April Bloom Day 2019

The stars must be aligned! Not only did I remember bloom day but I had the time to do something about it! I took a quick trip around the garden to show you a few of my favorite things!

I freaking love this plant and now is its time to shine! Careful, this baby is pretty but dangerous!

Barbera replicata

I had to dig for the tag for this beauty I found a few years ago at Hortlandia and discovered it is somehow connected to the now defunct Berry B. Garden. I’d never heard of it before so I’m looking forward to doing little digging!

Epimedium x perralchicum

FINALLY! I’ve managed to keep a few of these alive! I love Euphorbia rigida but it seems to hate my garden.

Euphorabia rigida

Thankfully the slugs haven’t ravaged the leaves on this yet!

Erythronium hybrid

It’s taken a few years for my epimediums to get established in my shade garden and they are inspiring me to add more! They are perfect for dry shade!

Epimedium ‘Domino”

I feel like I’m cheating a bit adding this clematis I bought at Joy Creek this year but it’s so darn pretty!

Clematis ‘Blue Dancer’

The wind and rain has taken a toll on my poor magnolia but luckily it is a pretty prolific bloomer and I can always find a good flower!

Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’

The flowers of this pieris are lovely but the real star is the emerging foliage! Wowza!

Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’

My beautiful pulsatillas really don’t like this weather and they are struggling to pick themselves out of the dirt!

Pulsatilla vulgaris

Pulsatilla vulgaris (red flowered)

Saxifraga unknown

I’m so in love with this sweet little guy. Going to be picking up a few more this weekend!

Anemone nemorosa “Bracteata Pleniflora’

I need ALL of these ALL over my garden!

Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’

Omphalodes cappadocica

I got a little cracked out over pulminaria a year or so ago and this spring they burst into the most beautiful bunches of color!

Pulminaria ‘Silver Bouquet’

Pulminaria unknown

Every year winter does a number on my loropetalum and by spring I think this it’s dead. Clearly it is not and holy cow the flowers this year are insane.

Loropetalum unknown

And we end with my very favorites. My Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’ and Grevillea miqueliana have been blooming like gangbusters all winter and are still going strong!

Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’

My Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’ is becoming a monster. At some point it’s going to need a major haircut but I’ll wait until the explosion of flowers subsides!

Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’

So perfect.

Grevillea miqueliana

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed but thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for sponsoring Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day!


Smokin’ Grass!

I’ve developed a late in life love for grasses. Where I once imagined a mixed border cramscaped with a vast array of flowering perennials, this fall I found myself purging and simplifying so I could focus more on texture, form and movement and less on flowers.  In my opinion, grasses are the epitome of all of those things and with every one I’ve added to my garden over the years, I’m inspired to add more! Is it crazy that I’m reinventing my garden after only 4 years?


Leveled view of  ‘Triangle Garden’

My front triangle garden sits on an unobstructed incline that gets some serious east wind.  While it can sound quite scary at times, with its full sun location it does make for some pretty magical moments for anything tall and billowy in my garden!


Gardening on a sunny and windy incline!

Here are a just a few of my favorites….

This Andropogon ‘Red October’ (?) has been in my garden from the beginning. I  accidentally purged a group of plant tags so I’m giving its identification a best guess here. As you can see here, it’s suffering a bit from my original cramscaping plan but it should enjoy some extra space come this spring! The Eryngium ‘Jade Frost’ stayed ( I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to transplant eryngiums) and the andropogon provides nice support as it reaches its peak height.


Andropogon ‘Red October’

Last year I added several Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ to my garden all with varying degrees of success.  The two in my front Triangle garden were the most successful. I’m hard pressed to decide if my favorite feature is their gracefulness, delicate seed heads or colorful transformation throughout the season!


Schyizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’



I don’t see many molinias out and about and I can’t figure out why.  If you’re looking for a tidy, tall, sturdy grass that will not get the “flopsies,” this is the grass for you!

My favorite is Molinia caerulea ‘Strahleguelle’.


Molinia caerulea ‘Strahlequelle’



In the background below is Pennisetum macrourum (African Feather Grass). This was a Fall 2018 addition from our blogger’s semi-annual plant swap. With it’s focal placement, I’m hoping it does as well for me as it has for my fellow bloggers!


For blue color you cannot beat Agropyron magellanicum. This has been in my garden for years thanks to Xera Plants.


Agropyron magellanicum


I wish this Penstemon ‘Enor’ would be more prolific! I love the purple against the blue backdrop!


My Agropyron magellanicum does seed around but tends to plant itself among friends so separating can be challenging. I chose to leave this one in the libertia rather than try to move it.

Another senior member of my garden is this Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’. While I had an idea of it’s size, I had no idea that it would become a beast in only one season! This fall I moved it a third time.  Its new home is now in the back of the left garden where it can be a fabulous back drop rather than a blocking screen! I’m hoping it survived the transplant.


Miscanthus ‘Morning Light”

With it’s size, it can’t help but photo bomb almost every picture I take in this part of the garden. I think it makes a nice accompaniment!



Classic photo bomb with this Kniphofia ‘Shining Scepter’, Edgewarthia chrysanthia and unknown acanthus.

Every gardener plants at least one plant that haunts them. In spring of 2015 I planted mine – Stipa tenuissama or Mexican Feather grass. Despite the warnings of Matthew The Lents Farmer , I just HAD to add this to my garden. I’ve been pulling it out of everywhere ever since! Its memory will haunt me forever living amid the spiky fronds of the adjacent windmill palm.


