Archive for Jul, 2007

a long-awaited buying spree

Friday we set off for Seattle via Juel’s Unique Nursery in Elma, our second visit to this charming place up a long country road where the dogs are delightful and birds flutter and sing in two greenhouse aviaries. I can’t recommend this highly enough as a stop on one’s way north to the big cities. Owner Julie Sanchez has a great collection of plants for sale and has created wonderful display gardens with an inspirational recirculating stream, something I hope to do here eventually. (Juel’s would make an excellent day trip combined with Steamboat Island Nursery).

First, the adorable dogs, Sam and Gage, and a family with puppies.

the plants for sale….

….and just a glimpse of the display gardens

Plants from Juel’s: Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’ (for friend Patti), Echinacia ‘Rocky Top’ and Rudbeckia ‘Black Beauty’ (for Marilyn’s garden), campanula ‘Beautiful Trust’ (for me)

Upon arriving in Seattle, we went to Sky Nursery to which Allan’s brother had given us a gift certificate.  My main plant mission for the trip was to find Lobelia tupa, and there it was in the small front display garden! I feared finding none, because it was in spectacular apricot-salmon bloom, but I did find two plants. Mission accomplished (although I would have liked five).

Sky Nursery’s entry garden with Lobelia tupa and other cool plants; it has become quite the nursery of collectible plants.

Plants from Sky: Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (for a friend), Lobelia ‘Tupa’ for me and for KBC), and a Penstemon

Saturday morning we were off to the garden tour and a day of specialty nurseries.  After three gardens, we stopped at Bainbridge Gardens nursery where we encountered two Rainysiders who had also skipped the social picnic to shop. Kym Pykorny, writer and blogger for the Oregonian newspaper, was one.

Bainbridge Gardens

plants from Bainbridge Gardens: two Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’, an improvement over ‘Jack Frost’ (one for me, one for Allan’s mom), two “seven up plant” stachys (one for me, one for KBC), 2 Ceanothus ‘Diamond Heights, one Astrantia ‘Abbey Road’.

I had carried with us in our two door Saturn the plants acquired on Friday from Juel’s and Sky, so that I would know exactly how many plants I could fit into the smallish space.  Now onward to Mesogeo, one of our main destinations, where I planned to spend much of my wad of cash.  It had been years since i allowed myself a spending spree on my own garden…but at last I could afford it after a determined campaign to become debt free, and our garden needs an influx of exciting new plants.

our first glimpse of the greatness of Mesogeo

Mesogeo!!!  As soon as we passed the old farmhouse with its exotic display garden, one of the owners took us under his wing, introduced me to one of their fluffy black and white cats, and walked with me through the astonishing garden, a mixture of display beds and plants for sale.  I did not make it past the first group of pots before I started to make a stash of plants to buy.

Mesogeo! Entering the display gardens, and the greenhouse of wonders

Mesogeo! filled with plants to covet, and for once, I bought at least half of everything i wanted

Mesogeo display gardens (left, Lobelia tupa)

plants from Mesogeo: Salvia triloba, Melianthus major with extra big leaves, Melianthus comosus (small leaves, 3-4’), Solanum quitoense (have had/lost this before; they are developing one with no thorns!) Angelica ‘Ebony’, Lavandula viridis (so fragrant, green flowers!!), Juncus ‘lemon twist’ (variegated and stripy twisty bog rush!), Cotelydon orbiculata, Euphorbia stygiana (from the river styx, he said, and taller than millifera), Asphodeline lutea, Cytisis madavense, Gevulina avellana…some plants so new to me that I hope I have read the tags right.

Savage Plants, where we got a bumper sticker reading “Savage Plants for the Savage Gardener.” Love it!

Only because of fear that Heronswood would close before we got there did we tear ourselves away from Mesogeo and go on to the next nursery, Savage Plants, and then a quick stop at Foxglove Greenhouses before touring Heronswood.

from Savage Plants: Tradescantia ‘Blue and Gold’; from Foxglove: two bi colored Aquilegia and some Himalayan blue poppies

Good heavens!  I’ve forgotten a stop from Friday at Village Green Perennials, where I was sad to see the once lovely display gardens have gotten overgrown and have almost disappeared, but where I bought:

from Village Green: Aeonium ‘Shwartzkopf’, Phygelius ‘Fanfare Cream’, Euphorbia ‘Helena’s Blush’ and some baby Eryngiums

It’s sad to take someone to see a beautiful garden only to find out that nature has taken it back.

Finally, after Heronswood, we stopped at Dragonfly Farms (“where abnormality is the normality”), which had kindly agreed to stay open for the Rainysiders, and there I filled the car to what I thought was its ultimate capacity.  Dragonfly proved to be a destination nursery, a wonderland, filled with great plants (some with Heronswood tags), with garden art, and with vibrant and witty display gardens.

At Dragonfly Farms, plants and garden art for sale

…and display gardens of great charm

plants from Dragonfly Farms: a very black Sedum ‘Postman’s Pride’, Corylopsis contorta ‘Red Majestic’ (expensive! must have! red leaved contorted filbert!), Albizia ‘summer chocolate’ (at last! one of my own!), Disopeteris, Saxifrage ‘Silver Velvet’ (very dark red leaves), Acanthus ‘Tasmanian Angel’ (pricey but must have as has haunted me ever since the garden show), two ferns, Francoa apendiculata, Fuchsia procumbens (their tag for it says something about it being so cute you just want to rock it!), Bergenia with variegated leaves, Asarum splendens, and more…yes, more…I have not sorted all the plants out yet…

Finally, after a dinner in Kingston with the Rainysiders, and a day spent helping Allan’s mom in her Seattle garden, we headed home…via one last nursery stop, Ravenna Gardens in University Village, where I added plants laying sideways in the trunk on top of the luggage!  Ah, the city…where in a small nursery one finds a bottom shelf of Echiums!!!

Ravenna Gardens’ display garden…and front entry


plants from Ravenna Gardens: three Echevarias, two ‘Wilma Goldcrest’ Monterey Cypress, and one hardy banana.

And now we are home….with so many plants to plant and no time because work has piled up.  Still, they sit near the front door, pleasing me with their presence and promising to make our garden far more exciting than it has been for a long time.

[2012 note:  I now have the Red Majestic contorted filbert in our new garden, one of the larger plants that I moved here from the old garden.  I wonder if I still have that red velvety saxifrage…I meant to move it, but did I?  A lot of the plants might have done better in our new sunny garden than they did in our old shady one…]

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I have issues about the way the Heronswood garden closed.  When we joined other gardeners for dinner at the end of the day, many cooler heads had thoughtful things to say, but before that, when we drove onto the grounds and saw cars parked where greenhouses used to be, I got teary-eyed and not from garden joy.  I had a little inside information (from a relative of one of the owners) back at the time of the sale that running the business side of the growing nursery was exhausting to them and had sapped their joie de vivre.   Some say that Burpee closing the nursery and moving the operation to Pennsylvania was fine because a lot of money was paid for it.  I believe that the owners would not have agreed to the sale if they had been able to forsee the garden’s closing; that they would have found another way; that no amount of money was worth what happened.  Now, that is just my opinion, based on all that I have read, and cooler heads may disagree and speak of both sides of the story.

So just let me share a few of the iconic scenes of Heronswood, the vignettes that will stay with me through the years.  I hope the garden ends up being preserved and enhanced by a group like the Garden Conservancy or the Pacific Northwest Horticultural Conservancy, on whose website you can see glorious photos of Heronswood.  [2012 note: this preservation effort failed, and I have no idea how well Burpee has done at maintaining the garden.] And now that Allan has seen it he can understand why all of the avid Northwest gardeners he has met since starting to work with me have been in mourning that H’wood is now longer a place where we can go, like mecca, to purchase amazing plants.  Allan already has seen the loss of the wonderful, funny and literate catalogs plantsman Dan Hinkley used to write before Burpee changed the catalog to be, well, glossy.

