By Nancy Tannler
When our long time neighbors decided to pull up stakes and move to the Wallowas a few years ago, we were a little worried about who our new neighbors would be.
Their house and yard was a quiet sanctuary, an undisturbed space with native plants, berries, trees and they attracted wildlife.
Fortunately, there was no reason for concern, because the next residents, Jennifer and Kyle took this corner of the world even a step further and created a flower wonderland.
Jennifer, a native of California, has roots in this area, so Portland was a natural place for them to settle down. Her grandpa lived in Montavilla before moving to Seattle and she remembers him talking about living here. Like so many of us, she wishes she had asked him more about his early life.
Gardening was always a part of Jennifer’s childhood. Her parents kept a lovely terraced garden in Vallejo, north of San Francisco. There, she learned about growing plants and deadheading – her main job.
“It was always my dream to have a garden like those she envisioned in the stories of Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie,” Jennifer said, both best described as cottage/fairy gardens.
When the couple lived in California, Jennifer worked as a costume stitcher for the Los Angeles Opera, and Kyle was and still is a music producer. They lived in a duplex that didn’t leave much room for anything other than pots of flowers.
When they finally decided to buy a house, one of the things that sold her on this place was Abraham Darby, the fragrant, heritage rose the former owner had growing. “This is one of the old fashioned fragrant roses that are my favorite,” Jennifer said.
After five years, the garden has become more established so the constant watering has slowed down, but maintenance is still a big job and, for Jennifer, there are always new plantings to try. Kyle is the night gardener – you can find him out after dark helping with the upkeep.
The garden now has more than sixty varieties of roses, mostly heritage and some from the breeder David Austin.
Jennifer’s color palate for roses represents a myriad of peach, pink, lavender and cream hues with an occasional surprise like the intense Munstead Woods or Koko Loko.
Other varieties of flowers create contrast and splashes of color and set off the roses beautifully making everything glow and stand out. Everywhere you look there is some magical vignette beckoning you into the land of the flower fairies – at least for a moment.
When asked what tips she would offer a novice gardener, her first thought was: don’t think your garden has to be perfect, just begin gardening. Using Pinterest as the bar will only make you discouraged.
Things to avoid are over-fertilizing and planting too close together, some of her early mistakes. Remember too, to deadhead. This cleans up the plant, can prevent disease and pests and encourage new flowers on repeat blooming roses.
Along with the beauty of the garden, Jennifer has perfected a rose jelly and a violet jelly that smell, look and taste delicious.
The rose is a light pink in color and the violet, light purple, so pretty. This year she has added a sorbet to her repertoire that has a unique, aromatic and refreshing taste.
It took an organic evolution to create this small piece of Eden, a labor of love but so worth it she says.
“Gardening gives back, it’s healing, life saving; an interpretation of ‘God’ in nature.”
David Austin Roses (some varieties are prone to black spot and rust):
Jude the Obscure
Lady of Shallott
Old Garden Roses (more drought tolerant once established)
Honorine de Brabant
Pierre de Rosard – Eden
Jennifer’s Favorite Flowers
Drought Tolerant Perennials
viola odorata (sweet violet)
Iris croatica, (bearded iris)
Viola tricolor (pansy)
Papaver rhoeas (Shirley poppy)
Helianthis ennus (sunflower)