Friday, July 8, 2022

Return to the Silverton Garden—a real visit this time

Back in March I shared photos from a random drive-by garden I spotted in Silverton, Oregon. The photos were horrid, but I had to share—hoping maybe they would be seen by someone who knew the gardener and I'd be put in touch. Well folks, it happened! In early June I was invited over for a tour, and the garden is even better than I imagined. Plus the gardener is a super nice guy with seemingly unlimited talent. This is gonna be a very long post, but I have a feeling you'll wish it was even longer.

Here's where I parked, right in front of this picture perfect slice of heaven.

Walking up to knock on the door I passed this gorgeous clump of rodgersia.

Here's a little backstory before I launch into photo-overload. Doug Ballinger is the creator of this paradise, Brenda Ballinger is the one who uses social media, reached out to me, and got this visit scheduled. Doug has been working on this garden for 15 years now, he's an ironworker by trade (thus all the cool metal creations) but an artist at heart—as well as an amazing gardener. 

Doug has read my blog over the years, so I wasn't a complete stranger to him, but he's such a nice guy I think he'd happy tour anyone through the garden. To say that I was blown away by what I saw sounds trite, but it's the closest I can come to describing the experience of walking around the garden. Doug and I are obviously kindred spirits when it comes to plant choices, but he's taken them to an entirely different place with the way he's put the garden together. Let's get started...

After we walked out the front door and took a right into the garden Doug casually pointed to this new planting area in progress as we passed. Check out that framework and the expertly placed rocks, what a great beginning! 

The first of of three gorgeous Agave ovatifolia I'll share, and colorful poppies that were a constant throughout the front garden, I'm glad I visited while they were in bloom.

I was so jealous when I saw this old sink used as a planter. We had one just like it but Andrew had to bust it into small pieces to get it up out of our basement. Plus, I just don't think I could have carried it off the way that Doug did.

Tall metal panels separate Doug and Brenda's front garden from the next door neighbor's driveway.

Cirsium somesomething, I believe.

Looking back over my shoulder at the side garden, we'll walk though this space later in the post.

I spotted this line of square planters during my March visit, but they weren't planted up like this then.

I also didn't remember the striking Agave victoriae-reginae. Turns out Doug employs the same technique I sometimes do, lifting a few plants in the fall and keeping them undercover for winter, then planting out in the spring.

Pots are also expertly nestled into the garden.

You've no doubt spotted the pathways. Pieces of metal interspersed with rocks, they are works of art.

From the street I thought this trunking yucca was a Y. rostrata, but it's not. Maybe a Yucca elata? Yucca thompsoniana? Doug didn't know for sure, maybe you can ID?

Close up...

I think he said he's been lifting this Agave 'Sharkskin', if so I hope he'll consider leaving it out in the future. I should be hardy for us here in the greater Portland area. I've had one out for two years now, and Lance had one in his hellstrip that grew to blooming size.

More pathway artistry...

Sempervivum tucked in... 

I walked the garden with Doug, and then again on my own—however I am sure there are things I missed. There's so much to see!

I commented on how unusual it was to have a split trunked Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle tree) and Doug pointed out there are actually three growing points, the third is at the back.

Looking towards the street and the tall Yucca rostrata.

And then towards the second Agave ovatifolia, which was HUGE! Sadly I've just now realized I forgot the name of the sexy—well pruned—arctostaphylos. Oh well. Lack of ID doesn't take away from it's beauty.

More metal pipe planters—round this time—perfectly set-off by the rocks at their base.

But you know what really catches my eye in that grouping? Yep... this amazing variegated agave. Somehow I missed it when I walked through with Doug, but spotted it on my solo pass. It looks like a variegated version of what I know as Agave 'Royal Spine'.

Another view of the pathway...

And the third Agave ovatifolia, and it's equally sexy arctostaphylos partner.

Have you been appreciating the poppies? Who knew agaves and poppies made such a good match.

