A ‘Pond In The Woods’

I am in the process of filtering through older posts and pictures to come up with book-worthy materials. In the end, while browsing through this blog, I find myself somewhat surprised at my persistence, yet discomfited in the realization of how incredibly many projects I never got pictures of. There must be 100 projects I have managed which are interesting and maybe pretty enough to include in a retrospective, but for which I have no photos. Vancouver being on the other side of the continent doesn’t help, or I would delight in taking 25 year shots which I can strictly guarantee will not resemble their beginnings.

Perhaps the single most remarkable fact about this one is in its origins. What we are talking about is looking out a back porch and seeing forest such as is now moved back to allow in the landscaping, but which basically abutted the home itself. We had loggers in, dug up stumps, produced a mess like nobody’s business, then we dug this ginormous hole in the ground and did all this cosmetic work. It was one hell of a chore.

Rumor has it this place is now on the Portland Garden Walk, officially an “important” local feature. It caused various degrees of consternation and some panic during its construction, but then, every single project does that, bar none. Enjoy.

(The pictures expand by clicking)


My recent visit to Portland included revisiting this eye candy project and some speaking with the new owners who were delighted to know all the ins and outs of the construction of this place.

I have featured this project in other posts but I have recently unearthed a new little trove of pictures taken as we were leaving. These pictures were taken on the day we actually finished the project. It’s hard to believe a month or two earlier the area was all mud, complete with the broken and sawed up tree parts and underbrush which comprised the entire area prior to our excavations and then landscaping. Interestingly, the water clarity in these pictures, although it gives a really pleasing mirror-like reflective finish, is still a bit dirty, proving the “unfinished” nature of it all. Later, it was crystal clear.

There were numerous and very intimidating challenges to it all. For one thing, the deck seen hovering over the water was always designed to stay just an inch above the waterline. Naturally, installing the deck preceded almost all the landscaping work save for the excavation. In typical fashion, therefore, it became our typical logistical nightmare.

Having said that, once a “level” is decided upon, at least we have something solid to base the rest of the construction on.  The impracticalities all come home to roost right around then.

picture 29

This project was pretty gnarly to make. The liner itself was something like 80′ by 60′, meaning it took 7 of us just to spread it out, much less to adjust it all. EPDM Liners are heavy as heck. Just getting it into the back yard required a machine. Nor was this the only liner on the project. We also had a creek to construct because we wanted at least some water recirculating and oxygenating instead of becoming an algae-infested mess. Yes, it is pretty much shady back there, but it still got enough sunshine to make algae an issue.

So we made a good sized creek, with a fairly good rate of flow. Making it look natural was pretty easy, frankly, owing to the density of plantings and the availability of plants we had relocated, ready for planting, upon the commencement of the project:

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The look from the patio:


The project was complicated by the desire of the owners for a small island. Man, anything but that! 😉

This is not easy when designing with liners. The little mound where the island goes has to be made just right, at the proper height and width, nor can it eventually sink. So it got compacted to a large degree but not so it would become impossible to plant.

Hey – hand me that piano, OK?


When all was said and done, we had ourselves a real winner, I think. We found abundant forest material to insert into the edges of the water, making it appear far older than – ahem – one day old.



The Springtime effects look gorgeous in many of these shots – there were blooms galore and bright shiny new leaves everywhere.


The project remains a rather epic achievement for yours truly, shared by many others, of course. These sorts of projects can be frustrating and challenging but they seem more than worth the effort with a little ‘remove’.


Last Year’s Chinese Garden Trip – Modified

The Sun came out today in Portland. Bar none, every man and woman Jack and Jill made their ways outside just to feel the strangeness. I took my standard half day trip to the Pearl District and the Portland Chinese Garden.

Remarkable stuff happened there.

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For examples, ducks were born overnight – or during the morning…….. Check the little pile of brand new ‘expanded family’ under the yellow Kerria. Enlarged is best.

We got a splendidly elegant visit from a big Blue Heron……who swooped on in magnificently as we watched.

