How many times do you get the opportunity to visit a garden that you’ve drooled over in a magazine? Not many right? And that is why I drove to Eugene, Oregon, last Saturday. It was a bright sunny day, which made for a lovely drive…and challenging garden photography. If you would like to see better photos of the garden you should take a moment and look at the Mosaic Gardens online journal. I can’t remember if I first saw this garden in Sunset, Fine Gardening, or Garden Design, but what I do remember is how much I loved it. The owners (the duo behind the landscape design/build company Mosaic Gardens), moved from Austin to Eugene in 2002. I asked Rebecca Sams (1/2 of the duo… Buell Steelman is the other half) why move to Eugene?...“Buell and I loved the people and culture of Austin, and we adored working for Gardens (where they got their start in the biz). However, when we knew we wanted to strike out on our own, we wanted to find a new home with a more temperate climate and better access to mountains and ocean. Having grown up in the Southeast, we were over heat and flatlands! We took a trip up the west coast, stopping at several places along the way. We loved coastal California, but when we hit Eugene, we knew we were home. We both grew up in college towns about the size of Eugene (Tallahassee, FL and Baton Rouge, LA), so Eugene felt familiar. But better!" I’ve tried to order these pictures as though you were walking up to the house and through the garden, which is a long “L” shape with the bottom of the L behind the house. I was most surprised at the size of the garden. When I saw it in print each vignette seemed expansive, but in “real life” it truly is a small urban lot. One could say (if one said such things) that it “lives large” (yuck, I didn't say that). Being a faithful reader of Pam Penick’s Austin based blog 'Digging' I am well aware of the heat and drought that Austin gardeners face. Still in my make believe (don’t actually have to live it) world leaving behind the perfect conditions for growing agaves, and other dry heat lovers, would be hard. I asked if this was the case and Rebecca’s reply set me straight...“Gardening in Austin was many, many times harder than gardening in the PNW. We battled drought, heat and voracious pests, and any smidgen of planting diversity felt like a hard won battle. Even the deer were worse there (some people here don't buy this, but in Austin, the deer would eat the hearts of Agaves - no kiddin'). So, much more of an easy and welcome change."
I really do take the wealth of gardening here in Oregon for granted don’t I? The area beyond the vegetable garden is fenced off to give their dogs room to play without having to worry about plants being trampled. From their journal: “Our dog run doubles as an orchard, and we grow grapes on the bull wire fence that separates the space from the veggie garden. The pea gravel is easy to clean, and it doesn’t track in on wet paws.” The sign in the vegetable garden explains that the soil is getting a much needed a rest this year. Last fall they planted small-seeded fava beans (which act as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop) these were recently tilled in and they’ll repeat it again this fall. Next year with the enriched soil they'll have enough veggies for the neighborhood! Close up of the dog run, not bad huh? Their succulent collection (which is cozied up against a small covered porch) goes inside for the winter months. I asked if these treasures came with up them from Texas and learned that only a few of the succulents were from Buell's garden in Austin. Others are from nurseries and botanic gardens in Northern California (they especially love the Bancroft Garden). And others are from Oregon nurseries, like Cistus, and pups from established plants on the Oregon coast (where they have a second home). Looking at all of these gems I started to wonder if I should have stuck to a single color for my containers. Most of theirs are terra cotta and the sameness of the containers really lets the plants have the spot-light. The PNW Hardy Plant Society’s Study Weekend will be held in Eugene next year… which do doubt means a chance for attendees to see this wonderful garden. In the mean time if you follow their online journal (mosaicgardens.wordpress.com) you will no doubt learn of other opportunities to visit…and I recommend it!
A special thank you to Rebecca for answering my questions about their garden via email! I was on a mission that day and had to get on the road to Dancing Oaks (of course more on that later) and couldn't wait "in line" to chat in the garden, as they were very popular hosts!