Call Of The Wild
A weekend home in the high desert of central Oregon can only be reached by means of an old lifeboat! PLUS: New, web-only photos!
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Our weekend home and its garden are located in the high desert of central Oregon, in part of a defunct 1940s perlite-mining community called Dant that has no telephones and no cars. The last leg of the 110-mile journey from Portland entails crossing the Deschutes River by way of an old lifeboat attached to a cable.
Summer days can top 110 degrees, winters are cold, and if you can get something besides knapweed to grow on the soilless gravel-bed terrain, you then still have to worry about deer and feral cows. But this is beautiful land. The river is wild and scenic, mountains surround us, and we often see bighorn sheep, elk, and bears.
The several-acre garden started with shade structures, which led to plantings, and the more we experimented, the more we realized we needed a strong sense of order to stand up to the view. Over 14 years, we've settled into a theme that interprets the landscape through a formal perspective.
Clipped juniper columns repeat the native species on the mountainside; lavender and a Russian-olive allée mimic the sage; miscanthus is our bunchgrass; and ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood defines structure and space. We used surrounding rimrock to build walls and post supports. We've even riffed on the local fauna, collecting cow bones and deer antlers to make spiral and spherical sculptures.
The formality followed function: It was easier to weed among rows versus within deep beds; and we got the idea for the sweeps of lavender from photographs in a book we have on Provence, where the plant thrives in intensely rocky soil. Our biggest inspiration, though, is the desert itself. When the workday is over, it's our pleasure to sit in a new spot each night with a glass of wine and enjoy what we see.
Editor's Note: For the web, we've included some additional photos of the couple's garden and house that were not available in the magazine.
What are your plans for the garden in the future?
My plans for the future include more landscape sculpture and to encourage the native grasses in the natural areas to outcompete the weeds.
A view of the garden and beyond.
The roses in the garden include 'Cecile Brunner,' 'Climbing New Dawn,' 'Golden Showers,' 'Darlow's Enigma,' 'Iceberg,' Rosa rugosa, and Rosa glauca.
Grasses in the garden include blue lyme grass, blue oat grass, switch grass, and blue-eyed grass.
The garden's owners in the snowy landscape.
The garden includes numerous herbs including Bethlehem sage, catmint, spearmint, silver sage, thyme, and chives.
The garden has three types of lavender: Lavendeula angustifolia (Hidcote/Twickle Purple), Lavendula intermedia (Fred Boutin), and Lavendula stoechas (Otto Quasti).
A view of the interior of the house.
Shrubs and trees in the garden include five types of Artemesias, including Artemesia abrotanum (southernwood), Artemesia abisnthium (common wormwood), Artemesia lactiflora (white mugwort), Artemesia ludovicina (silver king), and Artemesia hybrid (oriental limelight); Italian cypress trees, Russian olive trees, Engleman spruce trees, Austrian pines, and smooth sumac.
Can you tell us a little bit about this view of the garden?
This photo was taken from the top of the mine mountain looking down on the houses. You can see the garden between the houses and the railroad track. Interestingly, there are wildfires there now, blackening much of the grass covered hills, but luckily, Dant is not threatened.