Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Portland Yard Garden & Patio Show

Once again Portland-area gardeners descended on the Oregon Convention Center for the annual kick-off to the gardening season. While I always look forward to this event, I can't help but think it's mostly because of the time of year. Early spring brings with it a restlessness, a desire to get outside in the garden. I look at this Garden Show as a mixed bag, it has its good points, and (and like everything in life) it's not-so-good points. Along with a few sublime ideas and designs, there is also a dose of the dubious.

Portland 2011 Yard Garden & Patio Show
Here's the entrance to the show...and the place where my pulse begins to quicken ;-)

One of the first things I noticed (aside from the overpowering scent of mulch) was this display, with several small Gunnera...I would have grabbed them, stuffed them in my goodie bag, and ran for the hills if I hadn't still been sore from a climb to the top of Multnomah Falls the day before.

Unfortunately, the next thing I noticed was this ribbon of colored glass "gravel" lighted from beneath in the middle of the flagstone path. I'll admit, it has a certain quirkiness and novelty...but I'm not a fan of novelty for novelty's sake.'s a thumbs-down from me.

Luckily, right around the corner, I was greeted by this wonderful fencing idea. I've been considering a fence with panels of corrugated or galvanized metal...and this really struck a chord with me. I love the powder-coated sort of look...and wish I could have gotten a closer look...but I was soon swept away in a tidal wave of my fellow attendees to...

...a burning hazard and a drowning hazard all in one. I know, I's not supposed to inspire a literal (or practical) application...but I've never understood the appeal of the water/fire feature...could there possibly be a worse waste of resources?!? I guess this one display really sums up the thing that sort of irks me about the YG&P Show...if feels very much focused on homeowners who would hire contractors to do these sort of installations..."checkbook gardening" as it were. Of course, I would take those orange Adirondacks home in a split second!

But let's not dwell on negative things, not today! Here, at the booth for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, was a plant I was instantly drawn to, thanks to it's cinnamon-colored stems. The tag says Drimys lanceolata...does anyone have experience with this plant?

Now, of course, what I REALLY care about is the plants! Being so early in the season, the YG&P show features several vendors specializing in bulbs and bare-root plants. I decided before I even stepped into the Convention Center that any plant I would buy had to meet several criteria.

A) Must have a long-season of interest (bonus for attractive foliage)
B) Must not be something I already have
C) I must have a specific idea of where it will go ("near the front door" does NOT count)
D) Must not require undue pampering (ok, who am I kidding, I'd read my plants bedtime stories if I thought it'd make a difference).

Of course, I knew going into this that I was likely to fail miserably and give into temptation within the first 10 minutes.

BlueSunrise I'm starting off pretty good. This Geranium (which also goes by the name 'Blogold') has wonderful chartreuse foliage and blue flowers. I'd actually been looking for it all last year, so I was pretty happy to find it. From what I gather, it's more of a clumper than a rambler and gets about 2' tall and wide.

Depending on how well this one performs, I can imagine I'll acquire more, as I can never get enough blue/purple in the garden (although my partner would beg to differ). I guess I really have to admit I'm a sucker for Geraniums.
Another plant I'd been thinking of purchasing this year anyway, Euphorbia 'Dixter' gets about 3' tall and almost as wide. I can't remember where I first saw this plant, but I was instantly attracted to the sultry foliage and the warm, glowing flowers. I can just imagine all the different combinations I can try with this...imagine it next to a clump of purple Iris, or a clump of Baptisia, maybe surrounded by Agastche...

Plus, it was a selection of the late, great, Chistopher Lloyd (no, not the guy from Taxi), how can you argue with that!
IrisGeraldDarby The last plant is one I saw a few months ago on Nan Ondra's blog, Hayefield. If you've never been there before, stop now, go there and be prepared to gawk...don't worry...I'll wait. Like many people, I love Iris' blossoms, but find their foliage, well, lacking. This one solves that problem. Emerging a deep purple, it gradually greens up as the season progresses. Even so, the blooms are carried on purple-tinted stems.

'Gerald Darby' maintains is form and presence throughout the season...adding some nice foliar texture without the rattiness of other Iris.

