Greg’s garden – on gardening with xeric plants

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. Arctostaphylos and Yucca linearifolia.

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.

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 yellowed leaves of Cercis occidentals looks so delightful against the blue geometries of Euphorbia rigida.

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.

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!

…and here is a close-up of one of Euphorbia rigid’s blushing stems. I love this plant!

Here it is again - so cool!

Here it is again – so cool!

Here was a tiny Arctostaphylos, sporting the most amazing dark bark, in a pot. Beautiful shape, too, and the most adorable little leaves. Of course I don't remember exactly what it was, but it was lovely.

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.

Lagerstroemia 'Cheyenne' in concrete planters

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.

Yucca linearifolia, Euphorbia rigida

Textures abound, wherever you look.

Arctostaphylos and Ozothamnus?

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.

Blue foliage, yellow wall

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 present in the garden - in addition to the abundance of  blue foliage were in perfect harmony with the color of the house. You planned that well, Greg!

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!

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See what I mean?

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Variations in shape and size continue to amaze – Opuntia, Arctostaphylos, and… um… Olearia, maybe?

Erica arborea 'Albert's Gold'

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.

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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.

…stories being told, and jokes being cracked.

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All ears!

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Everyone listening intently.

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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.

Here is a better shot of that airy foliage, slowly turning yellow. Isn’t it marvelous?

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The gray-green gauntlet.

The Nicotiana was still fragrant, and the Melianthus looked stunning, as always.

The Nicotiana was still fragrant, and the Melianthus looked stunning, as always.

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Loved the silvery old tree stump that anchored this corner of the garden.

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I wondered if this table came from the same tree, but forgot to ask.

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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.

Asplenium fern

For some reason, I really, really liked the translucent fronds of this Asplenium fern in this bluegreen pot. Just lovely!

Opuntia and Muhlenbergia rigens

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.

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.

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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.

Agave linearifolia

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’.

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More of the same, but you just can’t have enough!

You want one - you know you do...

You want one – you know you do…

Cupressus glabra 'Suplphurea'

Fabulous Cupressus glabra ‘Suplphurea’ lighting up the mist. I got a little misty myself, seeing this.

Here is a closer view.

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 shot gives you a better justification for that name - Squiggly indeed!

This one, I know for a fact is a Leptospermum rupestre  –  this one with the highly appropriate name ‘Squiggly’. Squiggly indeed!

Sedum and Digitalis

A carpet of goodness in the front yard. Sedum and Digitalis, I think.

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Euphorbia, Callistemon, and Halimium (I think.)

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A Sedum with that same delicious swirl as the Euphorbia rigida has.

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Digitalis with a foil of spent brown flowers of Sedum album.

Hebe pimelioides 'Quicksilver'

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 - I think this one is 'Karo Golden Esk'.

Here is another cool Hebe –  this one is either ‘Karo Golden Esk’, or, it could be Hebe ‘Hinerua’. Either way, I love it!

Euphorbia rigida

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.

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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. If it snows this winter, I'm going to make a point of coming back to take more photos. I have a feeling it will look great in the dead of winter too.

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. 🙂

 

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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23 Responses to Greg’s garden – on gardening with xeric plants

  1. Some lovely tones here

  2. bergstromskan says:

    Totally beautiful, and beauty feeds my heart with wonder and joy

  3. Wow, Anna, you made my day. I ADORE Greg and his garden. Wow. Thanks for the tour, you have some amazing photos. His is a garden that has definitely inspired my own, my gravel garden has many of these same plants – a direct impact of seeing Greg’s garden and shopping at Xera plants. Fabulous. Thank you.

  4. Beautiful photos Anna, just magical! What a fun morning that was. I still haven’t even looked at my photos, just dumped them into a folder on my computer for later. You’ve got me wanting to look now to see if I captured even half the magic you did.

  5. Kris P says:

    It’s a textural triumph! Now I’m going on a search for Hebe ‘Karo Golden Esk’.

  6. Evan Bean says:

    So you didn’t take many notes? A picture is worth a thousand words! And you took some beautiful ones! I’d love to see Greg’s garden in person. It seems we tend to favor the same color scheme. The blue/pink/orange plant in front of the Callistemon is Muehlenbeckia ephedroides. I was tempted to buy one this fall and now, with your beautiful photo of a mature plant, I’m kicking myself for passing it up. I did buy three little bluestem grasses, but I’d rather have that!

    • annamadeit says:

      The Little Bluestem grasses aren’t half bad either – I am a devoted fan. They have some of the best fall color I know of. I was going to pay Xera a visit tomorrow. It’s their last open day of the season. If I see one of those Muhlenbeckias, I will be sure to snag it for you. 🙂

  7. FlowerAlley says:

    Love, love, love this. I am adding more Xs to my gardens every year.

    • annamadeit says:

      Smart girl! Wish you could visit Xera in person. They have great combination plantings on-site too, to inspire you. I’m excited to go there tomorrow – it’s their last open day of the year. 🙂

  8. Alison says:

    I saw Greg’s garden last year and it was a treat. Next time I’m in Portland I need to get some of that Seafoam Artemisia. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with some little bluestem that I bought when it was on sale this fall, I think I might add it to a dry bed with a lot of these same angular type plants. I have one of those ‘Quicksilver’ Hebes, I need more of that too. And that twisty Sedum, whatever it is, if I ever see that, I’m buying it.

    • annamadeit says:

      Well, according to Greg’s plant list which he so kindly provided, it’s either Sedum forsterianum ssp. elegant ‘Silver Stone’ or Sedum reflexum ‘Spanish Selection’. We have both at the store, but I have never seen that twisty tendency. Mind you, they probably wouldn’t until they are out of those ridiculous little 4″ pots… 🙂

  9. botanizeme says:

    grey-green gauntlet indeed! So glad you opted for the camera! These are wonderful! Yes, yes to the sulphur cypress! (multi-exclamation point post!!!)

  10. rickii says:

    Fabulous report…must have been mind-blowing in person.

  11. hb says:

    As you wrote, a privilege. Thanks for the healing power of botanical beauty this nightmare of a morning.

  12. Pingback: My house is me… | The Creative Flux

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