I say this annually, but this is the most wonderful time of the year. After the clocks change and we get more daylight at the end of the day, and the weather swings wildly between chilly drizzle and (excitingly) warmer sunshine, it gives you a peek at the glorious season of growth ahead. It’s well under way, actually, and each day it’s exciting to visit the garden & see what’s new. It’s also easier to be slightly more leisurely with the dog walks to admire what’s happening around the neighborhood.

Here’s what’s happening in our neck of the woods — starting in the front & working our way around the property…

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

I love rosemary as a garden plant in addition to culinarily & this one lives in our parking strip. I don’t know the variety, but it has richer-colored flowers than the others on the property.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This also lives in our parking strip & is the variety ‘Arp’ — it makes great skewers for grilling so I coordinate my pruning with summer meals.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

Here we’re looking into the front garden from the sidewalk at the northwest corner of the property — it shows the exuberance of spring & I love it.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

Now we’re standing in the driveway looking towards the front path. This time of year we have lots of ambers and rust colors in the foliage.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

We’re still standing in the driveway, but looking on the other side toward some of the early tulips.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

Now we’ve gone up the front path, through the gate, and are looking towards the front. My neighbor & I extended the wires trained on the fence for this Trachelospermum (Star Jasmine) to add a bit more privacy between our spaces.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

You might be able to make out the massive tree trunk in the previous photo — it’s a cherry that’s about 60 feet tall, and it’s slowly dying. It shouldn’t be planted roughly 10′ from either of our houses, so it’ll be a relief when it’s gone. In the meantime, I’m growing a Hydrangea anomala petiolaris ‘Miranda’ (climbing hydrangea) up it.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

Just next to the Jasmine we have this little Heuchera tucked into a stone retaining wall.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

Over on this shady side of the house (the north side) I’m adding this variegated Acanthus (Bear’s Breeches) in a container this year because I can’t pass up huge variegated leaves! Is this the plant that tips me over into too much variegation? We’ll see!

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This is our containerized Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Steroidal Giant’ (Rice Paper Plant) and these prehistoric leaves are just getting started for the year — I hope to get a bit more height this season so that it’s more easily seen when you come through the gate.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

As we venture into the back garden we reach one of this year’s projects. I’ve removed nearly everything I wanted out of this spot, including cutting down a golden cypress that was competing with a neighbor’s magnolia, and now it’s had a couple of inches of Dean Innovation’s White Lightening added (complete with dog footprints). There are some irises that I’m going to use as cut flowers and then give away, and I have a shopping list for Hortlandia to fill it in. Stay tuned!

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This is one of the plants staying in that spot, a Rhamnus frangula (Buckthorn ‘Fine Line’). I love this plant, and it’s finally reached the top of the fence so it will have more presence among the plantings. It’s new foliage is pretty great.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

And here’s something I already added — a Drimys lanceolata (Tasmanian Pepperberry). It’s something I’ve eyed for years wanting to make a place for it in my garden & I’m thrilled it has a home here now. Some nearby plant neighbors have burgundy foliage, so I think they’ll be nice together.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

At the far end of this new planting bed I’ve got 3 Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, which is a great, easy plant with the most wonderful flowers. They’re filled with buds right now and I hope they have a great season ahead.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

These Saxifraga paniculata (Encrusted Saxifrage), all with white flowers, are part of what’s going into the new bed. I’m going to get some interesting Lace Rock from Smith Rock, Inc. and create a little mound of these and a few other rock garden plants.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

I love spring bulbs and it’s always interesting to see how new ones turn out IRL vs the photo on the package. These (don’t remember the variety) looked like little marshmallows bobbing around before they opened, and I haven’t yet decided whether I like them (leaning toward a no).

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

These are in a container, along with many others, so I can place them where I want while they’re blooming, then tuck them away when they’re not.

