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.

Agave bracteosa

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!

© Gerhard Bock, 2018. No part of the materials available through may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of Gerhard Bock. Any other reproduction in any form without the permission of Gerhard Bock is prohibited. All materials contained on this site are protected by  United States and international copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Gerhard Bock. If you are reading this post on a website other than, please be advised that that site is using my content without my permission. Any unauthorized use will be reported.


  1. Even though I followed Loree's own recent tour of the space, I saw it through fresh eyes in your survey. In addition to wonder at her inspired combinations, I'm always impressed by the perfection of her individual specimens.

  2. So gorgeous and inspiring! And I love seeing her space through your lens - you compose such great pictures of such a beautiful space...

  3. You're very kind Mr. Bock, I should have just linked to this post for my annual tour, I think you took more (and better) photos than I did. The kitty and I have a long history. I may have hit her with a stream of water back in the day, when she would use the back garden as her litter box and Lila would then eat the treats left behind. Now I feed her when her owners go out of town. She's learned to like me. Oh, and I love how some photos show sunny skies and some have wet surfaces, I think you took photos all three days you were here!

  4. Well done Gerhard! It's a challenge to photograph a garden that has been shared with Lorees' readers for so long. You have displayed her masterful attention to detail which I think is the strong suit in this garden.

  5. I am struck by the incredible blending of those colors. No reds purples and blues needed here. A beautifully painted picture.

  6. Looks great at summer's end. Agaves are an excellent foil for shrubby Manzanitas.

    Do you think that juniper will hold up to a Davis summer?

  7. Even though I was just there in person, I noticed more wonderful plants in your post. The gardener is as kind as she is talented and it's always a joy to see her incredible creation.

  8. We both favor the same treasured combo to the right of the front door, it is simply stunning.


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