Eight Gardens. A Million Ideas.

I spent the day with a group of landscape designers, volunteers, artists and homeowners involved in the eighth annual Behind-the-Scenes Garden Tour, set for Saturday, June 18. Eight gardens, all professionally designed, are featured on the tour. You’ll see everything from small intimate NE Portland gardens to a very large garden tucked away in Lake Oswego. Artwork by regional artists is also on display and for sale in the gardens.

Here are a few highlights to, hopefully, entice you to visit the gardens.

Dryland gardens are featured in two locations. They receive no additional water now that the plants are established. Lucy Hardiman designed her garden in three water zones: no water, once-every-three-weeks watering and a more traditional garden on a regular watering schedule. See if you can tell which is which; the plants are all lush and colorful.

Two gardens feature major rainwater capture gardens in two very different styles: a large planted concrete basin and a large swale anchoring the corner of a front garden fed by copper rain chains.

A very fragrant ‘Miss Kim’ lilac appeared in at least three gardens. It’s amazing how clusters of such small flowers scent the air with their wonderful perfume. The best plant surprise for me was the Saxifrage and its frothy blooms. The best street tree was the ‘Venus’ flowering dogwoods. The blooms were the size of my hand and the trees were loaded with them.

Yellow foliage was a popular theme (not surprising because it’s a great way to add light to the garden). It appeared in wonderful plant combinations and a golden variegated elderberry. The graceful Japanese forest grass ‘Aureola’, my favorite perennial of all time, was spectacular in many of the gardens.

Pathways and the use of different paving materials added interest to each garden. Rock seems to add a definitive and finishing touch to garden spaces (makes me want to have a dump truck deliver a load of basalt to edge paths and build low retaining walls—that would be a good workout!). Ironstone was used successfully in several places.

And the best of the rest? You’ll just have to visit the gardens to find out what appeals to you! You’ll take away lots of ideas for your own gardens and the designers and artists will be on hand to answer your questions and tell you how they overcame the challenges of each space. It’s amazing what transformations can happen!

Tickets are $20. Proceeds benefit ANLD scholarship programs for aspiring landscape designers at Clark College, Clackamas Community College and Portland Community College. Purchase tickets online or at these garden centers: Dennis’ 7 Dees (SE Portland, Cedar Hills, Lake Oswego), Garden Fever!, Magnolia Manor and Portland Nursery (Stark Street).