Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A visit to the ranchlands/Arizona-esque garden

After several previous visits that bordered on garden stalking I finally had the opportunity to visit the Arizona-esque garden as an actual invited guest. Lucky huh? First a little background on how this visit came to be.Back when I first started stalking the garden I dropped a danger garden card in their mailbox. No response, I figured they were a little freaked out that their garden was drawing attention from strangers, and I lost hope of meeting the owners. In retrospect I realize that the small card probably fell right to the bottom of a mailbox never to be seen...must improve on this method of communication! Meanwhile, via Design Sponge, I discovered a marvelous Portland business called Makelike that was doing this cool cactus collection of prints. Excited to see that there was a like minded cactus lover here in P-town I emailed them to say how much I loved what they were doing. That was in December, in March I got a reply from a fellow named Topher at Makelike who had come across my email and thanked me for my excitement. We conversed via email and I quickly learned that he was the owner of the house with THAT garden! Coincidence? I think not.

A few emails back and forth later and here I was standing in his backyard! Cool. He had warned me not to expect many dangerous plants in the backyard garden, that it was full of southern hemisphere stuff. Ok so it’s a strong departure from the front garden, but still a very inspired space.

Visiting this garden on one of the first really sunny warm days of this spring added to the enjoyment for me, it also made photographing the space very challenging. The light was bright and unforgiving, not great for taking magical photos. I hope to do the gardens justice. Here is the back garden…
This garden feels as though you are very far away from Northeast Portland. The plants certainly play a part in that, but the fact that the entire space is built up from the surrounding properties gives you this feeling of floating in the sky, as though you’ve gone much further than you actually have. The space is anchored by the dark fence, a statuesque Eucalyptus…
And an interesting interplay of textures and materials. Different gravel, rusted metal, concrete and soil...and of course you can’t overlook the creatures, they add to the texture with the moss and lichen growing on their worn concrete surfaces…
And don’t forget the plants!
A grouping of pebble covered planters.And an Acacia pravissima, along with a little bear cub, adds even more interest.
Another deer greets you along the pathway from back to front garden.
And what a pathway it is!
Out front there are so many riches to discover. Would you believe this garden is just heading into its 4th summer? And blessed with better than average soil for NE Portland (where clay soil is the standard), they didn’t do a thing to prep the planting beds!
I was told this huge mass of spineless Opuntia used to be much larger. After the freeze of winter ’08 parts of it collapsed. As you can see it’s bounced back quite well.
The brown “stump” on the right used to be a gorgeous huge agave. Last winter it melted. But look! On the right…a baby! There were two others nearby. The agave lives on.
During the garden tour Topher shared so much information on the plants, their names and growing history, I wish I could have recorded it all to share with you every word. But you will just have to make due with pictures.
I couldn’t believe how much the Verbascum has shot up! There are several throughout the front garden. A soft counterpoint to all the spiky plants, and to think I used hate Verbascum!
So many fabulous vignettes and plants…
The hell-strip…
More pebble planters in the driveway…
Callistemon, Ceanothus and Verbascum…
More growth or blooms underway? I suppose new growth...but as pretty as any bloom.
I also got to witness the gardener’s in action as Topher and Nic planted a new Agave Americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’ in a to-die-for orange pot.
Perfect!And guess what…I even came home with a pup! How cool is that, an excellent garden visit and an agave to take home! Thank you so much for a wonderful visit you guys; I really appreciate your hospitality and your willingness to share your beautiful garden!


  1. YAY! I am SO glad you finally connected with them! We all TOLD you to just go knock on their door. Thank goodness you were brought together by a love of cacti! I expect more updates and visits in the future.

  2. What a tour! Along with agave party favors. I had somehow missed the original cactus prints, or my faulty memory has failed me again. I'm glad to finally get a close up look at the garden. I'm always driving by slowly to check it out, I'm probably making the neighbors nervous.

  3. You've made the BIG time, Topher!

  4. That's a fabulous agave present to take home. It's very cool that you connected with these guys and they gave you a tour. You are right that the back is very different from the front, but also interesting. I can't quite wrap my mind around the fact that they didn't amend the soil in the front to plant all those desert plants, but clearly they have a steep slope that helps with drainage. But not in the hell strip, probably? And is that a cholla in the hell strip? Watch out, careless pedestrians. :-)

  5. Oh, what a great tour! And, I hope, the start of a beautifully spiky friendship, in the best sense. I expect there will be more agave gifts going back and forth here. What a super fabulous, unique and wonderful garden! They really have the designers' touch and flair for the offbeat yet composed look. Sharp plant hellstrip! Yowza!!

  6. Garden stalking, lol! It is crazy that you managed to find your way into their garden purely by coincedence. I love their use of texture, and rocks. Very cool!

  7. AnonymousMay 19, 2010

    Loree girl, you did it again! Another fabulous tour!!! Where to begin... First, the sheer serendipity of your meeting the owners is jaw dropping but to think a garden like this is actually thriving in our wet winter climate is making my jaw hurt.

    So, the tall eucalyptus tree: It is alive, isn't it? Fred at Dancing Oaks was commenting that his were planted in 2001, towering beauties but after December's meanness are completely dead. Obviously colder in them thar hills than in NE Portland.

    Love the pebble encrusted pots. I wonder if I could do that...

    I lost my Acacia pravissima and after seeing this one I'm thinking I needed to get another. Love it in the pebble pot.

    The really puffy, gray-green Yucca... I can't remember it's name [parviflora?], the tag is still outside... is a new one for me this year. I love it. And the juxtaposing of the felted Verbascum foliage, genius.

    New friends! Isn't it great how gardening brings like-minded souls together?

  8. Patricia C, Portland ORMay 20, 2010

    Nicely done!

  9. Greensparrow, I know, you did. But see the being naturally shy thing gets in the way of all that!

    Megan, if you ever see them working the yard stop! I'm sure you'll get the tour too...they are that cool.

    Drew, does that mean that danger garden is big time?

    Pam, isn't it? Yep the Cholla is in the hell strip. It is AMAZING...but your right. Don't trip!

    Karen, I came home that afternoon, looked around my garden and felt so...not spiky. They own spiky. And craggy (if that's how you spell it?).

    Laura, I know! It was meant to be.

    Grace, yep...Eucalyptus is still alive. Topher gave me the address of his old digs and I did a drive buy. Lots of Eucalyptus there and not all are still alive, sadly. If you try the pebble pots I'd love to hear how it went. The only place I've seen them for sale is Gardener's Choice in Tigard and they are NOT cheap. The really puffy yucca would be a Y. them.

    Patricia, thanks!

  10. What an awesome opportunity and garden. Sometimes things just all work out, don't they?

  11. I guess Joseph Campbell was right: follow your bliss and good things will happen.

  12. I'm glad you're not an official stalker anymore ;)

  13. oooh! I did SO enjoy reading this blog entry ! : )


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