On one of those beautiful, bright but misty autumn mornings at the end of September, I and a bunch of other designers were invited to Greg Shepherd – one of the co-owners of Xera – a local nursery that specializes in drought tolerant plants. Greg had generously decided to offer us not only baked goodies on his patio, but also a design primer on how to use the marvelous plants they grow. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am not one to turn down an opportunity like that! Like most everyone else, I showed up with pen and paper in hand, ready to take notes. Except, I also brought my camera, and quickly got distracted with that. Anyone out there want to compare notes? Mine are rather… um… well, they could be better.
The first time I visited Greg’s garden was on a sweltering hot June evening, as the last of the sun’s rays bathed the scene in slanted, golden light – it was fabulous! Seeing it shrouded in the white, thin fog of fall was an entirely different experience – but it was still as lovely as can be. It was a great morning for photographing plants. The colors and textures take on a heightened intensity in this kind of light – which I really like. This post will mostly celebrate the wonderful things we saw. I will try to post another follow-up post later, with some of the really great advice I learned about Arctostaphylos, or Manzanitas – one of Xera’s specialty plants. But first, on to the eye candy:
This was one of the first photos I took. The highlights of Arctostaphylos and Yucca linearifolia echo the white, hazy light of the morning. I’m not entirely sure what the bright green shrub is, but I’m guessing a Callistemon of some sort. Possibly C. pityoides ‘Mt. Kosciusko’. Nope, seriously – there is no reason to be impressed with my varietal name-dropping. The only reason I have even as much as an inkling of an idea, is that Greg handed us a nifty, categorized plant list in alphabetical order that we could take notes on. I’m probably wrong anyway… I really should have written this post right away, when all the impressions were fresh – not a month later…
Beautifully orchestrated colors and textures. This is one helluva hell strip! The yellow-leaved tree in the top left corner is a Western Redbud – Cercis occidentalis.
The yellowing leaves of Cercis occidentals looks so delightful against the blue geometries of Euphorbia rigida.
Here is a close-up of a Cercis leaf I found particularly lovely…
…and here is a close-up of one of Euphorbia rigid’s blushing stems. I love this plant!
Here it is again – so cool!
This was a tiny Arctostaphylos, sporting the most amazing dark bark, in a pot. Pruned into a beautiful shape, too, and with the most adorable little leaves. Of course I don’t remember exactly which variety it was, but it was lovely.
Scrumptious, big, egg-shaped planters! I think the Lagerstroemias inside are a smaller variety called ‘Cheyenne’. They are flanked by the lovely leaden beauty of baby Convulvulus cneorum (I think) with their fabulous silver leaves.
Textures abound, wherever you look.
The coin-sized leaves of an Arctostaphylos in the foreground, against the hazier, finer foliage of what might be an Ozothamnus – yep, I’m still guessing, and I’m probably wrong. All I know is that there are ample beautiful lessons and inspirations to be had in these pairings.
You know how you so often see gardens that look completely detached and foreign against the color of their buildings? Not so here. The color of this house is a muted, warm yellow, that provides a sensuous contrast to the icy, blue foliage of the plants surrounding it.
I loved how so many of the colors currently present in the garden – in addition to the abundance of the aforementioned blue foliage – were in absolutely perfect, gorgeous harmony with the color of the house. You planned that well, Greg!
See what I mean?
Variations in shape and size continue to amaze – Opuntia, Arctostaphylos, and… um… Olearia, maybe?
Great color everywhere, too! I fell in love with the soft, chartreuse goodness of the Tree heath – Erica arborea ‘Albert’s Gold’. Not sure what the pink in the foreground is, but it had a rare intensity that brightened the progression of forms.
As I was snapping away, lively discussions and comparing of experiences from all these plant people were going on around me. Being here was indeed a privilege! So much wisdom being shared…
…stories being told, and jokes being cracked.
Everyone listening intently.
I think the discussion here was on the large, airy Caesalpinia to the left of Greg. It has fantastic, large blossoms in summer, but the foliage holds its own too.
Here is a better shot of that airy foliage, slowly turning yellow. Isn’t it marvelous?
The gray-green gauntlet.
The Nicotiana was still fragrant, and the Melianthus looked stunning, as always.
Loved the silvery old tree stump that anchored this corner of the garden.
I wondered if this table came from the same tree, but forgot to ask.
As I’ve said, there was lots of horticultural experience gathered here on this particular day. Here is little Renzo, who is just at the beginning of his gardening career, admiring the soft silver leaves of a Potentilla gelida.
For some reason, I really, really liked the translucent fronds of this Asplenium fern in this bluegreen pot. Just lovely!
The thick, blue paddles of an Opuntia with Muhlenbergia rigens providing a sheer veil.
Here is Aloe bracteosa ‘Calamar’, that crazy cool Euphorbia rigida again, and Artemisia ‘Sea foam’. If you look closely, you will see all these little Agave pups. Apparently Calamar is a prolific sort that multiply generously, where happy.
I have a soft spot for the seed heads of just about any Callistemon. Not sure what to call the fabulous bluish- pink- orange plant in the foreground, but would love to learn what it is. Its colors remind me of the fall color of Little Bluestem grass – which incidentally was also present in Greg’s garden.
Can’t get enough of this combo. Word on the street is that if you ever come across an Agave linearifolia – be sure to snap it up. They are hard to find. I think the silver fox in front of it is some sort of Halimium, if so, probably ‘Susan’.
More of the same, but you just can’t have enough!
You want one – you know you do…
Fabulous Cupressus glabra ‘Suplphurea’ lighting up the mist. I got a little misty myself, seeing this.
Here is a view of its effect as a background plant. I think the blue shrub in front of it might be some kind of Leptospermum – but I’m not sure. But, it doesn’t matter. Just look at that Cypress!!!
This one, I know for a fact is a Leptospermum rupestre – this one with the highly appropriate name ‘Squiggly’. Squiggly indeed!
A carpet of goodness in the front yard. Sedum and Digitalis, I think.
Euphorbia, Callistemon, and Halimium (I think.)
A Sedum with that same delicious swirl as the Euphorbia rigida has.
Digitalis with a foil of spent brown flowers of Sedum album.
When I first moved to Oregon, Hebes were the first group of plant that I fell head over heels in love with. I think I came home with a dozen of them when I first saw them. This is one of the tougher ones – Hebe pimelioides ‘Quicksilver’, with a Manzanita in the background.
Here is another cool Hebe – this one is either ‘Karo Golden Esk’, or, it could be Hebe ‘Hinerua’. Either way, I love it!
I just realized when looking at all these photos, that so many of these plants are so perfectly geometric – Yuccas, Euphorbias, Hebes and Sedums to name a few. That imposed order is a wonderful focal point and balancer to feature here and there in a garden, as it helps ground and define the more shapeless plants.
I’ll end with a wide shot of the front garden. Now I know this garden is as beautiful in summer as it is in fall. Just so you know, Greg – if it snows this winter, I’m going to make a point of coming back to take more photos. Somehow, I have a feeling it will look great in the dead of winter too. 🙂