It took almost four years, but here it is: post # 1000! I’m dedicating it to a very special garden I had the privilege of visiting in July during the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling: the appropriately named Danger Garden.
I’ve been following Loree Bohl’s fantastic blog for a number of years, and when we arrived at her garden, I felt a familiar sense of déjà vu. I suppose that’s par for the course when you’ve looked at—literally—hundreds of photos of a garden before seeing it in person for the first time.
Approaching the Danger Garden
So even though I knew the general layout and design of the Danger Garden, I was still surprised by some of the details. For instance, when I walked around the left side of the house into the backyard, I was stunned to find the famous orange shade pavilion off to the left side when I could have sworn it was located straight ahead. Other Flingers had the same reaction. Amazing what an alternate reality you can create in your own head!
Beautiful Textrapanax papyrifer. I spotted suckers in the neighbor’s yard on the right; the roots had tunneled right under the driveway!
When all was said and done, the Danger Garden not only lived up to my lofty expectations, it exceeded them. With support from her husband Andrew—the very definition of a “nice guy”—Loree has created something that transcends its function as their private outdoor space. The Danger Garden is both a botanical testing ground that pushes the boundary of what can be grown in Portland’s zone 8 climate and a case study in designing an intensely personal, yet universally engaging garden on a small lot.
If you look for common plants in the Danger Garden, you’re in the wrong place. Loree is as much an “enemy of the average” as was Madame Ganna Walska, the visionary Polish opera singer turned plant collector who created Santa Barbara’s famous Lotusland. In a world where yards stocked with plants from the Home Depot or Lowe’s are the norm, the Danger Garden is a testament to individuality, a celebration of the odd and exotic, and above all a showcase of all things spiny and spiky. But unlike Lotusland, which occupies 37 acres (1.6 million sq. ft.), the Danger Garden is only 5000 sq. ft., i.e. less than a three hundredth!
So let’s take a closer look at the wonderful and wondrous plants Loree has growing in her Danger Garden. We’ll start in front of the house.
Front entrance plantings
Looking at the front of the house from the street
Front yard plantings
I regret not having had time to look at all the plants in this area. Most of them are unusual for one reason or another.
LEFT: Manzanita (Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths') and Agave parryi ‘JC Raulston’
RIGHT: Wingthorn rose (Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha)
Wingthorn rose (Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha)
Now let’s walk down the driveway towards the back yard.
A much coveted spot of shade on a 90°+ day in July
Succulents growing next to veggies made me smile
Lila keeping an eye on her realm
First peek of the back yard
And now we’re in the back yard. The photos you’ll see were taken on two different days: on Saturday during the official Garden Bloggers Fling visit, and on Monday when Mark and Gaz (of Alternative Eden) and I went back for a private tour. That’s why you’ll see lots of people in some photos while there are none in others.
The back yard may be small but it contains a very thoughtfully curated plant collection
Amazing leaf and texture combinations wherever you look
First peek of the famous shade pavilion
Hostas are as exotic to us Californians as bananas might be to Midwesterners. They do very poorly in our climate because our summers are too dry and our winters aren’t cold enough.
I have a serious case of hosta envy
Our first look of Sammy, Loree’s oldest Yucca rostrata
Sammy is hard to miss
He wants to be in every photo
On the right is Lil’ Sanford
Lila is tiny next to Sammy!
Mark Domingo of Alternative Eden (UK) checking his photos while Lila is wishing he would pay attention to her and not to his camera
Loree surrounded by the plants she loves
I thought I had a lot of potted succulents, but Loree has me beat
So many goodies
My favorite here is Aloe ‘Fire Ranch’ on the left
I had never seen corrugated metal containers like these. Loree, where did you find them?
More potted succulents
Three Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus), one balloon cactus (Parodia magnifica), and two Euphorbia horrida ‘Snowflake’
Agave victoria-reginae and Agave dasylirioides
More potted agaves
Circle Pot by Potted…
…planted with tilandsias
Water garden in a stock tank surrounded by potted succulents
And even closer
Agave ovatifolia and Agave lophantha ‘Splendida’
Mark and Gaz of Alternative Eden chatting with Loree
View of shade pavilion
The shade pavilion is a thing of beauty
I say this with great admiration and respect (Loree and Andrew built it themselves) but also with a certain measure of envy…
…because I want a structure like this in my own back yard!
I also love the patio furniture
Loree says they bought it at IKEA in 2008; unfortunately, IKEA no longer carries this line
The area behind the shade pavilion is a lush oasis even though all plants there are containerized
In many ways, the Danger Garden is a roadmap of where I want to go in my own garden. It masterfully juxtaposes the down-to-business spikiness of succulents with the ethereal softness of large-leafed exotics. The result appeals to both people who love desert plants and those who prefer a more tropical look. It’s what you might get if Arizona and Hawaii had a love child.