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Garden Photo of the Day

Happy Hummingbirds and More in OR

By Kim Charles

Hummingbird and salvia


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John and Nancy Sarpola have expanded on a beautiful Oregon garden over the past 20 years.


“John and I have lived on a 1/4 acre lot in Corvallis, Oregon for 32 years.  The first 12 years we mostly raised kids but for the last 20, we have been gardening.  Actually, I garden and he humors me by hauling rocks and compost and digging up large plants that must be moved…again.  The rain has started and so I have had time to look back at photos and found a few to share.  I hope you enjoy them.  The first two are plants that are still blooming because we haven't had a hard freeze yet. The hummingbirds love the tender late, red salvia.  I take cuttings every fall so there will be some for next year.   Seen from above, Clematis 'Freckles' flowers are kind of a non-descript off white but if you look up into them, the burgundy speckles are lovely.  We built a bench last fall from a piece of Pacific Yew given to us by a neighbor, who harvested it from a dead Yew, which is native to our Oregon woods.  These trees gave up their lives to save cancer patients when it was discovered that Taxol could be made from their bark. Eventually, the pharmaceutical companies figured out how to synthesize the drug and the bark is no longer needed.  John found some blue bottles at the Goodwill and gave them to me for Christmas.  They now decorate a path with alstroemeria, triteleia and a Hedgerow's Gold shrubby dogwood.  The next photo shows white astilbe and 'Blackout' lilies.  I love the blue flowers of willow gentian and it is a lot easier to grow than most gentians.  Next is our ever-diminishing lawn in late summer.  The final shot is a little, round patio at the top of our lot.  My current project is adding a few conifers and trying to cut back on some of the rowdier perennials, hoping to have more time to travel and see other people's gardens!”  Nancy Sarpola

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Astilbes and Blackout Lilies

A treasure of blue bottles among Alstroemeria

Clematis 'Freckles'

Late summer lawn

The round patio in June

Yew bench seating area

View Comments


  1. frankgreenhalgh 12/08/2016

    Hey there Nancy & John - Lovely to see other aspects of your garden 'rooms' today. The photo. of the hummingbird is an absolute cracker. I also like your lawn with curved borders.

    It is interesting that previous comments by GPODers suggest to me that in general, you guys tend to minimise the area of lawn in your gardens. Here in Australia, we love our lawns and it is common for them to be used as backyard wickets for serious 'Test' match cricket with our family and friends etc. OK you guys don't play cricket, but I would have thought that some lawn would be rather nice to use for a throw of the baseball with the kids or grandkids - and perhaps the backyard could be the breeding ground for your champion pitchers (as it invariably is for our Test standard cricketers). Have I misinterpreted previous GPOD comments concerning lawns?

    Cheers from a foreign correspondent

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Hi Frank! Some pitching was done on this lawn when our kids were little and the recent tea party for my 4 year old granddaughter quickly turned into a game of tag mostly on our little bit of lawn but also including the paths . The yard has always been sloped so not sure how it would have worked for cricket. Here is a photo of the yard from 30 years ago. It's about 90 degrees from the angle in the picture on the gpod. As you can see, it wasn't flat!

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/08/2016

        Thanks for this before pic!

      2. User avater
        Linda on Whidbey 12/08/2016

        Thanks for showing a before photo, Nancy. You've certainly improved your environment.

      3. frankgreenhalgh 12/08/2016

        Hi Nancy - Certainly not flat, but gee what an improvement you have made to the garden over the years. Wonderful to have a pic. before all the improvements. Thank you so much for the story and photo. Cheers, Frank

    2. user-4691082 12/08/2016

      Good day Frank! The reason we discourage lawns here is because, over the years, we have used too many chemicals that have affected our beneficial insects, butterflies, bees, etc. We have also affected our watersheds in trying to achieve a monoculture of grass. Americans are good at one-upmanship, not to our credit. The only non chemical grass I've ever admired is Kevin Kellys. He just uses leaf mold and it is perfect!!!!!

      1. frankgreenhalgh 12/08/2016

        Hello Rhonda - another great response, and all good reasons to move away from lawns, except where organic practices are used. No doubt about Kev's talents. Cheers, Frank

        1. user-7007498 12/09/2016

          Just got home from work, and catching up on GPOD. Missed some fun discussion. Thanks for the props.