Among the containers with spring blooms is this Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’ (Wallflower), which was one of the earliest bloomers and has a punch of saturated color hard to find this time of year.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

In the raised gabion bed that’s connected to the back border I keep these smallish concrete orbs that I made as a crafty project one day. They’re, of course, covered in a universe of lovely moss, and I love this time of year as they’re slowly hidden by the Dicentra formosa.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

I’m becoming increasingly enchanted with the tiniest of daffodils.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

There used to be a fan-shaped cedar trellis over here that I fell out of love with. So I replaced it with this narrow steel variety. I haven’t given up on cedar trellises entirely (more on that later) but plants like this fragrant Clematis (Fragrant Star Vancouver) cling better to the skinny crosshatch of this kind of trellis, and it coordinates with the rusty metal I’ve got elsewhere in the garden.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This Allium karataviense (Persian Onion) looks like it’s gone from one bloom of last year to two this year, which is exciting. I hope it slowly colonizes this whole area because I love this plant. Don’t mind the tag, once it’s committed to memory I’ll remove it.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This is a favorite daffodil: Thalia. It’s graceful, simple, and fits so easily among other plants.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

The Clematis fasciculiflora is slowly climbing the arbor with its small, bell-shaped flowers. There’s a Billardiera longiflora that shares this space, and it seems to have recovered from being abruptly moved for our house project so I’m hopeful it’ll flower & fruit later this year.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

And here’s one of the things growing on the other side of the arbor, an Actinidia arguta ‘Issai’ (Grape Kiwi). This was newly planted last autumn, and is showing signs of life. This is a self-fertile variety so we’ll see what happens!

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This little area next to the arbor has a bird bath (that obvs needs a good clean) and most excitingly, a new Garrya elliptica (Coast Silktassel). Our neighbors finished a backyard ADU last year and there’s a large window just on the other side of the fence that looks out directly onto our back garden. The window looks in on a staircase with a landing where there’s a bathroom, so people existing the bathroom are often met by whatever’s going on in our back garden, just as we are met by whomever comes out of the bathroom. So this Garrya will eventually give us some evergreen privacy. In the meantime, I’ve attached a cedar trellis to the fence and will be growing an annual vine up it to help.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

I have two roses in our garden — a David Austin variety with white/yellow blooms, and this Rosa Glauca. I couldn’t care less about the single pink flowers on this plant, but the foliage is an absolute knockout, especially when it’s just getting started. And the hips aren’t bad either.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

Here’s another cedar trellis — this one from Mr. Plywood. They have a great, affordable selection of cedar trellis. This is a size upgrade from the smaller one here before. The Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ that grows here has gotten big enough to need more room to spread out at the top of the fence, so this should help. Soon enough it’ll be completely covered in deep purple blooms.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

I moved these variegated Polygonatum (Solomon’s Seal) last autumn and they don’t seem to have minded at all. I’m hopeful that with a bit more light on this side of the house they’ll be happier.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

Up against the house on this south side I put my 3 blueberries — this variety is ‘Spartan’ and has massive, delicious fruit. It was in a container for a few years so we’ll see how much better it does now that it’s in the ground.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This is a NOID hellebore growing against this cobalt blue pot, which I love for how it sets off the bright green of the leaves. This is the view outside of the basement apartment kitchen window.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This is a Spirea ‘Goldflame’, or perhaps ‘Goldmound’ (I can’t remember), that has the best new foliage. It’s great in arrangements. And on this plant, which may be reverting, some leaves are half gold, half green. It’s gorgeous.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

Now we’ve left our garden and we’re visiting a neighbor who I helped with their front garden design last year. It’s just been planted and I’m excited to see how it fills in this season. The stones help manage the overflow from a downspout on that side of the property (under the sidewalk).

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

This is another neighbor’s garden where their groundcover game is really spectacular.

Portland Spring Garden Design - Cultiverity

And finally, this is a tree down the block that helps announce spring — it’s a giant magnolia that can been seen from blocks away. Once it starts its show, you know warmer days are ahead.

Kate McMillan

Author Kate McMillan

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