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  • Jennifer Jewell


Loree Bohl;s Portland, OR garden is all about the dangerous: spikes, thorns, spurs. She likes plants that draw blood.



Loree Bohl is an avid home gardener, horticulturist and garden blogger cultivating form and foliage with decided flair in her Portland, Oregon home garden known as "The Danger Garden." In partnership with her husband and their old chug Lila, Loree has been designing, planting and loving her urban space for twelve years. It's a great garden to visit, but pay attention to where you’re going, or - as her mail carrier and dog Lila both know - it can be dangerous out there! As Loree writes on her blog: "Nice plants are boring – my love is for plants that can hurt you. Agave, yucca, anything with a spike or spur!”

She joins us today from the Studios of Oregon Public Broadcasting from downtown Portland.

While the refrain from many a home owner might be: less maintenance please, not so for this gardener. The Danger Garden is dedicated to traffic stopping often unusual plants with spikes and spines and thorns. A life-long gardener, it was not until Loree's first visit the American southwest for business that she realized her spirit plants were those that thrive in the desert. She’s figured out some creative ways to adapt her Oregon garden - not a desert climate by any stretch of the imagination - to the plants she loves.

A committed and well-followed garden blogger since 2008, Loree documents the days, weeks, seasons and years of her garden in her on-line garden blog, also known asThe Danger Garden, where she also writes about interesting plants, other gardens and other gardeners. While there are nice selection of photos of Loree's garden, Loree, Lila and the signature Danger Garden style, if you want to immerse yourself in the life and times of The Danger Garden, make sure to check out the blog - where she posts new content five days a week, and at least annually she features a full visual tour of the garden.

“It’s amazing to watch the old dark kind of a burnt burgundy color peel away and then it’s bright green underneath and the bright green fairly quickly turns a mahogany hue; it’s just sexy, the trunks of the manzanita are - you can almost see what looks like muscles underneath, there’s movement even when the plant’s not moving.""

Loree Bohl, gardener and garden blogger


Loree describes herself as a 10 hour a week or more gardener. She does her writing work in the garden in the summer, under the shade pavilion that Andrew built. In winter, the pavilion becomes a cool greenhouse, thanks to modular walls that Andrew devised to protect Loree's hardy potted plant collection from the winter rains and ice. The non-hardy potted plants - more than 100 of them - get moved to the temperate basement, under lights in order to ensure their survival. It's a fall spring great migration, Danger Garden style. I think we can pretty safely say that Loree is a dirt-under-your-nails kind of gardener.

The whole story of The Danger Garden’s genesis and journey inspires me. The very physical and real relationship she has with her plants – and her active engagement with the beauty to found in their strengths – and dangers. For me this is an interesting articulation of what many of us enjoy about the garden – the nitty gritty, the challenge, the embodiment of the fact that it is hard, physical work that can sometimes draw blood, almost always draws sweat, and sometimes draws tears.

But if it was too easy – would we love it as much? Not me. And I am guessing not you. The fact that our garden and nature loves calls on us to push ourselves past our known limits sometimes, asking for us to show up as physical beings, as intellectual beings and as spiritual beings – this is a big part of why we love it, I think. It’s not always easy and there’s not just one definition or embodiment of beauty.

I am also drawn to the depth of Loree's attachment to her garden, to its individual plants (like the named ones: Sammy and Clifford), to her husband Andrew and their chug Lila and how they are all in this garden life together. But clearly Loree is the head gardener.

If I asked you how many hours a week you spend gardening would you know? It’s kind of a tough question to answer. For me it depends on seasons – real seasons, but also seasons of life – how happy or sad I might be, how busy my desk life or my daughter’s lives are, as well. I would estimate that in my small suburban garden I spend between 2 and 10 hours a week – and it always improves my mood and perspective – even when it’s – maybe especially when it’s - doing something mundane like weeding or something kind of gross like cutting back mushy winter die back.

This is what I mean when I ask people what their gardening “practice” is – it’s how we intentionally incorporate this activity of body and mind into more of our everyday lives for our own wellbeing and sanity.

What’s your gardening practice? Send me a voice memo or email with thoughts:

And make sure to follow Loree and her The Danger Garden adventure on Instagram and Facebook as well as at her blog.

Cultivating Place is an award-winning co-production of North State Public Radio, where it airs every Thursday at 10 am PST.

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