Return to the Danger Garden, Portland, OR

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?

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This impressive tree is a Magnolia macrophylla. Its huge leaves complement the succulents below it perfectly.


Circle Pot by Potted with Billbergia sp. (left), Tillandsia sp. (middle) and Neoregelia punctatissima ‘Rubra’ (right). Loree describes this arrangement in more details in this post.


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


Aloe dorotheae


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.

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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)


  1. So lucky to be able to pop round again Gerhard! Seeing your pics brought back great memories as well as showing us some of the subtle changes since then. Such an inspiring garden she has. Hopefully we'll get to see it in the flesh again soon.

  2. So nice -- great memories! I'll have to plan a surprise visit to Portland sometime to see if Loree's garden is always so tidy. Of all of the beauties that Loree grows, I lust after Podophyllum pleianthum and Syneilesis aconitifolia the most. I calm myself by imagining that deer would devour both of them.

  3. You take the most fabulous photos Gerhard, and write the nicest text. It was so fun to have you all here, I just wish you could have stopped back by on your way home. Oh well, I look forward to your return whenever that is.

    Oh and those vibrant hydrangeas? They're not mine, but the neighbors. Since they're completely ignored by them I do try to water them now and then. The heat and drought as just been too much though and they are literally drying on the stem. It's interesting to watch but also sad.

    1. It's easy to be inspired when the source is so fantastic. Photos don't lie!

  4. Is it my imagination or are the hostas smaller than usual? I know it's been so hot and dry. I actually like them like this, rather than huge and flabby. All the proportions look great, everything happy and healthy. I wonder what your family thinks of all the places you take them to! Sometimes these comment windows remind me of that Brady Bunch graphic -- (hi, Loree, the garden looks amazing!)

    1. If I may reply...I don't think it's that the Hosta are smaller, it's that everything else is bigger. Honestly there is only one that I look at and think smaller - and I divided it a few months ago so that's why. Gerhard may have a different take...(and thanks!)

    2. You mentioned an important thing: proportion. Everything is in proportion to everything else in Loree's garden. That's not an easy thing to achieve. I struggle with proportion all the time, mainly because my plant interests are so varied and I want to cram everything in, big and small.

  5. Loree's garden is such a wonder! And it's so orderly! Thanks for providing another view.

    1. The most orderly garden I've visited. So refreshing after the clutter of my own garden.

  6. The garden looks even better than last year--the Sineilensis is fab--but little Lila is always my favorite photo.

    1. The fact that the garden wasn't filled with 35 other bloggers really helped me appreciate the smaller, quieter elements.

  7. Stunning pottage! Loree really has an incredible knack for potted succulents. Of course everything else about her space is fantastic too. That Shade Pavilion is quite impressive. Thanks for the tour, Gerhard!

    1. Loree sure knows how to pick the right pots and combine them for maximum effect.

  8. Always a pleasure to visit the Danger Garden either in person or virtually. Thanks for the tour of this great space!

    1. Between the Danger Garden and the Outlaw Garden, there is a lifetime of inspiration.


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