car park and dismantled greenhouses

This is where I got all choked up: a parking lot where  we used to buy plants, and some derelict greenhouses off to the side.  I remember the Heronswood open days, two of which I travelled for miles to see (and friend Sheila travelled even farther) and how Dan would always give his humourous lectures and slideshows. (My visits came after Burpee purchased H’wood, but when the arrangement seemed to provide the best of both worlds: Dan’s influence and wisdom and collecting, and the practical side run by Burpee).

into the woodland

Into the grounds we then went, while I muttered for awhile about the lost greenhouses…down the long driveway with side gardens of astonishing forest plants from around the world, all of which I want of course. A fallen tree had its base planted with bromeliads.

The iconic lawn……and the iconic hornbeam hedge with some amazing lemony-white tall lilies in front

Past the lawn edged with Hakanechloa macra ‘Aureola’…perhaps the most famous scene at Heronswood…Through the sunny borders…around the house…past the renowned arched hornbeam hedge, into the vegetable parterres enhanced with bright flowers….and the secret garden around the house.  By now we were again with Rainysiders; one said that she had never seen the private area around the house, which was usually roped off on open days.  I had been to an open day which had included the house gardens, and they had certainly had more amazing plants in pots way back then (even though it was after Hinkley had moved to his new house).  That and more little weeds here and there were signs of change.

More iconic views: The famous columnar tree underplanted with black mondo grass, echoed by a black pool of water at the other end of the path.

the vegetable garden….where even the sink is a work of art…

Back through the woods, to the famous Little and Lewis “ruins”, past frequent bottlenecks where folks would stop to photograph one amazing plant after another…

The bright dahlias (center) always speak to me of Sheila, lover of hot colours, with whom I have visited Heronswood before.

Twice we had circled through the gardens, storing up memories.  I look forward to the book that Dan Hinkley is writing about his years there.

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After another short week of frenzied work, off we went to Seattle to stay with Allan’s folks and go to nurseries and to the Garden Conservancy tour of 3 Bainbridge Island gardens plus Heronswood.  Up at seven on Saturday, a shockingly early hour for us, we headed for the ferry and then for the McFarlane Garden overlooking the water at the island’s south end.  A grand house confused us with gates and entries: which one to take? Inside we heard voices (which turned out to be those of the Rainysiders who we were meeting for part of the tour.) Finally a quite beautiful man with dreadlocks and a charming Jamaican accent guided us through a gate; when we had arrived and parked at the end of the cul de sac we had seen him doing the final touches of pruning.  We also noted that a bed in the park across the street was being landscaped with overflow from the house gardens, a generous gesture and helpful when a gardener runs out of room.

McFarlane garden

The house was grand, the gardens mostly formal and structured with some exuberant plantings and some restful Italianate scenes.

verticality in the MacFarlane garden

While I enjoyed walking through and admired every inch, I was not deeply moved perhaps because it all seemed so far beyond my reach (a feeling I did not get in the grandeur of the Old Germantown Road Garden, oddly enough).  I enjoyed but did not gasp or get teary-eyed with gardening joy.

Maybe I just was not awake enough yet, because it truly was an impressive garden, and Allan said he appreciated the style because “there was no chaos” and if he were taking care of the garden, he would be “very proud of how tidy it was.”  He pointed out the the Germantown garden is totally maintained by the owners and perhaps that made it more exciting to me.

The next stop, the famous Little and Lewis garden, did bring gasps and thrills and joy.  I’d been there before but would never tire of it, and I wanted Allan to see it (and, later, especially, Heronswood).  Allan commented that it is very small compared to “how big it photographs” and marveled at how much is there.  It’s the Tardis effect: bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.  He also noted what pleasant hosts the artists/owners are. You can see far more wonderful photos of the garden in Little and Lewis’ own book, A Garden Gallery, but I must share some of my favourite scenes.

entry courtyard, so vibrant; the famous gunnera leaf; raccoon sculpture

(left) the famous painted pillars (right)One of the beautiful painted walls with the ever so famous weeping tree of ferns and baby tears.

