Monday, September 2, 2013

Portland, the city of gardens?

On last Friday’s blog post Gerhard commented saying: “looking at Portland through your blog gives people the impression that *everybody* is a gardener, but still, Portland does seem to have a disproportionately high number of stunning gardens--and nurseries/garden centers.” I agree, with both points. We do have a huge number of stunning gardens and nurseries/garden centers. I think both our climate and an active gardening community are to thank. With the wealth of gardens here in Portland I have a never ending supply of beautiful gardens to photograph and share with you all, I could keep the illusion going for quite some time. But instead I've got to answer the question, is everybody in Portland a gardener? No. No no no no and no. This is a fairly typical parking strip in my neighborhood.

And a gardened front yard...well, okay not really. But you see a lot of yards just like this.

This home shows signs of a gardener having once lived there…

But now the weeds have control.

In the interest of full and balanced disclosure it's time I do some drive-by shots of my non-gardening neighbors. Non gardening in the front yard that is. Of course we really have no idea what’s going on in their back yards do we?

And in order to give you a well rounded sense of things I share this garden...perhaps we've finally stumbled back into gardening Portland? Well as we all know, looks can be deceiving.

Surely a gardener lives there, right? Nope. I’ve never once seen these people in their garden. It’s all done via their checkbook. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they enjoy it, and I’d much rather someone see the value in hiring a gardening service rather than just letting their front yard be full of weeds.

One other photo before we go. Here’s multifamily housing (apts or condos?) with a garden many home owners would be proud of!

So there, I’ve torn the cover off and exposed the real Portland. Can’t have you thinking everyone here is a gardener, it’s just most of us!

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

47 comments:

  1. Gerhard only said what I think every time you post photos from one of your walks or a nursery visit. Thanks for balancing things out. :)

    Can you imagine what it would be like if *everybody* had a garden -- even if it were just a single block. Some people are just too urban for this though.

    At first glance I thought you had snuck in an old "before" photo of your house into this post. :)

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    1. I find myself fantasizing about having conversations with these people. Asking why they don't have the desire to beautify their surroundings. But then I imagine them staring at me with the same lack of understanding when I admit I've never seen an episode of 'Lost.' 'Dancing with the Stars' or any other hot prime time television show.

      That would have been a great idea, to sneak in a shot of our house. However since they'd beautified things before putting it on the market (fresh bark, hanging basket, the rhodie and azaleas looking trimmed) it was looking a little gardened in the only shot I have of it.

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  2. Now we know, of course it's pretty typical of most cities. I would imagine the weeds can get out of control fast in Portland so gardening is the best defense. The houses with neatly trimmed yards and just one or two shrubs near the house are amusing.

    In San Antonio those would be house-eating prickly pear or agaves.

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    1. The only thing that stops the weeds from becoming a complete jungle is when the rains stop for the summer. If it just kept on falling good lord it could be scary!

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  3. Great post, Loree. Indeed we are surrounded by a certain lack of gardening interest, to be sure. I often fantasize what I would do with each yard were it mine....do you do that too? Great stuff!

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    1. Yes I do! Back before I owned a house and soil to garden in I fantasized about the ability to take away houses and yards that weren't being cared for. They'd be forced to live in an apartment and I'd get to move into their house and take care of it and garden.

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  4. Third picture from the end. Prostrate junipers on the front slope was a ubiquitous look round these parts for years. What was everyone thinking? (I know, you don't have to mow or water it and once it grows together you can stop putting down beauty (effing) bark.) Try to ignore the fragrance resembling that of cat urine.

    Love this post and think maybe you could start another meme, "Non gardeners in our midst" or "Invasion of the Garden Snatchers" or maybe, "They dwell amongst us." It could happen on the 17th of every month right after foliage follow up!

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    1. Whenever I see a mass of junipers like that I always wonder what's been lost in there? How many kids balls, newspapers, big gulp cups, etc. are hiding in that overgrown mass?

      Great meme idea...I think YOU should run with it!

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  5. To my English eyes your houses have so much character and quirkiness and it seems a pity that more arent added to with interesting gardens or some sort of order and care

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  6. We turned our green lawn into a vegie garden with herbs and greens that keep us going thru the winter down here near Medford Ore. Wish I could show a picture. Gerry in Talent Oregon

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    1. Perhaps you need to start a blog Gerry?

