Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bella Madrona: A Bit of Sunshine

And now for something completely different. I was cleaning out my rather large photo library the other day when I noticed a folder that had been quite ignored until now. In July of 2014, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Garden Blogger's Fling. I was also lucky it was in my home town of Portland. I wrote blog posts about every garden visited (well, not my own of course, as it too was one of the stops on the three-day tour) except this one. Bella Madrona.

This was the very last garden visited on the event and not only was I pooped, my camera was as well. It died on me halfway through this incredible garden outside of Portland in nearby Sherwood, Oregon. I realized there are a few decent photos so I say "What the heck?" and I am posting them here. Not all are incredibly clear but I think the spirit of the place is what's important. It might be nice summertime reading since this weekend we are supposed to be hit hard with a series of fall storms.

I invite you to sit back and take in the sights of this notorious, fabulous, intriguing art-filled garden. At least take in the few photos that survived.
This 5-acre garden, created 35 years ago (but really began as a farmstead in 1892) by James Sampson (1950 - 2015) and Geof Beasley. Does that sound familiar? Portland's famed Pink Martini, fans and friends to the garden, wrote a song about it (The Gardens of Sampson and Beasley), you can hear it here.



From the Garden Blogger's Fling brochure: Bella Madrona began forming in 1980, at an 1892 farmstead. It was named for the madrones growing naturally here, in gravelly soil formed by the ice age floods. Over the years, garden rooms were added, surrounded by hedges. We began having large parties and benefits, which required that crowds could move easily from room to room, and that large open spaces be included.

As a result it has taken on a personality and possesses a sense of place that is to many visitors alluring, eccentric and magical. The lower area, essentially a bog, with its metasequoia grove and large bald cypresses, is a world apart, belying its proximity to the urban growth boundary. It is, along with the garden as a whole, home to a great variety of wildlife, and, indeed, the place is as much for them as it is for the humans who live here and who visit.


This garden has a reputation, an incredible reputation. It was a bit of a mystery to me, having never visited until the Fling. My impressions are that it was overwhelming but warm, full of a definite identity and the collaborative end result of many creative people. There is a lot of art in this garden and I rarely use the word whimsical as it's terribly overused in the world of fine art, but this is about as an appropriate use of the word as any. The garden is whimsical--in the best way possible.


After two years, the images are still very strong in my memory as it has left subconscious residue that I think has somehow informed my new garden. I suppose it's serendipitous that I came across these photos once again.

OK, less talk, more photos. The acreage is almost all garden. There is an area of wetlands on the edge of the property (I believe it was the edge, I can't really recall ever seeing a map). There is sun, shade, groves of trees and fancy succulents. Art, benches, places to see a view and places to be enclosed. There are mysterious hints of another dimension around every bend. It's a special place, so please enjoy as we roll along with limited input by me.






I think I need some Italian cypresses now.


These guys greeted me at the gate.


A rather incredible Itea ilicifolia. I am so glad I have one of these beauties planted in the garden. Granted it will probably take 15 years to look like this.










These upside-down bottles used as a path were, if memory serves me, in a few places. A clever and colorful use for these glass bottles.




These golden and silver shrubs really hit a nerve with me. I so adore how they interplay with one another...the textures especially.













These gates, of which there is a whole series, are quite remarkable.






Amazing boulders.


Water-feature, anyone?


The marshes at the edge of the property.


More bottle paths.






As I mentioned, this place is full of art. I, however, did not manage to photograph much, if any of it, as my camera died. If you would like to see more of this incredible place, many of my blogging friends have written posts about it. You can see one from Pam Penick of Digging here, one from Loree of Danger Garden here, one by Alan of It's Not Work, It's Gardening here, one from Lisa of Descubriendo hojas here, and an especially touching one by Anna of Flutter and Hum here

I agree with Anna's observation that it felt like intruding on a very sacred, private land. It was a privilege to step inside this wonderland and for Geof and Jim to welcome us and also let us have our final gathering and party here. We said a lot of goodbyes here after meeting some amazing people from around the globe. How very appropriate.