          The last reason to decrease the lawn, which I did not see mentioned, is to provide habitat for the rest of the organisms we share this planet with. Lawns provide no food, protection or resources (unless we permit clover, etc in the lawn). The average American wastes too much water dumps to many chemicals, and burns up too much gas for the perfect lawn. As humans continue to expand across every inch of the globe, we need to live with nature, and support habitats. Small lawns are fine. Larger spaces should be left for community parks. Sorry to preach.

          1. frankgreenhalgh 12/09/2016

            Hi Kev. - thanks for your usual informative comments. Yes biodiversity is very important indeed. Usually our lawns in rural areas are not watered, and die off during summer. However, the lawn is still an asset. It is an important component of managing the risk of bush/wild fires. Love the education I have received by all you guys. I certainly don't consider it 'preaching'. Cheers mate

        2. user-7007498 12/09/2016

          Sorry, Frank. My response to Rhonda accidentally got posted to you.

      2. user-7007498 12/09/2016

        Hey, Rhonda. Thanks for the props. I just got all the Christmas lights and the tree up. Enjoying a break from the garden. I will begin to garden lust again in about 3 weeks.

        I hope you are enjoying the holiday season, and will have special time with your family.

    3. chelleisdiggin 12/08/2016

      Ah Frank, please excuse my familiarity, but your posts are always so friendly and open that though I am not a frequent or long term poster, I feel that I can respond. Here in the US, especially in more urban areas, we have come to regard lawns as a negative. We are aware of our nation's wasteful habits and squandering of the worlds resources. And don't forget about the impact of our individual carbon footprint on the ozone layer. So, the less grass, the less use of gasoline to run the mowers, the less emissions. You may be able to tell that I am not completely convinced of the need for these actions. Definitely for saving the planet.

      1. frankgreenhalgh 12/08/2016

        I'm so glad that you did Chelle. Wow, good on you guys - lovely and worthwhile movement. All admirable reasons to cut down the size of lawns.

        In terms of my 'open' posts, well I get a bit worried sometimes about upsetting GPODers with comments that are bit out there from the typical posts - and sometimes definitely go too far ie shake the tree too much. It is nice that you value my posts. Please keep adding comments - this one was a ripper, and was very educational for this brash Aussie. Cheers, Frank

        1. chelleisdiggin 12/09/2016

          Keep shaking the tree, Frank! I know I need a bit of shaking, now and again.

    4. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/08/2016

      Hey Frank, to add to Chelle and Rhonda, I had some lawn and play area when my kids were little. Now that they are grown, my reason to get rid of lawn is to have more room for garden in my small yard. In dryer regions of the country there is also a huge push for xeriscaping in order to conserve water because having a lawn becomes impossible without irrigation (although the amount of water that uses compared to other big users has been debated.) A nicely kept lawn really can be a great foil and rest for the eyes when one has an exuberant garden!

      1. frankgreenhalgh 12/08/2016

        Thanks Tim - nice explanation, which I appreciate greatly. Cheers, Frank

    5. Chris N 12/08/2016

      Frank, at GPOD you are talking to and hearing from gardeners, mainly ornamental gardeners, a small subset of homeowners in America. There are many gardening styles around the world but in the US, if we have a national style, it would be lawn. Houses on small city lots typically have a tree in the front yard, maybe one in the back and some foundation plantings. The rest is lawn. On large suburban lots, it is usually the same although the owners might add a small island bed of perennials or annuals as well. Even in parts of the country where turf grasses would never naturally survive due to heat and drought, we grow lawns. About half of all potable water in the US is used to water lawns. Due to the amount of water, fertilizer, and pesticides used on lawns and the pollution caused by mowers to maintain them, a movement has sprung up for lawn reform in the US.

      So we Americans love our lawns here. And if we have kids or grandkids, it's great to have lawn for them to run around or play on. Lawns are a great visual foil to garden beds. But given the state of gardening in the US, I suspect many of us GPODers prefer to maximize our garden beds and minimize our turf areas. Thousands of acres of lawn surround us already.

      1. frankgreenhalgh 12/08/2016

        Thank you Chris for such a comprehensive response. I now understand the situation. FYI, when we have water restrictions in the State of Victoria, watering of lawns is banned. Also, lawns really help in reducing the risk associated vith bush/wild fires (reduces the fuel load around houses) here in SE Aussie (one of the most fire prone areas in the world).

