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Thornburg Garden – Designer Phil Thornburg

Phil Thornburg, landscape designer, contractor and owner of Winterbloom, Inc., has been creating private Edens, one home at a time, since 1983. Today, his own private Eden features a tangerine chair focal point with a cluster of Dulcy Mahar memorial flamingos dipping their beaks into a calming water feature. But it wasn’t always this way.

In 2003 he and his wife Barbara purchased a house that was overgrown with shrubs and trees. Their first step was to create a 10 year landscape plan that would fit their available time and budget. The major milestones included:

  • Remove the overgrowth and chip it up into compost and surface mulch, leaving only one rhodie, a Norway spruce and one little star magnolia.
  • Devise a gravel path system to function as a camouflaged drainage conduit and provide access to the Winterbloom business operations in the daylight basement.
  • Address the water that pooled during the rainy season in the front driveway and entry garden by regrading the soil, creating a catchment basin at the lowest point, and directing it to a drywell away from the house.
  • Direct all of the house downspouts through the drainage system into dry wells.
  • Research a variety of plants from similar worldwide ecosystems to create a paradise of never ending plant color and drama.
  • Create artistically composed views from the main front room window, kitchen window, and deck.
  • Build a veggie and fruit garden room partially screened from the entertaining area.
    Construct a greenhouse and shade cloth storage place for overflow plants and hardscape materials for the landscaping business.

Now the Thornburg garden pleases the visitor’s eye with surprising moments of both practicality and beauty. The overall feel is one of Northwest eclectic style, spiced with southern hemisphere, Asian, and African natives, such as a stunning crape myrtle tree and a wide array of fuchsias from Chile.

The front yard is anchored by evergreens and provides pleasing seasonal vignettes from the living room windows. The winding path to the side and back yards reveals a profusion of orange and pink perennials, as well as palm trees that Phil grew from seed. A clerodendrum tree is enjoyed for its fragrance, and because it evokes memories of Phil’s African childhood.

In the back yard, practicality is served by a raised rockery for his vegetable garden and a three space block composting system. No fertilizers are used in this abundant and sustainable garden, only compost, leaves, and chopped up stems.

The recirculating water feature is constructed of basalt rock and is home to an enthusiastic chorus of frogs in the spring. Nearby are an inviting table and chairs, good for watching grandchildren at play.

The eye, the ear and the nose are all engaged by Phil’s use of color, texture, structure and fragrance in his landscape design. Each window of his home frames vignettes that delight in different ways as the seasons pass.

Phil Thornburg, Winterbloom, Inc.

Phil Thornburg is a landscape designer and contractor. Since 1983 he has owned and operated Winterbloom Landscaping. Phil’s guiding motto is “creating private Edens, one home at a time.”

Phil’s childhood was spent in Africa. His home was in Burundi, a part of the former Belgian Congo. He also attended a boarding school for secondary education in Kenya.

Phil came to the United States when he was 17, and spent two years at George Fox College in Newberg. He then spent a year in Switzerland, where he maintained the landscape for a small resort and studied French.  Phil transferred to Oregon State University, where he graduated in 1974, with a degree in Horticulture/Agriculture.

Phil’s work has been published in Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publications, Women’s Day Special Publications and was recently spotlighted in the Tigard Times Monthly.


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