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  7. Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!! Ah yes, reality is an eye opener. I ought to grab my camera and get some shots of my neighbor's "gardens". The house immediately next door to me has seven or so cars parked in the yard and at one time they had a decrepit panel truck parked two feet from our property line that was being used as a shed. Need I say more? LOL, that is why my driveway garden is turning into a shrub/tree garden to screen the view next door

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    1. Oh yes, nothing says "no garden here" quite like cars in the yard. And wow...a mobile shed! What a great idea (yikes). I hope your shrub and tree border is doing the job.

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  8. I like Outlaws idea! They Dwell Amongst Us. teehee. Portland does give the impression of being a gardening city. The Willamette Valley in general has that reputation, I think. It's wonderful to live in such a place were there is a high percentage of people who enjoy gardening. But, I have on my own little street, neighbors on all sides who do not. I'm the only one. sigh.

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    1. You're an island of garden in a see of lawns? Have any of your neighbors stopped to ask you questions, indicating there may be a hint of gardening interest there?

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  9. These pictures have me cringing! All those neglected gardens are so sad. Thank goodness they are just crammed together for illustration purposes here. If this was an actual streetscape, I'd be really depressed!

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    1. I was just glad the sun was shining the day I decided to take these photos. A cloudy grey sky would have pushed the sad factor right over the top.

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  10. Gerhard's comment very much sums up my thoughts about where you live as well!

    Friday's pair were another pair of crackers :)

    The pictures up above made me chuckle in a way because although Portland's finest as miles better than 99% of the gardens around where I live your worst ones are worse than around here, but only just ha ha!

    Mind you, I used to be very much into the car detailing scene and would religiously wash it every weekend and regularly polish and wax it. However, as time passed my priorities changed and I had other tasks to do and car detailing slipped down the list.

    Interestingly enough I probably wash my mountain bike more often than I wash my car now.

    Most people have limited time and if you have more things that you want to do in your time than time available something has to give and in the cases above it is their gardens.

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    1. Adam I didn't even photograph the worse ones, couldn't make myself do it. And of course you're right, time is the biggest issue. We could all use more of it...

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  11. fifi la fontaineSeptember 02, 2013

    Ahhhh, love this post! Most of those houses shown have waaaay more charm than my dull rectangular box of a ranch house and so I find it doubly odd that they choose to miss the opportunity to take their curb appeal over the top. It IS a lot of work to keep up a garden, but so worth it.

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  12. For some people, cutting the grass is the limit of their "gardening" interest. Judging by your photos, for others, even that is too much gardening.

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    1. It's worse in the summer, when the grass goes dormant and they figure "why bother"...of course the weeds don't go dormant.

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  13. Most of those yards would be cited for maintenance even in my ghetto neighborhood! I have no problem with brown lawns (mine is not verdant) but at least I keep it trimmed. I wonder if a lot of those homeowners are in foreclosure or something?

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    1. Gosh no. You can tell the ones in foreclosure, they're worse.

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  14. Hi! I have been reading your blog since I first heard of it earlier this summer. I was working on a rock garden in my front yard when a couple walked by and commented on the agave parryi j.c. raulston I was putting in the ground, the woman mentioned your blog and said it was the featured plant that day! Since it was the second time that day danger garden had come up, I decided I should check it out. I have been reading ever since! My property looks very much like some in this post, with manicured golden lawns and very little in the way of plantings. I am a new gardener and my first plantings are almost a year old in the backyard where I have been working all summer.
    I am writing this to ask you about yucca rostrata. I happened across a baby one at Portland Nursery and was compelled to snag it up! I am running out good space for it in back in the beds already established and wasn't sure where I wanted to put her, so I placed her in a pot for now. I am wondering if I should shelter her under my covered patio for the winter as I don't think I'll get her in the ground this fall. I probably should have asked this at the nursery but I was just so excited that I just didn't think to...do you think she'll be ok in a pot exposed or should I shelter her? I would really appreciate your opinion!
    Danger Garden has pretty much become my favorite place on the entire internet...it always brightens my day!

    Thanks- Kiersten

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    1. Hi Kiersten, you obviously have fabulous taste in plants having both an Agave parryi (J.C. no less!) and a Yucca rostrata!

