Monday, June 04, 2007

Masterful Gardener

In case you hadn't noticed, I absolutely love anything to do with gardens and gardening. Books, nurseries, lectures, chatting with complete strangers on the street. But, above all, I love to tour gardens. And this past Sunday I can say without hesitation that I've been to the mountaintop and seen the light. It was streaming down on the pool of lawn that is the axis of the magnificent series of plantings that make up the home garden of Dulcy Mahar, longtime garden writer and wit for the Oregonian's Homes & Gardens section.

As she and her husband Ted sat, surrounded by admirers, at a small table piled with garden books on the back porch of their SE Portland home, gaggles of garden groupies ooohed and ahhhed their way through the beds and along the hidden paths winding through the rhododendrons that ring the perimeter of this amazing space.

Like her writing, this garden is full of humor and imagination, a place where plants and shrubs and, yes, garden gnomes are combined to make both stunning vistas and charming nooks (like the famous "Bus Stop" garden shelter, left). She somehow manages, with the help of her right-hand-helper Doug the Wonder Boy (or is Ted the right and Doug the left?), to pack a profusion of plants into a whole that is stunning from a distance and yet, when you get up close, also a masterful use of color and texture in the same way that Van Gogh used not only the color but also the thickness of his strokes to make the canvas come alive.

It's every gardener's goal to have their garden be not just a collection of plants but an aesthetically pleasing place to spend time, perhaps just sitting with a cup of tea or entertaining friends. Great gardens, on the other hand, are the expression of a personal vision written on a landscape in plants and structures. And the very few truly great gardens among those are reflections of the personality of the gardener herself, where walking and looking and experiencing the garden is like sitting and having a conversation with the person that created it. Dulcy's garden, to me, is just such a place, and I could spend hours sitting and talking with her.

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