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An invitation to climb higher

A creative combination of plants in an Oregon garden.

By Craig Summers BlackCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / February 16, 2009

GRASSY WALKWAY: This part of Virginia Israelit’s garden is comprised of grassy stepping stones and surrounded by yellow-flowering iris, white wisteria, and rhododendrons.

Photo by Craig Summers Black


Virginia Israelit’s garden does something often nigh impossible: It makes grass look good.

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Working with landscape designer Michael Schultz, she fashioned this promenade on the side of her Portland, Ore., house with stone steps framing each patch of turf.

The stones are laid convex below and concave above – mirror images that give the green a decided shape.

Framing the walkway is an inspired interplay of variegated Hakone grass and yellow-flowering iris, also with twin-toned leaves. (See, you can put variegated plants together.)

But as spring progresses, the iris leaves revert to all green, giving the garden a sense of time as well as place.

The white wisteria, grown as a standard or tree form, and the weathered urn offset any notions of “perfect” balance or that matchy-matchy look.

And as your eye follows the rising steps, lifting to the rhododendrons and then the tall trees beyond, a little tune comes to mind. An electric guitar, an arpeggio. Could it be? Yes: “Stairway to Heaven.”

NOTE: This is one of a series of Creative Combos, brief discussions about plants that look great together. You can find more here and here.

(We invite you to visit the main page of the Monitor’s gardening site, where you can find many articles, essays, and blog posts on various garden topics.)