Archive for Jul, 2008

The Astoria Garden Tour is put on by  a society whose focus is preservation historic homes rather than hortheads.  So forgive me if I say that in 2008 I ended up saving only these few photos from the tour…2008 was not the tour’s most impressive year.

two gardens

(left) the garden with dog and interesting container display is a gardening business down a hard to find road.  For years I kept their beautiful business card…..something Moon??  They had a fascinating collection of container plants and I remember a good water feature down by the street….

I liked the middle garden’s waterfall cascading through a couple of ponds down a shady ferny slope.  I remember talking with the homeowner, a woman older than me, about chronic dizziness (brought up by my choosing to go around the edge path rather than back down the steep steps).  She had suffered from it for years.  Happily mine passed by 2011, mostly.  The righthand photo is from the same garden on the very top of the slope.  When I saw the greenhouse I remembered I had been in the garden before the waterfall had been built.  It must have been on a previous tour and a far different garden without the lovely water feature.

The best garden for me was one I had lucked into seeing several years earlier, back when the Daily Astorian had an excellent weekly column called “In the Garden” (and why they dropped it is beyond me; I loved it and read it first thing every week in the Coast Weekend section).  The author’s name was…can I remember? Cathy Peterson maybe? and I had corresponded with her a bit in e-mail.  Oh!  She interviewed Robert and me for the paper once!  And my webmistress saved it on our website…Yes, Cathy Peterson….What a great weekly column she wrote.  When she retired from the column, the Astoria brought in a new writer who wrote at least two very good columns (one was about installing an old garden shed into her new Ilwaco garden lot)…and then the column was dropped.  I remain flummoxed and think of it every time we drive by the Ilwaco house with the old shed.

Cathy and an Astorian gardener named Jessica (whose business had a charming name like Wyndlesham gardens or something like that and whose clever slogan was “hand tool gardening”) spirited us away from the tour that year to see a non-tour garden up and over the hill in an area of more modern homes.  I have now slowly worked to my point:  In 2008 that garden was again on the tour and had it not been such a bright, hard to photograph day, I would have more photos of it.

by the sidewalk

Golden foliage brightens the gardens in front of the house and the Alliums are the sure sign of someone who appreciates good plants.

by the deck

The back yard has sunny beds around the inviting deck.

on the deck

The deck has a prow shape, good for standing as on a ship and overlooking the garden.

The garden falls away in the back to shady woods which are not particularly planted up but do have the occasional decorative touch.

in the woods

On the left is a good idea for camouflaging a black plastic pot and on the left, a statue makes a focal point in an old outdoor fireplace.

After visiting so many gardens in June and July I felt a little bereft at the end of the Astoria tour.  I had one more open day to look forward it in our own garden and in less than a month we would luck into a surprisingly excellent tour of gardens not far from Astoria.

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The day had arrived for our stint on the Music in the Gardens tour…and absolute perfection had been attained in our garden, or so I hoped.

upstairs window view

Paul’s Himalayan Musk rose (upper left, above) had blessed the garden with its one week of peak bloom.

The beds and pots around the pond were weeded, even the difficult hill in back.

by the pond

Of course as I walked down to the lower gate putting out the final touches (pillows on the middle patio and some last minute printed signage) I found a few more strands of bindweed to pull.

The Akebia vine and roses had started growing back around the Tangly Cottage sign after the massive pruning of 2007.

My Beverly Nichols book cover had been copied, laminated, and hung near the entryway

“Garden Open Today”

The entry with tour guides and signs and a white balloon to mark this as a tour garden.

interpretive signs

On some plants I placed photos of what they would do later on; in this case, the berries of Hypericum ‘Glacier’.  Along a shady walk, I wrote garden quotations on cards and hung them from the tree-like hardy fuchias.
The sunny day was not wonderful for photo taking but made the tour-goers happy.  My lower garden looked like it always enjoyed this sort of weather.

sunny lower garden

 The stepping stone stream walk through the lower garden arbour had never looked more inviting.

