Thursday, May 28, 2009

Other people’s gardens

One of my favorite things to do when visiting other cities is to drive, or even better walk, around neighborhoods to see what they’re doing with their gardens. There is sometimes a loose regional style that I can pick up on, a plant that is obviously an area favorite or excitement of seeing plants not commonly found at home.

The other day I was running work errand in downtown Vancouver, Washington. I’ve lived in Portland for almost 5 years now and this is only the second time I’ve been to Vancouver! While finding my way back to I-5, I ended up in a neighborhood that just begged to have a few pictures taken. Like the image above, I wonder what his name is?

Love this happy row of iris. When I see iris growing sculpturally like this I really want to plant some!
This lovely tree caught my eye. I have to admit I am rather tree ignorant. I’ve always loved these, I’m sure a few of you can tell me what it is…
This house has the most amazing collection of palm trees! Seeing them, and the pile of fronds in the alley made me feel like I’d ended up somewhere besides Vancouver! In fact there were several houses within a few blocks of each other that had large established Trachycarpus fortunei.
I like how the plantings and rock flow from the yard into the parking strip, not my style but very well done. And the smell of the iris! Wow….took me back to my grandmother’s yard.
Ok we’re back in NE Portland now, I couldn’t stop taking pictures! I love this garden. It is always very clean and crisp, I could never exercise this much restraint! The owner has a few flax that were damaged last winter but unlike me he has the patience to leave them and hope they grow back.
The first time I drove by this corner I thought one of the lots on either side was extra wide and they had decided to turn the corner into a jungle. Nope, there is a house back there. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one because I couldn’t get a picture that shows it!
Lastly a fence and a retaining wall that have caught my eye.


  1. PatriciaMay 28, 2009

    Hey, I know two of those gardens, the groovy ranch--which I covet--and also the exuberant corner garden with the hidden house. Granted it seems a little OCD, but I bet if you press your nose against the window from inside, it feels just like living in the forest.

  2. Very nice gardens. I like the human sculpture very much. I am wondering if it is functioning as a real pipe??? And the third picture... I like how they have shaped the tree. Wonderful!

  3. I covet those mature trachycarpus! The meticulously gardened home reminds me of ours with its many uncovered feet of mulch...we're TRYING to be patient and wait for plants to grow. I'm not sure I like the multi-colored fence, especially if its across a front yard, but the standing-seam retaining wall is very cool.

  4. Oh, is the mystery tree a katsura?

  5. L O V E that metal retaining wall! Maybe we can freak out our deep SW Tigard neighbors and put one in our front yard...

  6. Patricia - isn't that house just the best? Do you know the folks who live there? Super people. I wish we would have found a ranch style home when we moved to Portland, that's so much more my style than the house we ended up with. It seems that most of the ranch homes here are on corner lots with no back yard, which was NOT an option for me!

    Stephanie - I tried to figure out if the pipe-man was attached to the rain gutter downspouts but I couldn't tell. He is standing right next to them.

    Jane - I'm with you on the Trachy's! They were fabulous. And clueless on the tree...Megan where are you and your tree knowledge when we need you!?

    Andrea - do it! I'll show you where it is if you want to take Mike to see it "in real life"!

  7. Love that house with all the crazy trees! I secretly suspect that's where I'm headed, not because it's a style I want, but because I can't stop planting. I kind of love that retaining wall. It has me thinking. I have this line in the back that is currently shaded by a huge cherry tree that isn't so healthy looking. If I took that out, I'd have a strip of full sun, and could do a raised bed like that for a vegetable garden back there.
    I'm not sure what the tree is, it's not a katsura, but I'm not sure what it is. Can you tell if it's pruned into this shape rather than it's natural form? I'll have to make Patricia come back and look, she's much better with trees than I am.

  8. PatriciaMay 29, 2009

    I'm kind of a tree fanatic, to wit: you can't see much of my house from the street come leaf season. But I'm not sure about that tree. The leaves look like Lindens, but the shape doesn't fit. Have you seen the new book by Sean Hogan of Cistus Nursery, "Trees for All Seasons"? Worth a gander.

  9. Megan - I think that is a great idea for a veggie garden, as long as it's an area that would be easy for you to get water to. When ever I see those trees they are fairly close to that shape, give or take a little. I think that the huge one on the north side Killingsworth by PCC is the same kind of tree.

    Patricia - I looked up Linden but I don't think that's you know which tree it is I'm talking about above in my reply to Megan? Could that be it? I know (and love) the book, I went to a Timber Press event at Garden Fever last winter and Sean was there with the book and then also went to his talk at the YGP show. Were you guys there? Every time I see that guy I have to really control myself because I want to go ask him 8,000 questions!

  10. I'm wondering if your mystery tree might be a Camperdown elm (Ulmus glabra var. camperdownii). These can be pretty awesome weeping specimens in old age (there's one in Central Park), but the one in your pic looks a bit young for that. They graft a weeping top onto a standard trunk which can be different lengths. Unfortunately, your comments box won't let me post a link. Try Google for this and you might find a match.

  11. By-gosh Helen I think you just might have called it! Sorry you couldn't post a link, I just Googled it and the pictures all look right! Thank you!

  12. PatriciaMay 30, 2009

    Camperdown elm, mais oui! Just made the connection. The city forester once recommended Lindens to me in lieu of American Elms because of the disease problem. The upright variety--not these weepers--gain similar appearance to elms as they age--if you squint and try not to cry because they'll never become grand old octopus-armed elms. (I think PDX is a lot more flexible on parking strips trees these days, not that I once followed his advice. I decided early on to use the beg forgiveness approach.) What, the city has time to go after wrong-tree planters?)

    I'll look for that specimen by PCC. "Trees of Greater Portland" shows the largest variety of Camperdown as one on McLoughlin Blvd at the east end of the Ross Island bridge. The book is kinda old, Timber Press, 1993--so not sure if it's still in good shape...

  13. Glad to read that you concur Patricia. Don't get me started talking about the city forester, I've been less than impressed. But that's another story. I'll have to look for the McLoughlin Blvd tree...seems a bit familiar.


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