waterfront condos

view north

Our friends who downsized from a big old Victorian in the alphabet district in NW Portland now have this view of the Fremont Bridge looking downriver.

view upriver

While in the other direction there is the Broadway Bridge in the foreground, backed by the city’s skyline. The sidewalk you see here is part of a 40-mile loop trail for walkers and bicyclists. The water of the Willamette River is so high right now that parts of the trail are submerged, but that won’t last for long. We plan to bring our bikes sometime soon.

view from sidewalk

The condo building is surrounded by something like a moat. This is the view looking from the sidewalk out between the two buildings with the river in the distance and industrial buildings and docks on the far shore.

cascade at side

Down the sides of the buildings the water cascades down these concrete spillways. The reflecting pool in the last photo has similar levels that can be seen through the water, but not easily photographed.

side plantings

The landscape designer was meticulous to the point that the first rocks in this dry creek bed had to be removed because they were the wrong color. These rocks are exactly the color of the sidewalk and nearly uniform in size.

red petunias

I am normally not a petunia person, but I find the large blocks of bright red ones in concrete raised beds surprisingly pleasing.

view of the river from the balcony

After passing through a lobby with falling water on both sides (just in case we haven’t had enough rain) we made our way to our friends’ condo, where they have this view from their balcony. They can watch all of the river traffic and the loading and unloading of cargo ships across the river. If that isn’t enough excitement, the Portland Police’s horse barn is off to the left, where the horses are worked in the ring. They miss having a space to garden, but the low maintenance will make room for sailing getaways, etc. Looks like a pretty good life to me. Now I am off to spend the next three days of promised sunshine mucking about in the garden and loving every minute of it. To each his own, right?

wildflower wednesday

anonymous wildflower

I’ll start with one that I am hoping someone will identify, as it grows profusely around here.

candy flower and ferns

Mostly, the cast of characters changes dramatically from month to month, but the dainty little candy flower sticks around long enough to pair with the emerging ferns.

wild geranium

I pull these out of my borders, but along the roadside the masses of wild geraniums are a delight.

wild heuchera

Judging by leaf shape and flower form, I’m guessing that this is a wild heuchera. One has taken up residence in a border and chose its placement so well that it will stay.

wild solomon’s seal

In the wild, the Solomon’s seal stays low to the ground, unlike the one in my woodland garden, which is 3′ tall.

false solomon’s seal

False Solomon’s Seal shares the same leaf shape, but instead of dangling bells, the flower is a white pouf similar to goatsbeard at the end of the stem.

close-up of false solomon’s seal

Here’s a closer look at that flower form.

wild strawberry

The banks along the road are covered with wild strawberry plants. I must remember to keep checking to see if any fruit escapes the notice of the critters to be plucked by me.

scotch broom

Coming out of the woods, where the dominant color scheme is green and white, things get more colorful. Scotch Broom was introduced to the US in the late 1800’s for use in stabilizing mine tailings and other types of erosion control. With its deep root system and tough persistence, people came to like it for easy-care landscaping. Uh oh…those qualities also mean that it is tough to eradicate as it makes its way onto the ‘noxious weed’ lists of many states. It is just beginning to gain a foothold along this bank, but there are many hillsides that are bright yellow (the color of highway warning signs) as far as the eye can see.

Scotch Broom close-up

We always seem to be walking the line between trying to find plants that will thrive effortlessly and those that will overrun us with too much of a good thing. One plant like this can produce 15,000 seeds in a year. Digging them up is not a good idea, because disturbing the soil will just bring more of those seeds to the surface where they can germinate. While the plant is toxic to most animals and humans, goats can be pressed into service. Brooms hate shade, so providing a canopy of shade can be a long-range solution. Cutting off and painting the stump with glyphosate might be one of the rare instances where chemical warfare could be justified.

Susie’s wattle fence

Enough with the ranting. I am going to take you back into our cool woods, where one of our neighbors is building a wattle fence. When I stopped to chat with her about it, she was thrilled that I knew what it was (apparently it is a foreign concept to folks in our neck of the woods). I volunteered the prunings from our fruit trees, but I think what is really needed here is a helper. Wattle building is mighty slow going.

Wildflower Wednesdays are the brainchild of Gail at Clay and Limestone, so hop on over there if you want to get in on the fun.

stinging nettles…to eat!