        Another small piece of trivia - one of the lads who played cricket with me in our backyard did end up playing cricket successfully for Australia. Cheers mate from Oz

  2. jeffgoodearth 12/08/2016

    Lush, full and vibrant,,,,I love it all. I have tried all my life to photograph a hummingbird,,no success for me yet. That Clematis is a snazzy one! Loving that round patio as well

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks Jeff. I set the camera on the sports setting so it would take photos quickly and hid near the salvia. It took about 60 pictures to get this one. Hummers move so fast and so erratically!

  3. user-7007816 12/08/2016

    Nancy and John, I envy your lush garden and long, gentle season. Beautiful.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks Dale! We do have an easier climate than most but the snow arrived today and there's supposed to be ice later so the salvia is doomed! Hopefully, the cuttings make it.

  4. user-7007498 12/08/2016

    Wow, Nancy, what a lovely garden you have created. The overview picture of the diminishing lawn (which is the best kind of lawn to have), shows creativity and a great eye for design. The large fern makes a perfect statement. I love the patio space and the smaller viewing bench. Very intimate and hopefully relaxing, whenever you get a chance. My seating spaces are used by others, but so rarely by me. Clematis 'Freckles' is so cool. Thanks for sharing.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      We usually sit down for about 5 minutes before spotting something that needs doing! Thanks for your kind remarks.

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 12/08/2016

    It would be wonderful to sit in that chair with a cup of coffee and take in all the beauty. Love it!

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks for your comment!

    2. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks for your comments!

  6. VikkiVA 12/08/2016

    So beautiful Nancy & John! Clematis 'Freckles' is so cool and I really like the lavender and white phlox; however, the white Astilbes is one of my best loved perennials. Is yours 'Bridal Veil' ? Vikki in VA

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Hi Vikki, I think the original astilbe was 'Bridal Veil' but I think some of the plants are seedlings. There is some variation in the shapes of the flowers. Did you see the article on astilbe cultivars in the newest 'Fine Gardening'? I really like some of the ones shown...if I could just find a place for them!

      1. VikkiVA 12/09/2016

        No I didn't see the article. I need to take a look. Thanks.

  7. NCYarden 12/08/2016

    Such a beautiful garden to behold, especially as many plants have gone dormant this time of year. This is refreshing today. Great photo capture of the hummingbird. I am excited that my Clematis cirrhosis is blooming for the first time this season after a few years of just foliage. The shot of yours is just gorgeous. Love the fullness of your beds. Thanks for sharing.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Our plants are more dormant now too! We finally had a freeze a couple of nights ago and it is down in the 20's now. Second latest frost ever for us. Thanks for commenting!

    2. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/08/2016

      Freckles! Am I right or what? Gorgeous.

  8. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 12/08/2016

    I think you've reached a sweet spot with your sweep of lawn, Nancy and John...it is generous enough to seem welcoming for a group walk about but is also nicely proportioned for those strolls by just the two of you. Plus, I notice that it is handsomely edged with pavers and rocks...that makes incremental bed creep (which I'm guilty of encouraging) a little hard to just happen. Your round patio is lovely...so many visual delights to take in while maintaining a feeling of intimacy.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      I think you're right about the incremental bed creep. There isn't room to add much more. I like keeping a little bit of lawn for it's green simplicity as well as a place to sit, stroll or hang out. Thanks for your comments! I have noticed you always have something thoughtful and gracious to say.

      1. User avater
        meander1 (Michaele ) 12/08/2016

        Well, thanks back to you, Nancy, for your kind compliment. I never cease to be impressed and inspired by the photo sharings of all the gpod-ers who send in their pictures. What is always the interesting take away for me from seeing other people's gardens is that there in no one right way to do it. The one commonality we all share is a true love for the active doing of it. Isn't it funny how one of the things we love to do is create that alluring and charming seating area but then we're so addicted to our activity of gardening the we barely take time to sit.

        1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

          I agree on both points. Different sites and different visions can result in amazingly different and yet wonderful gardens.

          There is always the idea of sitting in the garden... The time when John and I are most likely to actually sit down is dusk on a warm day when it gets hard to see what we are doing but it is still pleasant to sit and watch the stars come out as the plants fade into the darkness.

  9. thevioletfern 12/08/2016

    Oh my, I want to reserve my spot on the round patio and just sit and watch the hummingbirds come and go. What a respite! Such a beautiful array of flowers, found and repurposed objects. I can feel the magic, good vibes, good energy, what you will. Please excuse me while I google clematis freckles - I am in love.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks for your comments Kathy! I love 'Freckles' too!

