Archive for Jun, 2010


...the Judy Montoure and Dorian Sanchez garden, Olympia

We began our day’s tour with a city sized garden in Ruston and after several large acreages we’ve returned to a garden which could be achieved without enormous wealth.  Other garden tourists would have traversed our route in reverse order as these same gardens were open on Friday for people driving up that day from the south.

                                                                      a city-sized garden

tropical hideaway; owner Judy said the bananas were usually much taller by now, but it had been a tough winter.


gold standard



in the corner…

a gleaming modern water feature

and hot colour echoes.

orange shout out to orange

and so we depart

with a last look back…


and so we depart…

We had arrived at this garden with less than half an hour before the official tour’s end and still had a short drive to our rendezvous point with Allan, who was driving down from his father’s house in Seattle.

I now had several firm ideas to take home:  make a river of Geranium ‘Rozanne’, plant tall alliums in clusters, prune my contorted filbert up high, and create some kind of homage to the flint rock walls of northern England.  Also, dividing row of Dutch iris (even though I normally would never plant bulbs in a tidy row), bridges, ponds, guest houses….marry into money?  Oh dear.

We met Allan in the parking lot of the Fairie Gardens nursery in Tumwater.  He had found it online as a potential rendezvous spot.  While I still coughed and rattled from bronchitis or whatever had plagued me all weekend, he quickly loaded my plants from Sheila’s car to ours so she could take off to her Oregon home.  We bid our farewells, and then Allan and I entered the nursery.  After all, we still had room for a few more plants.

Fairie Gardens Nursery, Tumwater

What a find!  I found out later when looking through the Fairie Gardens website that the owner had a hand in the Stanford garden, the one with the 130 tons of boulders recreating the feel of the Edinburgh Botanic garden.

the nursery

From the street, it looks like you’ve found an avid gardener’s home, until you pass the very small sign at the entrance.

entering Fairie Gardens nursery

And it is a gardener’s home but a nursery as well.

“This way to the magical garden and nursery.”

We could see some weeding was in progress and we well know how hard it is to keep up.

street corner beauty

love in a mist

farther in

a little pond

a shady path

another pond view

a joyous quotation

Allan admiring the sunny border

And behind the house,  we found the plant sale tables, where we found all sorts of great, collectible plants…not your usual fare.  I even found a Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (although I would need many more to make my rivers of it).  It is fairly common in city gardens but not as easy to come by at the beach.  Since then, I’ve gotten all I need from The Basket Case Greenhouse.

ah, cool plants for sale

I liked the nursery, the gardens, and their owner a great deal and would shop here regularly if I lived anywhere nearby.

We stayed on to buy plants till the nursery’s 5 PM closing time. I asked Allan to program our Garmin to avoid freeways….I was desperate for a quiet way home via Pe Ell after a weekend of city freeways.  Our quiet poky route led us to one more fascinating….non-garden…on the way home.

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Hawkins garden, Olympia

Owner Joyce told us that this garden is only six years old; she took up gardening after retirement, and I think she told us it was after her son built the ponds and she decided she should landscape around them.

In talking to her, it turned out she is originally from Ilwaco and is the sister or sister-in-law of someone whose ornamental grass border I helped install. Imagine that!

guest book with Adrian’s entry

She showed me in her guest book where ADRIAN BLOOM (one of the weekend’s speakers) had come through the garden….There is his entry, “Adrian Bloom, Foggy Bottom” (the name of his famous garden) and he writes “Excellent!” I would be so thrilled. Nicholas Staddon also signed; he is British but now a plantsman for Monrovia nursery, also a speaker for the event. I wonder if they made it to all the gardens, and if Adrian got a kick out of one being called “Froggy Bottom.”

a formal bed

I was absolutely thrilled at this point in the tour to be finally done with jogs on and off the freeway. This and the next garden would be connected just by local roads, not “drive seven miles” (south) to the next exit. By the way, without the Garmin GPS, Sheila and I would have been lost many, many times.

The ponds were the main feature of this garden, although there were new beds around the edges waiting for more plants.

room to grow

the first pond

bridge and gazebo

pond garden


the bridge

another view

deep water


I believe she said her son built these ponds. The tour guide brochure says “All she had in mind at the beginning was a half-whiskey barrel….and now she has two huge ponds with waterfalls and 75 enormous multicoloured koi.”

the second pond

another view


Behind the ponds, the biofiltration system built by Joyce’s son.

woodsy beds

We leave the garden past woodsy island bends with only one more garden to see before our rendezvous with Allan.  I’m amazed we have managed to fit them all in.

