Portland Garden Tour West: Garden of Cynthia Woodyard

Portland enjoyed one of the last garden tours of the season three weeks ago---the Portland Garden Tour West benefiting Ainsworth Elementary School. Five beautiful Portland West Hills gardens were featured this time, its second year. I was fortunate enough to attend, and I now bring you the garden of Cynthia Woodyard.

Described as "a horticulturist's dream," this 3/4-acre lot (quite large by comparison to most homes) has five sides, none of them parallel. It's easy to get delightfully mentally lost in this divine jungle. Portland Monthly magazine has a great article about this garden (written by Randy Gragg); you can read it here.

As I approached this Arts and Crafts-style brick home, it was clear that this would be no ordinary garden. With a backdrop of mature trees, even a pair of redwoods, this looked to be a fascinating mix of many garden styles.

Woodyard and her then-husband purchased this 1920's home in 1972. Woodyard soon began experimenting with vegetables and perennials, eventually discovering she had a talent for growing things. So much so that she began selling them and the people lined up to buy them. This began a lifelong love of gardening that has taken her around the world and earned her friendships with some of horticulture's elite -- namely, Rosemary Verey as a mentor. Woodyard is now an accomplished garden designer; her Facebook page can be found here.

She has since taken on a protege (some 14 years ago), a young artist Francisco Puentes whose fantastic creations we will see in this post. He is also her gardening partner and has contributed many ideas over the years.

As you enter on the right side of the circular driveway, these fantastic creations stand to greet you.

A seemingly secret path on the south side of the property takes you past some charming garden art.

The path opens up and you are greeted with this colorful coleus and flower display.

The first of many intimate seating areas; this one is rich with succulent planters.

Paths here are well-laid and durable. This is facing the south border of the garden with another seating area just visible at the end of this path. Bananas, brugmansia, gernaiums and Hakonechloa macra, all mix to create a lush, tropical vibe. This is not a dry garden -- rather she's out there with the hose regularly watering this fantastic space.

A living arch gives way to an open lawn and other surprises.

These fantastic creatures are the artwork of Francisco Puentes who was apparently inspired by a trip to the Oregon Zoo.

Made of wire, they are still very imposing. Did I mention they are life-sized?

In this corner is the outdoor fireplace, complete with designer chairs a la Philippe Starck.

Quite cozy and it really exemplifies Woodyard's sense of humor.

Cocktail, anyone?

This lovely musician walked around the garden playing a ukulele for a spell then settled here and graced us with fantastic guitar music.

From the grassy area, I headed down this brick path into a very green and lush area.

Fantastic shade perennials - liriope, hosta, grasses, mature trees and more.

More art in the garden; a well-placed spot of color among a cool, green backdrop.

As I turned the corner headed towards the south end, this island of lushness greeted me.

As seen from the right side. 

Backlit by the now mid-day sun.

Towards the sky from the opposite side.

Vertical and horizontal plants juxtaposed in a very interesting manner.

Another bed showcasing clipped box in fun ball shapes. Vertical elements again add height and a dark contrast. There are many sun perennials here.

Cardoon seed heads.

Dill (perhaps fennel?) also adds height.

Clipped box in spheres lead you towards a vase as a focal point.

Many sun perennials for pollinators, too. That was nice to see.

Three old chairs, all in a row. I like the simplicity of this vignette with the Melianthus major or honeybush behind.

Just pretty dahlias. Tall pretty dahlias.

Greenhouse attached to the lath house.

Quite a sweet collection of terra cotta, I must say.

A splash of sunshine against the green of lawn and boxwood.

A bit of shade and a rambling grapevine in this former chicken and rabbit coup turned lath house.

From the opposite end, fuchsias and coleus lend a tropical look.

As if this garden didn't have everything already...yes, it has a pond.

With a seating area, palms, fuchsias and a bit of shade.

Another seating area underneath a gigantic brugmansia.

 Geraniums (Pelargonium) and Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop' make for a lovely container planting.

Repeat plantings on either side of this small path lend a sense of formality. This is not a formal garden, however. Woodward has used multiple styles to create a unique blend of spiky and lush, colorful and serene, mature and playful.

I found this moss-covered kitty sleeping in the shade garden.

Dark silhouettes of more clipped shrubs play against the lighter greens of the vine-covered arbor and lawn.

The classic look of a European-style garden combined with textures and layers.

The back of the home viewed from the great lawn area. Repeat tiny pots on the steps, giant lips and another Francisco sculpture on the wall make me really love Woodyard's playful side.

Around the north side of the garden, looking back at the great lawn and sculptures.

The front of the home with a bit of orange accents in begonias and anthurium.

What can I say? My socks were knocked off. I had no idea. One of my fellow garden bloggers, Loree of Danger Garden, said this would be the garden to see on this tour and she was right. I heard that sentiment expressed by other tour-goers saying this garden was the reason they purchased a ticket. I have the sense that this garden is a full-time job for both herself and Francisco, a job I would personally quite enjoy for the rest of my days.