  10. user-4691082 12/08/2016

    Nancy and John, what a beautiful oasis you have created! I have an acre to garden with, and you just can't fill it up with plants- it would be impossible to maintain and would affect the resale value of your house. My sister says i already have done too much! Your property seems so intimate-well done! Love the hummingbird photo!

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks Rhonda, I often envy people with more space since I love trying new plants but you're so right about recognizing the limits to what one can maintain!

  11. Chris N 12/08/2016

    With the windchill making it feel like 2 degrees today, looking at your beautiful garden cheers me up immensely. I love you gentians. They echo so well your very artfully arranged blue bottles. Not much else to say except I agree with what everyone else has posted.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks Chris! Cold here today too, though not quite 2 degrees. Yikes!

  12. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/08/2016

    Nancy and John, it is such a treat to have regular virtual visits to your garden. You've really created quite a paradise. Not much that I can add to all of the great comments. That is a stunning shot of the hummer; what a patient capture you have made. Everything looks great. Love Freckles and love the color of your peachy Alstromeria, as well as the purple one near the huger Fuchsia.
    I think the way you've used the blue bottles is nice and balanced. Speaking of blue, is it cool enough in Corvallis for any of the blue Meconopsis to thrive? Definitely a holy grail plant for me, living in Ohio with hot, hot summers.
    What's the dark-leaved shrub behind the chair on your round patio? Sambucus?

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Hi Tim, Thanks for your comments. I have seen blue meconopsis for sale at Dancing Oaks Nursery and Northwest Garden Nursery which are near here but haven't tried it yet because I think it's probably too hot. Some other things that come from the Himalayas seem to struggle. We usually have 100 degrees for a few days in the summer and 90 for several weeks though not with the humidity you get back east.

      You're right about the sambucus. It is 'Black Lace'.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/08/2016

        Wow. I'm surprised about your hot weather, but Oregon straddles quite a bit of territory with diverse weather.
        Sambucus 'Black Lace' is a workhorse for me: adaptable, super-hardy and responds well to coppicing. Love it.

        1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

          I agree. It's a great plant.

          1. User avater
            Linda on Whidbey 12/08/2016

            So glad to hear this as we just planted 'Black Lace' in a new bed. We'll see if it lives up to its deer resistance claim.

          2. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/08/2016

            I find that it is easy to multiply as well, Linda. Often when I coppice, I just stick sections of the cut twigs in the ground and they root!

          3. User avater
            Linda on Whidbey 12/09/2016

            Thanks, Tim. This plant has been on my radar since we moved to the PNW so I'm excited to finally have it. We also planted a golden sambucca called 'Lemony Lace' so we're already looking forward to spring with this new 90 x8' bed.

  13. Sheila_Schultz 12/08/2016

    May I just echo all the other comments? Nancy, every image of one of your garden vignette's makes me smile, they are so thoughtfully beautiful and welcoming. I really do love them all... and the shot of the hummingbird sipping from the salvia is a major winner! Like Jeff, I keep trying to capture the beauty of our hummers and those little buggers continue to be faster than my clicking finger!

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks Sheila, I got lucky with the hummingbird. The other bird I have tried to photograph is Stellar Jays. They are really shy and hide when you get close. The hummers are bold little guys and dive bomb you!

      1. Sheila_Schultz 12/08/2016

        For whatever reason, we only have one pair that visit our garden every year, especially since I plant for them. They love my Agastache's and honeysuckle vine and I always know when they are zooming in on me when I hear that sweet hummmmmm of their wings going at light speed! Maybe next summer will be Your Year for your Stellar Jays!

  14. Schatzi 12/08/2016

    Absolutely beautiful! and I am going to have to find that gentian. Love it all.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Hi Shirley, The blue by the bottles is actually triteleia, which is an easily grown bulb, native to the west coast. I mentioned a gentian in my text but apparently forgot to send the picture! I apologize for that and will try to add one somewhere.

      1. Schatzi 12/09/2016

        Thanks for the additional photo. I will have to plant Triteleia too - I love blue in the garden.

    2. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Here is the gentian I forgot to send.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/08/2016

        Stunning! I have quite a few alpine Gentian, but your G. asclepiadea is on my 'must have immediately' list. I recently purchased seeds and may get some plants in spring as well. Thanks for sharing the additional photo.