2015 Triangle Garden with the original Stipa tenuissama

In the fall of 2017, when my grass craze was really getting going, I decided to make more bad choices. With its close downhill proximity, my hell strip was a perfect landing place for reseeding. I thought I would go with the flow and not just keep the seedlings, but transplant one so I could have three! While I loved the result, inevitably they had to go as more offspring quickly started popping up!


Stipa tenuissima

Next season the tip of the hell strip with feature more molinias and Anemanthole lessoniana or Pheasant Tail Grass. After espying and coveting Anemanthole lessoniana in a fellow blogger’s garden, I’ve added several throughout the front garden. From its long, slender and wispy “tails” to its four season color interest, there is so much to love about this grass! I particularly enjoy it’s companionship with the caryopteris in early fall.


Anemanthole lessoniana with Caryopteris ‘Dark Knight and Caryopteris ‘Longwood’


Fabulous “pheasant tails

How many Stipa gigantea is too many? I’m hoping three is the magic number because I’m running out of room! ! This grass is the centerpiece of my hell strip and it’s nothing short of majestic. Reaching almost 8 feet tall at times, this grass mesmerizes me with it’s shimmering seed heeds dancing in the sun for much of the year!


Stipa gigantea stealing the show!

Each year I’ve added another to the hell strip.


Stipa gigantea

Speaking of fabulous seed heads, just past the Stipa Gigantea are five Stipa barbata. They are victims on my previous cramscaping ideas which doesn’t allow their long, alien finger-like seed heads to enjoy the space they need. This spring they will be relocated up the street where they can get space and the attention they deserve.


Stipa barbata


You know you and your friends are obsessed gardeners when they show up at the fanciest cocktail bar in town with a giant chunk of grass for you from their garden. My friend and fellow blogger, Heather, Just a girl with a hammer divided this gorgeous Miscanthus malepartus last year and did just that! Now I have a perfect transitioning plant from the hell strip to the shade garden!


Miscanthus malepartus

I think it makes a beautiful backdrop to some colorful companions!


As I started gardening and learning about plants, I began to worry that people would think I was weird because I would constantly ask them about their plants when I visited their garden. I would file things away in my brain or put notes in my phone so I wouldn’t forget if there was something of particular interest. Well, I’m wondering when Heather is going to realize how many of my grass ideas I’ve stolen from her garden!

Pennisetum spatheolatum was the first of several grass ideas I stole from Heather. You can’t beat it for tall, graceful movement in the garden!


Pennisetum spatheolatum


I repositioned two of them last spring and I paid the price with minimal seed heads from both. I’m hoping they will have forgiven me by this summer! 

Perhaps the best lesson I’ve learned experimenting with grasses is that they breathe new life into my fading garden in the fall and reinvent the landscape as many of my perennials begin to fade. I’ve developed a new appreciation for the fall color of my peonies!





Last fall I edited quite a bit of my garden to more prominently feature grasses and added several alliums, multiple Kniphofia thomsonii var. snowdenii , Asclepius fascicularus and eutrochium to sway among them throughout the season.

As a new season approaches, I’m eager to see how the changes play out and what new and wonderful grasses I’ll discover!


Made in the Shade

I have a love/hate relationship with my shade garden. (I chronicled the beginning here in earlier blogs I Never Promised You a Shade Garden… and I Never Promised You a Shade Garden…Part Deux. )On one hand, I get to explore an entirely different array of plants than the rest of my sun loving garden, but on the other, gardening there is a pain in the butt! Rich, moisture retentive soil against the house on one side and a bone dry root laden slope on the other have made plant selection and siting challenging, especially for someone learning as they go!

The original blank canvas

Needless to say, this has been an adventure and trial and error has become the norm here. Two full seasons have passed and I’ve learned a lot about gardening in the shade.


The first plantings

Fast forward two years…

Daphne x transatlantica Eternal Fragrance will be the star here eventually but right now the moss steals the show! 

First lesson: It’s all about the Benjamins:

This is a BIG space and needs lots of plants! Also, about half of this space (the slope) has been “guerrilla gardened” as it is my neighbors property. I try to be as cost conscious as possible with plant selection here and shop end of season sales and discount corners of nurseries for deals. Matthew The Lents Farmer has been very helpful over the years with hosta and fern divisions along with fabulous finds from and so has our semi-annual swap with my very generous blogger friends! My neighbor even chips in a few bucks every now and then to show her appreciation!

Aspidistra elatior ‘Okame’,  Aspidistra hainanensis ‘Jade Ribbons’ and Hydrangea integrifolia

Second lesson: Read the damn tags! 

I know, I know. I’ve said this before and I do read them but sometimes I just want them to be wrong! I’ve had to move or lose multiple heucheras and astilbes (to name a couple) because I insisted I could make them work where I put them! If you look closely you might notice some unintentional before and after photos from this summer!

Pseudopanax “Sabre’, Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’,  Hemiboa subcapita

Third lesson: Treat yourself!

Buy what you love! Over the next few years I’ve accumulated a few plants that will become anchors in my garden therefore were worthy of spending a few extra dollars to get what I really wanted. My Psuedopanax ‘Sabre’ (I know I’m tempting fate), Fatsia ‘Camouflage’ and Fatsia ‘Murakuma Nishiki’, ‘Rhododendron makinoi and Dan Hinkley’s Hydrangea “Plum Passion’ and Schefflera delavayi were all must haves and hold special places in my heart.

Hydrangea “Plum Passion’ and multiple Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ and ‘aureala’

Fourth lesson: Keep it simple

For those with more design prowess, you probably would have been more successful but I tried to do too much with too many types of plants on my slope. It felt chaotic. By the end of the summer I cleaned it up and simplified things by creating smaller zones each containing fewer types of plants. In the end, it felt better and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out next season.


Viburnum rhytidophyllum and Fatsia japonica ‘Murakuma Nishiki’ in the background

Fifth lesson: Be patient

I’m pretty sure this is another lesson I keep learning over and over. A full, lush, tall shade garden does not happen overnight or even in a few years. I takes time and is a journey.


Rhododendron makinoi and Schefflera delavayi is a favorite combination

You my have noticed my omission of fern identification. You’re correct. I’ve done a terrible job of record keeping on my ferns so I’m just going to leave it at that.

I’m a sucker for all forms of variegation. Luzula sylvatica “Marginata, Fatshedera ‘Angyo Star’

Fatsia japonica at the entrance

Each spring I look the shade garden with the most anticipation. I’m excited to see how it will evolve this year!




Summer of ‘18 – Top 30

photo credit Loree Bohl

It’s been a minute since my last blog post. 5 months of minutes almost to the day. Somehow I’ve missed the entire summer so I thought my “annual” summer recap might be an appropriate comeback.

This year I’ve upped the ante to a top 30 instead of 25. Also, my favorites are in no particular order. I’m getting lazy in my old age.

– Asclepias fascicularis

Why it’s on the list: I’ve always had a taste for weird and unusual plants and the tall, wiry and wispy nature of this particular asclepias resonated with me. My front garden will undergo a pretty dramatic facelift this year and I’m hoping for this guy to play a key role.

Asclepias fascicularis

– Eryngium ‘Blue Sapphire’, Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’ and Euphorbia ‘Dean’s Hybrid”

Why they are on the list: Yes, I know I’m cheating a bit by sneaking three plants into one entry but this was one of my favorite moments of the summer. The gaura did what gaura does and just appeared out of nowhere lending itself to this vignette. You can’t beat eryngiums for long-lived summer interest, either. Long after the brilliant blue has faded, this eryngium still delivers.

Eryngium ‘Blue Sapphire’ and Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’


– Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll’

– After years of repeatedly asking The Lents Farmer what this plant was, I finally remembered to buy one this spring and I could kick myself for not jumping on the nigella train sooner! That color, those scraggly leaves, those seed heads! Swoon!

Nigella demascena ‘Miss Jekyll’

– Gillenia trifoliata

– Why it’s on the list? I’m not sure why I don’t see this plant more often in gardens. It is such a lovely perrenial shrub for spring and early summer and the fall color is great, too! The flowers are a bit reminiscent of gaura but without the naughtiness. You’ll probably start to notice a trend of my fondness for plants with lots of movement as the list progresses.

Gillenia trifoliata

– Echinacea ‘Green Envy’

– Why it’s on the list? This plant stopped me in my tracks at Pomarius Nursery. Unfortunately, so did the price tag and I left it behind and regretted it the moment I got home. I spent the rest of the summer tracking it down and finally found one. My echinacea phase has run it’s course but the unique beauty and staying power of e.’Green Envy’ will ensure that this one always has a home in my garden.

Echinacea ‘Green Envy’

– Sisyrinchium ‘Lucerne’

– Why it’s on the list? How many sisyrinchiums are enough? Well, I’ll be sure to tell you when I figure that out! Several years ago I bought Sisyrinchium ‘E.K. Balls’ from Xera Plants and every year I’ve added one or two more low growing versions. This spring I decided that more is more and that they would become my little beacons of spring for the hellstrip. I particularly like the height of Sisyricnchium ‘Lucerne’ and their “blue eyes” lend themselves well to their surroundings.

Sisyrinchium ‘Lucerne’

– Rose Campion

– Why it’s on the list: This picture says it all. I’ve never had a swallowtail visit my garden. For a few weeks this year, they could not get enough of the several campions I had scattered throughout my garden. They were almost daily visitors flitting from one to another throughout my garden.

Rose Campion

– Dierama trichorhizum (dwarf)

– Why it’s on the list: I’m a bit cracked out on dieramas. I just couldn’t resist when I saw this dwarf version from the ladies at Secret Garden Growers . I am impressed with how much it has grown in just a year and hope to share it this spring with my blogger friends.

Dierama trichorhizum (dwarf)

– Jasminum officinale ‘Argenteovariegatum’

– Why it’s on the list: There is so much to love about this plant. The new growth in spring is a stunning rose/pink eventually becoming this fabulous variegation. This is the first year it’s bloomed enough for me to really enjoy it’s incredible fragrance, too!

Jasminum officinale ‘Argenteovariegatum’

– Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’

– Why it’s on the list: If I was ranking my favorites, this clematis would be a strong contender for number one. I found it on the clearance rack at Garden Fever at the very end of the season last year and snatched it up after seeing it on Danger Garden’s blog. I wasn’t prepared for the fabulousness of this plant. On it’s journey to full bloom, every incarnation revealed something unique and beautiful. Even when it was done, it left behind a fabulous purple central tuft! Unfortunately, it quickly succumbed to clematis wilt and I cut it back to the ground. I’m happy to report it’s made a full recovery and is currently flowering!

Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’


Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’

Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’

– Lilium formosanum var. coccineum

– Why it’s on the list: I’m working through a lily phase and the more unusual the better. Of course, I could rely on the ladies at Secret Garden Growers for a unique contribution to my collection with this fabulous “dwarf”. The only thing dwarf about this lily is the height because the flowers are full size and fabulous! It does make for some tricky picture taking!

Lilium formosanum var. coccineum

– Kniphofia ‘Timothy’

– Why it’s on the list: Kniphofias were part of my “Holy Trinity” of a favorite genus of plants when I first started my garden and thanks to cultivars like Kniphofia ‘Timothy’ my love is just getting stronger. I am crazy about the contrast of the coral flowers and cinnamon stems and the constant reblooming over the summer is an added bonus!

Kniphofia ‘Timothy’

 – Penstemon ‘Enor’ and Agropyron magellanicum

– Why they are on the list: There really isn’t anything else I’ve found that can duplicate this almost luminescent blue in the garden. It’s probably the only reason the Penstemon ‘Enor’ is still there with its lackluster performance over the past two years. They sure are pretty together!

Penstemon ‘Enor’ and Agropyron magellanicum


Agropyron magellanicum

– Eryngium agavifolium, Liatris spicata ‘Floristan Violett’, Acanthus unknown

Why they are on the list: Here is another of my favorite moments of the summer. I love how everyone is lining up like little soldiers! Thanks to some generous blogger friends, I’ve added several more liatris to this area of the garden.

Eryngium agavifolium, Liatris spicata ‘Floristan Violett’

– Kniphofia ‘Safranvogel’

– Why it’s on the list: OMG this color! Coral where have you been all my life? Well, you’ve been here all along  (see Kniphofia ‘Timothy’) but you just needed the right spot! K. Safranvogel did not disappoint when given a prime location in the triangle garden this year. It’s combination with Artemesia ‘Silver Foam’ and Brachyglottis monroi has inspired a front garden overhaul!

Kniphofia ‘Safranvogel’

– Coreopsis ‘Sweet Marmelade’

– Why it’s on the list: Before there was coral there was apricot! The unique color of this coreopsis always makes it a topic of discussion during garden visits.  This was my first coreopsis and it may end up being the last as I’ve grown weary of their flopsy ways.

Coreopsis ‘Sweet Marmelade’

– Pennisetum spatheolatum

– Why it’s on the list: I blame Heather Just a Girl with a Hammer  . I hold her accountable for my obsession with grasses. Upon seeing this grass in her garden, it was love at first sight. There is nothing quite like the graceful movement of Pennisetum spatheolatum and last summer the hell strip was reimagined with grasses galore!

Pennisetum spatheolatum

– Eryngium variifolium

– Why it’s on the list: 1.See Something Wicked This Way Comes….2. It’s an eryngium.

Eryngium variifolium

– Trachelium caeruleum 

– Why they are on the list: I’ve loved these from the moment I saw them at Xera several years ago and I’ve collected almost every different variety they’ve offered over the years. From dark purple, dark blue to this beautiful lilac color, these umbels make perfect companions to the crocosmia, manzanita, and grasses in the hellstrip and throughout my garden.

Trachelium caeruleum – species I believe

– Eryngium leavenworthii ‘Purple Sheen’

– Why it’s on the list: A PURPLE eryngium? Are you kidding me? I snatched three of these up when I discovered them at Portland Nursery in early spring.  I was giddy with excitement of what might come in late summer. Wow, was it worth the wait. The jury is out on their hardiness so I’m hoping for some self-sowing!

Eryngium leavenworthii ‘Purple Sheen’

Leave it my blogger friend Loree to snap the best picture of this plant during a quick stop at my garden…Can you believe the color? No editing here folks.

photo credit Loree Bohl

Photo courtesy of Loree Bohl

– Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’

Why it’s on the list: Over the years, grevillea has replaced cistus in my plant genus ‘Holy Trinity’ and Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’ was my shining star this year! What a show it put on this summer again the Tetrapanax.

Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’

– Lilium ‘African Queen’

– Why it’s on the list: Another stop in my tracks moment courtesy of Heather! I had never seen (or at least taken notice) of trumpet lilies until I saw them in her garden. These bulbs were the first plant purchase of the season this year at the Portland Home and Garden Show. The height and drama ensure there will be more to come!

Lilium ‘African Queen’


– Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’

– Why it’s on the list: I couldn’t remember why I bought four of these late last season until this guy started to come to life. Every day for months I noticed something new and different and the way it moves in the wind is hypnotic. It’s still beautiful today.

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’

– Eryngium aff. lattifolium

– Why it’s on the list: If I was doing a countdown, this would be number one. It checks off every box: weird, wild, wacky and will hurt me. I discovered this in the display garden at Cistus Nursery a couple of years ago and brought one home in a tiny 4″ pot. A couple of years went by and I had forgotten what it had looked like. I couldn’t even find pictures online. Then things started to get crazy this spring!  I’ll let the pictures tell the story as this eryngium rocketed to almost 7 feet tall! It was magical watching it grow. This plant created a pollinator frenzy like I’ve never seen before. The “towers” are still standing strong today!

Eryngium aff. lattifolium

Eryngium aff. lattifolium

Eryngium aff. lattifolium

– Lilium martagon ‘Russian Morning’

– Why it’s on the list: If only I could have all the martagons! This martagon was my best performer this year. They are such perfect companions to the hostas.

Lilium martagon ‘Russian Morning’

Enter a captionLilium martagon ‘Russian Morning’

– Grevillea ‘Molongolo’

– Why it’s on the list:  My Grevillea ‘Molongolo’ had the best year yet as it has reached almost 8×8 feet as I’ve given it more room. Check out those freaky, fabulous apricot flowers!


Grevillea ‘Molongolo’


Grevillea ‘Molongolo’

– Disporopsis perdeyi

– Why it’s on the list: There is something luxurious and sexy about this plant. At the same time I have this picture of in my head of Carol Burnett standing at the top of a staircase saying “I saw in a window and just couldn’t resist!”

Disporopsis perdeyi

– Camassia leichtlinii ‘Blue Danube’

– Why it’s on the list: You know it is spring in Portland when the camassia starts to bloom. I’ve not been impressed with some shorter versions, however, Camassia leichtlini ‘Blue Danube’ was an absolute showstopper in the hellstrip and I have plans for adding more in the spring!

Camassia leichtlinii ‘Blue Danube’

– Gordlinia grandiflora

– Why it’s on the list: Cistus is known for walking the hardiness tightrope. I try not getting too attached to what I bring home from Sauvie Island.  So, two years ago when I bought home this foot tall tree, I kept my expectations low. I have high hopes for this beauty as it reaches almost 10 feet tall. I’m crazy about the open branch structure, glossy leaves that turn bright red in the fall and its sweet flowers in late summer and early fall.

Gordlinia grandiflora

– Paeonia ‘Nike’

– Why it’s on the list: There had to be at least one peony on the list! This is my first and only tree peony. I love the big, dramatic flowers and how the color changes with the light and throughout its life cycle.

Paeonia ‘Nike’

– Grevillea rivularis

– Why it’s on the list: Stay tuned for next year’s edition when this is my #1! I started out this season with a list of about 20 must have plants and took it to Hortlandia. Thanks to The Desert Northwest, I was able to cross this hard to find grevillea off my list.


Grevillea rivularis

It feels good reflecting on my garden again after such a long break. This season was different for me. With so many competing priorities and life changes, I feel there was barely time to keep up my garden’s maintenance so writing about it just didn’t sound like much fun. And then there was loss. Scrolling through pictures of flowers and plants for my blog also meant reliving memories and moments that, at times, would bring me to tears.

But, life goes on and over the past month I’ve focused on what’s next and what could be for my garden and I feel like it’s having a personal effect on me, as well. Funny how digging in the dirt can do that to you.

This blog is dedicated to our sweet girl, Yvette. Our Nay Nay. My little Monkey.

Your Uncle Alan loves and misses you. We all do.


Yvette in one of her favorite spots – Uncle Alan’s lap






Backyard Beauties

For the past six months, my backyard has been the black sheep of my garden. I have been renovating my basement into an apartment for my sister and sister in-law and dreading the thought that at some point there would be an egress window dug out in one of the beds. Without going into any detail, I’ll let pictures below do the talking…


A nightmare in real life

Before construction of the egress window began, I did my best to dig out adjacent plants and get them out of the way. I was not prepared for my garden to be left in this state of disarray for six weeks! Eventually the original company was fired and a new company came and completed the work in a day! Then my awesome contractor swooped in for the final cleanup. I came home to the following picture one day. Overall, there was minor plant damage, but the grass was toast and left me seriously considering if I should finally just give in and gravel the whole damn backyard!


Looking better!

Bless my contractor. Imagine what he had to endure from this crazy garden man endlessly fretting about his garden for months! He and his crew brought in some grass seed and peat moss and in another five weeks or so it looked like this…


Beautiful new grass!

They even did the rest of the backyard, but I probably should have killed ALL the grass and started over since the new stuff looks so damn perfect and doesn’t have any weeds or clover!

I dream of one day reimagining the entire backyard with fabulous hardscape, a shade structure and fancy seating. For now I’ll have to settle with shifting outdoor furniture around and dressing things up a bit! I’m going to marinate (with a glass of wine, of course) on the idea adding some temporary pavers to this area. For now, the grass is definitely staying!


It was time to retire the wooden adirondack chairs and fire pit for a more modern vibe

Inspiration is everywhere and I’m so fortunate to know some talented and gracious gardeners who have shared their gardens with me. This little potted plant grouping is my humble “homage” to Danger Garden. I was lucky enough to score one of her agaves at our latest plant swap. All this spiky goodness seemed like a prefect match for these fabulous containers I got last summer at the closeout sale from Contained Exuberance!


Agave salmiara ferox (thanks Loree!), Agave victorie-reginae (thanks Matthew!), Agave ‘fromlanceatheswapii’ (thanks Lance!), and two plants that miraculously survived outside this winter…Anigozanthos flavidus and Cuphea ignea ‘David Verity’

The inspiration for this blog came from a particularly crappy morning, so I started taking pictures of pretty things to make me happy. So, without further ado, here are my current “Backyard Beauties”.

IMG_1207 2

Anigozanthos flavidos flower bud! Neglect has it’s rewards!