With decades of experience, garden mentoring (giving and receiving), designing, writing and photographing in the horticulture realm, Cynthia Woodyard created a one-of-a-kind treasure in Portland. I am honored to have had the opportunity to visit.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Until next time, thank you for reading and happy gardening!


  1. I've been reading and watching, watching and reading again. This garden is of een outstanding beauty, should love to visit it, but it is certainly an awful lot of work to keep it in this way.
    Wish you a lot of pleasure in your own garden, we have beautiful sunny fall days here, good for gardening.

    1. Oh, I imagine it is a LOT of work, indeed. But a labor of love as we all know. I wish you the same, Janneke...a lovely autumn full of many days in the garden with your furry friends.

  2. Going on garden tours is the best, and if I can't be there beside you as you stroll, going virtually is almost as great. Thank you for taking us along with you.~~Dee

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Dee! It was my pleasure :)

  3. Thanks for sharing your photos. I would have loved being there, but your pictures are the next best thing. Next year I might give this tour a try (I realize they change every year). I love those elephants!

    1. It's proving to be a wonderful tour, there are some gems in those West Hills of ours....old big lots with charming homes on them. Definitely worth the time.

  4. Wow. I don't know if there's anything about this garden that I don't like -- and I don't say that very often! And to those who say that large pots lose their impact as focal points when planted, take a look at that yellow pot in one of the first few photos.

    Thanks for sharing the tour with us!

    1. Large pots are the best in my opinion. If I could afford them I'd have nothing but! Maybe there's a pot trade-in place somewhere in the world where I can upgrade from two bazillion little ones to one gigantic one. Thanks for reading and commenting, Alan!

  5. It's an amazing garden. The fact that the PNW features fall garden tours is amazing in itself from a Southern California perspective - our gardens are generally at their worst at this time of year but, if this one is at all representative, yours look fresh and very alive! I loved the photo of the cardoon seed heads - I didn't know they looked like that.

    1. Oh, well there's a lot of water that gets poured on this incredible space, to be sure. Not every garden looks this lush, believe us all! The cardoons is one of my favorite photos, actually...glad you like it!

  6. I remember seeing a photo of her garden in some of my gardening books when I first got started on my own. It is beautiful - that is the size of my current garden but I plan to downsize when I move out there. There is another well-known garden out there that I have seen on TV programs and in books but never hear it mentioned on any of the Portland garden blogs. I think the woman's name is Barbara Israelli (or something like that). I tried to find it when I visited last year but no one seemed to know who she was.

    1. Hmm...well I know a Virginia Israelit who is a fabulous gardener here in PDX, Barbara Israeli is a garden sculpture dealer in NY....anyone else have an idea? Yes, this garden is something else. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Wow! I love the bouncing balls of topiary, the see-through elephants (life-size!), the fun chairs by the fireplace, and the beautiful garden rooms she's created. The place looks huge too. What a great tour! Thanks for sharing.

    1. It is huge, 3/4 acre and full of wonder. Glad to show it to the world! My pleasure :)

  8. Wow, just as amazing as I thought it would be. Now I'm quite bummed I didn't make this tour, or take Cynthia up on her invitation to walk though sometime, although I suppose it's never too late for that (hopefully). I'm filled with the urge to go by some big boxwood and clip them into balls, interspersed with cement ones by the front door! What are the columns sprouting grass made of? (in photo IMG_1647). Lovely, just lovely...

    1. Danger - DO go see it. I'm sure any time of year it would be full of interest. Yes, the boxwood urge is there for us all after this clipped box garden...and I don't know what that grass is, if you find out from Cynthia let me know and I'll post it.

  9. For years, my sister-in-law and I went on the Ainsworth holiday home tour. There were some jaw-dropping homes all dressed up for the holidays. This looks even better. I'll be watching for it next year. The repetition of spherical shapes in various media really ties the whole thing together.

  10. Rebecca Zenk-Jones2:21 PM PDT

    This post on C.Woodyards garden is simply wonderful! I chaired the Portland Garden Tour |WEST and cannot thank-you enough for your special "garden eyes" in which you pay tribute to a truly one of a kind treasure.
    So glad you got to go on the tour and hope to meet you on next years! - Rebecca Zenk-Jones

    1. Hi Rebecca, thanks for reading and commenting! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post -- I enjoyed the gardens, it was my pleasure !! I do hope to go next year too and I hope it was a success for you all...you did a great job!

  11. Wow, what a treat! I bet you enjoyed every minute of it. I sure enjoyed your photos.

    1. I DID, Grace! :) I'm glad you like the photos. There's one more garden coming up...not as lush but kind of famous.

  12. Loved this post and garden!

    1. Yay! Thank you Denise! So glad you enjoyed it...and read it, too! :)

  13. Wow, Tamara - your photos are everything I imagined when you told me about it - and much more! What a fun and wondrous place! Loved all the quirky detail and humor juxtaposed with the serious order of things - truly delightful! Thanks for a great post!

  14. Confirmation that I need more space.

  15. I used to live down the street from this home. The owner was kind enough to let me wonder her garden during a garage sale. It was such a nice surprise.


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