Visiting Chickadee Gardens

By September 11, 2018 Garden Tour

Over this summer I was lucky enough to visit the garden of a blogger I’ve been following for a long time: Chickadee Gardens. I’d met the gracious and generous Tamara, one of the garden’s owners, previously and that just made me want to visit her garden more. Lovely people tend to make lovely gardens!

It was a warm, clear summer day for a garden visit, and since the garden was open for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, we were greeted by a beautiful, handmade sign letting us know we were in the right place.

Chickadee Gardens - HPSO Open Garden

One of the first glimpses from our arrival point is a view of their house near the top of the property, and much of the garden unfolding down below. The house itself is designed to minimize maintenance chores like house painting and re-roofing, which leaves the homeowners much more time to spend on the garden I imagine. It’s important to note that they only moved into this house just under 3 years from when these photos were taken. What they’ve accomplished beyond planting the new gardens themselves is simply staggering — they’ve fenced the space, moved lots of earth, brought in lots of gravel, removed trees, built structures, hauled away debris, improved structures, host bees, have taken in a turkey that needed help, and care for a flock of chickens. And they do all of it themselves. If I ever question what can be accomplished when two people put their mind to it, I just think of them!

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

We decided to go clockwise around the house at the suggestion of David (aka: Facilities Manager), the co-owner of the garden, who greeted us as we arrived. There’s a gorgeous rock garden set in the sunny portion of the hillside above the house, and it contains one of my favorite types of plants: ground cover. One of them is a great plant Tamara introduced me to via her blog, our native buckwheat, Eriogonum.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

Farther up the hill, along the property line, is a shade garden set under a glade of mature conifers. There’s a woodland walk through this space.  On a hot day it was lovely to escape the sun for a bit of cool meandering.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

If you follow the path along, it connects up to the garden by their porch and you eventually land at the chicken enclosure.  If you look closely you’ll see there’s also a turkey, Sweet Pea, who they rescued.  Tamara tells me that the flock used to have free reign over the garden, but they were causing havoc, so they now live in a very generous corner of the garden where they can live a happy life of contained destruction.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

From this point we headed down to visit the bees and the veggie garden, but not before getting a glimpse of part of the garden’s operations space.  I love seeing these kind of spaces in other people’s gardens, especially ones where the number of nursery pots indicate just how in love with plants the owners are.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

I love the tiny bee-sized bowl of water adjacent to their hive.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

The vegetable garden is extensive and so impressive.  This time of year helps to show just what can be done to feed yourself if you know what you’re doing.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

The veggie garden is near the bottom of the hill so you get a good look up at the house.  You can also see the beginnings of their fruit orchard.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

From here we headed up to what they call the Labyrinth Garden — when they purchased the house there was actually a stone labyrinth here that they dismantled to reuse the stones to help build the new gardens.  I have seen many photos of this space and knew it was going to be beautiful, but there’s nothing like seeing it in person with the sun, shade and breeze in place.  It’s just stunning.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

Prior to moving here, Tamara & David had a standard city lot here in Portland, and you can see their joy in having space to stretch the garden out in the plantings.  This garden has the feeling of a meadow, but with more structure, which is a favorite style of mine.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

It’s filled with drought-tolerant plants, and the palette is so wonderful, and evolves from one space to the next while all existing harmoniously together.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

I’m sure it has a very different feeling in spring, and even early summer, but I feel lucky to have seen it during this time of year with the grasses in bloom.  The design of meandering gravel paths slows you down and lets you get lots of different vantage points across the garden and down the hill.  This garden fits so nicely into its landscape.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

It was also filled with pollinating insects and birds, which is one of those things that gives you a little bit of hope for the world — one of the things gardening is good at: hope.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

Tucked into one of the top corners of this garden is a fire pit with plenty of casual seating.  I love that it’s set into the ground so that nothing is sticking up to block the view.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

As we finished up our circle of the property we admired the gorgeous container plantings on their back deck.  The larger plants are underplanted with drought tolerant ground cover, which I love to see.

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

Chickadee Gardens - St Helens, Oregon

And we’ll end up with our gracious hosts — look at how cute they are!  Such a good team.  Hats off you two for the creation of a truly magical space.

Tamara & David - Chicadee Gardens

Kate McMillan

Author Kate McMillan

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