Onward to the nearby Skyler garden where the sunny entryway gave little hint of the winding maze of paths.  Allan liked it becaue of the paths, and the variety of materials used to make them, and the “changes of character and mood” as we moved through the garden.

entering the Skyler garden

I especially appreciated and felt empowered by the narrowness of some of the paths and by how the garden was opened to us despite its admirers having to move carefully one by one. (Empowered because sometimes I question the narrowness of some of my own paths.  But even Lucy Hardiman has narrow paths at the back of her garden.)

paths in the Skyler garden

(Above) Paths narrow, and narrower, and one which had charmingly disappeared.  It was there, if one looked closely under the foliage, but we had to backtrack, and I loved that: the plants came first.  By now, we had diverged from the Rainyside group, most of whom were planning an hour and a half social picnic lunch…but we had several nurseries to visit before touring Heronswood so would be waiting till dinnertime to socialize.

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As soon as Patti’s bright blue bug approached the kerb at Ann Marie’s house, I said “PLEASE let this be the tour garden!”  If it hadn’t been, I would have begged to go through it anyway, because I could tell from the parking strip gardens that here lived an avid plant collector.  But indeed it was an official tour garden owned by artist Ann Marie. Eryngiums, Perovskia, Lavender, Sedums, Dianthus, Stipa tenuissima, and more thrived along the sidewalks on both sides of the corner lot.

beautiful plant collections in the parking strips

From the street, a golden catalpa drew my eye into the garden and as I looked up I saw my favourite grass, Stipa gigantea, and beautiful tall white barked eucalyptus trees. Oh, and I had to ask what the catalpa was….always exciting to me to find a garden where I don’t know the plants.

Golden Catalpa…want…

The eucalyptus creates a transition to a patio next to the house where cold water and bread and homemade jam awaited us.  Patti buttered and jammed some bread and handed it to me because I was too absorbed in plant life to stop at the table. Delicious.

eucalyptus and patio

looking up from the sidewalk

We climbed the front steps and rounded the corner to be met with more garden pleasures which vied with the eucalyptus grove and the parking strips for my adoration.

Back garden vignettes: note the use of stacked broken concrete

The focal point of the back yard, the north side with a glimpse of the blue Columbia, was a cushioned sit spot with fire pit and statuary. There we met Ann Marie herself and were able to gather information about her plants.  Many came from Dancing Oaks Nursery; Sheila and the Rainysiders keep recommending it and so, Sheila, I am now ever more convinced we must come to visit you…and Dancing Oaks.

The seating area…a detail…and how it all ties together

Because it was hard to leave this garden we ended up back by the eucalyptus and noticed another patio which had slipped by us before.  A friend who lives in a wing of the house has her own patio area here and has placed this charming parasol to shield her fish from the sun!

The fish parasol and another of Anne Marie’s little details that makes the garden so perfect

Patti asked Ann Marie if this were a low maintenance garden and she laughed….and said she had worked many hours to ready it for the tour. I commented that she had no plant ghetto left at all…those plants we have not got round to planting yet.

This is truly a collector’s garden and felt like being transported to a Seattle or Portland tour because of the exciting plants. Thanks goodness I am planning an excursion to some choice nurseries soon….(You would think we never worked at all anymore).

[2012 note: We did get to Dancing Oaks and to Sheila’s garden the next year (I believe).]

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maples, rooms, wonderment

Onward we go with the Astoria garden tour, a benefit for the Lower Columbia Preservation Society.

Five years ago, two gardens were on the tour which I have remembered ever since with fond admiration.  One my friend Carol and I tried to peek at this past May but were thwarted by the Astoria landslide’s reconfiguration of the streets.  To my delight, the second was again on the tour this year: the multilevel Alameda Street garden of rooms and hidden delights created by Leroy Adolphson and David Drafall on Alameda Street.

