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.


  1. Portland was awesome, but this Texan is happy to be home. I will miss all the big trees and gorgeous hydrangeas. I'm hoping we brought some rain back with us. Looks like some storms coming our way. Fingers crossed.

  2. It was amazing to meet you! I avoid anything with the word 'hydra' in it in my garden. Just too much watering in an unpredictable climate. Love that little clematis and I'm going to check out Folia. :o)

    1. It was great to visit with you too! I haven't laughed that hard in a long while. I'm thinking you need to design and sell some "boot" planters. I will totally buy them.

  3. Sheryl, I so enjoyed your presence at the Fling this year. You were so exuberant and happy every single day, not to mention an excellent tour guide on our free evenings. I'm glad you made it back unscathed by homesickness for the verdant beauty of Portland. I could certainly understand if you were.

    1. Thanks Pam! I had a blast and it was a complete head trip to have all my Austin gardening friends tromping around in Portland. I do miss it but I think I have moved on. While I may never consider myself a Texan, I do feel like an Austinite and now consider Portland a nice place to visit when I need to escape the death star. I feel the same way about Seattle - another great city I used to live in that has amazing gardens (as you know.)

      On to the next fling! Thanks for inviting me to the group and letting me drag you through Portland in the middle of the night!