Visits to botanical gardens and nurseries allow us to revel in the scope and breadth of their plantings or to view imposing and impressive mature specimens. Visits to such places can be educational and inspiring, but they can also be daunting, for few if any of us can hope to replicate their grandeur and scale.
That’s why we also like to visit private gardens, such as that of Ken and Elena Jordan in Roseburg, OR. Their garden, while enormous and ambitious by most standards, is constructed on a more intimate scale, and demonstrates the owners’ personality and connection to their residence that is characteristic of the most successful private efforts.
The Jordans sited their house on a bluff overlooking the Umpqua River. Ken designed and built the Craftsman style home himself, and the couple made their garden on the wooded slope facing away from the river, under the remnants of the native forest.
The steeply sloping lot posed design and circulation challenges which the Jordans met by making switchbacked paths and stone retaining walls. Native stone is also incorporated into the garden in the form of boulders and pathways. Both Ken and Elena have design and horticultural talents, and a sense of humor that has caused them to name the property ‘Stonehedge’.
The steep slope could prove tiring to navigate if it were not for the many seating opportunities along the paths. Each spot provides a different aspect, with different vistas and plants to enjoy. Ken’s mastery of both the wood shop and the forge are evident everywhere.
Despite the structures, stone and art, in this garden the plants rule. The Jordans were bitten early on by the conifer bug and with encouragement from Larry Stanley of Stanley & Sons Nursery, made their garden around their large conifer collection. They are active members of the American Conifer Society and travel all over the world to view–and acquire–choice specimens.
Although the Jordans like all manner of conifers (and many foliage plants such as Japanese maples), their property really showcases the large, contorted cultivars such as Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ and Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ and they have several choice specimens of each.
The contorted trunks of the weeping specimens are beautiful in their own right, and provide ‘small moments’ to enjoy that balance the scale of the sweeping beds and pathways.
As much as they love conifers, both Ken and Elena know that good design requires contrasting colors, textures and forms, and have interplanted the conifers liberally with deciduous trees such as Japanese maples and beech. Fall is a particularly beautiful time in this garden as the fiery colors of the maples are dramatically set off by the greens and blues of the conifers.
Autumn’s low sun shines through the maples and casts a glow over the entire garden, lighting the chartreuse, green, blue and teal conifers.
In fact, that sunset drew us right up the slope and around to the back of the house, where we turned from looking at the beauty that the Jordans had created to enjoying the natural view over the river. What a paradise Ken and Elena found when they chose this spot, and what a masterpiece they have created! We look forward to visiting again soon.