At first glance the garden of Leslie Ebert and Paul Boundy reminded me of a painting by Monet. Pink, peach and yellow roses adorned the fence along her driveway, blending together in a dreamy sweep of color.
I was not surprised to learn that Leslie is a visual artist whose works have been shown in more than 120 exhibitions. This garden will one of five private gardens open for the Garden Conservancy Open Days (www.GardenConservancy.org) on Saturday, July 16.
As an extra treat, Leslie will also open her art studio to visitors. You can get a preview of her work at www.LeslieEbert.com.
At the beginning, Leslie and Paul built their home on the last lot available on a cul-de-sac. It was originally covered with blackberries and other rampant weeds. Although this garden is only six years old, a great deal has been accomplished in a short time, through hard work and some help from experts.
'I was overwhelmed with the one-third acre of raw dirt that construction had created,' Leslie said.
So she and Paul hired landscape architect Charles S. Rosenfeld (www.rosenfeldassociates.com) to design paths, walls and select trees for the garden. Then she began to bring in plants that she loved and started hands-on gardening.
For Leslie, gardening has deep roots, as she grew up playing in her mother's, aunt's, grandmother's and great-grandmother's gardens. As we strolled through the garden, she pointed out many plants that evoked family connections, like the peach daylily from her grandmother's garden, and the climbing roses along the fence that were gifts from her mother-in-law.
About four years ago, Leslie's mother gave her a birthday present of a garden consultation with Darin Simmons of Laurel Hedge Gardens (www.laurelhedge.net). Since then he has worked in the garden with her, showing her how to prune and tend the roses and shrubs, how to design paths for better circulation, and how to raise the beds to combat boggy soil. He's also added an intriguing selection of architectural elements, from Caryatids (sculptures of draped female figures) reminiscent of Greek ruins, to playful birdhouses perched on tall posts.
What shines through in this garden for me is Leslie's love of color and texture from old-fashioned, reliable plants. On the front fence, fragrant roses welcome you, and more climbers perfume the back yard, scrambling over a pergola built of several repeating arches. Foxglove, lavender, shasta daisies, bearded irises, daylilies, dahlias, lilies and clematis bloom companionably in a casual, informal style.
'I love the tussled windswept look of floppers - the red Jupiter's beard flopped onto the chartreuse head of lady's mantle, the forget-me-nots spraying between everything in spring, the love-in-a-mist laying in the garden path,' she said. 'You just need to make sure your foundation shrubs that are getting flopped on can take it. What makes the garden feel luscious to me is all that spillage.'
Leslie adds wine and blue-leaved plants to set off the flowers, and gold foliage for an occasional pop. She uses her artist's skills to advantage in the garden.
'I blend my plant leaf colors just like I blend paint, putting like tones and colors together to create a subtle movement from shade to shade and saving high contrast combinations for special emphasis,' she explained.
Soothing rush of water
Beyond flowering plants, a raised bed filled with vigorous tomato vines, carefully caged, is artfully edged with red lettuce. The hillside descending from the house became a perfect opportunity for a waterfall, which spills into a small pond, lending tranquilizing sound to the garden. Facing the water are several pergolas with built in swings. It's easy to picture how pleasant it will be to sit there on a hot summer day, soothed by the rush of water over the rocks.
The very physical process of gardening has been a lifesaver for Leslie, especially as an antidote during recently stressful economic times when both her art sales and her husband's architectural firm's business have suffered.
'Having the garden to work in has kept me sane. I love digging in the dirt for its very grounding. I love the solitude and connection with nature that gardening brings,' she said. 'I love that the birds and bees, the snakes, and raccoons and maybe the skunk have accepted me as part of the habitat of the garden as we all go about our work together, without fear of each other.'
• Hardy Plant Society of Oregon and the Garden Conservancy present the Open Days Program, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., July 16. Five outstanding private gardens in the Oak Grove area of Portland open their garden gates. Tickets $5 for each garden. For complete information contact www.GardenConservancy.org or www.HardyPlantSociety.org; 503-224-5718 or 1-888-842-2442.