Friday, January 4, 2013

Lawns, who needs lawns?


I am happy to say lawns are not a front yard standard here in Portland. Sure there are still plenty (especially on my street) but it isn't at all unusual to see a front yard completely void of lawn and instead wild with plants. On a walk a couple of weeks ago I discovered this pair, they’re next to each other (just a house in between) on a quiet street. This is what first caught my eye…

A beautiful variegated Echium, in the hell-strip, this is not a common plant here in Portland.

There was also a small Arctostaphylos…

An Echinops, still blooming!

Maybe a Barberry?

And another Echium...

And so much cool stuff! This garden really could have done a fabulous December Bloomday post (I took these pictures on December 12th)…

There was still a happy Alocasia…

And blooming Dahlias!

Some pretty cool moss and lichen too.

Anyone know what this one is?

Heck their Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' even still had leaves!

Looking back at the first house…

And the arbor at the second house.

There was a lot of beautiful foliage in this garden.

And a couple of nice Mahonia (‘charity’ maybe?)...

Their Tetrapanax was working out blooms in the same stage as mine.

There were also many artistic touches here…

I think these little ceramic pieces were hose guards?

And finally there was a hell-strip mosaic carpet…(done by Jeffrey Bale)

Sometimes I’m just so darn happy to live in Portland!

38 comments:

  1. Fantastic photos and lovely gardens, the mosaic is great!

    One thing that has finally got my curiosity is the term "Hell Strip" and why its called that?

    We often have roads with a similar grass strip in the UK but people tend to just call them a grass verge, and they are the responsibility (usually) of the local council to maintain, although some home-owners do plant them up but not many, in some places that's even discouraged.

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    1. As I've heard it told the reason that stretch of land is called "the hell-strip" is because it's sandwiched in between two large chunks of asphalt (Concrete? Whatever roads and sidewalks are made from) which get incredibly hot, as in as hot as hell. Also there is rarely irrigation available for any plantings in the hell-strip, thus plants are left to make it on their own, not living the lush life of those closer to the home.

      In my garden I can add that hundreds of little cleated feet (soccer kids bound for the park at the end of the street) stomping on plants add another level of hellish ordeal for the plants.

      Here in Portland they are the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain, but the city can do whatever they want with the space. So anyone who plants them up can then suffer the hell of watching the city tear them up.

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  2. Yes those are indeed two quite impressive front yards, where the owners obviously put a lot of thought and research into their plantings and designs.

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    1. Now of course I want to see what's in the backyards! Luckily I figured out these gardens belong to members of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon and they were open to fellow members last summer. Maybe again this summer?...

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  3. That mosaic has to be Jeffrey Bale's handiwork. So nice to see other plant-obsessives at work!

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    1. Yes, you are correct Denise! I realized just this morning whose garden that second one might be, luckily I kept my HPSO open gardens book from last summer and was able to confirm it.

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  4. Love all the metal art at the second house, but especially that mosaic, it's fabulous! The rusty posts with a curving piece of metal mesh between them is nice too. The plants are cool too, especially that massive Tetrapanax.

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    1. I've found myself thinking a lot about that curving metal screen...so many possibilities! Of course then it gets me all excited for the upcoming removal of my hydrangea and planting of the clematis...

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  5. Wonderful! I love when you stumble across gems like that! There are some really great plants there. That's like one of my neighbours. Last year they planted a pair of zone 9 variegated hebes. I was happy but kind of sad that they would likely not make it, but they look pristine! I hope those variegated echiums bloom this year!!!!

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    1. Me too! If winter continues like it has been they should be okay. Our official low for New Years Eve (or was it Sunday?) ended up being 23F but that had to be a very brief occurrence, the coldest it's been here at our house is 25. Hope the hebes hang in there!

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  6. Portland has got to have more dedicated gardeners per capita than any other city in the country. I can see why you love living there (aside from all the other wonderful things Portland has to offer). If I had the urge to move, Portland would be high on my list.

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    1. Sean (Cistus) had suggested that Portland rename it's self. Instead of "The City of Roses" (barf) or the really lame "The City that Works" we should be "The City of Gardens" but then "The City that Gardens" has a nice ring to it too.

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  7. Definitely one of my favorite things about Portland...the gardens...there is really an endless variety of them...each with so much personality!

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    1. Yes the different styles and personality are endless aren't they? A trip down any street can yield unexpected finds some great, some interesting, and just to keep things balanced...some frightening!

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  8. Yes, these gardens were open last summer through HPSO (and I visited both). One is referred to as "Nancyland". No wonder they are packed full of plants!

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    1. Is it too late for a NY resolution? I resolve to use my open gardens book a lot more this summer...

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  9. You live in the coolest city ever! These are wonderful gardens & Jeffrey Bale's work is always a joy to see! Lawns? We don't need no stinking lawns!

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    1. I wish I would have thought to use that line "Lawns? We don't need no stinking lawns!"...very nice Outlaw!

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  10. Those small spaces are just *packed* with plants! Its rare that I can recognize more than a couple of plants in a post like this (because of climate differences) so I was glad to see a few that I can actually grow (and do)!

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    1. Yay! Glad to provide you with a few familiar sights.

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  11. Online open gardens like these will keep us going until another season of the real thing rolls around.

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    1. I hear a challenge in there...yes, I accept and will try to keep them coming!

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  12. Aw! I miss Portland. After being born and raised there, and spending the last 6 years in Phoenix and San Diego, I forget how much the rain changes everything! All the houses look so lush and overgrown. And the things I grow tired of, like echium and arctostaphylos, become novelties! Here's hoping I can move back soon!

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    1. Why would you want to? I kid but really, isn't San Diego pretty wonderful for gardening? Portland is a great place but to grow the things you can grow there, well I'd be very happy! BTW I'm glad you commented so I could find your blog. I tried to add it to my Google Reader but I got an error message that there was no feed available...

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  13. Such personality and whimsy in these gardens. I love it! How fun to take a walk and enjoy the beauty of neighbor's gardens :) Cheers, Jenni

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    1. It seems no matter which direction I go there is always something to discover...

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  14. Loree, I think maybe Lauren Springer originated the phrase hell-strip...her design (in Boulder maybe ?) was one of the earliest I can recall, I think it might date back to the 90's ?

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    1. Ah this is good to know, I'll have to do a little more research!

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  15. Perhaps your mystery plant is sweet fern (Comptonia perigrina)? If that second picture is also it then I'm 99% sure that's what it is.

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    1. Thank you Tom! I think you're right (and yes the second picture is also it).

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  16. What a wonderful exciting garden and such treasures blooming in winter - just lovely!

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    1. It's another odd winter here where there are things blooming that kind of boggle the mind!

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  17. I love it when people use their space in interesting ways. Makes walks around the neighborhood much more enjoyable!

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    1. I agree! (careful there SRC...you almost went in the spam filter...)

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  18. Lawn are boring and plants are interesting! That is that. I have been after my husband to get rid of our lawn. Love that Echium and the mosaic a lot.

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    1. You're right, what else is there to say!

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  19. You should be happy to live (and garden) in Portland! Esp. urban Portland, I assume, as surely suburban Portland must be a bit more lawn-friendly? Or can the whole city really be that cool?? Anyway, it must be fun indeed to take a stroll and find new gardens to admire all the time.

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    1. You know I don't spend much time out in the burbs so I'm not the best judge. I can say that most of the newer developments I've seen have very little lawn (because the house takes up the whole lot!).

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