Monday, September 28, 2009

Portland Waterfront inspiration

What a beautiful weekend we had in Portland. Warm temperatures and the bluest of blue skies, colored with a little melancholy though as I couldn’t help but think this might be the last one like it for the year. Cooler temps and rain are forecast for the coming week. To enjoy it we went for a long walk along the waterfront and had lunch outside at a favorite Mexican restaurant.
I thought I would share some pictures of the “tropical planting circles” at Tom McCall Waterfront Park located along the Willamette River in Downtown Portland. I discovered these raised planting areas shortly after moving to Portland and immediately wanted to go buy every plant they were using (since we were renting I had to put it off a year or so).
Each year I plan to do a drive-by when the weather starts to turn, in the late fall/early winter, to see how they are protecting the plants. I can’t seem to remember to do it; I did drive by early last spring to see how they fared over the winter and most were gone. Not sure if they had pulled them out to protect them when things got really nasty, or if they had died. It seems a little less dramatic this year, so maybe the latter. Or maybe I’m getting jaded as I acquire more “exotic” plants. Either way I really love that the City has such a superb display on the waterfront to greet visitors. The Nicotiana was huge! I must admit I love the way this plant smells.
This petite Eucomis is new to me; I need to find out what it is. It looks like it's ready for summer to be over and take a winters rest.
Their Eucomis Oakhurst was flopped over and done for the season (it's kind of hard to tell what you are seeig in this photo). Mine are getting close to this. I’ve already cut a few bloom spikes that have fallen over and they’re happy in a vase, in the house. As I was taking pictures of this Melianthus major a couple setting nearby were watching, the fellow warned me that he had just seen another person eaten by this very plant. They asked me the name and luckily I remembered it, usually in those circumstances I draw a complete blank. I love that visitors are being exposed to this kind of planting in a city park, instead of a bed of petunias and marigolds.
I remember seeing this speckled plant at Cistus, but I don’t remember its name. It's a little hard to see but there are speckles all over the trunk and branches. This one is huge! The City must winter some of these over elsewhere. This year I vow to return in the winter and have a look. Like this banana (Ensete) the trunk is chunky, that's not just a years growth is it?
Don’t you love that blue sky?


  1. I will have to seek out these plantings...and adopt your approach to enjoying the last days of summer.
    There is another impressive planting at the south end of Waterfront Park, just beyond River Place: big sweeps of grasses going down to the river...haven't been there in a while, but remember it as lovely, and the designer writes often for the HPSO bulletin. Have you joined yet?

  2. I have loved the bed on Front between the Hawthorne bridge and Riverplace for years. I think this is the same one: those plants definitely push the staid city plantings image aside! I have noticed in winter that only the trachycarpus seem evident, so I think you're right that many of the plants overwinter somewhere else (California?)

    Like you, I found this past weekend bittersweet: I am no fan of our wet, dark winter days. But maybe we'll get lucky in October and November, and we'll have some beautiful sunny weekends!

  3. There's nothing better than enjoying a nice garden while eating Mexican food outdoors under sunny blue skies. Glad you enjoyed the weekend.

  4. Glad I stumbled onto your blog. You are lucky to have such beautiful plantings to visit. Glad you werent' eaten by the plant. I enjoyed reading your post.

  5. When I was in college at PSU and running on the track team, we would sometimes do training runs that took us by that display. We always declared that if we were homeless in Portland, we would want to live in that mini-tropical forest! (is that weird?) :)

  6. ricki, you are one step ahead of me! I am going to post about that park later today, and you are so is lovely. Someone from Walker Macy writes for the HPSO newsletter? That's great! Landscape Architects often have a reputation for not being terribly interested in plants! Oh and not yet, in the spring....I am going to join at the spring sale! For sure.

    Jane, yep that's the one. I can't imagine the muscle that must be involved in moving the banana! About the weather I bet you are right. There will be a couple more sunny days, but probably not in the 80's. I do remember the fall that we put in our patio we worked up to Thanksgiving weekend and had quite a few nice sunny days in November even.

    Pam, I was telling my husband about visiting San Antonio and the fact that any time we sat down anywhere there were chips and salsa on the table in front of us with in 3 minutes, the margarita soon followed. Loved that!

    Hi Teresa, glad to hear from you and thanks for including a link to your blog. I'll have to come visit!

  7. Bravo DG~~ I remember Mike Darcy featuring this garden on his TV show but I've never seen it in person. Ah to have the seemingly unlimited resources to do this, wouldn't it be cool?

    Talk about stormy weather, I just heard thunder and a tremendous downpour before that. I think I might have to put my flip flops away. My toes are getting cold.

  8. I've always loved these plantings. I was meaning to mention, I read in my Ken Druse propagation book, he says Eucomis are easily and prolifically propagated from leaf cuttings. Might be a good way to safeguard against winer disaster.

  9. Wow. What a fantastic collection of plants. I can see how inspiring they would be.

  10. Grace, never ever put away the flip flops! Winter wins then. I have at least 2 pairs available at all times. You never know when you can sneak them in on a sunny day. Unlimited resources? Very cool indeed!

    Megan, the Eucomis were ones that I was afraid wouldn't come back from last winter. But they all did, like champs! I've never leaf propagated anything, could be fun! If you want a leaf to experiment with please feel free to take a coupe of mine!

    K&V, this is one of those things that makes me love Portland!


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