Solanum crispum ‘Glasvin’

Paeonia ‘White Sands’

Paeonia ‘Coral Sands’

Tradencentia (perhaps ‘Osprey’)


Astrantia major ‘Star of Fire’

Iris sinenisii

Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’

Dianthus barbatus ‘Green Ball’

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

Tanacetum densum ssp. amani

Clematis florida ‘Seiboldii’

Ozothamnus romarinifolis ‘Silver Jubilee’

Erica terminalis


Sisyrinchium striatum



Paeonia ‘Border Charm’

Paeonia ‘Border Charm’

A Spring Update…A Foliage Focus

Things are about to get a little crazy at The Mardi Gras Gardens in the next couple of weeks. The whole “April showers bring May flowers” thing will ensure that the garden explodes with color and flower power!

I’ve got a reputation for being a bit of a flower floozy. Truth be told, I like to get freaky with some sexy foliage, too! I thought this would be a good time to take a stroll through my garden where texture and foliage are the stars and before I start inundating you guys with close ups of the hundreds of flowers that will eventually overtake my garden!

So let’s take a quick stroll through the front gardens…

My front gardens are three separate spaces with three unique personalities. The left garden I call Wild and Wacky since it’s where I started putting a lot of my weird and unusual plants. The right garden has turned into a “cottagesque” mixed border. The hell strip from hell I now lovingly refer to as The Grasslands – you’ll see why in a minute.

From the beginning, I’ve always considered myself a bit of a collector of plants and I’ve taken advantage of the physical divisions of my garden and try to at at least group likeminded ones together.  I don’t always succeed so I’m sure I’m breaking all sorts of garden design rules but it’s truly a reflection of me and what I love about gardening.


The left garden today.

Oh, and who doesn’t love a before and after…


Left garden in 2013.

You may have noticed that I have no sidewalks. My garden flows directly into the street and presents some distinct challenges. For the most part, I love how unique it is and I’m working on some ways to “curb” people’s thoughts about choosing to park on my side of the street.


Callistemon viridiflorus,  Corokia x virgata ‘Mangatangi’, Ozmanathus ‘Sasaba’, Grevillea miqueliana and Hebe ‘Pink Elephant’ are some favorites here.

One of my favorite things over the years is watching my garden expand out over the hardscape. I’m fascinated by the indomitable nature of plants and their insistence of growing wherever they damn well pease! The Iberis sempervirens, Aquilegia ‘Leprechaun Gold’, Rose Campion, gaura and several sedum and carex have made themselves very comfortable in the gravel drive!


I feel fortunate to have this wonderful hardscape come with the house.

Next up is what I once called the Triangle garden but a fellow blogger was touring my garden one day and called it a mixed border so I’ve called it that ever since. It’s definitely mixed up, for sure, chockfull of a variety of plants and major late spring and summer color and flower power.  Right now,  with the exception of some early spring flowering trees and shrubs, the foliage takes center stage.


The right garden today marries strange bedfellows like grevillea, yucca, palm and ozothamnus with various lilies, pierus, roses and LOTS of peonies.  Weird, but it works for me and it sure makes for some fun foliage contrast in spring! 

Another shot from the beginning…


The right garden 2013.

My lot is some weird slanted rectangle. I’m sure there is a name for it but geometry was one of my worst subjects! I’ve always called this area between my driveway and street my “Hellstrip from Hell”. My entire front garden is full sun but this area takes the worst beating. I’ve learned a lot over the years from very smart and talented blogger friends and from gardens I’ve toured and with consistent trial and error (and some idea stealing), I have ended up turning this area into “The Grasslands”.


Tip of the “rectangle ” 2018 beginning to fill in. 

This is a picture from Gooogle maps! I couldn’t find a picture of mine probably because I was terrified of this space.


Tip of the triangle 2013

I got a wild hair late last summer and reimagined most of this area. It’s the first time I feel like I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I’ve learned over the past five years. I’m excited and nervous to see how this area comes to life this summer. I can always change it if I screwed it up!


Eventually groups of Nesella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), Stipa gigantea, Stipa barbata, Anementhele lessiniana and Pennisetum spatheolatum will rise above the evergreen cistus, grevillea, archtostaphylos, and callistemon.

It’s a pretty picture is my mind…We’ll see how it plays out!


Archtostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn and my first try and pruning. I hope I didn’t butcher them too badly!


Callistemon seiberi


My oldest and largest Stipa Gigantea with Grevillea miqueliana, Cistus ‘Warley Rose’ and Lagerstreomia ‘Tuscarora’ in the background.

While it’s definitely all about the grasses, lots of parahebe perfoliata, sisyrinchiums, kniphofias, zauchnerias, caryopteris and crocosmias will bring color throughout the early and late summer after the camas finish their stunning display.


My little Tetrapanax papyrifer “forest’ and Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’ in the background signal the end of The Grasslands and the beginning of the Shade/Fern Garden. 

I tend to get a bit of analysis paralysis when I’m writing my blog so it’s taken several days to pull this one together. In that time, it’s crazy how much has changed and how much is beginning to come into bloom! Looks like the May Bloom Day post is going to be a doozy!

I’ll put on my Flower Floozy hat and will see you then!

A trip to the Elk Rock Garden, the garden at the Bishop’s Close.

