Friday, May 20, 2022

Visiting the Eyebrow House garden...

The notes I keep on my phone include a running list of gardens to drive-by and visit. These are gardens others have told me I should see, as well as the gardens of people that I've talked with, who've invited me to stop by—today's post is the latter. The owner/gardener Marc Wheeler Byrne and I have emailed frequently over the past couple of years. I've intended to stop by, and finally did when he opened for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon on May 7th...
I knew Marc had a pretty fantastic palette of plants he was working with, thanks to our conversations. I also think he sold things a little short with his official garden description: Neo-Jurassic, tropical with ferns, two Douglas firs and a western red cedar. I mean sure, I suppose that hit the basics, but really, there is so much more!

Marc and his wife Kayce bought the home in mid 2012, from an architect by the name of Edgar Papazian who had worked to remodel the 1941 home into something much more interesting. He gave it a name too, the Eyebrow House, I'm sure you can figure out why. 
Marc later saw the work of landscape designer Michael Schultz and hired him to design the garden, work started in Sept of 2107 and was completed Feb of 2018. The garden looks and feels much more mature than that!

The front garden is a masterpiece of geometric style, I love the restraint.

Plus, there are agaves! And bananas that are pouting because of our cool temperatures, imagine them lush...

The solid carpet of Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black' between the pavers is a thing of beauty.

And then I turned to focus on the big agaves. Yes please!

Marc IDs these as Agave americana x protoamericana, and while they're not loving our cool and very wet spring they're still looking rather fabulous. I love the mix with the big rocks and yellow yucca.

We're walking along the side of the house now, towards the back garden, notice the tall Tetrapanax peeking over the fence. 

This is where I should mention that while Marc works within a design for the garden layout, he has very much taken over with an artists eye and a love for plants. I asked him how he got into gardening: "Owning a home. I have always been into design, and have a painting and photography degree. Plants are soothing. Gardening is a 3-dimensional painting, plus 4 seasons. A painting sometimes will tell you when it is done, a garden never tells you that.

Sonchus canariensis, I think?

It's rare that I spot Arthropodium candidum 'Purpureum' (New Zealand rock lily, the mauve strappy plant) in a garden. I love that plant!

Schefflera taiwaniana sandwiched in between the side porch and basement egress window.

The Corokia contoneaster looks quite at home in a container.

Naturally there's a plant in the window well, Marc is a true cramscaper.

Moving into the back garden now; what a great space to hang out under cover...

Walking to the far side of the covered space and looking down this is what you see; a lush shady garden below. There were steps down into that space from from where I was standing, but they were a little steep with no railing, I didn't trust myself. Sometimes my foot/ankle still gets a bit funky (I'm coming up on the one year anniversary of the break) and I figured better safe than sorry.

So I retraced my steps backward, stopping to admire an agave, 'Blue Glow' I believe.

And to stare at the back side of the house, wow!

A fine patch of Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty'—actually there were two patches, they flanked the wide stairs.

Another nice clump of pouting bananas.

To the left of the bananas...

As I take the wide steps down into the lower garden, and pause to look back.

Dasylirion wheeleri underplanted with black mondo grass—what a dramatic combination.

There's something you don't see everyday here in Portland, an in-ground cycad.

Mid-level now, on my descent into the lower garden. It's tempting to sit for a spell and see if a beverage shows up on the side table. I love the repeated circles...

Butia capitata, if my memory serves.

I did not ask for ID on the unfurling fronds.

A pair of this wonderfully colored phormium flanked the entrance into the lower garden. I wish I would have gotten a pulled back photo of the pair.

Looking towards the NE corner of the garden and that luxurious hammock.

This section of the garden is where Marc's skill at combining different textures really shines. All the plants are green, but most definitely not boring. Marc's preference for a foliage garden rather than a floral one is is definitely something we share.

Looking at the backside of the covered seating area we visited earlier.

And now towards the NW corner.

I spent quite a bit of time slowly walking through this part of the garden, trying to focus on each individual plant. I'm certain I missed quite a few treasures though. 

There were lots of different aspidistra (cast iron plant)...

