Garden Blogger's Fling, Portland: Old Germantown Gardens

Day One of the Garden Blogger's Fling saw many great gardens, one that really left an impression on me and many Flingers is Old Germantown Gardens.

The gardens are lovingly tended by Bruce Wakefield and Jerry Grossnickle, and, at about 23 years old, are, in a word, stunning. The gardens we explored take up about two acres. There are many acres beyond which are wooded and as the owners say, "Left for the wildlife." As the gardens are quite near Forest Park, it seems the natural approach.

The style of the garden is hard to pin down. There are ponds, perennial borders, hot dry borders, a fabulous greenhouse with tropicals, woodlands and shady areas, and water features, too. The hardscaping is European in feel, including a waterfall, pools and fountains. Did I mention they do it all themselves? Yes, they do all of it. Bruce and Jerry are true gardeners after my heart.

Upon arriving at their lovely home on a scorching hot day (even for me), I immediately did some exploring, never mind the heat. I found this lovely saxifrage up front near the front door.

Down from the house a bit are the sunny perennial borders. Unbelievable amounts of plants, all healthy happy and many in full bloom.

Gravel paths in the bright sun leading me to another incredible niche.

Although this garden is definitely flower heavy, there are also evergreens in the forms of trees and shrubs to tie it all together. I'm sure this place is a wonderland in all four seasons.

What really amazes me is that even though it spreads out over two acres, every inch is thoughtfully planted appropriately for its particular situation - sun, shade, wet, dry, etc.

Here, overhead maples supply dappled shade for this Alchemilla mollis, rodgersia, rhododendron and polmonaria with a very well-sited empty vessel. The colors harmonize and make even just this one tiny corner of this vast garden sparkle.

Alongside a hot and dry gravel path, eryngium hosts home honey bees. There were many insects and birds about which is always encouraging.

Inside the incredible greenhouse I found a forest of unusual tropicals. Many were labeled with details such as "started from seed in 1998" or what have you. Oh, I can dream of such a greenhouse.

 Here's a cycad family specimen with a date of 1987. That was a very good year.

For some reason I did not get many images of the hardscaping. This is the only hint I can find. I was so focused on the plants and dazed by the glaring sun.

This is on the path down by the hot dry hillside garden. Look at those contrasting colors, spikes, mounds and leaves. This is what I would like to achieve for my own gardens, lots of year-round interest and contrasting colors that also harmonize. Varying heights lead my eyes to explore the whole scene.

This is about the fourth phormium in Portland that survived the winter that I have witnessed. Really.

More hot and dry wonders.

How about those colors? You don't always need blooms to make a garden shine. 

A lovely dasylirion that appears to be well-established. I really like the contrast with the conifers in the background, two very unlikely companions but it works in Portland. We can grow so many different species successfully, it really is an ideal climate (most of the time). Bruce and Jerry take full advantage of this fact.

I spy Laura of Gravy Lessons in awe, just like the rest of us.

The only thing I like better than silver foliage is bronze. 

More of the dry hillside portion of the garden.

As well as rare and unusual plants, Bruce and Jerry also grow many common ones like the crocosmia which against this lime green setting really pop. I see many perennials not yet in bloom, some sedum for example that will provide late summer and fall color.

Backlit meadow rue, or lovely.

More sun perennials, many species here and bulbs, too, many Asiatic lilies perfume the air.

The cool blue of this chair fits with its surrounding cool bog garden bordered by woodlands and shade.

Water lilies and other aquatic plants nestled up against the woodlands.

Their lovely home up on the hill with Flingers looking down on the view.

I believe this is a Cornus controversa. Please correct me if it is not - whatever it is it really glowed in the woodlands. If I had a bit more property I would definitely plant something similar.

Path through the edge of the woodlands. I see many Willamette Valley natives here, some Dicentra formosa to the left, some sword ferns and others.

Nice Pacific Northwest touch here.

My favorite native fern, maidenhair or Adiantum aleuticum.

Dappled shade along the path cooled the afternoon and made it lovely. Pockets of sunshine
were taken advantage of by lilies.