The best things in life really are free – especially in Portland. I can’t believe it took me this long to discover this hidden gem just a stone’s throw away from my house! Although we just missed the crocus in bloom, there were still many wonderful sites to behold in early March and many promises of beautiful things to come.


Matthew The Lent’s Farmer with Yvee at the entrance on a rare sunny afternoon! As you can tell by her smile, Yvee is as excited to explore as we are!

My family and friends who aren’t in the gardening community often give me a lot of grief because I’m constantly dragging them to places like this but what a wonderful way for a fairly new gardener to see fully realized and mature plants.

This could be a photograph from our trip to Ireland!


On to the garden and it’s wonders….


Rhododendron sinogrande (right?)

A lesson I’ve learned over the years is to take pictures of plant tags! I’m pretty sure this is the one I saw at the Portland Home and Garden show in February.

Although I don’t particularly like rhododendron flowers, I do have a thing for interesting foliage so they present a bit of a conundrum for me. Then there are the ones like in the picture below….wow! If only I had the setting for something like this..


If you are a magnolia lover, the garden will be a delight for you! Everywhere you turn around there is one waiting to be discovered!


Magnolia dawsoniana

One could get dizzy looking up and down so much! So many tall, mature trees providing shade to a plethora of goodness below! Take this oxalis for example. I’m always to tempted by oxalis and this incredible carpet really is making it hard to resist!


In my head, this is what the slope of my shade/fern garden looks like!


My harsh reality!


This will be my shade area’s second year so there is still a lot to do and a bit of a blank canvas! There are about 15 hostas still to pop up, though! 

Visiting gardens can be great for inspiration and this field of hellebores gave me a great idea for my shady slope!




What a great place to see fully realized attributes of your favorite plants! I’m going to be an old man by the time mine gets anywhere near this!


Stewartia pseudocamelia

One of the meandering paths. Caution: not completely “wagon accessible” throughout.

Remember what I said about their magnolia collection? This one was a “clutch the pearls” moment!


Magnolia delavayi

SWOOON! If only I had the space for this beauty!


One the other end of the spectrum, there were darling little woodland beauties lining the paths along the way!


Not sure what it is but it’s adorable

Look at the color! I must figure out what this is and find it!


I had to smile as I stumbled upon a familiar nursery tag!


My favorite nursery Xera Plants. 

The madrones (Arbutus menziesii) had the best view!

I’ve seen troughs before at open gardens and, if memory serves me right, McMenammin’s Edgefield, but this is the first time I’ve seen them in a more natural setting. I thought they were pretty cool and wondered how old they might be.



The lawn was beautiful, too, and reminded me that we were actually in what was once a residence.


Look at that green space!

A little perspective for scale.


Another magnificent magnolia! Matthew and Yvee were good sports putting up with my picture taking but decided to go on ahead.


I met up with them for some selfies before leaving.

One last look….incredible!


Looking forward to my next visit and seeing what new wonders will have appeared!

For more information for your own visit http://www.elkrockgarden.org



Time to Say Goodbye….Charlie Brown Rhododendron

In “Move it or Lose it”, one of my first blog posts, I shared the virtues of embracing change as a key lesson to a beginner gardener. This lesson has served me well over the past five years as I’ve come to understand my garden better and learned more about gardening.

I bought my house five years ago and I’ve said goodbye to plenty of plants that came with the house (ugh, those cotoneasters!). For the most part, the unsightliness, impracticality or death of the plant made removing them an easy decision. There is one plant, let’s call it my Charlie Brown Rhododendron, that I’ve hemmed and hawed about removing for years.

Yesterday Charlie Brown went into the yard waste bin.

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Charlie next to the cotoneaster. It probably should have been removed at the same time as the bamboo – or the cotoneaster! 

It was time. In retrospect, I think I held onto Charlie out of sheer stubbornness because Matthew The Lents Farmer told me I should get rid of it the same day we took out the bamboo. Also, I am sucker for an underdog so I swore I would save Charlie Brown and resuscitate the poor thing from the brink of death!


Four years later!

Fast forward four years and Charlie Brown recovered well. Perhaps too well because it was getting to a point where I was going to have to chose between trimming the Magnolia ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ or removing Charlie Brown. Sorry Charlie.


Driveway view. Growing into the magnolia

While I loved the shade Charlie provided the driveway side of the front bed, there are other plants I’ve added over the years that are now more important to me and need more space.


A much better view of the magnolia. The Enkianthus, a favorite, will fill in some of Charlie’s space

It was tough for me as a beginner gardener being comfortable with negative space so I tended to over plant. This is the year I am finding myself editing so the plants I love have the room they need to thrive.


My Grevillea ‘Molonglo’ has become so large it covers Charlie’s stump! 

My Grevillea ‘Molonglo’ is one of those plants that has done exceptionally well and I’ve spent three years training it to go around Charlie. With Charlie gone, it can now grow in it’s natural direction and stop smothering all the disporums and heuchuras in it’s path!


Time for the Camellia ‘Yuletide’ and the Stachyurus salicifolius to take center stage

I’m enjoying the open feeling and like that I can now see the opposite side of the front garden from my driveway. Everything looks a little weird now with all the perennials still dormant and with many of the evergreen shrubs only a couple years old. Pretty soon it will be an entirely different picture and I can’t wait to see how it looks!

