Archive for Jun, 2008

Allan drove down from Ilwaco to Sheila’s on Sunday night because I had a carload of plants to take back with us.  Pretty much all of them were for our own garden to enrich it before the tour that was less than a week away.  We woke Monday morning to glimpses of Sheila’s garden through the windows of her historic house in Shedd.  She’d recently had her paths paved making for a comfortable walk around with cups of coffee.

from Sheila’s living room windows

Sheila’s house from the front and side

Sheila and Harold had purchased the historic house but a few years before and yet her garden was more tourworthy than some of the gardens we’d seen during the study weekend.

roses and peonies

a tree centered border

along the front road

The second floor balconies provided good vantage points to see the layout of the garden and help plan out another big bed in the lawn.

While it was hard to tear ourselves away from good company and the always entertaining “Jack Russell Terror” Buckley, the thought of the garden tour loomed large in my mind so off we went to get ourselves sorted out.  Four days till tour day!

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Touring on Study Weekend, hosted by Willamette Valley Hardy Plant Group

The garden we almost skipped due to time factors ended up being the one I most wished was my own.  It was only eight years old in 2008, on 2.5 acres, with “a perennial garden, heath and heather beds, lavender grid, formal vegetable garden and orchard, antique apple orchard, meadow, and creek garden”.

First we walked up the drive because we saw a blessed sight: a sanican!  (Thank you, Bryan and Cassandra Barrett or the Willamette Valley Hardy Plant Group!)  Just past there was this old barn with chickens.

From there we could see a wide rustic path to the unpretentious house…and the beautiful veg patch.

vegetable garden

Over the informally arranged and clearly productive veg garden we glimpsed glorious flowers.

an enticing glimpse

A gravel scree lay between us and the house and garden beds into which we were eager to wade.

scree garden

 For a little while I’ll just let the plants around the house do the talking.

We could see through the lattice a glimpse of the orchard and field beyond:

…and stepping through an opening between the garden areas we looked back at the beds we had just toured.  Then we saw the sloping field.  I am not a big fan of heather in gardens and have never seen it used with complete RIGHTness anywhere other than the natural hills of Scotland and the Bronte Moors until I saw this:

The heaths and heather slope segued into the “lavender grid” and then a wild meadow; of course, we had to wander down and walk through it.  I doubt either of us made many comments because we were in awe.

The mown meadow path led us back up to more gardens around the house.

I’d love to have a sculpture like the one below with a passage from a gardening book on the pages.

Rustic steps led back up into the house gardens.

We looked back at the gardens between us and the meadows, bright with colour even on a grey day.

As we explored the front garden we saw the house we saw the house looked much more old fashioned and bungalow style than it did in the back.

Around the side of the house we glimpsed the old barn where we’d begun.

Every bit of garden around the house was a perfect picture.

We crossed the road (a collection of conifers with various colours of needles protected the house from the road) to the newer garden that the Barrets were developing along the creek.

We meandered back to the deck behind the house.  I loved the fact that the deck needed repair.  Clearly the money was going to the best place:  Into the garden.

The final touch of perfection: The most attractive rain barrel I had ever seen, imported from England:

Tour time was over and back we went to Sheila’s home and garden which deserves an entry of its own.

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 Study Weekend Touring, hosted by Willamette Valley Hardy Plant Group

Feeling the anxiety of getting all the tour gardens properly seen before the end of the day we next drove to a hillside garden.  A lion’s face greeted us as we entered. I think that this is the  garden and creation of Byan Lauber.

The garden included a pond with a view.

I love the boardwalk and keep wanting to use this idea every time I see it.  It might get slippery but not if it had wire mesh affixed over the boards.

Next we saw what I believe is the Ron Hodges garden.  Why I have no photos of the courtyard that one entered after this hillside is a mystery.  Perhaps I was feeling the pressure of time slipping away.

a steep terraced hillside garden

Coming down that little rocky stairway, I very much felt the effect of the chronic dizziness that plagued me for a couple of years, and gardener’s knees, and felt quite old as I had to take the owner’s proferred hand to get down.  Maybe that is why I didn’t take photos of the courtyard…I do remember it as an enclosed little oasis with a water feature and tropical plants.

We almost skipped the large garden (next entry) that was a long drive out from the others, and I’m so glad we didn’t because it was sheer perfection.  The description in the tour guide said “2.5 acre site which stretches out on both sides of the road and along Lost Creek” and we decided it sounded too intriguing to miss even though we still had an hour or more drive in the other direction to get home to Sheila’s house.

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Study Weekend Touring, hosted by Willamette Valley Hardy Plant Group

After a Saturday filled with lectures, Sheila and I spent Sunday touring more Eugene gardens.  The first was a huge lot behind this house:

near Eugene

An entry patio to the right of the above had different types of small stones set into a grid. Beyond is the path to a woodland paradise.

I’m so sorry I cannot tell you the name of the gardeners; I have actually found my 2008 guide but can’t tell from the descriptions exactly which garden it is. It is…possibly…the Stark garden in Creswell…just possibly.  The more I think about it, probably!

entry patio

A few steps to the side and onto the deck gave us an overview of the large and intricate landscape.


