Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Minh's exotic garden, in Portland

The last several garden visits I've written about have been from Texas, today we're back in Portland and checking out a garden I learned of via Instagram. Minh messaged me last spring about damage on one his Agave ovatifolia; we corresponded and he shared his address, inviting me to come by to see the garden. I finally took him up on it on a recent cool, but sunny day...

Right away those palms in the hellstrip had me smiling, then when I spotted this Agave victoriae-reginae (also in the hellstrip), well, I was very glad I stopped. What a beauty! This one "should" be hardy here in Portland—it's a Zone 8 plant—but I hadn't seen one planted out, until now. Minh has a few in the ground, I look forward to reports on how they're doing.

Turning towards the house you can see his short breeze-block barrier...

 ...and that he's taken steps to keep the rain off a trio of "front-line" agaves.

Including a handsome Agave ovatifolia...

...and a nice Agave 'Sharkskin'.

There's a similar (but reversed) line-up on the other side of the house sidewalk.

 Agave 'Baccarat' (this one with pups!) finishes each trio.

Between the agave line-up and the house is a palm oasis.

I tried to take a couple photos into the palm forest (a mix of trachycarpus, chamaerops and even a Butia capitata—if memory serves) but the harsh sun/shadows and their serrated leaves made for impossible photo conditions.

So instead I walked around to the driveway side of things and appreciated the yuccas, including a trunking Yucca rostrata, and a very blue Dasylirion wheeleri.

Then discovered this amazing agave collection up near the house!

Notice the window-sill is lined with indoor, non-hardy plants... 

Agave lophantha 'Splendida', I believe, with an Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' to it's right—or make that several. Where there is one 'Quadricolor' there are many.

Agave parryi

Another Agave victoriae-reginae, and several pups of other agaves around it.

Agave applanata 'Cream Spike', in a nice sheltered position right up against the house.

Up until this point I had been snapping photos without actually talking to Minh. We didn't have a plan for me to stop by the day I did—I just realized I was nearby and it wasn't raining, so why not? He'd told me to stop by whenever, and knock on the door as chances are he'd be home. And he was!

And because plant people are the best, he also invited me to check out the back garden—noting that it is a work in progress. I predict more of that lawn will be removed as the plantings expand.

Aren't the repeated circles fabulous?

As is the tall "wall-o-palms, and friends" (my name, not Minh's).

Near the corner of the house is a rhododendron limbed up so well I had to do a double take.

As well as a large opuntia that's so shiny it almost looks fake.

Before I walked back around to the front of the garden Minh shared this hidden space off the back of the house. Plants-in-waiting kept warm and dry, extra warm if he fires up the sauna. I wonder if this area isn't now chock full of any plants he could move, as we're in the midst of a stretch of cold weather with snow.

Back out front I admired this planting again, while on my way to...

... opuntia alley—this is Minh's name, quite apt too. It's the narrow side yard on the south side of his home.

There are large opuntia...

As well as small ones.

Back at the front of the house there's another (flawless) Agave applanata 'Cream Spike'.

Looking towards the palm forest...

I asked Minh if he had plans to remove the rest of the lawn in the front of the house, under the dogwood tree..."I am leaving the lil lawn under the dogwood. Too shaded to grow any of my spikys happily. Also might add a covered front porch/deck in that area sometime so need to keep area clear for that." Hmmm, a covered porch, that could be very cool!

Checking out the backside of some of the front agaves.

And now we're back looking at the hellstrip and it's mix of potted and in-ground plants.

Odd angle, those tall bare trees are across the street, in the neighbor's hellstrip.

Just a couple more photos...

Thanks Minh for the invite and your hospitality! Fingers crossed for your plants as we endure this crazy cold period after so much rain.

All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. That's a hefty collection of agaves! Larger than mine I think. I hope you both make it through the snowfall with few, or preferably no, losses.

    1. His collection is pretty amazing! We've been very lucky this go-round here in Portland, temperatures have stayed pretty mild, the snow hasn't been excessive and best of all... no ice! I am cautiously optimistic.

  2. Beautiful. Minh has an eye for detail and repeated elements. Very tastefully done. I love the use of river rocks and those circle stepping stones around the fire pit add a great visual interest. Photo 26 has not only cool plants but the added wonder of shade and reflection of the bare tree branches.

    1. I agree. Minh's use of large rocks in the place of where one would usually see smaller gravel is very inspired. As for the reflection I was so glad I stopped by on a sunny day!

  3. What a great garden. And what a wonderful hellstrip. Love the repetition of the gravel and stone filled planters.

    1. The emphasis really stays on the plants when the planters are all a a consistent material.

  4. I love how Minh has tied it all together with palms-it really flows nicely !

    1. Agreed. Can you imagine what the backyard will become as he expands the plantings? Magical!

  5. Beautiful! The landscaping and rock work is really special, too!

    1. And those planters aren't going anywhere! (so heavy...)

  6. What an eclectic garden. First impression with all the palms is it has an Asian feel but then the agaves and opuntias shout desert. Yet it all works beautifully together. Loved how Minh uses round river rocks as mulch. Adds a lot of texture. Beautiful garden. Thanks for the tour.

    1. Texture is a word that definitely applies with all different sized stones! The palms and agaves make this such an all season garden, visiting in December I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything I would have seen in the summer. Although I would love to go back and make sure...

  7. PlantPantherDecember 31, 2021

    Just to clarify, those 'rain barriers' are some form of clear corrugated plastic? They actually look nice (and not expensive, along with the cement blocks to hold them up).

  8. I'm just getting to this post, and it's such an amazing and inspiring garden for Portland. I'm especially intrigued with Minh's clever rain protection. My issue with so many of that type of protection is the (unfortunately) ugly nature of them. But to me, this design is sleek and attractive. I may try to copy them - next winter!


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