.  From my own experience, part of this approach is to out compete the weeds.  All that rain does more than nurture flowers.

Both of the private gardens feature wide beds of plants and it was great to shove my nose in the Oriental lillies at Germantown Gardens  - another flower I can't grow in Austin.  I was completely charmed by this Joy Creek Nursery Clematis texensis and it's yellow inner side.  It should be available for mail order in January so I'll be sure to grab a few - since they are natives.

Even in the midst of all this biomass, I keep getting drawn back to Texas.  It doesn't hurt that I love hot bright colors and have been building drought-tolerent gardens for years now.  Nevertheless,  I employ my Portland-style of gardening here in Austin.  The difference being that instead of blocking weeds I'm focused on shading the ground.  Bare soil dries out quickly and burns off the carbon from my compost.

When I got home I did a quick tour of the yard to see how it survived without me watering it.  It didn't look too bad and I made a note where my design echoes that of the gonzo gardens in Portland.  A plant here, a corner there, a droop of bloom onto the pathway.

I think I'll survive just fine.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Garden of Two Cities

I find myself back in one of my old hometowns - Portland Oregon, for a Garden Bloggers Fling.  The "fling" is an annual get together of garden bloggers at a different city each year.  It started today (Thursday) and continues through Sunday.  We will be bussed around the city to visit public and private gardens, all the while socializing with people - many whom I've never met but feel like I know - who write gardening blogs.

Before the event got started, I decided to take a stroll through Northwest Portland.  I used to work in the area and would walk through the neighborhoods on my lunch hour.   As I looked for my favorite yards in this older part of Portland I just had to smile.  I was surrounded by Texas.

I moved to Austin five years ago and have fallen in love with the city.  Partly because it makes me feel so much like "home".  No wonder, many of the same plants I had in my Portland garden are actually Texas natives and feature prominently in my Austin yard.  Liatris, coreopsis, lipstick salvia, sunflowers, tradescantia, sweet potato vine, all peek through yards and planters.  If it weren't for the hostas and rhododendrons I could be strolling through Hyde Park.

It makes me a little disoriented.

But there are many plants that don't grow in both places.  One of my favorites is the 'Oregon Blue' Hydrangea.  This variety went out of vogue when the vivid 'Nikko Blue' came on the market and now isn't even sold anymore.  It starts out purple and ages to blue.  The more acid the soil the deeper the purples.  You can find it in the old neighborhoods and is cultivated by some in the wholesale flower trade.  Then there are the ethereal forms of the lace-cap hydrangeas.  I actually like them better than the mop-heads.

So as I prepare to see Portland again through a carefully planned itinerary, I am happy to report that my old haunts are as colorful as ever.  And while I can pine away for things that I no longer grow, there is enough in common to keep me firmly planted in both Austin and Portland - even though they are 2,000 miles apart.