Thursday, July 24, 2014

How Bloomtown changed my life (with only a tiny bit of hyperbole)

Seven years ago Portland Metro hosted a "Gardens of Natural Delights" bicycle tour that showed off pesticide-free gardens. A lot of the gardens were focused on food production and they were fairly utilitarian. There was a lot of straw mulch and a slant toward function over form. The gardens were pesticide free but they weren't very beautiful.

Then we pedaled over to a different garden and my brain imploded.

My first garden

At the time I had a raised veggie bed at home that a boyfriend had built for me. Standing outside of the brain-imploding garden I remember thinking, "Gardens can be like THIS?!?" This garden was layered and exuberant and stuffed with both edible and ornamental plants and it was beautiful. I wanted a garden just like it. I think that was the moment I became a gardener, for real.

I recently spent a Monday evening dragging Greg to a bunch of HPSO open gardens. One of the visits we made was to Darcy Daniels' garden.


I met Darcy on the Garden Bloggers' Fling and as we approached her house she called out, "Have you been here before?" and I told her no.

Vegetable beds zigzag through her side yard

As we stepped into the back garden I realized that I had been there before; THIS was the garden from seven years ago. This was the garden that ignited that passion for gardening.




My camera got so excited that it crapped out and I had to take most of my photos with my phone.


I loved Darcy's garden just as much the second time. It's cozy and intimate and she has an incredible number of conifers tucked in everywhere (which I find so difficult). And it's infectious! Gardening has been one of the most wonderful, life-changing things to happen to me, so I'm thankful Bloomtown was on that tour, so many years ago.








If you're an Oregon local (or close-in Washington) and haven't joined HPSO, you're missing out. It's only $35 to join and you won't be too late to get a summer tour book. Every single week there are open gardens that you can tour for inspiration. And they bring in the best speakers during the winter. It's an incredible deal.

Has anyone else had such a lightning bolt moment with gardening? And is there a joke we can work in about de-flowering your garden innocence that won't make Darcy feel icky?

26 comments:

  1. I did have a light bulb moment about 6 or 7 years ago, while visiting a garden near where we lived back then, in Massachusetts. I'm really glad you got to revisit one that you found so inspirational. I actually revisited my inspiration garden a few weeks back, when we were in Massachusetts visiting our son. It's looking overgrown and not as well cared-for, which was a bummer since I really wanted to do a blog post about it.

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  2. Oh, that's a huge bummer. :(

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  3. Oh man....thanks for sharing Heather. Nice to see your initial garden inspiration came from the very best! No wonder your garden ROCKS. I would love to see Darcy's garden sometime, will look through the HPSO book for the next date....

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  4. She seems to open it fairly often, so I'm hopeful you're not too late!

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  5. I've been to that garden several times and it always has something new to inspire. What a good starting point. My first Aha! moment came with tossing a wildflower mix into a parking strip and being amazed by the results. There were many, more profound, moments to follow. Now it's your turn: your garden is quickly turning into a source of inspiration.

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  6. Oh, I hope so! It could be a cautionary tale, too. :)

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  7. What a nice coincidence that you get to visit again, by pure coincidence a garden that has inspired you before! There is obviously a cosmic connection between you and that garden ;)

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  8. What a wonderful discovery - on both occasions. I love the combination in the 9th photo - is that a Eucomis and a Persicaria?

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  9. It is! I'm guessing it's eucomis 'Sparkling Burgandy' and Persicaria 'Golden Arrow.'

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  10. I made the mistake early on of being inspired by gardens that had whole TEAMS of caretakers making them look like they did--Missouri Botanical Garden, Longwood, Sissinghurst. So I attempted way too much and the garden overwhelmed me. I never could really enjoy it. So happy to be starting over with a blank slate on a reasonably-sized piece of property! And I'm enjoying the gardens I see around town through HPSO. Bloomtown is one I'd love to see.
    Like your buzzfeed-ish title, by the way.

