Magazine article Sunset

The Desert Next Door

Magazine article Sunset

The Desert Next Door

Article excerpt

The house was small, the grass expansive Still, as Loree Bohl and her husband, Andrew, were hunting in a hot Portland real estate market, they could tell they'd found the right place. "It was a lot of lawn and a lot of weeds," Loree recalls. "But when we drove up, it just seemed like home."

Nevertheless, the blogger and Pacific Horticulture Society board member had a vision for her Concordia neighborhood home after a series of trips to Phoenix opened up her imagination to a desert-inspired landscape. "I absolutely love spiky, architectural, and dangerous plants," she says of the Southwest's prickly and rare-to-Portland palette. "Then I saw a nearby house had a beautiful, established Agave parryi, and I thought if they can do it, why can't I?"

Other gardeners might have balked at transplanting Arizona heat addicts to the soggy environs of Oregon, but not Loree. With a dogged spirit, she has transformed her plain lot into a home for some of the most bristly and weird flora that can survive her city's climate.

That's meant trial and error, carefully documented over the past nine years on her blog, Danger Garden (thedangergarden.com). A detailed plant list includes what's worked, as well as crossed-out casualties that have succumbed to winter freezes and damp. "I never want something to die," she says, "but when it does, it's out of here."

The front yard has become an evergreen collection of the bizarre: a manzanita with bark that peels alluringly in summer; the pointy halo of blue-green Dasylirion wheeleri; and the flat, juicy paddles of an Opuntia cactus. …

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