Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Gordon House (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Just after you enter the gates of The Oregon Garden, the first thing you see on your left is The Gordon House, one of the last Usonian houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was the only house designed by Wright in the state of Oregon. It was commissioned by Conrad and Evelyn Gordon in Wilsonville, Oregon. Wright designed the house in 1957 and it was built in 1964 after his death. The Gordons lived in the house for the remainder of their lives and it was then donated to the Frank Lloyd Wright Convervancy, who meticulously dismantled the house piece by piece and relocated it to The Oregon Garden location after it was donated by the Gordon heirs.

There is also a Frank Lloyd Wright home less than one mile from our former home in Florence, Alabama. I visited it twice and wrote about it in this post from 2012.












Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Oregon Garden (Silverton, Oregon)

The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


Last week, on a cold, sunny day, I drove about an hour south of Portland to see the Conifer Garden at The Oregon Garden in the town of Silverton. It was interesting getting out of the big city and seeing some of the Oregon countryside and the smaller towns. In many ways, it was reminiscent of the Alabama countryside with one exception - I have never seen so many nurseries, farms and orchards. An immense blueberry farm was impressive and I wished I had stopped and taken some photos.

During this eternity of waiting for the house sale to close, I have immersed myself in books about gardening here in the Pacific Northwest. (Note: The end is in sight. We should have the keys next week, it would have been today had it not been for our local Alabama bank being unyielding in wiring our funds - a story that I will not go into). 

But back to the gardening books.  I have learned a lot already. I know now that soil ammendment is a big deal (most of the soils in this area are clay). It also been stressed that one should be careful about planting large trees - in other words, don't do it  - unless you have a very large property. For one thing, large trees will rob you of precious light for growing plants and secondly, they will more than likely interfere on your neighbor's property. A third thing to consider is that you do not want to block light from entering your house unless you prefer a dark, gloomy atmosphere.

One positive aspect about creating a new garden after gardening for twenty-plus years in a former location is that you can learn from your previous mistakes. I knew if I wanted to grow many of the magnificent plants out here, I would have to avoid large trees. Just settle on a select few ornamental trees and dwarf conifers. 


I think evergreen plants and conifers are important elements of the landscape. They help establish the "bones" of the garden and they provide winter interest. The space in front of our future house is a large blank space of lawn, with the exception of a few foundation plants and a Japanese maple. The plan that is percolating in my mind calls for a fence to enclose the entire front lawn and borders along the perimeter of it. I want to grow a variety of shrubs, perennials, vines and conifers. I am not definite on a color scheme yet but my initial plan is for a bold color palette - maybe reds, oranges, blue and purple.

When it comes to conifers, there are thousands to choose from here, and I need guidance. At first I thought it would be difficult to find dwarf conifers. Ha! There are a ton of them. This is what lead me to The Oregon Garden, which has a renown collection. I got a lot of ideas here. Now I know it will be hard to just choose a few.



The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR
The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR
The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR




The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR
 
Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, January 4, 2016

City of ice and snow

Our temporary home (in Portland)

After the deluge of rain that hit Portland in December, there was a period of sunny days and brisk, frigid winds. The clouds returned Saturday night and we awakened to a beautiful blanket of snow on Sunday morning.  The Portland and Vancouver area sits in the Willamette Valley, which is a bit insulated from the rougher weather that surrounds us. Snow events are infrequent (the last significant one was almost 2 years ago) and it pretty much the same scenario as happens in Alabama - schools close, grocery isles are invaded and cars spin and slide. 

Last night, freezing rain replaced the snow. This morning there has been little traffic on our street, so far no garbage and recycle pick-up, but the sun is peaking out from behind the clouds and the ice is melting. Michael banished me from the house while he mopped and vacuumed. I grabbed my camera and took a walk around the neighborhood.

Everything - plants, sidewalks and streets - is encased in snow and thin sheets of ice. I did not find it treacherous for walking. I enjoyed the loud crunch under my feet. An occasional crash from falling ice from the power lines and trees was probably the most hazardous aspect of the journey.

In other news, the appraisal on the house has been completed and it is possible that our closing date could happen in about 2 weeks. That is if the underwriters (a word I am beginning to despise) do not come up with any more requests. It should happen around the time that I will be returning to Alabama to wrap up everything there. We just hope that we can get in the house and have electricity and all that good stuff turned on. I shudder to think about Michael stuck in a house with no electricity...




























Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy