Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This Roadway Now Improved

It’s a fact of life here in Portland. You can be driving along on a perfectly decent residential street and all of a sudden you’re back on the Oregon Trail. No pavement, potholes 3 times deeper than a kid’s swimming pool…enter at your own risk (and be prepared to pay for it). Cutting through a residential neighborhood in St. Johns (the northwestern most tip of Portland) something caught my eye that I had to stop and photograph. Walking back to my subject is when I saw the sign above. Someone had taken it upon themselves to announce that yes, the roadway was now improved.

True the road itself was sporting a nice even layer of gravel, not a pothole in sight, but I think they were really referring to the plantings and new layer of mulch. Don’t you? So did you spot it? The huge face in the second picture above? That is what initially caught my eye. What do you suppose the story is? This entire intersection, which appears to be at least 4 separate properties, had beautiful plantings all freshly mulched. Was this the work of a single gardener spreading the love? Or a community of like minded individuals? The only live being I could see was this one… And it wasn’t talking. More shots of the properties on this intersection. So many of these plants were in black plastic nursery containers, doesn’t it almost look like a nursery? But there were no signs…and it was private property so I didn’t go investigate. Perhaps there is a garden designer at work here? Beautifying the neighborhood?


  1. Looks like Humpty-Dumpty. Love the mulch and clean look. Nice neighborhood.

  2. I'm wondering what the chartreuse blobs are. And I'll comment here about your tetrapanax. Mine has sent up two runners, both pulled. Funny how we always think famously invasive plants will behave in OUR gardens. Good luck with yours. I think a grove of tetrapanax in your front garden would be great and give the quick height you've been after. Just clear out any other plants that could be casualties...

  3. I wonder if they had a party to celebrate. They should have--it looks wonderful.

    I love that big moon-face. Tres cool.

  4. Love it! Maybe some nursery workers have taken over? We've started planting our next door neighbor's backyard with plants from the "dump" pile at work.

  5. Talk about a statement ornament! Hopefully you might be able to have a nosy around the area again in the next few weeks to see if the containerised plants have been planted out.

  6. Very odd, but nice looking. That face is huge!

  7. Wow...that is a huge project...I'm not sure which would be more impressive, that 1 person did it all or that a whole group of neighbors got organized enough to do it together!

  8. Grace, now that you mention it...

    Denise, I wish I could id the blobs for you, I can't. Definitely on the T'panax! I am actually leaving two of the now five babies. The others will be living in a contained environment.

    Hoover, a yes...perhaps there was a neighborhood gathering on the improved roadway!

    Megan, I love it when cast off plants find a good home, I'm sure your neighbor does too!

    Mark and Gaz, the neighborhood is a little out of my way, well...unless I plan a trip to Cistus nursery!!! (thanks for the suggestion).

    K&V, it is! Too see it out of the corner of my eye as I was driving by was a little scary.

  9. Wow! How random! That's my garden! (and I'm a big fan of your blog :-)
    So yes, it's a big project, and yes, it's essentially a one-man job (with a LOT of help from my friend/roommate helper Lori). None of the immediate neighbors are interested/supportive, so it's virtually all on my dime, hence the soon-to-be-planted bare spots.
    That said, many of those plants sitting around have indeed been planted, filling in areas and toning down those chartreuse blobs, (alternately Santolina 'Lemon Fizz', Origanum 'Norton's Gold, or Heucheras).
    The mother of a dear new neighbor amended the street sign while visiting, which was very sweet. She spent a day out working with us as well, which was hugely helpful.
    The face itself was part of an 80ft tall puppet! It's really quite beautiful, and glows softly red at night. It looks out over the whole garden, including my own garden and home, across the street.
    Lori and I have been working hard trying to get lots more things in the ground and mulched, as the garden(s) will be part of the HPSO Plant Study Weekend on June 24-25. Lots of interesting plants and art spanning several properties. Come back and visit!
    Rick Serazin
    ps....love your blog, but interestingly not a big fan of plants that bite and poke. Once went to the hospital for an eye injury from an Echinacea cone, and another time had to have surgery after getting poked in the ear by a yucca leaf! Ouch!

  10. I love this kind of effort. Anything to beautify the potholed, abused "streets" in the neighborhood. I've seen other unimproved streets here in NoPo get slowly and quietly encroached upon by gardening neighbors. Props to Rick and Lori for this great improvement!

  11. Rick, yay! So glad you saw my post. So you must live in the house on the southwest corner? It seems like that is definitely plant central (and gorgeous!). I spied a giant Tetrapanax in your garden when I drove by last summer. Nice work! I wish I were attending the HPSO Study Weekend, it sounds like you all will be having so much fun (and talk about garden pressure...all of those gardeners checking out your work!), I would LOVE to visit your garden sometime. Sorry to hear about your spiky plant injuries...(and thanks for the kind words about my blog!)

    MulchMaid, oh gosh...you've got me thinking about all sorts of guerrilla gardening ideas now!!!

  12. Do stop by next time your around. I am indeed in the house on the SW corner, and yes, I once had a gorgeous, huge tetrapanax in front. It went bye-bye this winter (as has happened before), but will no-doubt come up somewhere else. They ALWAYS do! I once had one spread shockingly fast through sandy soil. Hundreds of pups within a coup[e years. Still, an awesome plant to have around!

  13. What a great blog post - thank you! I had run into Rick at a nursery and heard about the neighborhood lot he's gardening but hadn't made it over to see it!

  14. How gorgeous! One field trip coming up!

  15. Haha you should have knocked on a door and asked someone. I bet they would have told you. Garden people are always friendly.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!