Nettles have been showing up on chi chi menus of late. These are growing along the roadside, giving them two strikes against them: 1) they are about to bloom. Nettles must be harvested before they flower. Once flowers form, harmful crystals form within the leaves that can irritate the urinary tract. 2) the roadside location means that they have been polluted by exhaust. We have plenty of nettles out in our woods, where they get less sun so are still early enough in their evolution to serve a culinary purpose. If you have ever tangled with a patch of nettles, you know that it can be a painful experience. The stinging hairs are on the underside of the leaves. Be sure to cover up and wear gloves if you want to harvest some nettles. Cooking removes the sting. Sauté, steam, boil or simply soak in water for 20 minutes and they are ready to be used just as you would spinach, chard or kale. The water left behind makes a good fertilizer.

more nettles

I can’t say that the taste differential between a quiche made with nettles and one using plain old spinach is outstanding, but there is something sort of charming about harvesting foodstuffs in the wild. The chefs around town obviously think it adds cachet to the whole “NW Style” thing.

nw 23rd stroll

Once upon a time, walking around 23rd was all about the little boutique dress shops and such. Now I gravitate to places that grow things. Oh, I must admit to stopping by Dazzle, a shop that has morphed from artful home goods with a smattering of jewelry to artful clothing, still with a smattering of jewelry. The fancy duds are as flamboyant as any bouquet, and I dare you to pass by their windows, on 23rd and Irving, without sneaking a peek inside.

flowering street trees

The most industrial corner on the street (most of the shops along it are in Victorian houses, or new structures built to look at home in such a setting) is softened by these beautiful flowering cherry trees.

Jenny Greene a-board

Just a little detour down Lovejoy St leads to Jennie Greene Designs “a unique flower shop”, and it really is.

Jennie Greene window display

As I approached, Jennie’s sidekick (who, by all appearances, is as talented as is Jennie herself) was putting the finishing touches on this window display, an architectural wonder utilizing bamboo to support the grid of flowers.

red flower arrangement

That same architectural approach is evident in arrangements using unusual materials to support and enhance the flowers and branches.

yellow floral arrangement

It isn’t very often that I feel the need to go for the extra WOW factor beyond a posy from my garden. When I do, this is the place for it.

mixed hellebore blossoms

Something as simple as an assortment of Hellebore blossoms floating in a bowl is sure to be put into practice at my house.

framed moss

Framed moss: now there’s an idea I can get behind.

succulents in a trug

Succulents in a trug: how cute!

tulips in a rustic basket

Then there were the tulips and twigs in a rustic basket. Is my enchantment showing? This shop started in a tiny space converted from a shipping container next to the coffee shop on 23rd and Pettygrove. They outgrew that space and set up shop just east of 23rd on Thurman. This, then, is their third location, destined for razing in the near future. All this flitting may explain why the A-board above still displays the last address. It could get frustrating, but this is one shop I find worth following around, so I will give you a heads up when they settle into a new space.

Back to 23rd, I was stopped in my tracks by this sidewalk display.

red bench with greenery

The red bench surrounded by all the greenery would have done the job, but just beyond it:


Succulents, a few of them new to me.

decorated entryway

The rusted decorative gate made a perfect foil for the entryway, decorated to within an inch of its life.

floral exotics

Now if what I was after was a selection of unusual material by the stem, I would come here, to Luv “N” Stuff. As it was, I blew the last of my cash on succulents. Just as an aside, it seems that while succulents are the new “hot” plant, none of the suppliers provide labels for these fascinating plants. We should lobby for them to do that, but I have no idea where to start. Any ideas?

magnolia leaves

wall cooler for flowers

wildflower walks


Walking our road is especially pleasant (between downpours) this time of year because the wildflowers are out in full force. The clumps of Trilliums seem to increase with each passing year. They are about three weeks ahead of the single plant that blooms in our woodland garden. They seem to be the same variety, but the roadway lets in more sunshine.

Oregon grape

Same story for the Oregon grape, our state flower. In fact, the governor’s mansion in the state capitol is called ‘Mahonia Hall’. I thought that planting a clump of these in a garden bed would be a surefire low maintenance, high impact strategy, but not so. Mine get leggy and scruffy before blooming, while those that chose their own sites bloom profusely on shrubs with shiny, undamaged leaves. This took the wind out of my early intentions to rely heavily on natives at home.


This is the first year that I have noticed little clumps of miners’ lettuce Claytonia growing along the road. I sought out seed and grew some one year, but it is so much more fun to find it in the “wild”. It makes a wonderful, tender little addition to salads.

candy flower

Much of what is blooming now is so diminutive that only an extreme close-up will do. This dainty beauty is, I think, what is called a ‘candy flower’. Anybody know of a good source of information on Willamette Valley wildflowers?

yellow violets

Here’s another tiny dancer that would escape notice if we never left our car. I’m sure it has a name, but ‘yellow violet’ will have to do until a better-informed wildflower watcher comes along to set me straight.

snake grass

These snaky grasses are so attractive that I have tried more than once to incorporate them into arrangements. They refuse to cooperate, so I guess I will have to be satisfied with enjoying them in situ.

