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Sellwood Garden Tour-Annual Adventure

Anne Jaeger

Sellwood Garden Tour Annual Adventure


“Gardening is intensely personal” says Thomas Aschenbrener as he looks over his neatly designed garden in his Sellwood neighborhood of Southeast Portland “I do my own design, I do my own maintenance, I do it all myself.” His work is an inspiration. Especially when you discover none of it was here three years ago, lest a couple of rhodies, two trees and the hedges. Today, the plantation style home and garden at “Drakewood” as it is called, looks like it has been here since the South lost the big one.

Aschenbrener and five other homeowners will open their gardens this Sunday as a fundraiser for classroom supplies and programs at Sellwood Middle School. The tour will give you idea’s that grow on you faster than the kids who benefit from your garden stroll. A couple of my favorites? A very formal rose garden leading to a carriage house holding up a blooming wisteria. To get there you have to wander through the formal rose garden. Of the 80 roses, “The Edwardian Lady” is the homeowner’s favorite. Aschenbrener loves the name, the fragrance and the unusual brownish satin color of the flower. Hearing that, I suggested to Aschenbrener that if he likes “The Edwardian Lady” so much, he’d love “Hot Cocoa” the newest American Rose Society winner for 2003. Too late.  He’s got that too. What can I say? The guys got great taste in plants, not to mention a wonderful sense of scale in his design. You’ve got to see what he did with a portion of his neighbor’s home, which borders one side of his yard. Aschenbrener added a trellis, lattice, fake windows and an old door which goes no where.  It’s just a style used to fool your eye into thinking it is not just someone’s laundry room but another garden room instead. Clever. Everywhere you look there is much more than meets the eye. You’ll find whimsical ideas which are subtle. A birdcage is settled over the catnip growing in the children’s garden. Of course, the cage would protect birds from cats Orson and Rita, but it works dandy to keep catnip from being chewed too.

Several aspects of this garden tour make it so appealing. It gives you a chance to see inside the garden gates and get in the front doors of six very different large homes in an historic and distinctive Garthwick neighborhood just south of the Sellwood Bridge. All the homes and gardens are within walking distance of each other. And all the money goes to the school just a few blocks away. Tickets for the tour are $20 and available nearby at New Seasons Market on SE Tacoma and Quimby’s Arts & Antiques on SE 13th.

So you’ll have a delightful Sunday afternoon filled with more ideas that you can copy and some encouragement to get the job done. Come see the expert eye this so called “amateur” gardener trains on Drakewood. Thomas Aschenbrener has a lot to show for his own advice “people can do it themselves. It doesn’t take a professional. The only mistake you can make is to fail to try it.”