Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Floramagoria: tropical sizzle in Portland, OR

It’s been almost a year since the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, Oregon. I’ve written about a number of gardens I visited during this fantastic 3-day event, but there are several I’ve held out on until now. In light of the recent record-breaking temperatures here in Davis, CA (108°F last Friday), now is as good time as any to return to Portland on a rainy Sunday morning in July 2014.

The garden we’re visiting in this post turned out to be a sizzling tropicalesque backyard paradise.

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But there was no way you could have guessed it from the front of the house. Trees, bamboos and ferns create a naturalistic forest setting in the front yard, and the house itself looks fairly traditional.

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Fargesia robusta

The side yard contained stock tanks filled with vegetables…

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…and the most meticulously organized toolshed I’ve ever seen.

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None of these things prepared me for the sights waiting in the backyard. There was so much to take in, my brain went into overdrive.

What was this unabashedly over-the-top compilation of furniture, props, knickknacks and plants?

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Covered deck off the master bedroom

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This guy was quite popular with the Flingers

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After a short period of adjustment, things began to make more sense.

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This was not just a random collection of stuff.

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There was control, planning, and design—and just enough restraint to keep it all from tumbling over the edge.

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This extraordinary garden belongs to Craig Quirk and Larry Neill. Apparently it started out as a fairly formal English garden with boxwood hedges and roses. But when Craig and Larry remodeled their 1942 house five years ago, it was time for something different. Laura Crockett of Garden Diva Designs created a space that offers seamless indoor/outdoor living. The covered deck off the master bedroom (see above) connects the inside of the house with the outside as fluidly as the sitting area in front of the living room does.

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Tropical plants join forces with Mediterranean perennials, bamboo and even carnivorous plants to create a look of lush abandon. Homeowner Craig Quirk is a plant collector, and designer Laura Crockett integrated his treasures into the landscaping scheme. Portland’s fairly abundant rainfall helps keep everything green. Pulling off a garden like this where I live would be virtually impossible, given our water constraints.

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New Zealand hair sedge (Carex comans ‘Frosted Curls’) growing in an island in the middle of cast-concrete slabs

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Mediterranean garden

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Mediterranean garden with early 20th century Balinese stone lanterns

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Balinese stone lanterns

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Bog garden with a variety of carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp.), cobra lilies(Darlingtonia californica), sundews (Drosera sp.) and Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula)

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Looking back toward the house from the fire pit. On the left is Brugmansia ‘Delta Dawn’.

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Mosaic “rug” by Clare Dohna

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LEFT: Impatiens omeiana  RIGHT: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

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Fire pit with turquoise Mezza chairs. This color combination—orange and blue—repeats throughout the garden.

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Fire pit with tumbled glass

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Concrete fountain in the shape of a gunnera leaf by Bainbridge Island artists Little and Lewis surrounded by Alocasia macrorrhiza

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Thai-inspired dining pavilion

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Gunnera growing behind the dining pavilion

A large redwood tree behind the dining pavilion gives this corner of the garden a completely differently feel. Here there are no hot oranges and blues, just soothing greens and browns.

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But pretty soon you’re back to vibrant colors and spiky foliage.

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Sea holly (Eryngium maritimum)

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Seed heads of sea kale (Crambe maritima)

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Agaves as foundation plants

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Euphorbia lactea (?) in matching pots

Whimsical pieces of art are the perfect complement to the over-the-top plantings.

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Designer Laura Crockett calls the style of this garden “tropicalismo” and “contemporary Balinese.” I call it inspired madness.

The garden’s nickname, “Floramagoria,” is perfect. It’s derived from the word “phantasmagoria,” which is defined as “a shifting series of phantasms, illusions, or deceptive appearances, as in a dream or as created by the imagination.” Indeed, I felt like I was in a bizarre waking dream the entire time I was there. And as with the most vivid of dreams, I remember most details even now, a year later.

Floramagoria is one of the most unusual and memorable outdoor spaces I’ve ever seen. While I prefer a little less visual stimulation lest I lose what little sanity I still have, I wish I had room (and money) to incorporate many of its elements in my own garden.

Note: The Spring 2015 issue of Garden Design magazine has a lavishly illustrated article about Floramagoria (pp. 36-47). If you’re not a subscriber, I highly recommend Garden Design. It delivers outstanding writing and photography on the highest-quality paper you’re likely to find. It’s not cheap, but it has no advertising whatsoever, which makes it more of a coffee-table book than a magazine.

14 comments:

  1. A year later, I wonder if the garden has changed much? Surely some plants must have been changed out -- doubt we could even notice though, unless it were one of the fantastic Fargesias that was removed. Such a *packed* garden -- thanks for the look back!

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  2. Amazingly detailed tour done from year-old memories! Strong design, great planting, and lots to please a collector's sensibility -- this garden had it all.

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    1. I relied on the Garden Design article for the basic facts. I wish I'd taken even more photos when we were there, especially more close-up shots.

      In my book, Floramagoria is as close to art as garden design can be.

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  3. How we'd so love to visit this garden again Gerhard! Such good fun this garden is and is up there as one of the top highlights of the fling last year.

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    1. Same here. If anything, I like the garden even better now than last year.

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  4. Fantastic photos Gerhard ! And I will have Crambe maritima someday...

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    1. Me too! I'll look for Crambe maritima on our upcoming PNW trip.

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  5. Thanks for the memories! I haven't been back since, despite a couple of opportunities. Hopefully I'll get another chance soon!

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    1. Please go back and give us an update on Floramagoria when you get a chance.

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  6. 108! Yikes. Our temperatures are trending upward and I wouldn't be surprised if they venture into the 90s within the next week but our "June gloom" has helped us out thus far. As to Floramagoria, it's a garden I'd love to see in person someday. The orderliness of its structure manages to balance the incredible exuberance of the plants - I'm not sure I've ever seen that done as well. Thanks for the reminder about the article in Garden Design magazine - I pulled my copy out for another look.

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    1. 108°F was a one-time occurrence, thank goodness. Even the next day temps were down by 10°. We had family from Alaska visiting during the mini heatwave; they were suffering :-)

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  7. 108F--you have my heartfelt condolences.

    I loved that garden. It's wonderful to see it again.

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    1. Back to the mid-90s, our average temps for mid June. Nights have been surprisingly cool, which helps plants recover from the daytime heat.

      I hope there'll be another Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, say, in 10 years--and that we'll get a chance to visit the same gardens again. How much fun would that be!

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