Living in the country, it is best to stay on the good side of neighbors. One irritated neighbor cleared all the brush that screened his place from his neighbor across the road and installed a family of pigs. We tend to breathe through our mouths while navigating this stretch of road.

leyland cypress hedge

Mostly, though, our neighbors couldn’t be nicer. This poor fellow was working on taming the Leyland cypress hedge he inherited from his predecessor. He is obviously going to need to borrow a taller ladder. We fell into conversation and he invited us to see what he has been up to behind that hedge.


These cute little greenhouses are giving things a great head start, especially with the reflected heat from the house and the driveway.

raised beds

While around back these raised beds are surrounded by trellises for climbers. This is going to be a kitchen garden that qualifies for being called a “parterre”, if ever I saw one.

Well, I strayed quite a bit from the subject of wildflowers, but over at Clay and Limestone this is Wildflower Week, with links to other blogging gardeners sharing wild discoveries.

dressed-up trees

plum trees

All over town, the trees have donned their Easter bonnets and are letting us know in no uncertain terms that Spring is indeed a fact of life.

Naito Parkway/Steel Bridge

If I were called upon to judge this Easter Parade, the prize would go to this long line of beauties stretching along the west bank of the Willamette River. I especially enjoy the contrast between their pouffiness and the industrial look of the Steel Bridge in the background.

blossoms up close

At close range, one is enveloped by a scent that is at once forceful and yet as delicate as the blossoms.

entry stele

But let’s back up and enter the park as was intended. We are greeted by this column with a bas-relief of a Japanese elder carrying a child, the first clue that the park is dedicated to those Americans who endured internment camps in wartime.


Natural boulders are set into the courtyard, each incised with a poem or statement honoring them.


With more of the same all along the embankment.

trees and the river

See that patch of blue sky? We Portlanders do not take such things for granted. People were out in force, lolling on the grass, strolling along the river and grinning ear to ear. Gotta jump on it when we can, because tomorrow, it will surely rain.

trees behind fence

On the way home, I spotted these fluffy trees in huge planters behind the chain link fence at Bedford & Brown. This is the place to go if you are in the market for estate scale pots and statuary. That would not be me, but I have to stop by to gawk every once in a while.

Bedford & Brown sidewalk

This shot was taken looking down the sidewalk in front of Bedford & Brown. The street trees are magnolias.

arborvitae and ivy

Here’s a closer look at the arborvitae that march along the fence at regular intervals with ivy growing on cables to form those cross-bars in the spaces between. I think of this as a striking example of the use of mundane materials to create a fine effect. Heck, the chain link fence even works, because it allows us to peek into the sculpture yard even when the place is closed. A disclaimer about English ivy: it is deadly in the wild, but you can see why people like it. This composition filled in from a scrawny beginning in something like 3 or 4 years. They keep it closely trimmed, so it is not about to produce the berries that birds might drop in Forest Park to eventually strangle the trees there. Have you any ideas for an alternative plant that could substitute for the ivy here? If we want to stamp out invasive English ivy, we will have to think of something.

more east side rambles

We were close by, and I wanted to pick up a CD by Esperanza Spalding, the Portland jazz artist who ruined Justin Beiber’s night by winning best new artist. I like going to Music Millenium, even if I didn’t consider it sort of a civic duty to try to prop up local businesses that have been shrinking of late. It is near the gates of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. On the opposite corner, the Laurelhurst Market:

Laurelhurst Market

occupies a handsomely remodeled building with a fence of espalier between the diners/shoppers and the parking lot. It will make a nice screen when it leafs out, but I was glad to see it now with all of the handiwork exposed.


Right next door was this ramshackle but imaginative structure.

more shack

Another angle reveals the mossy roof and more of the details of the cobbled together construction. All was deserted, but it seems someone had had a vision. Hobbits, maybe?<.p>
mud woman

The house adjacent to the lot with the handmade house is guarded by this fun/scary mud woman, who looks out over a weedy expanse of naturalized daffodils.

Ian’s new neighborhood

OK, so time to check out Ian’s potential new neighborhood. Looks like the kind of place to put down roots and raise a family.

next door

Maybe do a little gardening?

bowling birds’ nest

And definitely get to know the neighbors with the sense of humor. Those eggs are bowling balls, with the nest in proportion. That’s it for my guided tour of just a few of the quirky sights on Portland’s east side. I hope Ian and Noami buy the house, so we will have many excuses for further visits.

ristretto’s neighborhood

Whenever I get to a rendevous early, out comes the camera for a tour of the neighborhood. I like to meet people at my son Din’s coffee shop, Ristretto Roasters over on Williams St in North Portland. Not only is the coffee extra special, but I just might run into Din or Nancy and get caught up on their busy lives. Anyway, here are a few shots of the surrounding neighborhood.


Heading down a side street, this guy was the first thing to catch my eye. I knew this was going to be a fun walk.


Recently completed hardscapes in this garden, a half-block away from the gargoyle, were of a more serious nature. The impressive gates lead into a vegetable plot. In the foreground, curved beds are separated from pathways by cor-ten steel barriers.