He preened for the multitude, shamelessly……….and we were quite grateful. What a gorgeous bird.

There have been some trees added since we worked on making this garden. Naturally, time and weather, accidents and bad luck accompany the lives of  plants here, just like real life. But the exquisite care and thought put into the updated plantings must have been thrilling for those responsible for replacements. They have done well indeed.

This weeping tree illustrates perfectly my point. What a stunning decision and oh how correct this setting, seen here in a closer perspective than above. This is a brand new plant for this aficionado and I am very captivated by its placement.

The pathways and surfaces of this splendid garden have always riveted my attention. I recall when they were first being installed, how the Chinese workers would be such intense studies in concentration but who also showed a stunning skill and speed. The failure of the first walkways to pass the City Inspection grabbed everyone’s attention. Having installed perhaps 300 square feet of surface, the indentations between the small pebbles were ruled “too deep” (at 1/4 inch) for wheelchair comfort. While we gnashed our teeth at having to see such a marvelous product literally ripped out – some was merely grouted deeper – the Chinese workers remained cheery and philosophical and simply went back to work with a new template. And asked for another cigarette, lol.

Below, we have a superb planter with utter professionalism extended to not just the choice of plant – a Wysteria, of course – but in it’s classical stylistic pruning and placement. This is beyond the Bonzai look – more utilitarian in releasing it to achieve a larger influence – and perfectly set against the amazing wood-working of the entire garden. The wood finishes are an absolute highlight anyway.

As yet another splendid example of the obsession with uncommonly gorgeous classical Chinese wood-working, check out this indoor section of the garden and the superb little chair and table set in the little building designed to look like a barge afloat in the lake.

I’m just having fun with diverse images at present, focusing on just a few little delights I encountered. I will post yet more pictures tomorrow and probably the next day. Lord knows I took enough pictures – I think something like 127 while there.  😉

Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite-ever pastimes, this garden, and a huge treat I indulge in every visit.

Here’s a gorgeous Crabapple I obviously couldn’t get enough of. I just absolutely adore the bloom color, to say nothing of the setting.

Nice, isn’t it?

Told you I adored it.

There are innumerable newer plants with whom I am not that familiar, such as this beauty below.

A strictly personal note: When I visit here, I almost always tend to recall my incomplete plant knowledge, having invested so much of my landscaping history into the processes of actually getting to the point of finishing rather than of relishing the finishing itself. Yes, it has become lazy of me to express so little interest in plant types – nor is it true at all, not really. The right plant in the right place – and their stunning diversity – is a thrill of its own.

My crews were less than pleased finishing jobs with me on the sites we worked. Ha ha, finally, they forced me off the site, onto the next place, just to be rid of all my angst. An unfortunate factor of my construction persona was always about how epic-ally well I began projects and how frustrated I was at the always-slow process of finishing. I have often hired appropriately, using some ‘human backhoe’ with me at the next start and leaving experienced and more patient people to finish up.

Yet another gorgeous beauty of an early bloomer –

Finally, today, a word about the “windows” in to this little slice of Paradise. The following 3 pictures are taken from the sidewalk outside the garden. As one can readily see, each opening is unique, offering a fresh peek into the courtyard, hinting superbly to what interesting things lie inside.

Blooms, water, foliage and even the patterns on the windows themselves are just a terrific example of how special the designers wanted this city block in such a busy down town area to be.

Seasonally different yet promising, the views from these spaces were always designed to be alluring and tempting to step inside and experience the Peace and Serenity which is emitted from every single item of this great urban space.

Crystal Springs Rhodie Garden – Deja Vu All Over Again

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, set deep in downtown Portland, Oregon, neighboring Reed College, executed it’s amazing Spring showcase of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Mariesii Viburnums and the likes in spectacular fashion this week. I feel incredibly lucky to have caught things in this state – as one can see, the thrills just never stop. Well, yes, I AM somewhat easy to please, but just the same, it’s looking spectacular by any criterion.