When I first spotted the garden this big metal planter was empty, but not anymore! (the tree behind it, to the left is a silver-leaf oak, Quercus hypoleucoides—I wish I'd have gotten a shot that really featured it as it's a beauty)

Check out the fun layers of plants and rocks.

I remember working my way around it, touching all the plants and different rock textures as I went. I am horrible in museums, but thankfully gardeners don't seem to mind when you touch their works of art.

Can you even? I still pinch myself at the dumb luck involved in my coming across this garden. What if I hadn't gone with Andrew that day? What if I'd been looking at my phone as we passed, and this ginormous Agave ovatifolia hadn't caught my eye?

There are gardens and gardeners that get a lot of press, ones we all know and visit over and over again. They're on local tours, they have names, they're loved by many. But seeing this garden and talking with Doug wondered how many amazing gardens are completely unknown to all of us, just around the corner? On the next street over? 

I'm backtracking now, you've seen this agave before, but hey, it's so good I'm sharing it again. No, that's not a real snake, although it did cause me pause.

Same agave, different view.

I know this gorgeous number as Agave 'Royal Spine', same as the one we drooled over earlier, but not variegated.

Up against the house now and there are more "upcycled" planters and other artistic work.

I should have done an agave count, I bet there are more agaves in this garden than there are in mine.

I feel like I'm running out of complimentary things to say, but really!? Look at this!

The placement within the over all garden, the plants, the rocks and bits of metal, and, and, and...

Best of all it's authentic to who Doug is and what he does.

Just a couple more shots of the front garden...

Walking through the side garden now, and looking back towards the front. Vegetables are being taking over by flowers (or maybe I've got that backwards?)...

And pots of spikes in waiting are worked in here and there.

Now we've walked through the gate at the end of the side yard and I'm about to discover the shady magic that is the back garden.

I felt so at home here, with the same layout that I have in my garden. Sunny drought tolerant spikes in the front, shady moisture lovers in the back. Even a nice patch of syneilesis.

Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart's Tongue Fern) looking absolutely fabulous.

And damn! That's a nice clump of Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern).

Blechnum spicant/Struthiopteris spicant (deer fern) with a zillion fertile fronds.

Silver Creek runs along the back of their property. Andrew would probably be out fishing every night if he had this amenity.

Turning back towards the garden. Metapanax delavayi on the left, tall Tetrapanax on the right.

Working our way along the north(ish) side of the house now...

Again, I am in awe of the artistry at work.

I feel so lucky to have been toured through the garden by it's creator and care-taker.

Thank you Doug and Brenda! Your garden is a magical place, I am thrilled to get to share it here on my blog, thank you!

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


  1. AnonymousJuly 08, 2022

    WOW! What an incredible garden. It’s got everything. Love everything about it. What a talented couple. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ha! I, too, am a tactile person - touching the plants in the nursery. My boyfriend gives me a hard time about it, but I just. cannot. stop.

    1. I know there are several studies out there saying that plants don't like to be touched... but I have a hard time believing that!

  3. Elizabeth ToepferJuly 08, 2022

    I love the rusty do dads and the pipe planters, square and round etcx.

  4. It certainly is a beautiful garden with lots of really interesting plants plus the metalwork adds an artistic touch to it :)

    You are right about the two of you being kindred spirits plant-wise!

    1. Except for the poppies, I am poppy-less!

  5. AnonymousJuly 08, 2022


  6. A stunning garden, thanks for sharing it. Sounds like you met a kindred soul.

  7. AnonymousJuly 08, 2022

    A beautiful garden; thank you!

  8. Wow is right! Even in the front garden with mostly things I can't grow, there was so much to enjoy in terms of scale and texture. His metal/stone combos are absolutely inspiriting. But I am bowled over by some of this plants in the back garden that I can grow. A garden full of inspiration and achievement.

    1. Everything looks so healthy and well cared for doesn't it?

  9. You have an excellent eye for pinpointing fabulous gardens, Loree. I love the combination of the "soft" plants I always associate with the PNW and the spiny succulents. The paths and the metal containers add interest and beg visitors to slow down for a closer examination.

