Friday, August 4, 2023

AGO déjà vu 1,000 miles north

There are families with such strong genes the relationships are undeniable—eyes, or mouths that show up again and again on different faces. There are also families that look like an assemblage of strangers, curly hair on just one, a nose on another that's so prominent and so different that you can't help but wonder where it came from. 

Where am I going with this? Our gardens of course! I recently visited my friend Denise's—of A Growing Obsession (AGO)—garden in Tillamook, Oregon. Several years ago I visited her garden in Long Beach, California (here). Seeing how her style, and the type of plants she surrounds herself with, has played out across gardens in two very different climates (Zone 10 dry and hot in CA, Zone 8 wetter and cooler in OR) had me thinking about the gardens we create. How strong our genetic garden signature is.

Editing my photos I heard the words "the force is strong with this one" in my head. Funny right? It's true though, both gardens are undeniably Denise.

She said something in passing that I also heard repeated in my head, something about the garden not really being my style. Maybe not some of the plants (although we do have a few in common), but there are many other bits and bobs that I would happily see show up in my garden, her way with upcycled pieces for example.

Digitalis ferruginea, she was also growing Digitalis parviflora but my photo was too blurry to use.

Snaps I took as we walked and talked...

Eryngium ‘Big Blue’ 

This container was fun to see. It's from the same batch as the one that became a table under my shade pavilion (here). I don't remember if she painted it, or if this was the color it was when she adopted it.

Euphorbia stygiana

Cirsium rivulare ‘Trevor’s Blue Wonder’

Sanguisorba 'Red Thunder'

I was rather transfixed with this dark Dierama pulcherrimum.

It's a plant that always draws my eye, but especially here.

Peucedanum verticillare

And again to the dierama.

The dark fence was painted this spring. It encloses the garden wonderfully and adds the perfect backdrop to the floral scrim.

After walking her garden Denise and I retreated to the chairs on the back patio, against the house and under cover. Billie joined us. I had another photo of her looking at me, but I thought her profile was so perfectly regal in this one that it had to be shared.
There are ideas here to borrow.

I love how she's used the metal rings to define planting spaces.

Bulbine abyssinica

Planting in raised tubes is the perfect way to feature a plant and add height as well as drainage.

I asked about the gravel mix, as it was unlike any I'd seen before. Denise's reply: "The rock is a mish-mash starting with a base of California Gold granite but with a lot of added river rock dug up on the property and some pea gravel too for mulching new plants"...

Sitting and looking out at the garden I had such a strong sense if déjà vu, even though I'd never been to this garden. There's a little Derek Jarman at work, and the physical similarities with Denise's Long Beach garden too. In Long Beach we sat against the back of the house and looked out at the garden, the garage was on the right, and there was a strong feeling of enclosure—the same features repeat here.

It was garden magic, all of it. It felt so right. 

A garden built from one woman's need to surround herself with plants, her curiosity about them playing out.

Look, ferns! Polystichum setiferum var. divisilobum, aka soft shield fern.

Andrew and I talk about moving, it's just talk, but I worry... could I create another garden that I love? That's mine? 
Seeing this, I think I could.

Bupleurum fruticosum

That's a Sinopanax formosanus under the stool.

I should also mention our coastal adventure was spur of the moment, when a planned trip to Medford, OR, fell through. I asked Denise about a visit on a Thursday evening and was sitting in her garden on Saturday morning. Such welcoming hospitality, thank you Denise! I hope you haven't minded my ramblings about your garden.

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  1. I recently discovered her blog so this is a nice overview.

    1. Oh you're in for a treat as an AGO follower.

  2. You verbalized what I've been thinking for a while. So different from Denise's Long Beach garden, esp. in terms of the plant palette, and yet so similar. "Genetic garden signature," that's a great way of putting it! And Denise's signature shines bright.

    1. "Denise's signature shines bright," yes it does!

  3. Thank you for sharing your visit to Denise's garden, Loree. Like you and Gerhard, I've also been struck by how similar her OR garden "feels" in relation to her SoCal garden, even though many of the plants are different. It has more flowers (including many I couldn't grow if I tried) for one thing but the vibe is all Denise. Now your "genetic garden signature" has me thinking about the similarities between my former tiny shade garden and my larger, drier, sunnier current garden - I've concluded that they may indeed have stylistic ties.

    1. I seem to remember that you have very few photos of that earlier garden, but I'd love to see a few examples of how they're stylistically tied. Maybe a future blog post?

  4. Totally agree with comments about signatures. I love how she layers lines if site, and the wide variety of color in her flowers. Sometimes old cottage garden favs can be versatile accents and fit in different schemes.
    Jim N. Tabor

    1. I'm glad you mentioned color, I neglected to. It didn't feel chaotic, but at the same time it didn't look like she was working to keep any colors out of the garden.

  5. I love these views you found, especially now that they've changed radically since you were here. The very next day that hedge seen in the first photo, behind the fence on the right, was taken down to below fence level, and another building popped up into view that was mostly hidden behind the hedge. The laurel hedge must have been 15 feet high. A guy in a cherry picker worked on it all day. As far as you making a new garden, I'd love to see you play around in zone 9 or 10, but I'm pretty sure you'd find your way anywhere. So good to see you!

    1. Well that sounds like an unwelcome change. Why do people do things like that? It's always better to have a wall of green, in my opinion. If my next garden is anywhere but this same Zone 8 I sure hope it's in 9 or 10. I can't imagine going backwards.

  6. The gardener is the garden. Where ever you go, your garden will be there. As we see in this post. :)

    1. I've been thinking on the other gardeners I know who've moved gardens and to a certain degree you're right. However I think Denise has an especially strong signature.

  7. I've only been reading Denise's blog since she started her new garden, and it's amazing how much was accomplished in a short time. A visitor's camera always give a new perspective: Digitalis ferruginea is now prominently featured on my must have list: your photo of it is gorgeous. Tube planting and metal rings are another takeaway from this post.
    "I worry... could I create another garden that I love?" How could you not? Maybe different than the current one, but it will still be you!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement in that last sentence Chava, and I too have got that digitalis on my list.

  8. I am very bad about checking email but pretty good about finding your posts on Facebook so will stick with that...wouldn't want to miss one of these fascinating virtual visits.

  9. Denise's garden is gorgeous and your photos made it shine. It's always interesting to see a familiar garden through someone else's eyes. Nicely done.

  10. Very interesting to see your take on Denise's garden - just a slightly different perspective and focus that is very fun to see. I agree wholeheartedly on the Derek Jarman-esque vibes. It's the colors, and the rock/gravel mix, her selection of containers and other upcycled materials. Would love to emulate something like this in our own.


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