A golden variety of stachys takes advantage of the sun, too.

Moving back into the sunny areas of the gardens, there are many yellow accents here in the
stachys, daylilies and dahlias.

Beautiful rose arbors and conifers surrounding the garden from behind.

The view from the terrace next to the house. You can really study the layout from such a vantage point.

This garden has some good bones, they are pretty hidden but integral.

View from the terrace near a trickling waterfall feature (sorry, no photo...what was I thinking?), a canopy of established trees and this tetrapanax.

And lastly this combination of banana and lily, a very tropical vignette. The colors echo one another, the lily stamens pick up the bronze tints on the leaves behind.

This is one small example of many well-placed plants sited in just the right scene. Whether it was woodland or full sun, they know their garden and what it wants. They mentioned that they are now in the process of removing trees to create more sunlight, as 23 years of growing a garden has provided a lot of plants. So as they edit their garden, it continues to evolve and grow.

It was a pleasure to finally after several years of hearing about this wonderland see it firsthand. I thank Bruce and Jerry for opening their garden and home to all of us; it was a real pleasure.

That's the report from Old Germantown Gardens. Thank you for reading, until next week. happy gardening!


  1. Absolutely stunning! Fuel for my dreams.
    The gardens are so lush and your photography really shows them off well.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sharon. They are very lush, something very special.

  2. When I first started reading this post I thought "I'll just quickly scroll by, as I've seen -- and taken -- many of these same images..." But then I saw the giraffe sundial image and thought "I didn't see that!" There are surely dozens of details that I missed during our brief time there, and glad that you were able to fill in some of those holes in my experience. :)

    1. That's great, thanks for sharing, Alan. I feel the same way about yours and others' photos on the Fling, that's the advantage of 80 sets of eyes looking at the same thing. I'm always learning!!

  3. We were in awe with this garden Tamara, and even more so when we heard that they did nearly all of the work themselves.

    1. I KNOW, me too. Definitely. Isn't it unbelievable? Such dedication and vision.

  4. What a beauty!! Almost too many lovely spots and plants in this garden. I should like to visit it.

    1. You are right, Janneke. Too many is the truth, it was so vast that it would take a week to photograph it properly. I still wouldn't have seen everything by that time.

  5. Oh. My. Gosh. Wow and wow. So beautiful. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have the space for all those mature trees. I have so many little trees in pots - I keep promising them that someday I'll have property where they can be free. :) Thanks for the tour, it's an amazing garden.

    1. Yes, indeed Mindy. The surrounding trees are stunning, very established and quite the forest canopy. I too can wish the same thing...I think we have the same sized lots/gardens, so we can both do a little daydreaming :)

  6. wow, what a place!

    1. Yes what a place! The next time they have an HPSO open garden, GO. I'll go with you.

  7. I love that shot of the cardiocrinums silhouetted against the light. As Alan mentioned, you point out a number of things I missed. You could visit this garden over and over and never see everything.

    1. Is that what those are?? Thank you for the ID, Ricki. We all found little things that spoke to us, it's nice to have so many sets of eyes on all of these wonderful places.

  8. I love reliving the fling garden visits through a variety of lenses as someone always catches something that I missed or sees something in a different way. Old Germantown is an incredible garden and I feel fortunate to have been able to see it. Thanks for bringing back a lovely memory of this stellar garden!

    1. Thanks, Peter! I do too, that's the beauty of 80 cameras in one garden...there are such interesting viewpoints and I love seeing them. This is a special garden, indeed!

  9. This garden was so beautiful and really showed me the diversity of what all you are capable of growing in Portland. I think I was most amazed, though, when I found out that they built and maintain the garden all by themselves. Thanks for sharing this; I love seeing the gardens we visited through others' eyes and seeing some things I missed. I think I missed more than I realized at Old Germantown--I kept gravitating to shady spots, and eventually Jerry's cookies enticed me indoors:)

    1. Thanks for reading, Rose! We really can grow many many things....we are very lucky. Those shady spots certainly called my name, I can't believe how hot it was that day! Yes, it's so wonderful to be able to see these gardens through others' eyes....indeed!


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