      Indeed you just never know what might be lurking in the back yard, and people have all sorts of different reasons for not planting much in the front. Sounds like you're creating a private oasis and eventually will need to start taking over the front yard as you acquire more plants? So about that Yucca rostrata I would try and keep it from getting to waterlogged over the winter. Some containers drain better than others and you just want to make sure it's not holding moisture. The temps shouldn't be an issue unless we get an arctic event (hope not). They're hardy to zone 7a (0F) but you have to figure plants are about a zone less hardy in a container (less soil to protect their roots) so if we're predicted to fall anywhere close to 15F I'd add a little extra protection around the roots. My biggest Y. rostrata spent it's first winter with us in container and it was a cold one. I just wrapped the pot really well during the cold snap.

      Good luck with your garden and thanks for the kind words about the blog!

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    2. Thanks for the helpful info! You are right on about the backyard private oasis,! My front yard is very sloped in that special Portland way (a corner lot to boot!), and needs a good retaining wall or some terracing, as well as a removal of an old hideous laurel and an unhealthy rhodie! There have been one or two things I've slipped in out there to liven things up in the interim...Thanks again for your thoughts on my yucca rostrata! cheers!

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  15. We should remeber that gardening is often a luxery.

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    1. Indeed owning a home and a bit of land is a luxury that not everyone can afford (or desires). I think the biggest luxury involved in gardening is time. Someone working a demanding job or two to make ends meet, maybe with kids, just isn't likely to have the time to care about gardening. However even when I was barely making ends meet I still had a garden, it can be done on the cheap.

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  16. The only thing missing to me is what I call the rental garden. You know the one. A gardener lives there, is a bit "granola", probably goes to college in the area, and although it's got a lot of gardening activity, it looks well, like a hippy commune lives there. Come to think of it, many of these houses are communal. We've got plenty of them over here and I think there are more up in NoPo. I should blog about those since in a sense I came out of that world, or rather, I lived on its fringes.

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    1. Yes indeed...I didn't manage to capture that one but there are plenty of them out there!

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  17. I live in inner SE and walking down the streets you really see the most gorgeous gardens as well as the most neglected ones; and some are well taken care of, but are so boooring . . . and then there's the garden I came across with a large area composed of only the very super brightest colors, barely any green and nothing to cleanse the palate, so to speak, a full frontal attack. Definitely a design statement, but on a sunny day it hurt the eyes.
    Today I walked by a lovely garden and fell in love with a plant. I wonder if there's a place where I can post pictures in case someone can help me identify it?
    Thanks,
    Tal

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    1. Oh man I want to see this colorful garden! Where oh where is it?

      You can feel free to email me a photo of the plant in question. If I can't identify it I'll put in on facebook and see what people say. Email spiky plants at gmail dot com (you know, with no spaces and the proper dots and symbols).

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  18. Looks like my neighborhood. What about those plastic milk jugs filled with water, do you ever see those out in front yards? Hey, there's no Ailanthus in any of those shots - that's the not-so-benign side of non-gardening...(sorry, my soapbox)

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    1. Oh yes I can think of a couple of those "jug gardens" (they're to keep cats away right?). Sorry no Ailanthus, I'll try harder next time! :)

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  19. Portland still seems to have a disproportionate amount of people who actually care about their gardens and into gardening, something to aspire too :)

    Perhaps some of the 'wilder' gardens are just into prairie and naturalistic style of gardening....

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    1. That's actually what I try and tell myself (prairie and naturalistic style) but sometimes I just can't believe it.

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  20. Oooohhhhh, all those blank slates! Sometimes I am tempted to start everything over again.

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  21. Aren't those sad, sad houses without even a touch of garden around the front porch? Thanks for the reality check.

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  22. You know, Fall is the perfect time for a Guerrilla Gardening: we could form a brigade...

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  23. Is this a public service announcement? I see gardeners from around the world rushing to Portland to rescue these houses and fill in the gaps in our legendary eden. I also like Patricia's idea.

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  24. The houses are so cute, though.

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  25. I am somewhat relieved that Portland is not the Valhalla of gardening I had thought it to be. It makes me feel better about my own city's lack of a strong gardening ethos.

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