Adolphson-Drafall garden, bridge from street level

You enter the garden from the street level onto this amazing bridge. Pardon the blurry lefthand photo; I want you to see the bench but I had to jump forward as someone was opening the gate behind me.

view down from the bridge to lower deck, and on other side, to a collection of potted plants. Clematis and wisteria grow on the railings.

From the left side of the bridge, you look down to a wonderfully enticing patio with a green mossy pond.  Once, stairs went down from the street to that level, then back up to the door.  The bridge is an absolutely brilliant solution for entering the home and has created a great deal of the magic in the garden by dividing it and providing transitions from shade to sunshine.

(above) views of the bridge from below; to the right: gate to the street. Under the bridge is a shady bench between the two garden rooms.

A moongate leads from a patio of bonsai specimens along the side of the house where, as in all the garden room, a collection of choice Japanese maples is numbered to correspond with a list of the cultivars.

Under the bridge, a bamboo wall and a gong…and the Moon gate

Passing a small burbling water feature one is suddenly dazzled by the bright back yard with its deck hovering over an exansive river view (and on the deck lounge two adorable tiny chihuahuas).

a garden of intricate details

As we return into the shade, I admire more exquisite details.  One of my companions asks the owners if they ever have a hard time getting garden visitors to leave, and he says “Yes, but I have a big dog!” (meaning the wee chihuahua).

I believe that this was Sonja’s favourite garden of the day but, because of my obsessive plant lust, mine is yet to come.

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Saturday, 14 July: Patti Jacobsen, organizer of the Long Beach Peninsula garden tour and Sonja May, local artist, and I went to the Astoria garden tour in Patti’s blue bug. The Astoria tour benefits the Lower Columbia Preservation Society. Our first stop was to visit Patti’s family members staying at the Elliot Hotel awaiting a night at the opera (yes, the opera comes to Astoria).  We informally began the tour with a peek at the roof gardens and agreed they need more wind-hardy Mediterranean sorts of plants.  Like almost everywhere on the tour, a breathtaking view of the river was on offer, deep blue on another bright hot day.  Where was Allan? Off on his red Moto Guzzi to the annual Northwest Guzzi club’s deep woods campout on Mount Rainier, thus missing yet another garden tour!

This beautifully painted house is always the ticket buying point of the tour.

Our first stop on the yearly Astoria tour is always this splendidly painted house with a view of the Columbia from its vintage front porch. Tickets and a raffle are sold at tables outside.  As we drove to the first garden, the Rose River Inn a couple of blocks away, we marveled as always at Astoria’s intricately decorated Victorian houses.

We skipped the charming healing garden at Columbia Memorial Hospital; I had spent a little, but too much, time there last year and did not want to be there at all, and my companions had already seen it.  Kudos to any hospital which adds a healing garden; such gardens have been proven to speed the patients’ recovery.

Way out in the pastures on Lewis and Clark road we toured another garden which segued beautifully into the neighbouring garden.

Elena and Steve Miller’s garden on Lewis and Clark road

Both gardens had productive vegetable gardens, but I especially liked the wildflower patch accentuating the neighbour’s deer-fenced vegetables.

vegetables and a wildflower patch

Since I am without a doubt a CPN (certified plant nut) and also a fan of gardens with clearly defined rooms, the next two gardens were the ones which made me swoon, gasp, linger, and almost refuse to leave them!


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haunted by memories of an extraordinary garden

As I write this on July 13th, it has been 6 days since we visited the Old Germantown Road Garden for an HPSO open day….and I can’t stop thinking about the garden’s greatness. At the HPSO study weekend, Sheila and I had sat at the dinnertable with its owners and creators, Bruce Wakefield and Jerry Grossnickle, yet we had not felt we had time to drive to see their outlying garden. I think we made the right choice, because it required far more time to view than a hasty walk through with anxious thoughts of getting back to the train station in time for the trip home.  You could walk through the gardens all day and still find new magical surprises.  I had a feeling this was a garden we needed to see, so Allan and I went to its very next open day (a four hour round trip).