A big theme at this early Spring blooming period is the color Blue:

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Blue, blue and more blue, these gorgeous Rhodies deliver with some impact.

They play well with others…………



And they stand alone quite nicely as well!

And now for the Meat and Potatoes, a minimum of writing today, just pretty pictures of real plants, doing real things, for which we should all be grateful.

Here’s some stunning Spring color:

And more………….


Just keep scrolling……………..  😉

Mixes well with Gunnera…………..


and cherry blossoms…………………….

These segmented blooms may be my favorite.

I have often felt the reddest reds in Nature are rhododendrons…………see what you think –



Heck, even hillbillies like Chris and Bob like these Rhodies!  Yeeee Hawwww!!

Honestly, the day has been so great, you could talk with a post. Everyone was boucy and gregarious, talking with new friends and “Ooohing” and “Ahhhing” together over such splendid stuff. I met some truly wonderful people, talked long and hard about Louisville, Portland and plants, plants, plants. There was pretty much nothing not to like.

Less than nothing, actually.

I mean, how on Earth can one complain while in the middle of all this?

And such an amazing canopy.

3-4 great little creeks and waterfalls……………quieting things and producing that famously peace-making trickle that water uses to sooth the troubled mind.

You can take stuff less seriously with your soul filled up with natural beauty.

Even the Mollis Azaleas, those pedestrian suckers, get a nice long look for being so darn pretty.

Hanging around is also popular…….




I’m wrapping this one up. I’ll gladly continue it in a day or two.

Visiting Portland, Oregon

I guess I should say “Re-visiting Portland” inasmuch as I have lived here for a total of around 8 years. I flew in from balmy Louisville last evening, sans jacket and any remotely cold weather gear, finding mysef shivering after a walk in the local ‘hood of my brother’s. Now relocated to a splendid relatively older neighborhood, Mike and his lovely wife Lisa bought new digs. The house is a gorgeously re-worked older place, circa 1900-1920, hard by MLK Drive on the East side of the Willamette.

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It fits well in this old working class Neighborhood and is an absolute delight of a comfy place. Turns out one of the neighbors on the right – who have renovated their own slice of Heaven, complete with a fascinating and minimalist, Japanese-esque arches I will feature later – works at Portland Nursery, a very well-regarded gardening local iconic temple of interest and high quality stuff.

Like so very many Portland premises, exotic and rather unique species mix with local standard planting, forming totally unique arrangements of bold experimentation and real cool style. Check out this amazing, totally white Bleeding Heart, compared to the original species characteristics below:

This – your standard Bleeding Heart – is almost ready for Prime Time. In fairness, I don’t want to guess when it will be planted, but I do like what it’s doing these days.

Another view below with a cool Hellebore foreground:

Portland’s gardeners are exceedingly experimental. Naturally, a great deal of this stems from Oregon’s role as a major nursery supplier to the entire continent. Most of the grass seed sold in the US is generated in smooth green fields seen in the areas south of Portland itself.  The nurseries here distribute merchandise throughout the US and Canada regularly, with massive farms dotting the landscapes everywhere. Thus, it is never a mystery why the locals take such pride in the diversity of the exceptional range of plants so ideally suited to the geography of the Willamette River Valley and it’s rich soils and steady rainfall.

You can see some fairly freaky stuff!

Here’s a very favorite plant of mine, the fairly mundane (locally) Lily Of The Valley, or Pieris Japanica, which can come in various hybrid forms. This is your standard version, if perhaps a bit miniature:

I really enjoy walking Portland neighborhoods during these periods when everything is busting out or in season. This is a city of avid gardeners and heavy researchers, pleased at working with dirt and plantings and patient enough to ensure that it all knits together well. Little pockets of beauty show up at regular – if indeterminable – intervals, such as yet another pretty Hellebore  mixed with Bishop’s Wort.

Proving its unique style on a regular basis, I took a tour on Williams Street close nearby and found the usual fascinating zaniness of Portlandia’s style and verve. Check out businesses and commentary you probably won’t see anywhere else.

Buy a dress!!