Lessons I’ve learned from Charlie Brown

  • Be comfortable with negative space
  • Be patient. Things will fill in.
  • Plant more evergreens. And be patient! Eventually there will be less negative space year round
  • Give your plants the space that’s on the tag!!! Will I ever learn this lesson!
  • Don’t be afraid to say goodbye!

Breaking Dormancy

It’s been a few months since I’ve published a blog post. As the holiday retail season ramped up to it’s inevitable fevered pitch, my motivation for accomplishing anything other than coming home and curling up into a ball evaporated.

I haven’t been completely unproductive however. As a way to justify my lack of blog work, I convinced myself that working diligently on my garden plant catalog would be a sufficient substitution. After many starts, stops, reformats and reincarnations, I made tremendous headway on my catalog. No more rifling through tags and scrolling through pictures searching for names of plants every time I want to write a post! I’ve even created a list of “must haves plants” for this year that will hopefully keep me more focused and fiscally responsible.

But, with crocus, galanthus and hamamelis flowers on display, buds popping out and peonies pushing up to the surface, and the memory of the holiday season behind me, I thought it was time for me to come out of my own winter hibernation and dust off the ole blog and give an update on what been happening at The Mardi Gras Gardens.


It’s clean up time!

Our seemingly unseasonable warm and sunny weather in late January and early February sparked a serious wave of productivity from me!


The ever evolving backyard post clean up

Anyone else get the winter itch to impose radical changes upon their gardens in spring? Well, it was a close call for me this year but I quickly realized that all I needed to do was get out and do come serious clean up!

I’m beginning to see the benefit of maintaining a healthy balance of perennials and winter interest evergreen plants. Once all the clutter was removed, I could appreciate what I already had and focus on editing versus replacing.


This year my radical changes will be saved for the non-plant parts of the garden! I need to figure out a better use of this space and that old fire pit has to go! 

This will be a unique year for me, where I begin to edit out plants that don’t serve their purpose any longer. As I move out of my beginner phase as a gardener and into my sophomore years, I’m realizing I’m not the cramscaper that I thought I was.

This will require a significant behavioral change from me this shopping season as I’m accustomed to buying what strikes my fancy and then figuring out what to do with it when I get home! This year I’ve complied a list of my “must haves” to hopefully keep me focused and my garden less crowded! We will will see how that goes!


One of the front areas of the garden all cleaned up and ready for perennial fill in!

Luckily, I do have one area of my garden that still needs lots of plants and that is my shade/fern garden on the side of my house. (see below) One challenge however, is that a large portion of the space doesn’t actually belong to me. The entire slope belongs to the adjacent apartment complex, but it just didn’t seem right not include it in my plan so rationalizing spending a lot of money on that space is tough.

The manager of the apartment complex is wonderful and I couldn’t ask for a better neighbor, so I find deals where I can.  She’s even chipped in here and there and is a life saver watering this side when I’m not able to get to it!


The shade/fern garden in it’s infancy


Probably the most exciting thing that’s happening this year is my twin sister and sister-in-law are moving in with me! They are renovating the lower level of my house and creating their retirement home and beginning a whole new chapter of their lives. I am over the moon to have them share my home with me!

The only downside is a little sacrifice of planting space under my bedroom window to make way for their bedroom egress window. I had to relocate a few plants to make way for the window and a lobelia laxiflora gave it’s life for the greater good but it’s easily replaceable. The jury is still out on whether the Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ will need to be moved.


Getting ready for basement egress window

While this last bit of nasty weather was definitely unwelcome, having a few weeks in the middle of winter reconnecting with my garden revitalized my soul. It got me very excited about this season and I cannot wait to see how the garden comes to life this year!

I’ll leave you with some of my favorite moments in my garden before the snow and freezing temperatures came a couple weeks ago.


Crocus ‘Orange Monarch’


Iris reticulata brightening up the hellstrip

And the ubiquitous winter hellebore photos….


Helleborus ‘Ruby Wine’


Helleborus ‘Pippa’s Purple’


Unknown Hellebore (from swap – Alyse thanks!)


Helleborus ‘Apricot Blush’


Two unknown planted precariously close to one another


Helleborus ‘Snow Fever’


Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’




Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’


Euphorbia ‘Ruby Glow’


Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’


Hebe unknown (possibly ‘Pink Elephant’)


Libertia peregrinans

Until next time!








I’m Still Here!

Who doesn’t love a Shirley MacLaine reference?

Yesterday I was traipsing through an area of my garden that has become a bit overgrown and stumbled across a Crocosmia ‘Solfaterre’ still blooming. At that moment, I pictured Shirley MacLaine sitting on top of a piano wearing a red sequin dress! That should give you a little peak into the window of my mind!

With November around the corner, I thought I would take advantage of this last bit of beautiful weather and see what else might be out there to surprise me.


Crocosmia ‘Solfaterre’


Tulbaghia violacae


Achillea ‘Moonshine’


Calamentha ‘Montrose White’


Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’

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Berkheya Purpurea


Still going strong


Rosa ‘Ralph’s Creeper’


Phygelis ‘Pink Trombone’


Non stop all season


Salvia discolor


Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’




Penstemon ‘Enor’


Penstemon ‘Blackbird’


Still more to come! 


Callistemon sieberi 


Parahebe cattaractae ‘Delight’


Fabiana imbricata ‘Violocea’

Pretty soon cold temperatures and rainy days will become the norm for several months but for now I’ll enjoy this little bit of summer hanging on by a thread.

What’s still surprising you in your garden?