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Phantom petunias

Now for another top favourite:  Cindy and David Fairbrook’s garden, Shellridge Road, Olympia. Love the name Shellridge Road. It’s near Steamboat Island Road; used to love to shop at Steamboat Island Nursery when it was open to the public. First thing we saw were these petunias, ‘Phantom’, which I deeply covet. [2012 note: These were hard to come by n 2010 but common now.]  Due to a family emergency, these had not been planted in their destined pot.

entering the garden from the car park area.

path leading round the back of the house

beside the house

entry path

at the greenhouse

looking from greenhouse to porch

We walk back to get a closer look at the porch.

coming around the side of the house

the terrace

back garden with llamas

And above:  The moment when I saw the view from patio to a pasture with llamas and this became my favourite garden of the whole weekend.

Or maybe this view is when it became my favourite.

(from brochure): “These gardeners have been inspired by a trio of greats: Rosemary Verey (the potager), Christopher Lloyd (the plant combinations and containers) and Giverny (the iconic little green bridge and pond with water lilies.”

bridge with wall

I was utterly smitten with the capped flint wall that reminded me of the north of England.  If the garden had not already attained favourite status, the wall would have pushed it to the top.

birdbath backed with stone wall

that wall!

wall and little bridge in background

The birdbath area is to the left of the big terrace.

I loved how they pruned their contorted filbert.

"Harry Lauder's Walking Stick"

I felt inspired to go home and prune both of my big contorted filberts just like that….(but never did as I moved to a new garden four months later and could not take them with me).

a look back at the greenhouse

an overview

paths of brick and gravel

round and vertical

a swirling knot

echoed wall

Just look at the witty echoing of the line of the stone wall with a straight row of Dutch iris separating the intricate garden beds from the lawn.

Iris "wall" with llama pasture in background

rustic bench by the lawn

woodsy path

Past the lawn, this path went on and on from the edge of the highly cultivated garden; owner David said it goes through the woods and ends up below the llama field. Of course, we would have loved to have time to explore the entire path.  The property is ten luscious acres; the cultivated garden, maybe an acre?

We had two more gardens to see after this one so we abandoned the woods and headed back toward the gardens above the llama field.

a garden rich in details

path back to main terrace, lawn on right

raised beds

above the pasture

below the terrace

The garden fell in narrow terraces and paths down to the edge of the llama field.

the llama pasture

pasture and barn

terraced garden

terraced garden

terraced garden


We could not get enough the this garden and kept going round and round and round….David Fairbrook was a kind and informative host.  I was sorry Cindy had been called away and did not get to see in person the great joy her garden brought to its visitors.

on the patio

at the edge of the brick patio

so many paths to choose from

and another glimpse of llamas

curved edge of patio

a last look at the terrace from the other side

side garden

Walking through the side garden (the other side of the house from the greenhouse) we felt we had not given full attention to the entry gardens so we spent some more time on the porch side of the house.

the porch side again

delightful golden windowbox

a medley of golden foliage

and a missed path...

We knew had to leave as had two more gardens to see before 4 PM, and then Sheila had to drive all the way to a town near Albany, Oregon, but as we were getting in the car we saw this path we had not yet explored. Argh!!

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sweet poodle

Next we went into an exclusive Olympia neighbourhood along some “residents only” streets to the garden of Sharon and Ed Stanford. This friendly poodle greeted us.  To our left we could see a gravel and raised bed garden.  We turned right toward a gazebo.

Gazebo to right side of driveway

walking onto the lawn, looking back to the gazebo garden

the gazebo garden

outer lawn borders. I bet these beds were full before the harsh winter of '09-10.

Looking toward house from lower front lawn.

lower garden detail, Puget Sound view

getting closer to the house garden

from the tour guide brochure: “After you’ve been inspired by a visit to the Edinburgh Botanic Garden, what could you possibly do but create a 150-foot-long granite outcroppiong around your house with 130 tons of boulders?”  Why yes, of course, I would get onto that straight away!

the granite outcropping

at the base of the outcropping

granite outcropping detail

the granite outcropping

Wave Hill chairs at the base of the outcropping

Looking back, you can how small the gazebo is in the grand scale of this garden.

