Monday, March 1, 2010

Borrowed landscape

Gardeners spend a lot of time working on their landscapes. But there's a lot more to the total picture, and if you're like the MulchMaid, with a house in the city, it necessarily incorporates elements from other people's gardens.

At our previous house, we enjoyed lots of "borrowed" landscaping. Across the street were three lovely craftsman bungalows nicely landscaped with trees, shrubs and perennials. To the north we had cedar trees that gave us a bosky, green screen from the neighbors. And to the south we enjoyed a full city lot crowned with our neighbor's gorgeous old cherry tree.

Fast-forward to our present location just a few blocks away. The views are not as expansive. The space is differently filled. But in the three years since we moved here, I've learned to appreciate the borrowed landscape that we enjoy through the big windows of our '56 ranch.

To the north is an amazingly tall Coast redwood. Sequoia sempervirens is the single most impressive tree I have ever known. Not gracious, and not particularly graceful, it's a survivor. It towers above other trees in a totally uncompromising way. This is a tree with presence.

Our neighbors to the east have four lovely magnolias planted along the street. I don't know the variety. They're not the evergreen grandiflora type, or magnolia stellata either. They bloom on bare wood this time of year, and you can see from the picture that they don't last long. But they are wonderful while they're in bloom.

Our neighbors across the street to the south are minimal gardeners. But they have a stately blue spruce that I love - it barely fits in the tiny space between the street, the sidewalk and garage.

To the right, on the horizon behind the garage, you can just see the branching pattern of a huge Raywood ash. These are often planted as street trees and many younger specimens dot Portland streets, but it's less usual to see an older tree. This one is graceful and impressive in summer: I'll have to document it when it's in leaf.

 Our west view is the best. Because we're on a corner, and at ground level, there's lots of visual space. Our dear neighbor Julie has built on the great garden foundation she inherited from her parents and added walls, trees and plants that make our view beautifully green through our front windows.

Right now, we're enjoying camellias, forsythia and a young cherry that's blossoming in her garden.

Later in spring, we look forward to the show from her mature white dogwood. It appears to be the native cornus nuttallii.

We don't have lovely mature trees on our lot. We have unattractive mature trees and two old camellias that are blooming happily this spring.

And we may not be contributing to any one else's borrowed landscape yet, but when they walk by, I hope they get a kick out of seeing our kitty Elvis in the window enjoying his borrowed landscape (complete with squirrels!)


  1. Elvis seems to be king of all he surveys! It is nice to have neighbors with great trees - there's a beautiful stand of healthy old hemlocks I enjoy in my neighborhood. The camellias look beautiful!

  2. the redwood looks a bit more like a Sequoiadendron giganteum from the picture.

    either tree are great trees for OTHER people's property. terrible on your own.

  3. Love your borrowed views! I wish I could photograph macro shots of my neighborhood. There are a few less than beautiful scenes. I'll stick with the close-ups.

    Elvis has that alert "thought I saw a squirrel" pose going on!

    Is your darker pink camellia the type that has the white markings on the leaves?

  4. You have much nicer borrowed views than we do here. But our houses are so close together. No immediate neighbors have great front gardens -- they spend their time, talent & treasure on thier back yards. I at least hope they appreciate the view I provide THEM!

  5. Hi Jane~~ I hope you'll give Elvis a smooch for me. He's awfully handsome. I have a male black and white too [tuxedo].

    So is Sequoia semp. the "Giant Sequoia"? If so, I agree with your assessment. There are two of them planted together at a newly built strip mall in town. The developer left the trees [He was probably forced to. Our city council is very strict about tree removal, thank God.] and when I drive by I'm always in awe of the sheer magnitude of these trees.

    Raywood Ash is one of my absolute favorite trees. If ever I need to plant a garden tree, it will be Raywood. There are many planted streetside here too.

    I have to laugh. What is it about people planting Blue Spruce trees right up against the house? My neighbor across the street, same thing. It's a nice tree but as the adage goes, "right plant, right place" and I don't think the people who planted these have heard it.

    Kudos to neighbor Julie. Lately I've been obsessing over rock walls [taking photos]. Hers is very appealing. I can see why you [and Elvis] enjoy your borrowed views.

  6. It's a treat to be surrounded by good neighboring trees. My street has always been tree-challenged, and it makes the view less beautiful, although it gets a little better every year as the neighbors plant more. I like to think I'm helping establish the trend.
    Hello to that adorable kitty!

  7. You are nicely situated, with even the non-gardeners doing their part. And your feline non-gardener is as decorative as they come.


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