Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Grand Adventure Part I

I don't actually remember what this very Dr. Seussian plant was, but it had lots of bare branches like this that looked like they were madly waving around.

On Saturday, Peter of The Outlaw Gardener and I hopped into the car and headed to Portland for a wild and magical nursery tour, as well as a plant exchange with a group of garden bloggers from Oregon. Our day started at about 8 a.m. in Tacoma, where Peter lives. I was really excited to get a quick early morning peek at Peter's garden. (He visited mine last week and did a really wonderful blog post about it, which you can read here).

Peter's colorful garden is striking and whimsical and full of humorous touches, which makes it a marvelous reflection of the gardener himself.

This path near the front door made with reclaimed bricks parts a sea of Oxalis

On the left as you enter is this gorgeous variegated Rhododendron 'President Roosevelt'
Trillium popping up amidst a carpet of Oxalis

Columns with pots on top! Heads! Plants massed in pots covering a bench! It's hard to know where to look first

The garden is full of this calming blue splash of color, here paired with the golden leaves of a Hypericum

A dinosaur peaks out from the foliage

The blue garage makes a perfect backdrop for every kind of ornament imaginable

The brick-lined path leads down

The garden is full of these mottled Podophyllums

And that's all you get to see (at least today) of Peter's garden. But I'm hoping I'll be back later in the season for a more extensive look. Although if you really want to see more, you can always check out this post from danger garden's visit last year.

After this quick look at Peter's garden, we both took off in the car for a trip to Portland, OR and a visit to Cistus Nursery.

The first sight on getting out of the car was this bright blue bottle tree. Can you see the little feathered visitor on top?

Entering Cistus was rather like being transported to Borneo (as I imagine it, since I've never actually been to Borneo)

This pavilion leads you to a large open area with plant tables, where the plants have been divided up into parts of the world from whence they came (or perhaps areas that they evoke?)

From the land of zonal denial

A mannequin arm holds this sign askew. I was disappointed to see no chickens beyond the wire fence.

However, there was a giant metal duck

This Pacific Coast Iris sorely tested my ability to resist temptation. I already have several that I recently divided up, and I brought a bunch of starts to the plant exchange. None with this deep, rich color, though.

This playful vignette tickled me! The palm on the left has outgrown its enormous pot, and the roots have set the pot askew.

The largest staghorn fern I have ever seen

Magnolia flower preparing to open

These spiky plants wait near the till

Wine corks are an ingenious solution to the problem of those dangerous poky bits. I'm sure they don't want customers opening a vein while shopping.

This silhouette, which hangs over the till, captures the spirit of my Cistus shopping experience quite accurately!
After buying our plants and wrestling them into the car (Peter is a master at plant/car tetris), we took a walk through the display garden there, which runs between the parking area and the nursery (the bottle tree from earlier is part of the display garden). It reminded me of Peter's garden, and it's not just because both have a worn brick path. Figuring out how to combine foliage and place plants and ornaments to lead the visitor onward takes a good eye.

I love the mysterious nature of the curving path. What's beyond?

That's not another living Phormium in the middle, it's a rusty metal one.

The Epimedium wushanense was enormous!

The mottled leaves on this Epimedium remind me of stained glass.

By now, we knew we were going to be late getting to the Oregon Bloggers Plant swap! It was so hard to tear ourselves away, but I was looking forward to meeting in person some of the bloggers whose blogs I follow and comment on. It was kind of like a mini Garden Bloggers Fling, but not as crowded and noisy. You can read an account of the get-together here on Jenni's blog Rainy Day Gardener. Fortunately, I managed to elude her camera, but unfortunately, I also was too excited to take my own camera out and get photos! I had a wonderful time, gave away some plants from my garden and picked up a few choice specimens from others.

Well, this long day was about to get even longer. But still loads of fun! We still had two more nurseries to visit, and one of them -- Joy Creek Nursery -- involved a personal tour of the display garden from one of the owners.

You'll have to come back and read that next time in A Grand Adventure Part II!

Wait, what did you say? Well, of course you want to know what I bought at Cistus...So I just ran out in the rain to line them all up like beauty contestants in the swimsuit parade.

Starting with the big purple leaves on the left: Canna 'Blueberry Sparkler,' Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger,' Aspidistra elatior 'Variegata,' and Parahebe perfoliata

Canna leaf with Aspidistra

Parahebe's lovely blue flowers and perfoliate (surrounding the stem) leaves

Musa's tiger stripes

New leaf still unwhorling

But wait, that's not all!

Starting with the bright magenta flowers at the  back: Loropetalum chinense 'Carolina Midnight,' Acanthus syriacus, Solanum quitoense, Agave bracteosa 'Calamar,' Fatshedera 'Gold Heart,' Petasites frigidus var. palmatus 'Golden Palms,' and Hydrangea macrophylla 'New Wave'

Loropetalum's bright flowers and dark purple new foliage

Hydrangea's multi-colored leaves ('New Wave' is a Cistus introduction)

Solanum quitoense, a tomato relative that will produce fruit and very thorny foliage and stems as it matures

Don't forget to come back and see the rest of the adventure!


  1. How lucky! I haven't been to that nursery, but when we are in Portland I always make my family visit nurseries there. I'll have to check out Jenni's post about the meet up.

  2. Hey Alison, thanks for cropping your pictures of my garden so masterfully so that none of the really awful bits were visible! It would be wonderful to have you back when I've had a chance to get out there and get things done!
    Thanks also for the great Cistus shots. I had a grand time on our adventure and look forward to more! Mystery plant from the first image is Sonchus canariensis. Now I'm blushing about your comment about Cistus reminding you of my garden. The only similarity I notice is that there are plants in both.

  3. I'd love to visit Cistus and especially Joy Creek which I'll look forward to in the next post.

    Nice plant choices, some of those I can actually grow in San Antonio.

    1. Shirley you should plan for the Portland GB Fling next summer, we hope to visit both!

  4. I was in Portland this last weekend...I would have loved to join up with you and all of the other bloggers. Oh well, I didn't have a moment to get away, but it was fun seeing Cistus as I'm not familiar with that nursery. Thanks for sharing your trip. Looking forward to seeing your Joy Creek post. xo

  5. I wish I could have been there Alison to see you experience Cistus for the first time, what a magical place!

  6. I'm so glad you (and Peter) made it to the swap, Allison...and so excited to have another PCI!

  7. So great to meet you both at the Swap! I planted the Pacific irises yesterday, and can't wait to see them develop. And, believe it or not - I found a great spot for the Honeysuckle! So excited! Thanks again!


  8. No wonder you were off so quickly from the plant swap! You had a jam packed weekend! I love Peter's pathway and you are so right, he possess just that perfect touch of combining foliage with whimsical attractions that delight the eye.
    I can't believe it, I haven't even been to Cistus. And you got a personalized tour at Joy Creek. I am jealous. Seriously.
    But, it was so nice to finally meet you. I hope we can find someplace cool to check out in-between PDX and your next of the woods. I'd love to just sit down and have coffee. Cheers, Jenni

  9. Thanks for the partial tour of Peter's garden. I love the paths and the trillium growing in a sea of oxalis. Looking forward to seeing more.

  10. Envious of such a great place to visit AND be able to buy plants. Peter's garden is pretty neat to visit as well. Some of the plants you mention here and in a previous post are so different from what we have around here....feels like I am reading about another planet.

  11. Wow, I am amazed at how far ahead your spring is compared to ours. Actually, not so amazed. I've known for a while that Oregon is garden heaven. How fun to visit with other area bloggers and exchange plants. Sounds like a great day.


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