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  11. Gardens in magazines were my inspiration, which isn't a good thing because they were so unattainable. But as a military kid who married a military guy, I grew tired of always being from nowhere so I started gardens at every house we lived in. It was my way of leaving my mark and I just learned as I went. None of my gardens have been maintained but such is life. As for lightning bolt moments, I've had many. As for deflowering, I think a very high hedge would be appreciated. ;)

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  12. You will not believe what happened next!

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  13. I always think about how much better my future gardens will be. Trees in the right place! Only the best shrubs! I kind of envy you that.

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  14. I'm so happy for you, and what a great garden and gardener to have that lightbulb moment with. Trying to think about my moment, I know there have been many and certainly a few stand out among the rest...

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  15. How awesome that you got to re-visit her garden...and right after you actually met her! I was trying to think if there was any one big "aha" moment for me...and I don't think there was...at least not a garden I personally visited...but the first time I saw an Oudolf garden (even though, at the time, I had no idea who that was) it was like a light came on...not like discovering something new, but more like coming home...as lame as that sounds ;-)

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  16. Darcy's garden looks amazing of course! Love this post cause many years ago when Darcy was really getting going, my girlfriend and I were walking by (we were both into gardening) and oohing and aching about her garden. She came out and gave us a tour that very day and I still remember some beautiful plant combinations and her little stream in the back. I told Darcy that story when I re-met her on GBF2014. So fun! As for my aha moment, it was when I lived in Portland and realized gardening is GREAT! :)

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  17. That doesn't sound lame at all. And his gardens are so worthy of that feeling.

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  18. Wow. Just wow. How does one insert themselves into a thread like this! I can just say that I am very honored and deeply touched. It makes me so very happy to hear your story and know that I’ve provided some inspiration as you’ve journeyed down your own garden path. Garden on girl.

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  19. One of my favorite memories from the fling was meeting you and hearing this story. Really conjured memories of that period when I was actively, insanely and passionately immersed in building my garden the first time around and how many wonderful people I would spontaneously meet. It’s since been through many iterations since, but the passion for it is still there.

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  20. Maybe that's been my problem - no lightbulb moment yet! Every place I've lived since leaving home I've grown something in the space allowed, whether windowsill, windowbox, deck -- with no real plan, just filling up available space to the limit with plants! Love Darcy's garden -- and cool finials on the that fence!

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  21. Nice pics. Wish we had the opportunity to take such frequent gardening tours here in Nashville. I love the shot of the purple Eucomis in one of your photos. And it sure is impressive how Darcy packed in so many fab plants into a compact space.

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  22. My inspiration came from watching Megan teach herself to garden. She chipped out her berry-patch yard one inch at a time--starting at the front of her 120' deep lot. Nothing had been done in the garden for decades. Still love the first thing I saw her add along the front sidewalk, Pink Evening Primrose. She has yellow there now. I still copy her on all fronts--and all you other gardeners too. I especially love all the bee buzzing at your house, Heather...

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  23. How long have you been gardening? That's a really sweet way to get inspired.

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  24. I put red Geraniums in the porch pots ever year from about 1980, sometimes even with a trail of Saphire Lobelia. Then in about 1995, we added a retaining wall and trees for structure and shade on the west side. I started puttering, with no idea what was what. And then when I saw what Megan was doing, the world of luscious, exciting, lust-worthy plants arose. I've put in probably fifteen years as a garden maniac.

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  25. My ahah moments were in several stages: planting veggies in ugly rows with black plastic that depressed me, a visit to Italy and seeing terraced gardens - unplanted as it was ski season - but the structure was there, being newbie-enough 20 years ago to be disappointed when the cartoon-like drawings in plant catalogs could never be achieved as those plants did bloom at the same time, garden shows that matched the catalogs in seasonal inaccuracies but at least got me through winter, and TONS of gardening books that did the same. I was especially inspired by The Art of French Vegetable Gardening and everything by Henry Mitchel and Cassandra Danz.

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