Revisiting John Kuzma's fusion garden in Portland, OR: agaves, bananas, and much more

I spent a fantastic weekend in Portland, OR hanging out with friends and doing all kinds of plant-related things. Fellow blogger Loree "Danger Garden" Bohl had arranged a visit to the garden of John Kuzma. His garden, created in collaboration with Sean Hogan of Cistus Nursery, was one of my favorite destinations on the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling, and I was excited to see it again three years later.

The Yucca rostrata in the front garden have definitely grown!

Check out my post from 2014 to see the difference.

A few more photos of the front garden:

Nolina 'La Siberica, introduced by Cistus Nursery in Portland

Agave ovatifolia growing under a manzanita

Wonderful mix of colors and textures in front of the house, including Fatsia japonica 'Spider's Web' right under the window and Rhododendron pachysanthum below it

Ready to walk into the back garden? 

The first thing my eyes went to was this stunning passionfruit (Passiflora, cultivar unknown). The vine reached all the way to the roof of the house and was loaded with flowers. What a sight!

The planting area against the house is home to several Agave ovatifolia and other personal favorites:

The greenish silver tree in the middle is Leucadendron argenteum. It's only hardy to the upper 20s, and John protects it every winter.

These Agave ovatifolia have definitely grown since 2014!

Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' (back), Chamaerops humilis var. argentea (front)

Parahebe perfoliata

If only I could have something like this in my own backyard!

Click here to see what this area looked like in July 2014

Giant papyrus (Cyperus papyrus)

Look at all those elephant ears!

Colocasia sp.

Colocasia esculenta

Does it get any better?

Yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii)

Orange urn at the intersection of several paths in the back garden. It's like a beacon in the night!

Crevice garden with more Agave ovatifolia

Check out what this crevice garden looked like after it was created in 2011

Another fabulous combination

It seems every garden in Portland has a gunnera!

Silver sage (Salvia argentea)

Conifers and bananas? Of course!

Another combination I remembered from 2014. I believe the prickly shrub in the foreground is Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Variegatus'.

Daphniphyllum himalayense ssp macropodum 'Variegated'

I love the sense of mystery created by the dense plantings

John Kuzma's property is 1/2 acre in size, but it feels larger. The back garden is bisected by paths that create distinct "rooms." The plantings are so dense in places that you literally cannot see what might be waiting for you ten feet down the path.

That's just one reason why I love John Kuzma's garden. Another is the ingenious way he combines plants. The range of textures and colors is astounding. I walked around for well over an hour, and I could easily have explored even more. But I have a feeling this wasn't my last visit!

Big thanks to Loree for arranging this tour, and to John and Kathleen for their hospitality!


  1. What a fun afternoon, John and Kathleen really made us feel welcome didn't they? You got some great photos Gerhard, I haven't even looked at mine yet...I usually save my annual "Kuzma" post for when I've completely depressed by winter. Immersing myself in that garden again always cheers me up.

  2. Wow, lots of growth since we were there in 2014! Such a great garden and a joy to see the changes through your lens.

  3. Wonderful to see this garden again through your lens and being able to shuttle between the two posts, for example, seeing Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' now as a shrub vs. small tree then. Amazing skill and hort. chops to get this kind of lushness and textural complexity after the winter of 2016/17.

  4. Conifers and bananas really kind of sums up the range of plants that Portland gardeners can grow, doesn't it? What a beautiful garden of foliage plants, flowery accents, paths to explore, and lovely focal points to discover. I always enjoy seeing John's garden, so thanks for the tour!

  5. Love seeing this garden again! I can't imagine my garden without Passiflora incarnata -- which is very cold-hardy. Great seeing the Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' again, as it was the plant that I most coveted in this garden I think (or maybe the gunnera?)

    1. The Passiflora incarnata you sent me did not make it through our last winter. Then again it was in a container.

  6. I know Portland was plagued by snow last winter but it seems the ideal gardening climate to me. I was surprised to learn that the Kuzma garden is just 1/2 an acre in size, which makes me think I'm not doing nearly enough with my own space.

  7. Oregon seems to be warmer than I imagined, many of those plants grow here untroubled in this generally frost fee climate. I love gunneras but never saw one in person, I wish I had them in my garden!

  8. I went and looked my photos from this garden taken at Fling. This was also one of my favorites, and I'm sad that my heavy travel schedule this year didn't allow me to drive up to Portland and beg a visit. Interesting to see the reduced size of Acacia baileyana purpurea, which was a few feet taller back in 2014. Last winter was probably the culprit! I know I will look at these photos over and over-this is such a great garden.

  9. Ever more spectacular than at the Fling. Must have been wonderful to see it again. Thanks for sharing your visit.

  10. I remember this garden very well despite, or perhaps because of, its huge difference from the kind of garden we can create in Southern Ontario. The crevice garden was very inspiring, and would even work here. In fact, I included it in a post on crevice gardens not long ago. Thanks for the update.

  11. I haven't been there for at least 3 years myself, and it has really filled out nicely! Thanks for the tour,Gerhard!

  12. What manzanita is plant with the Yucca rostrata in the first photo? Is it Dr. Hurd?


Post a Comment