My First HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) Open Garden


It’s been 2 months since my garden was open to a limited number of gardeners I didn’t know from Adam. I think I’ve almost recovered from the experience, but to be honest, I’m not completely sure. 2017 has been the year of renovation around here and we’re far from done.


The front yard as it was that weekend. Hopefully next year the master plan for the Hell Strip from Hell will have been masterfully completed.

The whole endeavor is not for the faint of heart. Yet for me, it had to be done. If I don’t have a goal to achieve, I don’t get things done. This Virgo child may be down to earth, but I sure do get distracted by shiny/beautiful and/or delicious things quite easily. So yes, this garden and home have been so wrapped up in my emotional and physical lives for so long I just wanted to be rid of that extra baggage.


The first renovation to take place was of the front garden. We widened the parking space and hired John Crain of Opal Gardens to build a custom fence. Made of Oregon juniper, you’ll find many fences that look like it in the far reaches of Northern Italy.

I learned a lot during the process and I continue to discover new things about myself as I rid the property of both objects and memories. If gardening is life (and it is for some of us), and if life is about adapting to change and problem solving, then my garden and I had not really been alive or even living for quite some time. There had been no big changes for too long and I still had a lot of spots with unresolved problems. Not so much now thank-you-very-much!


To add to the more laid back feel a bored, sleepy lion was added to my concrete garden menagerie.

Last spring both my garden and I began a bit of transformation, and while my garden no longer looks and feels like the hot mess that it once was, I’m still waiting for my makeover. Sigh. I suppose it too is on its way.


My garden throne. This hammock was found dumped by the side of the road years ago and I am so grateful for the comfort it’s given to my aching back over the years. To reward it, I finally gave it its own space.

Last winter my back went out, and while I was in physical therapy strengthening the damaged and weakened area of my lower spine I decided to think about happier things. I couldn’t bend over or lift much so why not force myself to improve? What else was going on while I was resting? Not much. I figured that opening my garden would mean that I’d be sure to follow through with my daily PT exercises—and it did! It worked!!!


One of my favorite spots in the garden to rest my eyes. I’m happy with how it looked this year and with the new items. I think next year it will finally go over the top.

It was my coming out party as a gardener. After over a decade it was finally time for me to put my best foot forward. This meant facing unrealistic goals, dreaming up things I never could get finished (or afford) in time, and then accepting help from others when I really needed it, but hey, this is me we’re talking about now! Yes, of course I needed help. (Thank you Paul, Gail, Vanessa, Mary, Mi Yong, Evan, Kate, and John. If I forgot someone, please kick me and tell me to edit this ASAP. Oops. I have to kick myself. Alex and Elizabeth helped me with the lights and Julie and Bob let me borrow their orchard ladder. Thank you!)


Grandpa Sam’s chair was given a new look and I purchased two more vintage chairs to give it company. Vanessa Gardner Nagel came up with this fancy use of a planter I’d purchased and never used. I love how it all came together.

Overall, the experience was outstanding and I recommend it to everyone mostly because of the comradely. Sure, we all have friends with amazingly perfect gardens who’ve earned national horticultural and design acclaim and they tell you it’s ok to open up your place before you’re all finished. Yeah. Uh-huh. I’m sure no one will criticize this or that since we all know we’ve been there at some point. Have we not?  Don’t listen to them and just plug along and do your best. In my case that meant staying up until 1am under lights on a warm summer evening making kokedama arrangements but by then I was both slightly relieved and more delirious than usual. It was almost over and it felt so good.

The forest fire smoke was finally lifting too so that was a relief. That smoke really slowed down progress this past summer.


The living willow arbor where I spread some of Maurice the cat’s ashes. The garden is named after him: Campiello Maurizio.

Luckily for those of us who find this flavor of stress hilarious and just need to laugh it all off or else we’d explode there are these fancy things called cocktails that can help us relax. Since I can’t drink wine or beer any more they’re kind of my new thing. (My personal favorite is an Amaretto Sour if you’re wondering. Please hand me one if you ever meet me at an event. I’ll need it. Trust me. Ms. Nerves over here.)