Sheila takes the high road

From the tour guide brochure: “How could you possibly respond to Adrian Bloom’s Foggy Bottom garden but go home and assemble a collection of rare conifers, perfectly complemented by perennials, ornamental grasses, trees and shrubs…?”  Indeed.

halfway to the back garden

toward the back, a sit spot

the back left corner of the house

toward the back, with Puget Sound view

Up we go onto the deck where brownies and lemonade are on offer.

Looking down into the granite garden, we see another path to explore. The garden from the house goes: border, path, granite outcropping garden, lawn, border, street.

the view toward the gazebo

looking toward the driveway where we entered

gazebo from the corner of deck

view of gravel garden by driveway

view from deck of driveway and gravel garden

Once off the deck, we walk the path we saw straight down....with the house garden on one side, the bed of granite rocks on the other. We enjoy this cute sign, humans one way and dogs another.

(We would love to have spend more time on that hidden path but we know we have an hour or more of driving left between the rest of the day’s tour gardens.)  Back at the end of the entrance driveway, we again head toward the back of the house; maybe this time we will make it all the way without being distracted.

end of driveway

On our right is a dry creekbed.

Sheila gives a sense of scale to the grand size of the creekbed.

Beware of affectionate dog!

At last we've reached the back garden.

beautiful back garden

                                       Off the back path, this was the only sign of a work area!

We would need hours to fully admire each plant combination.

Round and round the house we go...

We walk the hidden granite garden path again in front of the house because there is so much more to see.

Finally we have a look round the gravel garden to the right of the driveway from where we entered and saw the friendly poodle.

As with all other parts of this garden, it is perfectly lovely.

a final look

I wonder how much seeing the huge gardens of Monday influenced me to buy a new house later in 2010.  I don’t want a grand house but I would love to have a garden with so much room.  I certainly am unlikely to ever have this big of a lot, or the time or resources to develop it, but in the fall of 2010 I did increase my garden size from a 50 by 200 lot to an 80 by maybe 250 lot.  In another life, maybe I’ll have my own granite outcropping.

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the front garden

The tour brochure described Marc McCalmon and Sara Brallier’s Froggy Bottom garden in DuPont thus:  Froggy Bottom garden, DuPont, “a 600 foot long stroll path and tumbling stream lead downhill to a stone and gravel patio at the foot of the garden, furnished with…owner-made benches inspired by a visit to Beth Chatto’s garden”.  Our speaker from the UK was the famous Adrian Bloom of Blooms of Bressingham, whose garden is “Foggy Bottom”, so this was perfect to have on the tour.

entry sign

in the gate

just inside

the garden's upper level

Walk with me down Froggy Bottom's stroll path.

Here we turn to look back up the path.

Now we look down to the lower patio.

Sheila takes a detour, crossing the waterfall stream.

We pass a bank of artfully placed rocks.

Strolling on down...

A shady border is to our left.

We approach the lower patio.

And again we look back.

The stream from above ends in a pool by the lower patio.

We pause in admiration.

Just look at those inlaid stones.

Standing on those inlaid stones, we look up at the waterfall.

The water theme carries past the lower patio with this dry creek bed....

...that ends in the very bottom of the garden.

At the bottom, a borrowed view, and borrowed space to hang a birdhouse.

We'd like to sit around the fire but have many gardens still to see.

From the fire circle, we look back at a little shed...

...and at another view of the waterfall pool.

Again we admire the paving.

We gaze up the hill from the fire circle.

One last look at the lower pool.

Back we go up the stroll path, past the shady corner.

At the top again, we explore the gardens and pond.

braving the stepping stones

the upper pond...

bog plants

and another view

It's hard to leave this garden.

I was a little embarrassed by these, er, pot "feet" until I realized the pun: "Froggy Bottom".


And so we depart, onward to more gardens.  The only way to get to spend enough time in a garden like this is to create it yourself, attach yourself to the creator, or become their jobbing gardener.

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along the sidewalk of the Huson garden

Monday morning we were on the road by 9.15 heading for the South Sound tour, this time avoiding the scary freeway tunnels and going on a less harrowing route. First stop:  a garden of sheer perfection in Ruston.

