Right now it’s prime home garden touring season in the Pacific Northwest. Many organizations raise funds by letting the public peek behind their neighbors’ fences. Garden tours are a terrific way to gather real-life inspiration for your own projects. Here’s what I found on the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers tour in Portland, Oregon.
Give the fence a break. Designed by Barb Hilty, the fence in the photo opens a view to the street with a welded wire window. And it’s not the de rigueur six-feet tall either. Homeowner and contractor, David Best, put up three mock fences of varying heights and asked his neighbors to decide which they liked. They chose a shorter one. But because it’s on a rise from the street, it does the privacy job of its taller brethren while giving the small garden a wider sense of space and light. It’s a terrific idea to borrow.
Consider easy steps. “Easy steps” was the name my grandmother gave to any staircase where the rise was less than the standard seven inches. At the Meihoff garden, instead of the usual single deck at the back door and a set of stairs, designer Donna Giguere created a wide series of steps with only a five-inch rise for each. The steps spread out, forming platforms at many different levels. Perhaps your next stair project could be “easy.”
Provide greenhouse plants with a summer outing. In the Pacific Northwest, rain dominates all seasons except summer and early fall, which are sunny, with mild daytime temperatures, and cool nights. So here, warmth is valued. In the Moore garden, the narrow walkway leading to the back yard features a south-facing brick house wall—a perfect heat sink. The homeowner reserves this spot for his greenhouse tropicals. Containers of citrus, plumeria, brugmansia, and banana all thrive in the radiating warmth. Consider a special area in your own garden—sun or shade—where indoor plants can be part of the summer decor.
Elevate an entrance to art. In the other photo, metal crafter Mike Suri has created these two four-foot tall rusted steel gates at the Malone garden. Organic shapes of poppy seed heads and undulating foliage glide open with a center latch. The muted orange forms have a softness that makes you want to caress it—not usually the case with things that rust. For your next gate, think about adding an artistic touch.