Until you’ve opened up your garden to a group of discerning visitors, let me tell you, you won’t quite know what you’re in for—but the pain and suffering is all worth it.


Ah yes… Let’s all thank that young man again for setting the Columbia River Gorge on fire just before I opened my garden. Talk about a hurdle. My severe asthma was incredibly uncomfortable.


The smoke was so bad this summer that for many days I couldn’t leave the house.

I’ll try to post more anecdotes later about my experience. Clearly I’m a plantswoman and I wish that I’d been able to better highlight some of the rare and unusual plants I care about around here but many are still small, others don’t look great, and a few more have yet to germinate.

More on that soon too… I’m finally organized enough after all of this to begin selling more online again and to expand my business. I’m always looking for more seeds so please look at the page here on my blog of things that I’m looking for currently. If you have something for me I can trade seeds with you or send you some homemade Italian cookies of your choice.

CIAO for now!

14 thoughts on “My First HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) Open Garden

    • Felix would have insisted upon meeting you! Folks are always surprised when they ring our doorbell because he’s the first one they see running to the door to see who it is. He loves to greet people. That weekend he was out on the back roof parading around with Oliver. It was adorable.


  1. I was just thinking about you, and came upstairs to see a post from you! I saw photos of your open garden on other blogs and thought it looked great. You really whipped it into shape. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the nerve to open mine to strangers. We had similar years healthwise, it seems. We had plenty of smoke around here this summer too from wildfires up in Washington, which created breathing problems for me too, and I also had upper back problems with a pinched nerve in my neck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been thinking of you too! That little Brugmansia you gave me is doing great and I suspect after a winter in my basement it will grow a few feet. I hope we see you in Seattle in February. We’re planning on making the annual trip and it looks like there will be a lot of great speakers! Sorry to hear about your year and the neck problem. I hope you’re getting PT too. Mine has been amazing and I will likely be going for at least a year. So glad you saw this and I hope you sign up for the Fling. Registration begins tomorrow I think!


  2. Your garden looks great in this post and in those of other bloggers who visited. As a fellow Virgo, I totally get the deadline thing and the worry about discerning visitors visiting your garden. I also opened my garden for the first time this year and as I walked around talking with people, all I could see were the weeds and mistakes. Fortunately, other gardeners say kind things. May the coming year bring continued healing and health and thanks for sharing your garden! There’s so much to love!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Evan Bean

    Wish I could have been there the day of the open garden, but I’m glad I could lend a hand! Deadlines, yep, I need to set some of those for myself. Wish I had seen your seed want list earlier. I could have given you tons of Gilia capitata. I think most of the seed has dropped now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeay for your coming out party as a gardener! So funny about the Ms Nerves. Man, do I totally get that! Love your willow arbor, grandpa Sam’s (patio), the juniper fence, your crazy kitties, and your good writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMGosh no. Not always. Like the rest of my adult life post-injuries-and-health-issues it’s quite cluttered. I only have so much energy and sadly it’s not enough to keep things very organized. I have way too many piles of stuff for “later”. I am currently getting rid of all of it though. This has been quite a process and it brings up heavy memories and emotions. I am so happy to be nearing the finish right now.


  5. Been following you over on Insta for awhile and I can’t believe I haven’t popped over to your blog! I can’t imagine putting on a tour of my garden, though I do think it would be fun. I’m still trying to catch up from the first year my son was born. He’s three. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for popping over. I can write a lot more information here and have been blogging for years. Open Gardens can be a lot of fun especially when you invite a few friends. My garden is my baby. Because of my health I couldn’t have kids but my nieces grew up here and I was a foster child and I do know that kids love gardens. I bet your little one with thrive in yours.


  6. I’m glad you found it a rewarding experience-in more ways than one. A garden tour certainly gets those projects done as I have found myself as well as confirming that you are on the right track with your design. Which reminds me. You will be visiting my garden in less than a month. Better get out there and get those projects finished.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s