Garden Tour Day: My Favorite Things

A designer's view

I first designed the Bebernes-Gawf garden in 2010.  Six years later it was accepted into the ANLD Designers' Garden Tour 2016.  An astonishing 550 people came through the garden on June 18.  What a day!  I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos and impressions of that day.  

To begin, I was happy and proud of the garden itself.  Linda (the homeowner and gardener) and I were exhausted from how much work it took to get ready, but once the weariness subsided, it was a good feeling of accomplishment.

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Garden Tour day was actually the first time I'd seen this small garden without furniture.  For all the six years I've been involved in this garden, there has always been a dining table here. We removed it for the show, and this "new" view was a lovely surprise. The flow of 550 people over a six-hour day was remarkably eased.  This was the first time I'd been able to take a photo of the main part of this garden, all at once.  The water bowl took center stage. 

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The water bowl, one of my favorite things.  
There are native tree frog tadpoles in this bowl today, but I remember back to when this "water feature for wildlife" was only a dream, and I remember planning for it, and the day Linda and Kate and I took a trip to Hughes Water Gardens to select it.

The composition from water bowl to glass lily pad, this was all here by design. 

Photo by  Pat Acheff, APLD .

The glass lily pad was used this day in combination with the 'Sum & Substance' Hosta. Alone, the lily pad was small and lonely. Without the lily pad, the Hosta looked scrawny.  When the two came together...harmony!

This was the best seat in the house on Tour day. (Well, it was one of them anyway!) Above is the view from the porch bench, through the vine maple grove and moss garden, to the tea hut. 
I was really happy with the moss garden this day...

...There was a little rain, and I had added some new moss the week before. Even though this little patch is only about 4 months old, it's thriving.  

The tea hut is so much a favorite right now. Sitting in it, you feel removed from the world.

It was constructed with lots of creative input and craftsmanship by Bill Hoyland, with several elements of recycled materials. It feels like it has been there forever.

(For more information about the contractors and artisans involved in this project, please see the article on

Garage BEFORE.

Garage BEFORE.

Sharing "Before and After" photos--

One of the great things about Garden Tour is sharing behind-the-scenes stories and educating the public in a visceral way.  The above is an example: this is the back yard garage in 2010--just an ordinary garage, one you might find in any old Portland back yard...

Garage AFTER.  The porch was built in Fall of 2010, and the new garden around it. This is how it looked on Garden Tour day (6-18-2016).

Garage AFTER.  The porch was built in Fall of 2010, and the new garden around it. This is how it looked on Garden Tour day (6-18-2016).

...The above is from the same angle, after design, intallation and a few years' plant growth. The significant design element was the concept of adding a porch roof, an idea which came to me in an "aha!" moment early in the design process. From that inspiration, the rest of the garden's flow fell into place.  It was fun to share this story with people, standing here, in person. People had their own "aha" moments!

Driveway BEFORE

Driveway BEFORE

Another Before & After sequence is the driveway conversion. Above shows how the driveway side yard looked when Linda requested loveliness here instead. 

Driveway AFTER

Driveway AFTER

...And after its conversion.  Sinuous path to break up the bowling alley effect, obscured views for sense of mystery, healthy soil for happy plants--these things all contribute to the result.

The driveway DURING demolition.  July 2010.

The driveway DURING demolition.  July 2010.

Another part of the driveway story is the reuse of demo'd concrete, designed to be the materials of a new wall, instead of landfill.  Above shows how the crew was cutting concrete pieces purposefully, for the concrete's new life as "urbanite" in a back yard retaining wall.

The urbanite wall under construction, using concrete pieces reclaimed from the driveway demolition.

Back to Garden Tour day 2016... the containers we finished within the last two weeks were exciting to see come together. (Thanks, Linda!

A combination of purple Loropetalum and Zonal Geranium 'Brochade Fire' was my favorite plant combo... 

...No flowers are needed for the satisfying round shapes with the greens and echoing red/purples.

These manzanita limbs, twisty-shaped and mahogany-colored, trimmings from my own yard, made me happy. They were a trick to get assembled just right, more work than it seemed, and in the end "it worked." (It's the combination of horizontal and vertical that is the key.)  James Merrigan's stained glass addition was the icing on the cake.

This view was a favorite--the front yard's new clean lines and the 'Shin deshojo' maples.

...And the same elements, from the other side.  It did my heart good to see this front yard turn out so happily, when very recently the same spot was chaotic and a true design challenge. Its design, installation and maintenance evolved over about 6 months time, motivated by the show(!). So this is why it is one of my favorites.

Photo by Joe Gass

Photo by Joe Gass

But the best of all things on Garden Tour day, were the people, the folks who came and saw and felt the place, and gave in return their good tidings. What a terrific audience they were! (Gardeners really are the best people!) 

What impressed me the most was how happy people were in this garden. I could feel it. According to the front workers, so many people commented how peaceful the garden was, how tranquil, that it felt like a haven, that it had a calming effect, and some, who were able to find the quietest moments, said they didn't want to leave. (I can attest to this feeling as well! It is a special place, some due to the design, some due to the site itself.)  It is so rewarding to hear that this quality succeeded.

I am sorry that I did not think to take more pictures of these happy guests!  I would have liked to capture their impressions, the looks on their faces, their beginner's mind.  But for now, all I have is my words, and a few inadequate pics.  I will ask you to use your imagination...picture a continuous procession of people, ebbing, small groups, moving through the garden, talking, sharing, standing, dreaming. And all the questions from them, and long conversations.  Oh so pleasant.  I loved them all!

Everyone had the greatest questions. Here is one picture of Linda talking with a tour-goer about the pruning of her Japanese maple.  She also fielded many questions about plant names, the frog bowl, plant names, backyard habitat certification, plant names, how she maintains the clumping bamboo, and plant names.

This fellow, trying for a clear photo of the water surface for many minutes, was a man after my own heart.

James Merrigan and I, photo by my daughter Emily.

James Merrigan and I, photo by my daughter Emily.

Enjoyed having the artist James Merrigan (Garden Art by James) with us all day, and chatting with him during quiet moments.

The hydrangeas that bloomed just on time. ...

...and this lady, who was so color-coordinated with the hydrangeas and the stained glass screen.  The party was with her!

Having my family and friends hosting with me, or sitting at the front welcoming visitors.

And finally, these two women, the rudders to my sail...

...Linda Bebenes and Kate Gawf, who opened their home and their hearts, most generously, and let me take my ideas and run with them.  I designed this garden for them, and their wishes and touches are everywhere.  Everything you see above was a team approach, especially between Linda (the gardener) and me.  To me, this garden is her spirit, and their spirit together.  I am fortunate they trusted me and am very happy to have had this opportunity to know them better.  These are my favorite things.