#GBFling14: Sean Hogan Garden

The first garden I saw after I arrived in Portland, Oregon for the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling was also one of the most beautiful. It wasn’t on the tour, but I was privileged enough to enjoy it throughout my stay. It belongs to Sean Hogan, the owner of Cistus Nursery, whose generosity in putting me up at his house I will always appreciate.

Sean is not only a consummate plantsman, he’s also an accomplished garden designer. His garden is a graceful tapestry of greenery and hardscape, with the occasional touch of bling, as evidenced by the chandelier you see in the photo below.


But let’s start in front of the house. Above the front door, for everyone to see, is the motto of Sean’s realm: Hortisexuality. “Horti” as in garden, and “sexuality” as in sizzle and allure.


Even from the street you can tell this is no ordinary garden. As I was driving along Sean’s street in my rental car, I knew immediately where I was when I saw this:


And this:


Yucca rostrata is definitely one of Sean’s favorite plants, as you will see in my post on Cistus Nursery where specimens ranging from small 6-inch pots to 6-ft. “trees” are for sale.

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Even the hellstrip is densely planted—and it features a strategically placed bench for passers-by wanting to rest a spell.


A species related to Yucca rostrata, Yucca linearifolia, features prominently in two square pots on the wall next to the front door steps.


Yucca linearifolia with variegated English ivy (Hedera helix)


Yucca linearifolia with variegated English ivy (Hedera helix)

The covered front porch is as inviting as they come. Perfect for looking out over the front garden and chatting with neighbors.


But the real magic for me was in the back garden. This is what you see as you step out of the kitchen:


The deck is a wonderful spot to read the paper, relax, hang out with friends, or just watch the stars at night.


Let’s not forget taking a nap on a warm summer’s day!


The densely planted backdrop effectively hides the fence, making the yard seem much bigger than it is (the lot is just shy of 5,000 sq. ft.).



A handful of steps lead from the deck…


…to the lower garden. There you can relax on a lounge chair surrounded by lush, exotic greenery.



A large table with seating for eight is ideal for having friends or family over. I still get a kick out of that chandelier. Elsewhere it might look tacky, but here—suspended between palm trees—it looks perfectly at home.

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That’s Sean in the photo on the left




Have I mentioned how exotic the backyard looks? If I saw these photos without knowing where they were taken, I would have thought Hawaii or Florida, definitely not Oregon!


Even the little details were fascinating, like a broken paver filled in with gravel.


Here’s a look back at the house from the lower garden. Quite something, isn’t it?



Sean’s house was built in 1915, if I remember correctly, and it’s filled with period details, like these windows that face a stand of black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) in the side yard. Sean and his neighbor on this side get along so well, they decided to take down the fence. This gives the impression of a much larger property as each neighbor is in effect borrowing scenery from each other.


Here are some more photos of the side yard.


Same black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)


Gate from the street/front yard to the side yard

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I love the almost wild feel of this part of the backyard. It’s like a path through the jungle in some tropical rainforest.


I couldn’t get enough of the large-leafed plants like this Podophyllum pleianthum


It could eat me if it wanted to!

Here’s another cool plant:


Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’

In many ways, Sean’s garden is the antithesis of mine. I’m trying hard to create an element of lushness using leafy plants, but our climate and especially our water situation—we’re in the 3rd worst drought ever recorded in California—prevent me from growing the bulk of the exotic plants Sean has in his garden.

We’re all attracted to things we can’t have, and maybe that’s why I loved Sean’s garden so much. But it wouldn’t be what it is without Sean’s genius. The layering of textures and hues is simply masterful. The effect is that of a peaceful paradise where all the stresses and worries of everyday life simply don’t exist. You couldn’t ask for more from a garden.


2014 Garden Bloggers Fling index


  1. Perfect photos of one of my very favorite places.

    1. That's saying something, considering your garden was one of my other favorites in Portland! I hope I'll be able to do your garden justice when I write my post.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Gerhard, it's a treat to see Sean's wonderful space from your perspective. So glad we were able to meet at the Fling, you're always welcome in Portland!! Come over any time.

    1. Tamara, I'd love to come by the next time I'm in Portland. I didn't get to chance to take as many photos of your garden as I would have liked. Lots of people :-).

    2. You bet, Gerhard - just let me know next time you're in town and come over for plants, cocktails and fun!

  3. Your last paragraph sums up Sean's garden perfectly Gerhard. Such a beautiful, restful garden. All your photos were great but the one looking back at the house from the back, wow, so exotic! My only regret is that we never had the chance to sit down on the porch which looks as relaxing as the seating at the back.

    1. You must have felt right at home in Sean's garden because it's similar in style to yours, isn't it? I still think you should write a book on exotic garden design!

  4. Amazing garden. Such a lush private space to enjoy

    1. I don't think I had ever been in a private garden this lush. I can see Sean whacking back the vegetation with a machete :-).

  5. Beautiful photos Gerhard, and what a treat for you to have the run of such a fantastic garden for a few days. I know exactly how you feel when viewing these lush PNW places...so close yet so far !

    1. Kathy, it occurred to me that Portland is actually as far from us as Tucson. Hard to believe, isn't it? 600+ miles makes a big difference in climate and rainfall.

  6. Thanks for sharing these great photos of Sean's garden. I had the privilege of seeing it once myself - a truly magical place and a brilliant and kind man!

    1. Brilliant and kind, that's Sean to a t. I will forever be grateful that I was able to stay there.

  7. Really nice look at Sean's garden -- hope I can see it in person someday.

    Having discussed the topic with you at the Fling, your comment about them removing the fence was telling: fences are almost requisite in some (many? most?) neighborhoods, that the lack of one is noteworthy.

    1. Yes, fences are the default. When neighbors take down a shared fence, that's a momentous event. Kind of like getting married, LOL.

  8. An incredible garden! to bad it wasn´t included in the fling :). But that way it remains more unknown,private and desirable. Thanks for the great photos!!! It was very nice meeting you!

    1. Muchas gracias, Lisa. I enjoying talking to you a lot. Please let me know the next time you visit your sister in San Francisco. I'm only 90 minutes away. It would be fun to meet! Y la próxima vez que nos reunimos voy a practicar mi español contigo :-).

    2. Hahaha! thanks!!!! that´s very nice! I will let you know! It would be awesome to see San Francisco or the area from your wise gardening and plant lover eyes! Muchas gracias! I also enjoyed talking to you! I bet you´ll do it pretty well with your spanish :)


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