  10. Thank you for posting so many photos, and you are right, I just want MORE MORE MORE! Awesome and artistic garden, love it!

    1. Glad you enjoyed Jeanne, it was hard to narrow it down to just 58 photos!

  11. so much to love about this garden! I love seeing the different style of gardens in different parts of a space, and how in this one they incorporated vegetable beds!

    1. Each of the four sides of the house has such a different style to it, yet they all work together. I definitely wish I had side gardens!

  12. Patti NequetteJuly 08, 2022

    So inspiring! I love seeing all the drought tolerant combinations. And the creative hardscaping. I'm one to bring home beach rocks bucket by bucket and on the hunt for rusty metal containers and art. This is great to see.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Always on the hunt... you never know what you might find!

  13. Patti NequetteJuly 08, 2022

    Thanks for sharing this amazing garden!

  14. AnonymousJuly 08, 2022

    Wow. Lucky you for getting the opportunity to visit. I adore the rock/metal paths that are so artfully done. It helps that Doug is the ironwork trade. Using black french doors as gate to the back garden is so elegant and inviting. In multiple photos I see long flower stocks with burgundy blooms... what are those?

    1. I wanted to call those out as Echium russicum but I wasn't sure.

  15. Jeanne DeBenedetti KeyesJuly 08, 2022

    Gorgeous! Thanks for the tour. What an inventive use of all that rusty metal. Are the black spines on the regular A. 'Royal Spine' longer? Or is that an optical allusion? Bred for long spines?

    1. You've got me there, I am not sure. It's a spectacular agave, but I don't know much about it.

  16. AnonymousJuly 09, 2022

    thanks for making my garden look so great Loree, your photos are gorgeous!

    1. Ah, thanks for the compliment about the photos—but you're the one who made your garden look great!

  17. OK, your teaser on FB intrigued me, and you weren't kidding. What a wonderful garden, full of magical details to discover, plus stunning big plants and planters as focal points. The back is a shady surprise after the xeric front, and that stream too?? Wow, what a property.

  18. AnonymousJuly 09, 2022

    Everything area is so pleasing to my eye. Enchanting.

  19. PlantPantherJuly 09, 2022

    You are correct, that plant is a Cirsium, most likely Cirsium rivulare (Giant Thistle, Plume Thistle). I searched it out, it's so cool!

    1. Thanks for the full name—every stage of bloom was fabulous. From bud to full flower it was just fabulous.

  20. AnonymousJuly 09, 2022

    Loree I told you that was A white oak, but it's A silver leaf oak Quercus hypoleucoides

  21. AnonymousJuly 09, 2022

    Amazing place! We spotted the front yard a few years back and were intrigued. Never dreamed it would be such a find! Truly a slice of paradise.

  22. I think I just died and went to horticultural heaven! Perfection! And what I wouldn’t give for one of those Agave ovatifolia specimens….

  23. I'm totally blown away. I don't even know what to say. I'll start again at the beginning and look at your photos again.

    OK, I will say that this is the most spectacular garden I've seen in YEARS. An entire book could be written about it!

    The mystery yucca does look like Y. elata to me.

    1. Glad you saw this post, I knew you'd enjoy it—and thanks for the yucca thoughts.

  24. Thank you so much for taking us to this magical, amazing garden! I have seen many but I have to say this is my favorite. It is perfection! Maybe you can go back in another season and post more photos!

  25. In my above comment, I meant to say, my favorite, except yours Loree! And they do remind me of each other!

  26. Truly beautiful. The iron details here and there make it all the more special.

  27. to echo everyone else, what an extraordinary garden. Its creative, fits in its space, visually exciting. Thanks.

  28. I'm glad your gamble paid off and out of it you managed to visit the garden properly this time. And what a beautiful garden with remarkable planting and so many unique details to be inspired with!

  29. Stunning! Now I am thinking I should learn how to do metalwork. What a fantastic garden.


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