Monday, July 23, 2012

A visit to the McCulloch garden

One of the great benefits of membership in the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon is the opportunity to visit the gardens of other members. I've been an HPSO member now for several years, but somehow, inexplicably, I never took advantage of the Open Gardens until a week ago.

The Maryellen and Michael McCulloch garden is tucked away in NW Portland on Old Germantown Road. I picked it mostly based on convenience, and it was a bit of a trick even to find. But the visit to this 40-acre property and gardens on a warm July afternoon was the perfect choice for my maiden Open Gardens tour.

As I pulled into the parking area, the tone was set with a huge, red, strip-metal ball.
I had the place almost to myself, as a pair of visitors were leaving just as I arrived. I noticed they each had plants in their arms; this was an excellent sign!

From the parking area, I walked up the hill along a mowed, curving path through grasses and wildflowers toward a long, rangy house at the top (designed, I discovered later, by Pietro Belluschi, an iconic PNW mid-century architect. Of course I have no pictures of it!)
There seemed to be no one around, so I just started wandering. I came upon two sweet tweens hawking plants, flowers, and delicious lavender lemonade under a white awning.
Suitably refreshed and pointed in the right direction, I continued my exploration of the property.

There was U-pick lavender in a field above me, but I focused on a wonderful metal arbor structure supporting a young grape vine.

I think what appealed to me was simplicity and strength in the same piece. And the rust. I could almost imagine being able to build this.

Tufts of grasses had plenty of room to flourish along the road.

The deer-proof vegetable garden up near the greenhouse was fenced with more beautifully simple rusty metal.
Inside the fenced garden, terraced beds held herbs, flowers and vegetables.

This fun metal sun held a clematis on the fenced garden.
Monarda is typical of the billowy plantings throughout a lot of the property. The nice use of a limited plant palette pulled the design together over the large lot.

At the highest point on the property stood a large and beautiful greenhouse, flanked by citrus trees.
It held all kinds of goodies, like this Aeonium forest,

cool aloes and agaves,
And this crazy knobbly succulent.
In front of the Aeonium forest was some kind of Senecio (I think).

Many of the specimens were planted right into the ground and mulched with rocks.

Others were still in nursery pots or had been replanted in decorative containers.

One side of the greenhouse was filled with a jungle of large species. I recognized a huge abutilon, a palm, a strelitzia and a big citrus in bloom.

This unknown plant was big, and its furry flower buds were small but vivid.

Tearing myself away from the greenhouse, I descended big stone steps toward the house level, accompanied by the sound of an almost-hidden watercourse.

Simple drifts of lambs ears and purple thyme softened the steps.
Day lilies and grasses melded together in lovely harmony.
Massive boulders might have been here forever...or so artfully added they just looked like it.

Reaching the house level, I looked up to a sea of heathers and poppies.

Here was the tumbling water I heard earlier on the steps, landing in a pool beside ...

The. Best. Yoga. Studio. Ever.
I'd be a devout practitioner too, if I had a view like this of the Tualatin Valley.

A close-up of the sculpture.

A look back at the yoga-studio-to-die-for.

Up close to the house and recording studio, the plantings were more refined.

I don't think I have ever seen a more elegant tomato pot.

Near the house I met the garden owner, Maryellen, who was warm and welcoming. She mentioned that they were preparing to create an extensive meadow area and that their garden wouldn't be open for the next two years as a result. That made me doubly glad I'd made the trip this year.

I bought a couple of succulents from the cute kids, and it was time to go.

After the visit, I was curious about the property and checked out the website for Westwind Farm Studio. The property has multifaceted uses, including a recording studio, growing sustainable plants and U-pick lavender, and as a video and still photography location. How nice of the McCullochs to also welcome HPSO members!


  1. Oh, I'm so glad you decided to go here on your first ever tour! What a cool and interesting garden. That pond looks so natural, and the yoga studio is to die for. I bought that same Abutilon this year. I hope mine gets that big. Actually, I just hope I can keep it alive over the winter. Thanks for taking such great pictures to share with us.

  2. Love that pond...and all the boulders & lovely! The view up there must be amazing. I have to admit, I haven't gone on any open garden tours so far this year (EEEK!). I'm hoping to visit a few sooner or later...I'll have to try to make it to this one, now that I know it's worth it :-)

  3. This was one of the open gardens I was really hoping to make it too, sadly I did thank you for taking us along with you!

  4. Ditto what Loree said--thanks for the tour for those of us who missed it!

  5. I'll be imagining that yoga studio when I'm doing my yoga in my living room...not quite the same.
    I'm ashamed to say I never visited any garden openings in London in all the years I lived there. Thank you for the tour,lovely!

  6. You made a great choice for your initiation into open gardens. It's hard to work them into busy summertime schedules, but always worth the effort.

  7. Rats, I missed this one! I've lazily been choosing my garden tours based on location too (it's my first year as a HPSO member) but I will try to remember to make the trek to this one next year. I want to see all those lovely cacti and it looks like such a beautiful setting.

  8. What a wonderful trip. I felt as though I was traipsing along right beside you, admiring the serenity, the buzzing bees and the QUIET. I love the rock work, the creek and the pond and that the owners decided to allow that tuft of Fireweed grow where it is. It's such a pretty plant. As nice as the Yoga house is, it's that greenhouse that I so envy. I think I could spend my entire winter in there. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I love all the color. We're pretty much just green and hot here on the east side of the country!


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