        1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

          Tim, It's been the easiest one for me to grow. It even seeds about a little.

  15. Dvngardener 12/08/2016

    Loving all of it, especially Clematis Freckles!

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks for your comments Lily.

  16. chelleisdiggin 12/08/2016

    Nancy, your garden is just lovely, and I loved seeing the 'before' photo. I'm just starting to develop our garden in this new to us place and I can only aspire to create something as lush and beautiful as yours.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Thanks for your comments. Enjoy the process of creating a new garden! It takes time to get it full but the fun thing at the beginning is there is room for almost whatever you want to grow as long as you can meet it's cultural requirements. I'm to the place where I have to edit and remove to add much.

      1. chelleisdiggin 12/09/2016

        Awe, removing is not much fun, I'm sure. But hopefully you can find folks to share your bounty with and brighten up another garden.

  17. User avater
    Linda on Whidbey 12/08/2016

    Good morning, Nancy ( and John), what a beautiful garden you've created along with the seating areas to appreciate it. I hope you were able to escape this cold snap that has hit us the last few days out here on the left coast. Love your photo of the hummer. The only photos that I ever get are when they are sitting on the feeder but have been trying to get an action shot. I'll have to try your approach. Your blue flowers are so appealing and all of your perrenials are so lush. Do you get a fair amount of summer rain there? Thanks for sharing.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Hi Linda, We did get some cold days early this week (after I emailed the photos to GPOD.) We rarely get appreciable summer rain between the 5th of July and mid-September. We have a drop system. The astilbes get some water from the drip system and from the sprinkler as well when we water the lawn.

  18. maryannborcherding 12/08/2016

    Thanks for sharing your garden in Corvallis. One of my favorite sections in my garden is when my sweep of astilbes are blooming. Beautiful pics.
    MaryAnn Vancouver WA

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      I love that astilbes bloom in the shade in summer! Thanks for commenting!

  19. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

    Thanks for your kind comments Diane

  20. greengenes 12/08/2016

    Hi Nancy! So great to see your gardens today! So lovely is that clematis! But every picture captures your love of gardening! Great way you used your blue bottles too! Have a wonderfull Christmas!

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/08/2016

      Merry Christmas to you too Jeanne!

  21. PerenniallyCrazy 12/09/2016

    OMG! Nancy, your garden is such a beautiful and personal sanctuary! I love each and every vignette featured here today. It certainly leaves me wanting for more. I hope you send in more photos or if Kim has a stash left that she will share them tomorrow. Merry Christmas to you and John!

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/09/2016

      Thank you! That means a lot coming from you. You have a wonderful Christmas too!

  22. user-7008325 12/09/2016

    i would love to hear your tips for propagating your tender salvias. Though i think our snow storm and cold temps in southern oregon may have my Salvia 'wendy's wish' down. the hummingbirds will miss them.

    1. OregonGardenGal 12/09/2016

      Willow, I just wrote out a long list of instructions and then accidentally blew them away! I am such a dunce with computers. Actually, my last tip was that there are good instructions on the internet. I found some that look similar to how I do it on the 'Dave's Garden' website. Just google propogating salvias. They say to make the cuttings in Spring but I have had some success in the Fall although if it's as cold there as it is here, it may be too late for Wendy's Wish. They also recommend fertilizing the cuttings which I don't do since I usually use compost/bark/perlite to root them and that seems to be enough for the winter. Hope that helps!

      1. user-7008325 12/09/2016

        ah nuts, i hate it when that happens. my dunceness with computers has hindered my blogging. don't ever get a new computer and have your carefully labelled garden photos be stuck in the old computer. Eight new wendys wish plants were the mainstay of gloriousness in my garden this year. $28 for what are annuals in my garden. i would love to keep them going. the plants are probably all very damaged by the snow and temps in the high 20s. never thought of taking cuttings. i love your garden, especially the round patios with such thick lush plantings surrounding them. my first cat was named 'freckles'. i would love to find that clematis for my garden. here is my 'wendy' salvia looking perfect on nov 7.

        1. OregonGardenGal 12/09/2016

          Beautiful color! It was a great, lingering fall this year, wasn't it?

  23. Cenepk10 12/09/2016

    Good Ness. That was a feast for the eyes. Gorgeous.... loved every nanosecond

  24. user-6536305 12/05/2017

    Where on earth did you find all of these blue bottles? Your garden is so beautiful? Could I please drop by someday in person myself to see it?

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