Fatsia polycarpa 'Needhams Lace'

See what I mean about texture? Also, so many different shades of green.

I spy a bromeliad dropped into the garden!

As I mentioned to Marc, I've never cared for this particular impatiens, with the pink center stripe. Here though, with the astelia it's magic.

Heading back up the steps, to the upper level of the back garden...

Those bananas again...

And the inviting seating area...

Here are a few orienting shots that I should have started this part of the post with, but I also wanted to stay in order I took photos. So, this is looking straight at the back of the house from the top of those steps I just climbed.

And now I've stepped up onto the back deck of the house and I'm looking down into the garden. To the left....


And right...

Sadly now I'm headed back out towards the street and it's a wrap on this fabulous garden visit! Fingers crossed I'll return again sometime soon. I must wrap up this post with Marc's words that bear repeating: "A painting sometimes will tell you when it is done, a garden never tells you that."

All material © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. This is a lovely garden.

    Lots of really interesting plants and hard landscaping.

    Some people get phased having a garden on different levels, but this works really well.

    The house is very cool as well. I thought that the front of the house looked funky, but the back is amazing.

    The feather palm in the front garden looks like a Jubaea chilensis. These are very slow growing, but will look stunning in the years to come. In fact, you can see that some of the other plants will also grow and mature over the years (the Fatsia and Schefflera).

    1. Marc replied below and confirmed your Jubaea chilensis ID. And your right about the different levels, they are an important part of this garden I think.

  2. AnonymousMay 20, 2022

    Oh, the back of this house is amazing. I can't even imagine how fantastic it will look when the bananas finally stop pouting. I am very glad you found your way into the lower garden (without risking injury); for a moment I feared you may skip it.
    I find the rusty iron sheets very impressive visually: perfect for creating just the right atmosphere.
    Green on green in a shady garden... a little piece of heaven.

    1. Oh there's no way I could skip it! All that shady goodness was calling to me.

  3. Oooh, we love the eyebrow house! In our old neighborhood, we'd walk by it frequently and admire what Marc was up to in the garden. A lot of it reminds me of vignettes in your garden, Loree. I'd love to see it sometime in person. What amazing foliage textures, indeed - this garden generates a lot of great foliage combination ideas. Wonderful.

    1. You are welcome anytime, and I cant wait to see your place too:-)

    2. Marc gave his contact info below if you'd like to visit... and I wondered if you'd been by since you used to live so close.

  4. I joined HPSO and can't wait to see some gardens. But this! This is just a phenomenally designed and planted space, The "eyebrow" must flood the house with whatever light is available...

    1. You can see interior pics by googling eyebrow house pdx

    2. I suspect you are right about the light, and Marc said the reflective material continues inside. Also... Marc's info is below if you'd like to visit sometime!

  5. It's a beautifully curated plant collection with so many interesting species. I loved the back garden. The plants fit the vibe of the house exceptionally well too.

    1. Right? I thought so too (plants and house)

  6. Thank you Loree for coming, it has been such a long wait to meet you - and an honor to have you at our home. You have influenced my garden so much:-) Anyone who would like to stop by feel free to shoot me a text 503.289.5457. @Adam yes that is a Jubaea...I cant wait until it is 5 feet thick and 80 feet 80 years:-o

    1. You are very generous sharing your contact info Marc, I hope some folks take you up on the offer! It was a pleasure to visit and to meet you!

  7. The garden is as quirky and unique as the house.

  8. I looked at these photos twice over the weekend because they are so striking. Well, the house above all, but the garden ain't no slouch either. Together, they make a perfect combination. Are those Corten panels against the fence?

  9. AnonymousMay 23, 2022

    They are not corten, that was going to be too much. Laura Sol at SolCreations, did all metal work at our home, including the fire pit:-) Marc

    1. They look awesome! What a fantastic place you have!

  10. I like the contemporary look of the both the house and the gardens. Very nice. Clean.

    'Platt's Black' has always been one of my favorite "black" plants. Alas, we don't get enough sunlight in the Concrete Jungle to grow it...


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