Coincidentally, I got all 3 of the above plants at the booth for Sundquist Nursery, I can't wait to see how they fare in the garden...I just have to get my butt out there and put them in the ground!

My big splurge, however, was this trio of metal Alliums from metal artist Brett Cleveland of Red Grass Designs. I had actually found his Etsy site earlier this year and became obsessed with finding similar Allium sculptures...just cheaper. When I saw them at the show, however, I knew my resolve would crumble. I pretty much blew my budget with these puppies, but couldn't be, I realized, they are my first pieces of "garden art". It doesn't hurt that I can also use them as deadly weapons if I'm ever attacked while gardening.

Did any of you folks in the PDX area happen to make it to the show? What did you think...what were your hits and/or misses? I happened to run into Ryan Miller, a fellow Portland-area blogger, at the show...and in spite of reminding myself beforehand to wish him a happy birthday, I think the smell of bark dust clouded my, Happy (belated) Birthday, Ryan!


  1. my dog managed to kill my Drimys lanceolata. so my advice here is don't pee on it twice a day.

    i have heard that they aren't completely hardy, so sheltered spot, and protection for the first few years is probably a good idea.

    the thing i LOVED about the plant was chewing on its leaves. its used as a "bush spice", commonly with emu burgers. its got a similar heat to cinnamon but with extra kick.

  2. Oh, yummy Gunnera! Love the three plants you got, especially that geranium. I think you and I like similar things about garden shows. Maybe they all tend to cater to checkbook gardening, cause I've been to the one in Boston a few times, and got the same feeling. Every once in a while there's something inspiring. Those metal alliums are pretty cool.

    I've been hearing so much about the Portland show lately, and wondering if it was worth a weekend visit to Portland next year. I guess I'm wondering if it offers anything different from the Seattle show?

  3. Scott I'm so glad you bought those alliums! I stood there forever looking at them, and the ones that were just the metal explosions without stems. So cool, good splurge!

    I agree about many of the issues you raise...just didn't get that garden with the fire water, from the comments I heard not many other people did either. Were you able to attend any of the seminars?

    I love that Euphorbia, such fabulous color! Just be careful where you place it as it does have a reputation as a spreader.

  4. I bought a Drimys lanceolata from Gossler Farms at the show. It wasn't as big as the one in your pic, but bigger than the little guys at the Dancing Oak table. I love the bark and the leaves but also the flowers (I've just seen photos). I've really wanted one for a while so I was really happy to see one at the show. I ALMOST picked up that Euphorbia but decided there was other stuff I wanted more. Those iris leaves almost have me changing my mind about iris and wanting to get some. Those Alliums are very cool! My own loot post is coming soon. Happy B-day to you to Scott!

  5. Love the allium sculptures. I would have splurged too!

  6. Hi Scott, My garden buddy Carol still has her Drimys but mine died. Great plant. Sounds like the show was fun.

  7. I too feel the show was mixed, with bright and dull spots both. Overall, I think it's heading in an earthier, more inviting direction (even given the tough economic climate) but I would wish for less ostentatious hardscape and more interesting plants in the display gardens! (And less bark dust and no sock vendors!) Anyway, love those handsome metal alliums. I hope you'll post pictures showing where you site them.

  8. HA! Kate! You were not the only person I've talked to who has mentioned the sock vendors!

  9. Oh your plant shopping must have been great fun Scott. The foliage of that geranium positively sings out. I would be sorely tempted by those alliums too ~ do you have a spot for them in mind or will they be wandering about the garden?

  10. eeldip: hahahaha...advice taken! After doiing so research, however, it likely would get to big for my yard anyway (mature size=10', width of my backyard=10') booo!

    Alison: I think it's probably like that at most of these shows...I'm guessing the PDX show is worth going to if you happen to be in the area...not sure if I'd travel terribly far to go, however. If I were going to spend $$$ to travel to a show, it'd better be Chelsea!

