Walking down the garden path * a Portland, Oregon garden

Walking down the garden path: an occasional series. 

One of the groups I belong to has a monthly outing related to our common passion of gardening.  Last week we were lucky enough to be able to tour this beautiful garden, located in an established Portland neighborhood.

garden from the street

It was a late morning in June, with overcast skies and sprinkles of rain drifting down on us, reminding everyone gently that even though the calendar says summer, we are not quite done with the rain.  Our host was very patient with all our questions about her wonderful gardens and the unique plants that we found there.  We walked around looking, taking pictures and chatting with each other.  What a perfect morning!

I will let the photos tell the story from here ~ to view the pics full size click the first image to open the slideshow.

And of course I can’t resist the opportunity to play a bit, these photos have been stylized: just for fun!!

Bee’s Garden * today

If you are a member of the PNW gardening community, the name Bee Smith brings to mind two things: That particular shade of blue she loved, and her amazing Blue garden.  When Bee died this summer we lost a beautiful, amazing gardener, artist, and friend.

“Have you seen Bee’s garden? It’s amazing !”  This was my first introduction to Bee.  I was a new Master Gardener, getting to know the lay of the land.  I had recently raised my hand at the request of Rodger for someone to take over the duties of Chapter Photographer.  It was Open Garden season and I was going to dutifully take my camera and get some snapshots for the chapter.  Her garden was my unforgettable introduction to some of the most picturesque and personal gardens in this gardening world I was just beginning to explore.

You could use a lot of adjectives to describe her garden, beginning with amazing.  But after seeing, feeling and touching the garden, you walk away with a quiet regard for the woman, and her vision.  Some things that struck me about the garden and gardener who was also an artist;  this was a complete, but ever evolving body of work that she shared with anyone who would ask.  The care given, and the scope of the grounds, were impressive of course. But even more so I was impressed by knowing that the lady of 80 plus years was able to tend her garden daily, even embark on new ideas / projects that would leave a 30 something exhausted.  And I also saw the little girl in the lady.  Her playfulness, her regard for imagination, her inclusion of whimsy in her palette.  I have recently reviewed those photos I took in 2010, and will follow today’s post with some of those images to help complete the story being told.

I suppose this is the place where a writer “should” put in more details, like a bio, about Bee.  The truth is, I don’t believe that she was someone that you can limit to words in print.  I didn’t know her that well, we only spoke a few times.  But then …  I did know her, thru her garden, and thru her friends and the loving stories told about her.  And that is how I would like you to meet her, if you never had the chance, or to remember her, if you were so privileged.

Her close friend Meredith met me at her garden last week, so I could take these photos for her family, and to share with you.  I think we were both struck by the appearance of a usually tidy garden, missing her loving gardeners.  Since it is so late in the season, there is not much in the way of flowers blooming now, and the grasses are ripe and golden.  But the soul of the garden remains.  The color blue, the artwork and the amazing collection of trees and perennials.  As I walked around alone after Meredith left me, I could feel Bee’s presence  in the changing light.  The garden colors evolved as the sun moved across the sky to kiss the plants, the carefully placed art and Her collection of Blue bottles.

please join me in my walk though her garden ….

* click on the first thumbnail image to open the gallery carousel, to view the captions click  Permalink on the bottom right of the photos. this opens the photos on their own page, allowing you to scroll thru them one at a time and read the descriptions.    

A walk through Dulcy’s Garden

The family and friends of Dulcy Mahar opened her garden for a public memorial on July 23, 2011.  It would be a chance to view the garden of the beloved writer one more time, and share with those closest to her.    The day was one of those amazing sunny July days, no wind and not too hot.  I was there with around 2500 fans of her column, her garden, and just Dulcy.

The cars lined the streets, the neighborhood was decked in Pink Flamingos, and my  fellow gardeners waited patiently in line, chatting and remembering. Everyone had a favorite story from her column, and a personal reason to be there.  Doug (the wonder guy) was surrounded by visitors with questions and comments.  Her friends were also available for questions and just casual sharing.  Many, like me, had camera’s in hand as they explored her space.

My tour thru the garden was backwards, having entered from the side to avoid the crowds.  As I walked in, I was greeted by a friend of mine and her husband who also came to pay their respects.  (In all I saw a handful of friends from our Master Gardeners group. ) The mood was quiet and respectful, visitors with camera’s were allowed the courtesy of taking their time for a special shot. Because at almost every turn, there was something new to see. An unexpected garden ornament, a rare and thus very cool plant wonder over, or just a really nice view to admire.

Over the years her garden has become an amazing collection: of plants, of art, whimsical garden ornaments, and pets like her cats and the most recent pup, Ernie.   I say this because the longer I walked around, the more it became clear to me; Dulcy was a collector.  And her garden was the home to that collection.

From here I will let the photo’s I took tell the rest of the story for me.

* click on the first thumbnail image to open the gallery carousel, to view the captions click  Permalink on the bottom right of the photos. this opens the photos on their own page, allowing you to scroll thru them one at a time and read the descriptions.    

Thank you for reading my story, and walking thru the garden with me.


Flamingos for Dulcy

Dulcy (Mahar) died on July 2.  She was the beloved garden columnist for the Oregonian in Portland. It goes without saying that she, and her words, will be missed.

For those of us in the garden community, her weekly column was a must-read. In fact, it was often the first and sometimes the only feature I would take the time read in the weekly Homes and Gardens section.  I didn’t realize this at the time, but she began her weekly columns right around the time my husband dragged me kicking and screaming to his home state.  So I have been reading her words and following her advise (often to eat more chocolate!) for just around 20 years.

She has an amazing garden.  Her columns outlined her experiences and experiments with gardening in the Pacific Northwest.  Being a good gardener, she tried over the years to follow the rules. .. but as she and her garden matured, she began to write her own.  The garden became less formal and more whimsical.  And she started a trend.  Pink Flamingos, that much maligned and labeled lawn decoration, found their way into her garden and into her heart, and by extension, to ours.

On Saturday her friends opened her garden for viewing. As you can imagine, the people came from all around to walk thru her space and remember her columns.  As a group, we gardeners can be very friendly and chatty. Especially when talking about our shared passion. More about that walk thru her garden in a future post.

I was struck by how many came, how respectful and how cheerfully sad we all were as we walked around.  Because of the crowds I had to park about 5 blocks away from the home.  It was a beautiful summer day, the walk was pleasant and the yards in her neighborhood are amazing in their own right.

I hadn’t walked far when I began to see them ….

Flamingos.  In the lawns of her neighbors.  Along the sidewalk, next to the driveway.  Pink memorials to the woman that we had come to know as just Dulcy.

I spent about 2 hours walking around her garden and talking to fellow gardeners, and her personal friends.  The occasion wasn’t formal, or somber, nor was it upbeat and cheerful.  Gardeners, more than most I think, know what the circle of life is about. Death and dying are a big part of our world.  But so is hope. After all, you have to have large doses of hope and optimism to garden in our Zone ! After walking around and enjoying the gardens and the company, I walked slowly back to my car. And saw them again.

Pink Flamingos.  Guiding me back to my truck. I really wish that Dulcy could have seen them.  And maybe she did.  Here are the photos I took, just in those 5 blocks or so. A whimsical memorial to a great lady, great writer and hopeful gardener.

*click the photos to view full size images ~