The tour guide brochure says: “The map says it’s in Ruston, hard by Tacoma, but imagination says you are half a world away, in the prettiest garden in the prettiest village somewhere in the English countryside.” Yes!

Allan told me later that when he bought a home in Tacoma in 1986, he first looked at Ruston for its views of Commencement Bay, then found out about arsenic contamination in the soil and decided not to buy there. Ruston’s industrial history makes it  all the more impressive that such an oasis of beauty has been created here.

I wish that Allan  had joined us for the entire tour day and seen this garden in particular.  (He was in Seattle helping sort out his dad’s house.)


The roses and boxwood on the outskirts of the garden caused a flurry of photography by the Hardy Plant Study Weekenders.

from the sidewalk

Lavender edged the path from the lawn to the main house’s front door.  The brochure says that this garden is only ten years old…or less (because the house had been built ten years before).

lavender walk

The driveway planted with tiny buns and mounds still haunts me and makes me wish to take a jackhammer to my short asphalt driveway and do this instead.


At the end of the driveway turned walkway, roses against a green wall defined a guest house courtyard.

doorway to courtyard

guest house courtyard

The guest house porch and door was just this side of the outdoor fireplace.  We entered.   Straight ahead was the bathroom with claw foot tub and porthole window.  To our right, the bedroom.  To our left, the living room and kitchenette.

just inside the guest house door

the bedroom and its loft

How I loved the flowered wall paper and curtains.

the living room and kitchen

guest house

front of guest house

We went back outside to compare the exterior of the guest house with the interior.  We now knew that the window above belonged to the guest house living room.  As we emerged from the courtyard we again admired the planted driveway.

another view

We were so fascinated with the guest house that we walked out to the alley to see it from the other side.

side of guest house

Above: the side with the kitchenette window and the porthole over the bathtub.

from the alley

The alley afforded us another green and lovely entrance back to the garden.

On the other side of the driveway we found another little courtyard in front of the big house.  (Remember, this house is only ten years old.)

house courtyard

the main house

house courtyard

happy study weekenders! (viewed from within the lavender walk)


roses, alliums, lavender

roses and alliums

roses red

turning the corner…

…to the other side of the house

and looking up.

driftwood in the driveway as one exits the garden

Having made our way all round the little house and the big house we had to move on, but this garden has stuck with me more than most.  It’s not something I would replicate for myself if for no other reason that boxwood gets fried by the salty winds in my new garden (although it did well in my old, sheltered garden, and there are alternatives).  But I would love to try this around someone else’s cottage.  It was indeed like entering a dream.  The whole time we were there, a chorus seemed to be singing about The Village Green Preservation Society.

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Robin Mers garden and Stephens-Norden garden

If I learned nothing else from this particular study weekend, I remembered these two things:  Geranium ‘Rozanne’ can make a blue river through a garden, and tall Alliums looks best in thickly planted groups as seen here in Robin Mers’ garden.




the back garden

looking down from the deck

the view of Puget Sound

shady plantings by the house



At some point here I segued into the next door garden of Mary Jean Stephens and John Norden, but I am not quite sure when it happened or to which garden this colourful container belonged.


fire circle


I have a feeling that we are still in the Mers garden, but since the two are right next door to each other they may have melded styles and ideas.  (And how delightful would it be to have a neighbour who shares one’s garden passion.)

I think I need some urns if I ever open my garden again....

Ah, now we have definitely moved into the next door garden; I can tell by the home’s elegant purple door.

Stephens-Norden front door

To the very left you can see garden tourists just at the top of the stairs.  Sadly, the steep stone steps down to the back patio had no railing and were QUITE steep. I had bad vertigo from an ear infection and suffer from gardener’s knee and just could not do it. Felt like quite an old lady while others climbed up and down.  Sheila went down and later told me the best part was the top level.  I had time to enjoy it.

upper level

The last stop was the Arboretum at South Seattle Community College but my friend and I were so tired, and so stressed by city traffic, that we skipped it and went back to the hotel to collapse and conserve strength for tomorrow’s touring all the way from Ruston (Tacoma) to Tumwater.  After we had toured the many far apart gardens, Allan would meet me in Tumwater and Sheila would drive all the way home to the Albany, Oregon area.  We fretted:  Could we possibly manage to get to all of the gardens?  From the tour guide’s descriptions, each sounded not to be missed.

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