view from house deck and from greenhouse terrace

After a breathtaking entry past a sweep of Sedum’ Autumn Joy’ and the thought that with a huge garden one COULD have huge sweeps of plants, we rounded the driveway circle and were welcomed into the house with a sign advising us to view the garden from the deck…the route to which took us past Jerry serving up his famous chocolate swirl cookies and delicious iced punch. An idea of the vastness of the garden could be had from the driveway, but even looking down from the deck it was hard to grasp the sheer size.  I think it is three acres, two in cultivation.  [2012 note: I think now it is five acres, two in cultivatation…The article says how big…] We were given a map to guide us through the gardens: Cardiocrinum garden, Orchard, Primula Gardens, Arches, Mediterranean Garden, Woodland Garden, Gazebo, Pond, Rock Garden…..and more…

greenhouse and descending terraces

The terrace greenhouse was filled with exotics.  What entranced me was the round pond (with a concrete bench in it…I did not think to check if the water was hot or cold) from which ran a rill across the terrace, splashing narrowly next to steps to a second terrace, when it flowed into a fascinatingly deep green little pool under a mysteriously floating boulder. It was about then that I decided I was in the best garden of my experience.

passing through the rock garden…and finding the gazebo

Onward down natural stone steps, past a striking patch of cacti, we were given a staggering choice of paths and were drawn by the bright lawn borders which we had seen from above. Everywhere, dwarf conifers were brilliantly used as punctuation.  Oh, to have more room for such!

ponds small and large

Past the sweeping lawn borders and gazebo we felt we were entering a series of rooms.  We happened upon this wee pond (above left) and moments later found this glorious large pond (right) with enormous koi and an inviting stone bench at one end.  One could walk all the way round it, and indeed other members of the HPSO were going round and round. Just sitting and watching those fish could take all day.

a secret garden…………………..and another enticing path

Paths offer many choices and the worry that one might miss something extraordinary.  One mossy set of steps lead to a secret garden with bench.  These gardens abound with sit spots and with beautiful objects.

art in the garden

From the deck, another gardener and I both thought the metal sculptures, below left, were actual huge Allium schubertii.

garden art, garden arch

Past the rose arches we were offered more tantalizing path choices; steps or gravel? We paused to enjoy the Mediterranan garden with its drinking fountain, the handle propped on with a stone to provide visitors with water on such a hot bright day.

drinking fountain…and back to the lychnis (rose campion) at orchard entry

But I have gotten ahead of myself. After the ponds we plunged into the woodland paths. Under a collection of wonderful trees grew silver-leaved brunnera, ferns, hellebores which must have been amazing in bloom, and Cardiocrinums just going to seed; then we emerged into bright sunshine accentuated by a splash of hot magenta lychnis at the entrance to the orchard. Again: the joy of having the space to use a big splash of a common but striking plant. I loved all the raised beds as we left the woods and worked our way up toward the Mediterranean garden and its drinking fountain.

so many paths

And did I mention paths? Dark and light, shaded, subtle, revealing a secret garden or bursting out into waves of colour….

shady paths

into the sun

The colours…the raised beds…the fascinating perennials and the conifer punctuation….By the time we had circulated through the entire garden and had a refill of icy fruit drink and another cookie, I sat in a daze on the curved wall of that terrace with the deep green little pool and the splashing rill.  Allan reentered the house to listen to gardeners talking out on the deck.  And I looked up to see what provided me with cool shade, to see a small forest of Tetranpanax papirefer ‘Steroidal Giant’ overhead…a precursor to what I might eventually expect from my precious two year old plant.

the small green pond fed by a rill……………………the tetrapanax grove

And now…six days later….I can’t stop thinking about the paths wooded and sunny, the raised beds and conifers, the deep green small pool, the Lobelia tupa which I must buy somewhere, and what the gardens must be like in different seasons, and what in the world I can do to make our two city lots more magical and mysterious.


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