Urban Oasis

100_0220Seven or eight years ago I was called upon to do something with this garden, which at the time had one plant, no trees, a high retaining wall at the rear, a large, trailer-esque stilt home looming above it, and adjoined the house by way of a porch that had been artlessly enclosed with basically whatever was lying around.  Because these were new clients at the time, I went to a great deal of effort drawing elevations of what I wanted to do.  In the process, instead of letting the hillbilly porch spoil my artwork, I took pretty audacious license with the rear of the house, drawing in a glass arcade, french doors, and a fancy gate with new pavement on an expanded patio, in a place where aluminum sliders, cyclone fencing,  and hardware-store lattice polluted the view.

100_0221To my considerable delight, the owners not only  loved it, but eagerly announced that they’d go ahead with the garden as drawn, and the following year they would also have me rebuild the porch, etc. that I had depicted in my elevations.  Together, we revised as we went along, making sure that the arcade would allow them to go to and from the garage without getting wet, that the gate would be split to allow large things to be moved in and out, and that year-round use of the porch area would be maintained, but it could still be fully opened in summer.  We used tinted safety glass on the west-facing windows, which previously had an annoying tendency to get broken by basketballs, and added cabinets to hold shoes, recycling, and sports equipment.  The porch floor, which turned out to be kelly green dyed concrete under the linoleum, was ground down and overlaid with stamped concrete to match the expanded patio, and a new, brick-trimmed driveway replaced the crumbling old one.

100_0218Now, the youngest of their children are off to college, and I’ve done extensive work on the interior as well, adding glass block windows in the upper and lower stairwells, and a couple of years ago one of their sons helped me repaint the exterior, and the next door neighbors have hired me, tentatively, so while I was in the neighborhood, I took some pictures.

(Due to a mixup at CHNN Headquarters, this post went up almost simultaneously with new author Karen M,  who posted some lovely verse below this post…  Don’t miss it.  CH)



  1. Karen M says:

    What a wonderful garden, Tony! I love the gate and the windows and the effect of a pergola (I think)

    Everything looks so lush!!!

    If that’s bamboo in the corner, make sure they let you trim or prune it. You can always use that stuff for something crafty.

  2. cocktailhag says:

    It’s a pergola of sorts, but with glass in it to keep out the rain. I am very proud of those gates, though, so thanks for noticing. Each year, we take out 40-50 bamboo shoots, which shoot up a foot or so a day, and we now have a large accumulation of them in the back of the garage, which may or may not end up in the dumpster we’re getting for next door. It’s black bamboo, so the canes are especially exciting, and about 1 1/2″ in diameter. The lushness is deceptive; I took the pictures at 7:43 am, where the temperature was still a mild 80 degrees.

    • Pedinska says:

      If you can tell me how much it would cost to ship it to Ohio, I’ll send you a check.

      My friends in Annapolis sold their property last year and with it, unfortunately, my source of bamboo for plant stakes etc. Theirs was on of the green/gold variegated ones. I like the black even better.

      • Pedinska says:

        And I would kill to be as creative as you with hardscapes/house design.

        Just beautiful.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Thanks, Sweetie. I’m determined to find a home for the bamboo, even if I have to go to craigslist, but I thinking sending 20′ long sticks halfway across the country seems a bit extravagant. Glad you like. I did have you in mind when I put up the post…

          • Pedinska says:

            Cut them in half and send fewer?

            How extravagant? (I reallyreally lerv black bamboo).

          • cocktailhag says:

            What length do you really need? Gayle has developed a quite successful strategy, involving a jigsaw, of knocking those babies down to size. They’re only impressively fat for the bottom 10′ or so… and very light, as far as weight. Cut to a uniform size, they maybe could be shipped without too much trouble.

  3. Karen M says:

    At a minimum, you could make a table top (or two or many) with those pieces of bamboo, something for the patio or the garden… but you might think of something even better.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Thanks to your impetus, I just emailed someone who has been wanting some bamboo. I, myself, no longer do crafts without a paying client. She wants to make a trellis, but there’s enough to build a house for a family of four.

      • Karen M says:

        A trellis! That would be great, too. Perhaps she would make more than one and you can add one to that garden?

      • Pedinska says:

        Oh! Oh! (waving hand for attention)

        I would gladly pay you today for some bamboo next week (or whenever).

        • cocktailhag says:

          I can save you as much as you want, Pedinsk…. Know any body traveling east from here?

          • Pedinska says:

            Unfortunately, no. That’s what really saved my tail on the Annapolis friend. She was just close enough to be tempted into driving to my plant swaps. Easier to being bamboo here and take plants home.

  4. The Heel says:

    This looks strangely familiar. Was that for a TART in East Portland? (TART of course stands for “Tremendously Adorable Romance Target”)

    Looks fabulous!

  5. Karen M says:

    Tony… Looking at those gates again, I’m thinking that you must really like the craftsman tradition.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Back in those days, I was still working with my much-beloved carpenter, Geoff, whose eyes would just light up when I drew something like that, where most guys would look at it and tell me I couldn’t afford it. We built all the big stuff together, but it was such a pleasure when he’d show up with something like those gates, that he probably spent all night building, and for about ten years my jobs had the most fabulous architectural woodwork you’ve ever seen.
      Sadly, about 5 years ago, Geoff let his drug problems take over his life to the point where I had to let him go and hire someone much more lame, his former business partner, to do my woodworking, and basically, I could only build gates like that now for, say, Bill Gates, and a really nice part of my days at work is gone.
      But, as a client told me, I had to make that change. In this business, people like things done when they are supposed to be done, and Geoff couldn’t produce. She said, in her inimitable whiskey voice, “Right now, no one’s blaming you for Geoff. But they will.”

  6. retzilian says:

    It’s tough for talented, sensitive people to deal with this crazy world without taking the edge off. Sometimes it’s easier to feel erased, numb.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I think that’s what happened to Geoff. That and the pressure of having two young children (the worst tragedy of this story) and never really finding what he wanted in life. I can’t pretend to know what that is, even after al these years. I still wish him well.

  7. Sara Stewart says:

    Fab as always Tony. Austin and I could use your eyes on our back yard as it’s still a bit boring. I miss you and enjoy working in my basement by Tony every day!!!!