    Danger Garden: Hahahaha...I circled them like a land-shark for a while before finally succumbing to their lure! I didn't get to go to any of the seminars...we couldn't park in the garage (full by 11 am) and could only find a 2hr spot...which was just enough time to make the circuit and grab a few things...hopefully next year I'll be better at planning. I've read that about the Euphorbia...this one is SUPPOSED to be less aggressive than 'Fireglow'...we'll see :-)

    Ryan Miller: So jealous of the Drimys! Then again, I did discover they get too big for my little plot, so I'll just enjoy yours vicariously :-) I'll let you know how the Iris fares for me...and if you like it, I'm sure next year it'll be big enough that you can have a rhizome or 2 :-) I know how you feel about having to choose...I must have had 5 or 6 things at various times that I put back...I sure wish I'd gone back for that 'Patty's Plum' Poppy though...

    Jennifer: Thanks! You're helping to alleviate my guilt for spending so much!

    Grace: It was a pretty good show...about the same as usual, but I'll do most anything for a plant sale ;-)

    kate: That's good to know...I've only gone to a few since I've moved here, and while I'd never outright rant about it...there are A LOT of questionable things there...and I didn't even see the socks...hahahahahahaha.

    Ryan: Totes...wish I'd seen them!

    Anna: I love that Geranium and can't wait to get it in the ground! I popped the allium in the front garden by the walkway for now...I'll probably wait to see what comes up where this summer before I select a site for them :-)

  11. Great garden show report, Scott. And you got the Hayefield iris! Can't wait to read about it this summer. That corrugated fence is one we're seriously contemplating too, maybe doing it in sections to replace the old termite-infested wood fencing, so I was glad to see your photos. And now I can show your photos to the resident fence builder...

  12. Thanks for sharing the garden show. I am counting down to ours next week. I always have myself so hiped up that by the time I get there I may be in for a let down. LOL! I am with you on the lighted glass. It would have been so much prettier by itself without the rope lights under it. I love the bright contrast of the geranium. I also like irises and have never saw one with that foliage before. Very different from the just green. I wish there were more colors in blooms on the variegated irises. All I have ever seen is one with a purple bloom.I like your purchase of the metal alliums. How fun. They would make great plant supports too.

  13. Couldn't tear myself away from a sunny weekend in my own garden, so thanks for the vicarious tour.

  14. How fortunate you are to still have a show where cool design and cool plants can be found. Most other shows are places where people sell housewares and home improvment items.

  15. I'm kinda glad I didn't go to the Portland show this year....I usually do but I'm holding out for this weekend's trip to Seattle for their show. It's usually really really good. Your allium sculptures are fantastic!

  16. Gunnera...tried it 5 times in the south....never any luck. Have to visit you for my fix.

  17. ricki: any time!

    Les: That's disappointing :-( I've never been to another Garden show...although portland has a few other "home" shows that are mostly what you describe...I've learned to avoid those :-)

    LeLo: Have fun in Seattle...I almost convinced my partner to go to both...but decided yesterday we should probably stay home this weekend and get the things done that we slacked off on this weekend...I hope you do a post on the Seattle show!

    Compost: They really seem to do well here...I see them randomly around town...I do wish I had room for one in my own garden...they are glorious!

  18. Looks like a blast, now it's getting me all excited for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. That Iris looks like pretty much the most amazing one ever, any idea on its hardiness?

  19. Not familiar with your shrub, will check it out via the Google.
    Love that yellow foliage on the geranium. fun seeing new plants at these shows.

  20. On a garden tour last year, I feared I was being a little too critical, so I apologized to my friend in tow. She assured me, "Oh no need to apologize, I dislike everything you dislike." ;-)

    Here's a great link of garden gurus top ten picks,, of which your Drimys lanceolata is mentioned. At the bottom of the page are other writers' top ten picks. Coming to you from snowed-in Vashon Island, WA. Stay warm.

  21. So glad I went back and found this post, I wanted to see where you found those Allium sculptures! :) I love that fence idea too. I'm with you on your feeling of checkbook gardening. Half the fun is looking back at all the hard work it took to make the garden look good is knowing you did it yourself. Love your plant choices.

  22. The Gunnera looks fantastic! I have one but it's in Winter mode... that Blue Sunrise sure has some lovely colour too, thanks for sharing.