Return to the Danger Garden: front garden in September 2018
Many of you follow Loree Bohl's blog Danger Garden. If you're not familiar with it and want to know what it's all about, the byline is a good clue: "Careful, you could poke an eye out."
Loree loves spiky plants, and she's not apologetic about it. When you walk through her garden, you're wise to watch your step. Unlike plants that take abuse lying down (literally), many denizens of the Danger Garden know how to defend themselves. That's one reason why I love it.
Another reason: Loree is fearless when it comes to plant selection. I'm sure she looks at USDA hardiness zones but she's just as likely to ignore them if she really wants a certain plant. After all, each garden is different, and unless you're willing to experiment—and accept the failures that come with it—you're never going to know what will really grow in your own garden.
The most striking thing about the Danger Garden, though, is how skillfully Loree's plants are combined. Every placement is carefully considered—and reconsidered if it doesn't work as envisioned. Loree is an active gardener who doesn't hesitate to make changes, even drastic ones, when warranted. In contrast, many of us are much too timid about intervening, letting the plants dictate where our garden is headed.
Loree doesn't have any formal training in landscape design, but she has creativity in spades as well as an instinctive sense of aesthetics many professionals wish they had. Her garden is small (the entire lot is under 5,000 sq.ft.) but there are so many vignettes—combinations of plants or containers—that are so spot on that you can't imagine them any other way. To me, that's the very definition of masterful design.
In this post, I'll show you the front garden as it looked three weeks ago when I was in Portland for a three-day visit. As for the back garden, I took so many photos that I may need to split them into two posts.
The front garden juxtaposes Pacific Northwest natives like manzanitas with spiky desert dwellers like agaves, opuntias, yuccas and dasylirions.
|The color palette is restrained, perfectly matching the color of the house|
|Plants from the southern hemisphere, like Corokia cotoneaster above and grevilleas and callistemons nearby, add an international flair|
|Combining conifers with agaves (in this case Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific' with Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston') is inspired—and something I will emulate: One of the plants I brought home from Portland is a Juniperus communis var. saxatilis.|
|Yucca rostrata duo|
|Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths' and Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston'|
|Corokia cotoneaster and Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston'|
For me, the signature plant in the front garden is Tetrapanax papyrifer. It's hard not to fall for its beautiful leaves, especially when viewed from below.
It's Caturday every day in Portland:
|A neighbor's cat|
Spiky drama of a different kind:
|Hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata). The fruit is bitter and considered inedible but supposedly it can be turned into marmelade.|
My favorite vista in the front garden:
|What an inspired combination!|
|Sometimes the sum is greater than its parts: The two Agave ovatifolia may be the headliners, but the supporting cast (especially Yucca rostrata and Amsonia hubrichtii) is what elevates them to superstardom.|
|Perfection: Amsonia hubrichtii (top left), Daphne ×houtteana (bottom left), Agave ovatifolia|
|Proof that there's always room for a mangave or three!|
|I wonder if the letter carrier or UPS delivery person ever stops to look closer?|
|Spikes and prickles next to and above the front door|
|Southwest meets Australia: Dasylirion wheeleri and Callistemon 'Woodlanders Hardy'|
|Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam', Cotinus 'Royal Purple'...|
|... and Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy'|
|View from the driveway|
The silver gate in the middle of the next photo leads to the
promised land back garden. But that's a topic for another post or two. For now, let's focus on the potted goodies against the house.
|Cherry tomatoes and agaves...|
|...only Loree would think of that|
|The smaller stock tank on the left is a holding area for agave pups|
|Another vignette that looks like it's straight out of a design book|
|I thought the plant on the right was some exotic kind of oak but it's actually a tree poppy (Bocconia frutescens). Every time I visit the Danger Garden, I come home with a new wish list!|
Click here for a tour of the back garden. You're in for a treat!