|Monday, April 30, 2012|
JJ De Sousa is a party girl, and nowhere is her penchant for entertaining more apparent than in her garden. Her background in interior design and her flair for garden design meld in a space where contrasts abound. The old world architecture of her circa 1924 English cottage in Portland juxtaposed with contemporary materials speaks volumes about her design aesthetic and the way she approaches creating chic outdoor living spaces.
Childhood memories of family gardens in Holland and Belgium, where she lived part time until she was 15, coupled with an interest in repurposing found objects, architectural salvage and industrial materials imbue the garden with a sense of her personal style and energy. The lines between house and garden are blurred as the garden is laid out in a series of interconnected rooms, each with a specific function or purpose.
When she purchased the ramshackle English cottage on the flanks of Mt. Tabor in 1996, gardening was the furthest thing from her mind. She despised pulling weeds for her mother in high school and didn’t want to be a gardener. But what captivated De Sousa was the opportunity to breathe new life into the house, a rental complete with a squatter in the basement, no running water or electricity and a condemnation order from the city. Undaunted, she bought the house and began the ongoing process of remodeling.
Once renovation on the cottage was under way, she forced herself to consider the derelict condition of the garden. The area behind the house resembled an archaeological dig. Stone walls, staircases and terraces installed 60 years ago were partially destroyed and slumping, the soil was depleted and old plants were out of control. De Sousa says joining the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon and going to lectures, open gardens and plant sales gave her the impetus and information to begin garden making. She turned out to be a quick study.