walk through the stream

Barely had I pulled a few more strands of bindweed (which must have sprouted overnight) than the hordes of people came.  I found it overwhelming and exciting and did not once think to take photos of women in their garden hats wandering through….except for my mother who sat for awhile on the pond patio.  She said that she could now understand why Allan and I did not want to leave this garden and move to her place even though that was a possibility that we still often discussed.

my mom by the pond, overhung with Fuchsias

This would have been her view across the pond bridge toward Rose ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’.

view from pond island

(We called that sit spot an island, but the back border was a seasonal damp ditch rather than water.)

squeeze effect

Just before you got to the pond island bridge, after walking past the spruce tree from Lower Garden, you’d get this enticing view of our cottage.  Ann Lovejoy would call passing through this willow arbour “a squeeze effect”.

approaching the cottage

We’d planted up containers on the stone steps going up to the house with cool annuals we’d acquired on recent plant shopping trips….an expense we had never gone to just for ourselves.

Below, I’m looking back from the base of those steps toward the willow arch. “Before” pictures of the garden placed there caused quite a sensation regarding how blank (just lawn and a spruce tree!) it was in 1994.

looking back, with before and after pictures posted at the right

These were the before pictures that astonished people, taken in 1994 from around the same spot.


Now the old trailer was still there but painted hunter green and covered with roses.  The silver shed and the old trailer formed an L shaped roofed nook and in it was a water feature with a working flower pot water wheel made by Allan.  The water gave the illusion of having come from the pond because it was at about the same level.  Behind the roofed and shady patio I’d put big pillows on the trailer porch and some people sat and hung out there for awhile.

Allan’s water wheel

Allan’s garden

We guided people through the half-greenhouse/half pergola on the downhill side of the house and around through Allan’s garden shade garden. One of my happiest moments of the tour is when two women stopped in the greenhouse and read aloud to her mother a gardening poem I had posted there.*   Allan had achieved perfection in his backyard garden that used to be nothing but a weedy, muddy dog yard.

As she left the garden from the upper patio a friend took this photo looking back to the house.  This has remained one of my favourite images of the old Tangly Cottage.

from the upper gate

During a midafternoon lull in touring I found myself missing the praise and compliments and said “I want more people!  More people! ”  (And some more came through at the end, folks who had begun the tour at the north end of the Peninsula.)  Therefore I was not at all averse when a member of a garden club from Vancouver asked if she could bring her group back through the garden on August 12nd.  That would be an inspiration to keep it perfect.

Meanwhile, we would check out more tour gardens in Astoria and Gearhart, Oregon and try to catch up on our rather neglected work.

*The poem which was read aloud in the greenhouse:
Portrait of a Neighbour by Edna St. Vincent Millay


BEFORE she has her floor swept
Or her dishes done,
Any day you’ll find her
A-sunning in the sun!

It’s long after midnight
Her key’s in the lock,
And you never see her chimney smoke
Till past ten o’clock!

She digs in her garden
With a shovel and a spoon,
She weeds her lazy lettuce
By the light of the moon.

She walks up the walk
Like a woman in a dream,

She forgets she borrowed butter

And pays you back cream!

Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne’s lace!

The local paper had these wonderful words to say about our garden on tour day:

“We headed for Ilwaco and entered into an uber-planetary oasis called Tangly Cottage, Skyler Walker and Allan Fritz’s gnomish Eden.* Teacups adorned curly willow.** Quotes were clothes-pinned along the pathways. A small water wheel of tiny clay pots graced the patio of an abandoned single-wide***, the first structure on the property. 

Everywhere we looked, there was a fascinating plant we had never seen before and Skyler would appear, as if from nowhere, to give us the name of it.

Strategically placed here and there were gardening reference books, in case anyone wanted to look at pictures instead of the real thing. No way!

‘The main purpose of a garden is to give its owner the best and highest kind of earthly pleasure,’ wrote Gertrude Jekyll, influential British garden designer, writer, and artist.****

We couldn’t have agreed more.”

Cate Gable, Chinook Observer newspaper, July 2, 2008

*We don’t have any garden gnomes, though.

** contorted filbert (Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick’), not curly willow

***actually a small travel trailer

****one of the quotations I put up in the garden.

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