Thank you.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. For those of you on the West Coast, brace yourselves for some serious weather. Thank you for reading and until next week, happy gardening!

24 comments :

  1. Ah! One of my greatest regrets of not attending the Portland Fling is that I missed seeing this wonderful magical place. Thanks for sharing the pictures you managed to capture before your camera died.

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    1. I hope that you get a chance someday. Bring about 6 camera batteries, a chair and a cooler full of food because this one takes a while.

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  2. Wow, fabulous! I'm so glad you found this folder. I can't even imagine the part that you missed due to dead battery--what you captured here is amazing. Light was beautiful for you guys too. You must have been in heaven.

    To mention a few faves here: the sections of hebes and grasses (and boulders), the foliage colors and textures, how they used the Italian cypresses in compositions, and oh my gosh that Itea ilifolia. Incredible.

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    1. I know...it's worth looking at the other bloggers' posts about it, it is amazing. Your favorites are mine, too, Alyse. You'd love this place - keep your eyes peeled for a chance to see it again, it opens from time to time for events.

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  3. Such fond memories are stirred by this marvelous post. This is definitely a garden that lingers in the mind with all of its old world charm and inventive twists and turns.

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    1. Doesn't it linger...especially as the last stop on our whirlwind three day garden tour. It just sticks with you.

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  4. Thanks for showing your photos of this remarkable place. To this day, I'm still sorry I missed the Portland Fling.

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    1. Aaah, us too! Are you planning any future Flings? I'm going to try to go to the Austin one in 2018. Can you come? :)

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  5. Well that was fun, what great memories. I was exhausted by the time we rolled up to this garden but once there could have stayed for hours and hours. Magic!

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    1. Ditto, Loree. I BET you were exhausted after being integral in organizing the amazing three day event! I was exhausted and just had to look at gardens for three days. BUT it was a great smashing send-off, a wonderful party indeed.

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  6. I've been pouring over some of the other posts about Bella Madrona for the last couple weeks. I just can't stop looking at those pictures. It's influencing my garden and I haven't even been there in person. Thanks for posting your own pictures, and pointing me to a couple other posts about this garden I hadn't seen yet. I really hope there's an open garden next summer. Maybe if a bunch of us bloggers get together to see it, we could make it happen.

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    1. You are welcome, Evan. I would love a re-visit if it could be arranged!

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  7. I loved this garden so much. Thanks for sharing your pics. It's wonderful to be reminded of that magical day.

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    1. I did too, Pam. It's a special place with special memories.

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  8. Thanks for reminding me (us) about this wonderful place! Wasn't it being sold?

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    1. Oh, I don't know about being sold, but Jim Sampson passed away last year, sadly.

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  9. No need to apologize for a lack of photos -- so many looks of this great garden that I'd forgotten, so thank so much for posting them.

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    1. You are welcome! I'm so glad I came across them. Especially when starting a new garden as it is such an influential garden and can help me to imagine what mine could become someday.

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  10. This was an amazing, inspiring, wonderful garden, and while I've featured bits of it in other posts I've never written about it in toto either. I should! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You are so welcome Helen! Thank you for commenting, too. Are you planning on a full post someday? I should love to read it if you do :)

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  11. Your photos definitely capture the spirit of the place. Just magical. I should have attended that Fling, darn it.

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    1. Aah, thank you Grace. Darn it, right! You SHOULD have been there :)

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  12. Thank you for bringing back truly special memories of a this sacred space. The words of Anna's post hit home with my emotional response to visiting this place at that particular time. I too fell in love at first sight with Itea ilicifolia in this garden and now am delighted have one that will take years to look this spectacular.

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    1. Oh, Peter, you are welcome. Wasn't it special? Yes, Anna really described how we all felt so eloquently. That Anna...and glad you too found Itea fever. I think we all have one now! :)

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