I had my usual issue with bright red bark (don’t like it); I felt it jarred against the natural mature woodland feel of the garden.  The paths were fresh and comfy to walk on and the gardener had probably found it difficult to find any new bark that was not red in colour.

On the rare occasions that I want to bark an area it is awfully hard to find a dark aged looking product.

paths through the woodland

The rich and layered palette of shade plants had us stopped with admiration at every turn.

Throughout the garden we found the theme of silver foliage.

an impressive stand of Brunnera

As we approached the outer, sunnier edges of the garden we came upon this freestanding lattice….

….which echoed the handsome lattice fences behind the outer edge sunny border.  The newness of these beds spoke of a gardening expansion.  Check out the charming rebar staking:

The curvaceous paths had taken us on a circuitous route round to the outer edges and back again finally to the central gazebo which we’d glimpsed as a focal point from several areas.

Sheila by the gazebo

Any shallow complaint about the red bark had been swept away by the wonders of this garden (but I still think the silver foliage would have been set off better by aged bark, don’t you think?)  I bet the owners felt the same and had simply been forced to red-bark the paths for the safe and non slippery footing of many touring feet.

We had several more gardens to see, described in the program as small and large, and were beginning to feel the usual pressure that we might run out of time!

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study weekend touring, hosted by the Willamette Valley Hardy Plant Group

The wonderful study weekend featured Dubliner Helen Dillon as the keynote speaker and tours of many Eugene gardens. Sheila and I noticed while garden touring on Friday that too many of the first few gardens had the same feeling about them, as if the same designer had worked on them.   It is terribly rude to say anything critical of a garden while IN it, but there is nothing to stop discussion between to gardening friends of similar tastes while going from one garden to another.  I did love the use of these metal horse troughs as planters.

horse troughs with bamboo…a quick privacy screen from uphill neighbours

horse trough water feature

We did indeed learn that the first three or so gardens on the tour had been designed and installed by the same Eugene firm.  The galvanized horse troughs appeared with bamboo, water, and vegetables.  I still would like to make someone a veg garden with that idea: instant raised beds.  (Also, am not sure the round one IS a “horse trough” but…same material.)

We liked this idea for a simple arbour:

wire mesh arbour for peas or beans

As I would later notice while touring Seattle area gardens during study weekend 2010, Alliums create far more effect when planted en masse:

Alliums, probably ‘Purple Sensation’, clustered

tooled gate

Once we had gotten away from the “horse trough gardens” we entered the enchanted land of a plant collector.  Until then we had only enjoyed vignettes from each garden but had been a little bored with each garden as a whole.

a woodland border

in a collector’s garden

peaceful sit spot, interesting garden art

a pleasant circle

Sheila and I are horribly picky garden tourists because nothing in any of these quite lovely gardens really grabbed us.  Or let me speak just for myself: I wanted more quirkiness, more oddity.  I very much enjoyed certain parts of each garden but none gave me the enormous thrill of finding either a kindred spirit or someone whose vision amazes me.

I liked this garden circle, but still was not deeply moved:

front garden

The garden above had a swale off to the left, very newly planted.  I began to realize that I was glad to have waited til my garden had matured before agreeing to have it on a tour.  Either a very young garden, where one can say “Look what I did in just one year”, or an older garden offer the most interest.  (Surely I need not add that the gardens above might be completely thrilling to a different gardener!)  The next house and garden also appeared new…until we explored further.

big new house and garden

woodland walk

mixed border

When we first approached  the house above I found it too new and grand and freshly planted…..

But from my sequence of photographs, the lovely woodland walk must have been around back of this house, and you can see that when we came around to the mixed border, Sheila had her camera out.

The garden slopes slightly to this gorgeous pond…[edited to add that, having found my tourguide, I am pretty sure this is the Thomas/Levy garden.]

and luscious peonies, proving one must not judge a garden by a formal entry.

I can’t tell you much about the garden below; it has a rustic feel that does not seem like part of the garden with pond and peonies, so I wonder why it did not inspire more photos?

rustic garden of mystery

edited to add:  I found my old tour guidebook  and I believe that the garden of mystery is the Weiderhold garden, and the gate decorated with old garden tools are from the Mayes garden.

[If only I had found a blogging platform that worked for me (unlike the eventual functionality failure of iWeb) and had not taken two years off and then tried to recreate 2008-2009 through iPhoto and cursory notes in Facebook albums….]

Back to the wonders of the quirky garden that was next on the tour, the first one of the day that had me intrigued by the gardener’s individuality even though plant collecting was not his ultimate inspiration.  He used rocks, ferns, a good palette of shady plants and had a dramatic homemade covered porch.

quirky Eugene back garden

On the way back to the study weekend hotel, as Sheila and I discussed our impressions of the day’s gardens, a stunning sight appeared ahead of us.

a Eugene bed and breakfast

Of course we stopped and the kind gardener took us on a tour of his rather new gardens.  If anyone knows the name of this glorious B&B, please share it; I don’t think either Sheila nor I remember.  His parking strip gardens were especially fine; that is where his project started, and I am sure eventually all the beds will be equally fine.

adorable details in B&B garden

That particular study weekend was organized quite differently from the other ones that I’ve attended.  All the touring was on Friday and Sunday, and Saturday was devoted just to speakers and plant and book sales. If we left the convention area at all on Saturday I have no photos to prove it. I liked the plan; the weekend felt more relaxed than when we know we are going to rush off and tour each day.  Somewhere, I have notes about the lectures (and every garden lecture I have taken back to the beginning of my time as a gardener). On Sunday, we resumed garden touring…and we found Sunday’s gardens far more exciting.

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At last, on the day before study weekend, I visited Dancing Oaks.  I had been hearing and reading of this nursery for years.  No one could have been a better companion for this excursion than my friend and sister horthead Sheila.

the entry to Dancing Oaks nursery…after a long drive down a gravel road

I forgot to photograph a couple of the features that stuck in my mind.  The nursery and display gardens were just so flabbergastingly gorgeous.  Sheila sent me this photo of the water feature, taken in 2004.

water feature

steps into a shadier part of the display garden

Eremurus in a hot sun border

a shady walkway

I’ve recreated this vision in a garden or two since seeing this.

Sheila and I wandered round the garden twice…gazed at the details of the water feature…pondered which plants to buy and discussed, organized, and added to our purchases.

mesmerizing LittleandLewisy water feature

Suddenly we realized it was near closing time and we still had not seen everything.  At that time the nursery’s owner popped out of the office area and offered to show us ALL around the garden.  Back we went around again on an expertly guided tour of what we had seen, and a tour of the areas we had somehow missed, including this giant Magnolia with flowers the size of Sheila’s head.

Sheila with magnolia

 He even showed us the test areas and more private gardens back of beyond.

stacked planting

Afterwards, while he totaled our purchases in the office area, we realized he had kindly allowed us to stay considerably beyond closing time just because of shared love of plants.  I would visit this nursery at least twice a month if only it were closer.

cat asleep on a work table at Dancing Oaks Nursery

Rich with new acquisitions we drove over the long bumpy gravel road and on to chez Sheila to try to get a good night’s sleep before an early morning start to the study weekend, a bit over an hour away in Eugene, Oregon.

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at Joy Creek

at Joy Creek

In spring of 2008 we agreed to let our garden be on the Peninsula garden tour.  I had long resisted, never feeling ready, but finally our friend Patti, tour organizer, said to me “You know you are going to do it eventually, so why not get it over with?”

As soon as I had committed, plant shopping took on a whole new meaning because now we were shopping for our own garden.  With this in mind we took our usual beginning of May trip to Cistus and Joy Creek and returned with as many cool plants as we could stuff into our small car.

at Joy Creek

at Joy Creek


at Joy Creek

at Joy Creek

at Joy Creek

at Joy Creek

at Joy Creek

at Joy Creek

at Joy Creek

Euphorbias at Joy Creek

Our garden was still a mess.  Friends visited from the midwest on Memorial Day weekend and as we walked through the garden I could see their (non-gardener) skepticism when I told them we would be on a tour in less than a month.  Could we do it?

In early June we began a serious clean-up of all our garden paths.  (I estimated that we lost over $1000 in income slacking off on work in order to bring our own place to perfection.)  Because the Hardy Plant Study Weekend would be the weekend before the garden tour, a great deal had to be accomplished before then.

By the 7th of June the paths looked as perfect as if they had been freshly laid….Weeded, topped with fresh gravel, and rolled.

garden paths

gardens paths of perfection

JUST the week before leaving for study weekend, I decided that the tiny little path on the lower north side of the garden simply had to be widened and in a frenzy tore up the concrete molded fake rock pavers, dug the bed a foot wider on each side and then with Allan’s helped laid landscape fabric and all fresh gravel. There’s nothing like imagining people tripping up on a bad path to inspire one to finally get the project done.


decorating with rust

We decorated every surface as I had intended to all along but had never taken the time.  Patti showed up every few days with another old rusty thing like these wire boxes that Allan hung up on the silver shed.

Meanwhile we had to keep up with work, at least on our public jobs.  More of the Long Beach planters (the ones where the volunteers had slacked off) had fallen into our clutches and by May 11th the plants were blending together and looking stunning.

Long Beach Planters

Long Beach planters, 11 May

Up until my departure on Thursday June 19th to Shedd, Oregon, my friend Sheila’s house and the departure point for study weekend, Allan and I  fussed around in our garden till dark-thirty despite the evening torment of clouds of no-seeums.  I would not be back till Monday June 23.  Allan tells me he worked for the three days till he came to meet me at Sheila’s on  Sunday…probably watering, and possibly taking motorcycle rides.  I did not realize how sore I was till my legs cramped up on the crowded bus from Portland to Albany.  I could barely hobble down the steps where Sheila waited to whisk me off for a long awaited introduction to Dancing Oaks Nursery.  I was about to fulfill more of the Big Revelation of June 2007:  visiting more gardens and nurseries.

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