Like many of you, I’ve been a long-time reader of Loree Bohl’s blog Danger Garden. During and after the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling, I had the opportunity to visit Loree’s garden in Portland, OR not only once, but twice. I was in heaven! In my October 10, 2014 post, I raved about the slice of paradise Loree has created with help from her husband Andrew and under the ever watchful eyes of Lila, the Danger Dog:
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.
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.
Fast forward almost a year to June, 2015. The first stop on our Pacific Northwest road trip was—you guessed it!—at the Danger Garden. Loree was kind enough to invite all four of us over for drinks before we had dinner at a fabulous Iraqi restaurant nearby. Because time was short, I only took pictures in Loree’s backyard. My goal was to photograph the front yard on on our way back from British Columbia and Washington. However, because of the relentless heat inland (Oregon experienced the hottest June on record) we decided to head home via the Oregon coast, skipping our second Portland stop. But I’m already planning a solo trip to Portland, and I’ll be sure to photograph the Danger Garden’s “public face” then.
Ready for the Danger Garden’s private backyard then? It all starts with this:
I love the juxtaposition of the neighbor’s impossibly blue hydrangeas (to me a Portland hallmark) and Loree’s lemon chiffon-colored New Beetle
Walk around the corner and you see this (minus my wife and kids):
Iconic view of Loree’s backyard, with Sammy, the Yucca rostrata on the right
But let’s take a few steps back and begin on the left as you enter the backyard:
Hosta 'Samuel Blue' providing a cool counterpoint to the lush green of the shrubs and lawn
Hosta 'Samuel Blue', Hosta 'Dust Devil' and Hosta ‘Lakeside Cupcake’ (thank you, Loree, for the plant IDs)
Syneilesis aconitifolia and assorted hostas
View of the bed with the hostas
Looking toward the right from the bed with the hostas. I find this small patch of lawn very inviting—it’s the perfect negative space for the densely planted areas that surround it.
Thalia geniculata, a tropical wetland plant from Africa
The strategically placed pavers lead you straight to the seating area on the patio
Margaritas, chips, salsa—and succulents. What could be better on a toasty summer evening?
This impressive tree is a Magnolia macrophylla. Its huge leaves complement the succulents below it perfectly.
Central succulent area. Loree has made some changes to this area since our visit a month ago. Read this post for details.
Nolina ‘La Siberica’ and assorted agaves and other succulents
Shredded umbrella plant (Syneilesis aconitifolia), a spectacular foliage plant from Asia that unfortunately needs moist, rich soil to thrive—not something I could give it in my garden
Wider view of the areas we just saw in the photos above
Loree is a master of potted plants, in case you couldn’t tell
If the Danger Garden were a commercial nursery, these pots and plants would sell in a heartbeat
If, standing at the bottom of the two steps you saw above, you turn to the right, you see the Shade Pavilion, truly a thing of beauty (Loree and Andrew built it themselves)
On either side of the Shade Pavilion there are more drool-worthy plants…
…in drool-worthy pots
Now lets look at the potted plants to the right of the Shade Pavilion
I love how the container colors are limited to orange, black and silver. I simply don’t have that kind of discipline (or sense of style).
Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ (left) Agave ‘Joe Hoak’ (middle), Sonchus canariensis (right)
Handsome ‘Joe Hoak’, one of my all-time favorite agave cultivars. Unfortunately, it’s a wimp and requires winter protection even in my zone 9b climate, otherwise dark spots develop on the leaves.
Stock tank vignette
Wider view from inside the Shade Pavilion
Stock tank with Podophyllum pleianthum, another large-leafed Asian perennial that loves moist. rich soil—and hence is ill-suited for my climate
Let’s assume you’re standing inside the Shade Pavilion looking at the stock tank and fence shown in the photo above. Turn around 180° and walk straight past the patio table and chairs you saw earlier. This is where you will end up:
Ingenious combination of a water garden and xeric succulents. Loree blogged about the beginnings of this project here.
More photos from this area. The large agave on the left is Agave ovatifolia (with Agave bracteosa in the foreground); the agave in the funnel planter on the right is Agave lophantha 'Splendida'.
Now it’s time to leave the backyard—with a heavy heart, I know—and take a quick look at the veggie garden next to the kitchen door. But even here there lurks danger from spiky plants. Lila, the guardian of the Danger Garden, clearly knows how to steer clear.
She may be getting on in years, but don’t think for a moment she doesn’t have things under control!
#GBFling14: Danger Garden (October 10, 2014)