Here, square metal boxes are set within the curved bed. The plantings are all brand new. It will be interesting to revisit this garden as it grows into its “bones”.


Turn a corner, and WOW…these people are not afraid of COLOR.


So of course there was an abundance of colorful plant material about. I hadn’t seen this Echinacea before, but now I will be on the lookout.


This has got to be what is meant by “vine covered cottage”…and around back, a vegetable garden.


Across the street was this understated, subtle paint job with a jungle in front.


Time to get back for my coffee fix. As so often happens on these expeditions, I was surprised at how far I had wandered. This whole block of parking strip was barkdust mulched with the occasional rock to break the monotony, but clustered near the corner was a mature clump of yuccas. The city might have something to say about that spilling over the curb, but I find it charming.


Back on Williams, intense efforts to bring the neighborhood back from the brink have resulted in lots of new construction.


New projects are going forward even in this down economy.


With gentrification come many things, but in this case the neighborhood has kept its sense of humor and identity.


…right down to the large corner lot devoted to a thriving community garden. And now for arguably the best cup of coffee in Portland. Hey! Other people swear by it…not just his mom.

folk art, or WWTT?

A long time ago, the Portland Art Museum had a show of folk art. The pieces were all cobbled together from life’s detritus: everything from barn boards to cast off toilets. One hallway featured wall-sized mural/photos of the artists, mainly gap-toothed black men leaning against equally gap-toothed fences enclosing yards full of “junk”. The striking thing was the rapturous look on the faces of these makers of things. Some time later, R asked me…if I were to be reincarnated, what would I like to come back as? I didn’t need a second to think it over. “One of those old black guys.” Now here’s the thing. Most of the pieces in that show would seem tacky, even laughable, to most observers. Someone with a critical eye saw the heart in them, put them in a museum and called them “Art”. I was reminded of that show the other day as I walked around the neighborhood. People seem to share an impulse to make things. They might be embarassed to show them off indoors, but outside…anything goes.


I will start with the one piece that I think qualifies as “Art” (just my opinion) and got me looking around with this theme in mind. The bee sits unceremoniously in a yard that is not particularly well-tended. I hope to see the owner out and about one of these days so I can ask him about it.


Two of our neighbors spend their days building bird houses and feeders. I guess you would call this more of a cottage industry, but the impulse seems similar. Jim is out in his workshop at the break of each day with the coffee on and the latest neighborhood gossip to share if you care to stop by. He introduced Virgil, across the street, to woodworking, and now they seem to be engaged in a kind of friendly one-upsmanship with their designs.


Jim built this gate between his place and ours.


Every year, a family of swallows takes up residence. As evening falls, they can be seen swooping into that little hole at top speed. (we never lack for entertainment around here)


In the folk art department, everything benefits from a patina of age.


An old rusty saw blade becomes a sun face.


This piece of equipment actually gets used, but it sure looks like it has potential as art somewhere in its future.


Which brings me to my own little chicks pecking around the vegetable raised beds. These were a gift. R slapped his forehead and cried “What Were They Thinking?” I think they’re kinda charming…which just goes to show how “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” got to be such a cliche. When we first saw our present home, I was ready to run screaming from the room. Everything was dark pressed-plywood paneling and sculptured wall to wall carpeting, with an orange fireplace smack in the middle of the living room. It was only as I began to remove the ornate brass fixtures for the fully lined, nubbly plaid draperies that I realized with what care everything had been installed. It sure wasn’t our taste, but it was executed with a thoroughness and precision one had to admire. I got to thinking that the next caretaker of this place might take one look at our faux-painted walls and hardwood floors; our oddball taste in plant material and think to themselves…”What Were They Thinking? Well, with a lot of work, we can fix this.”

neighborhood lovelies


Remember the big blowup bunny? Between that and the chain link fence, you might think this yard was a lost cause, but you would be wrong. I aimed my camera over the fence to capture only a small section of this large drift of daffodils.


Talk about lucky grandkids! Right in front of the daffodil border sits this playhouse.


Hanging on the gate, nearly enough to make one forget the chain-linkiness of it, is a charming welcome sign cut from metal and allowed to accumulate a lovely patina of rust.


Peeking through the fence up the road, you can see a plowed garden plot big enough to feed the entire neighborhood. They don’t, but they do leave a hedge of blackberries along the fence line for the express purpose of letting neighbors pick them.


The folks with the Seussian arborvitae suffered a setback when the winter wiped out new landscaping heavily dependent upon flax, but some of the older, heartier shrubs survived.


Meanwhile, in the land of the lollipop shrubs, this line of weeping cherries more than makes up for any surrounding silliness, as I hope this tour kind of makes up for earlier snarkiness (not that I pledge to give up snarkiness on anything like a permanent basis).