Chris and Madelle Friess’ garden may see more traffic than most other gardens in town. Located on Riverside Drive across from Drake Park, the garden is in the heart of picturesque Old Bend. The Friesses moved into their bungalow nearly 22 years ago, in 1993. After a remodel and a full-story addition in 1996, they began work on a lush shade garden.
From the driveway to the porch to the sidewalk, every outdoor space has been covered with various hues of green, different textures and bursts of color. Chris and Madelle have camouflaged the ground of every garden bed with vibrant shades of grasses or flowers. The space features hundreds of flowers and shrubs, a vegetable garden and a water feature that was designed to be both a bird bath and a fountain.
Chris said, “I envisioned an English garden, intense color, not pastels. But I moved towards liking flowering shrubs.” He says that his love of gardening wasn’t family-inspired, but instead came from personal enjoyment. “You just walk out here, and you’re amazed. … If I see something that amazes me or looks different, I’ll buy it.”
“He’s done such a good job of trying to have color through the flowers and through the leaves, the stems, so that there’s something going all year long,” said Madelle.
This is the third yard Chris has worked on. When the Friesses started on the garden, there was only an arborvitae, a birch, a spruce and a crabapple tree on the property.
When asked if the garden was created for privacy, Madelle laughed, saying, “There’s no privacy on Riverside. … We love all of the activities going on.” Initially they created a garden on the slope in front of the house, but they kept having trouble with it. Eventually, with lots of dirt, they made a level spot and put a flower bed in front. Almost everything is a perennial and grown organically.
“I send my green stuff to the landfill; they compost it and I buy it back from them,” Chris said with a laugh.
The front garden features yellow rhododendron, a rare oak tree named heptacodium, bleeding hearts of pink and purple varieties, an abundance of peonies — including Vesuvian tree peonies with red leaves — peppery scented viburnum, lilies, lamiastrum and Siberian Bugloss with two-toned leaves imitating the dozens of hostas, lenten roses whose muted colors closely resemble Christmas roses and more.
The undergrowth is full of an interesting flowering plant called Siberian squill. Long leaves, resembling a long grass, carpet the garden floor and in the spring bloom with little blue star-shaped flowers everywhere. The beds closest to the house suffer more shade than sun, and they have to be planted accordingly. Primrose, varieties of ginger, oxalis or three-leaf clover, violets, coleus and something resembling a vanilla plant seem to do well in the low light. An interesting Welsh poppy resembles its California cousin, except it bears yellow petals. “You actually have to burn the stem and seal it after you cut them or else they just wilt. That’s a lot of work,” says Madelle.
The birds and the bees
The Friesses are active birders and wanted to create welcome spaces to observe them in their yard. The couple searched for a year with local company Ripple Effect to find the right rock to create a water feature for the birds. They moved their herbs to the side of the vegetable garden to begin construction of the fountain.
The boulder’s concave surface creates a pool in which the birds play and features a hole through the middle where the recycled water bubbles up and spills over the edges. It ran all winter and never froze. A large rubifolia bush provides a thick underbrush in which the birds play. An additional birdbath sits just off the front porch under the shade of a Japanese maple tree.
Madelle tends to the vegetable garden and loves the reward she gets from it. “We love the cycle of nature, especially the vegetables starting from seed, and then eating the things that we’ve grown.” The strategically placed south-facing vegetable garden has lettuce, kale, beets, cabbage, green onions, carrots, onions, covered tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, leeks and broccoli. Although she is waiting for better weather to plant green beans, Madelle has potatoes started in an “earth bag.”
They’ve also let the bird feeders go empty due to house sparrows eating the veggies. The vegetable garden has required a cover of pellon cloth to protect the lettuce, among other things.
Madelle’s transplanted herb garden contains tarragon, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and chives, her particular favorite. A large lovage plant sits beside her vegetable garden, with stalks that resemble those of the celery plant. The bigger leaves are peppery to the taste. Madelle chops them and freezes them for winter soups and stews.
Drier gardens between the garage and house boast beautiful lupin, Icelandic poppies, anemonies, columbine, daphne moonshine and carol mackie; two varieties of daphne less fragrant than their valley cousins, flax, white epimedium, alliums for the bees, Shasta daises, clematis, a ginkgo tree, a paper bark maple, red Alex roses, a lime-colored plant with stickers called berberis or bar berries and, of course, the Oregon state flower — Oregon grape.
A jonagold apple tree sits next to the house and produces anywhere from five to 20 apples a year. “They make the best applesauce,” said Madelle.
A robin built a nest last year in one of the trees right outside Chris’ office, but it hasn’t been inhabited this year. A path around the right side of the house incorporates a unique set of bricks taken from the floor of the original one-car garage that was re-done. The bricks bear the name of A.P. Green, a brick making plant in Mexico, Mo.
Trial and error
All of the beautiful success in the garden has not come without a few losses. “Chris and I grew up in Salem, and so he’s always trying to grow things here that typically grow there,” said Madelle.
He’s experimented with varieties of Japanese maples, including Fall Moon and Lion’s Mane maples, wild roses, ginkgos, dogwoods, beeches, birches and magnolias.
“You think they’re doing fine, and then all of a sudden they die, and it’s really sad,” said Madelle. The dogwood tree took five years in the ground before it had one blossom. “Our kids say, ‘How many $50 sticks do you have this spring, Dad?’”
A beautiful birch tree sits on the corner of their property. Concerns of the bark beetle disease demand special attention, especially with a close neighbor’s tree already suffering from the disease. Chris takes time to water it in the winter, even though they put the garden to bed sometime in the late fall. Chris appears to be entranced by trees, shrubs and ferns. “I’m always trying to get him to plant more flowers, because I like cut flowers in the house. … And from now until October I can have bouquets in the house,” said Madelle.
Chris, a local doctor, is close to retirement. When asked what he’ll do with more spare time, he chuckled and said, “They’re going to go on without me, and I’m going to garden without them.”
“We love to garden; we’re always curious what’s going to grow,” says Madelle. “When you’re a gardener, hope springs eternal.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0651, firstname.lastname@example.org