Archive for Jun, 2010

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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Because of the tininess of the back garden, only a few people were allowed into Ron Wright’s domain at a time.  This garden provided the most intense…and often failed…challenge to get photos without other tourists being part of the subject.  Everyone shared exclamations of delight about the garden as we edged around each other on the small paths.  Here, Sheila traverses the path on the side of the house.

Between my being afraid in cars in city traffic, and my friend being claustrophic in crowds, we each had our issues to face. This garden was fabulous, my favourite of the day and one of my five favourite of the tour days.

We heard later that the edges of Mr. Wright’s beds were somewhat blackened by well intentioned feet.  It was amost impossible not to step on the very edges of the one person, one way paths.  So we express special appreciation that he opened the garden to us.

Open your garden and see all the people.



blue fish

against the wall

This was mind boggling; the back of the garden goes almost vertically up to the next yard well over my height, and he has (over 26 years) built a pretty much vertical garden.


balanced pot

ever higher

up the steep hillside

We wondered how he achieved such perfection when it must have been a challenge, possibly even a danger, to maintain.  Over 26 years he must have experimented to find the right techniques.

Tetrapanax papyrifer

so tropical

room for a sit spot

A mossy wall surrounded the little patio.

patio wall







magnificent hosta

We exited the way we came in.

still more details to admire

blue and gold

As I photographed this last vignette of blue pavers and gold foliage in the front garden, there were at least ten people lined up to get in who probably dearly wished I would get a move on.

I left inspired with a solution…if it took years….of piling a garden up against the steep clay slopes of my shady back garden.


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beautiful mermaid birdbath

Sunday morning we attended three scintillating lectures by Rosalind Creasey, Nicholas Staddon, and Adrian Bloom.  Mr Bloom’s photo of his river of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ inspired me to copy that idea in every possible garden of ‘mine’.  His presence (along with Withey & Price) had been instrumental in my decision to go to the study weekend. I admit I am fond of a UK accent.  Then we headed out to the West Seattle leg of the garden tours. We skipped the first garden.  I now regret that.  The description made it sound like mostly structure and hardscape, and we were exhausted, but rereading the description, I think there was a lot more to it!!

Our first stop was West Seattle Nursery where I used to love to shop when visiting a friend who lived nearby.  It had my favourite ever birdbath, one I have been seeking for years after seeing it in a garden…but it was $240…Speaking of UK accents, I did not know that the time that the (American) ex-wife of my British ex-husband worked at West Seattle Nursery.  That would have been interesting to know.

Duglosh and McKee garden

Then on to the first West Seattle garden, the garden of Robert Duglosh and Don McKee. It was drizzling, and these small gardens were  crowded with many touring “study weekend”ers.

entering the garden

Duglosh and McKee garden

Shattuck garden

The gardens were mostly within walking distance of each other.  Nearby, the front yard of Terrie Shattuck’s garden flowed with drifts of grasses and lavender.

I loved this stump with the rock fitted into its base, right by the sidewalk.

Physocarpus, probably 'Coppertina'

 I had been coveting a Physocarpus ‘Coppertina’ for at least a year and am pleased to report I acquired one the day after this.

the back garden


Past the back garden, what a treat it was to find a tortoise house complete with tortoise.

sidewalk gardens

The next garden was within walking distance. and the parking strip next door to the Shattucks had a garden of its own.

West Seattle parking strip

…and a neighbour’s front entry; loved this! I miss living in the city where gardening spills over down a whole block.

inviting non-tour garden

Another parking strip garden along the way:

and another:

with an enviably healthy Lobelia tupa.

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In years past I had visited the Northwest Perennial Alliance border at the Bellevue Botanical Garden on almost every spring through autumn trip to Seattle.  I have only scans of those pre-digital camera photos.  I had memories of huge rich plantings and looked forward to sharing the garden with Sheila, who had never seen it.  Here are my photos from sometime in the late 90s.  (I remember wishing the garden would be created somewhere in Seattle rather than Bellevue so I could have easily accessed it by bus in order to be one of the volunteers.)

NPA border late 90s

perhaps around 1998, the center path, early spring

May 2003

the center path down the garden; to the sides of the path, roses on arches

I knew the garden was being renovated by Withey and Price, partly to eliminate thuggish plants (see lower right, above, where it looks to me like someone regrettably plantedthe pretty but pernicious Euphorbia ‘Fen’s Ruby’).  Once I visited in midsummer when the center path was tightly enclosed with verdant growth.  I had liked it that way but it was not very accessible.  I supposed that in the remodel maybe the paths would have been widened and some areas thoroughly weeded out and new plants added.  Some serious pruning might have been needed.  I had not seen the garden since perhaps 2006, in midsummer, when Allan and I found it wonderful and still walkable.

“It’s so amazing!” I had kept burbling on to Sheila; “I’m so glad you finally get to see it!”  We hurried through the tour day, even that last excellent garden, because, as I kept telling Sheila, we would need LOTS of time for the BBG border.

Then….we arrived.  And found….this.

Even though we had heard a lecture by the funny and charming Withey and Price the night before, which perhaps mentioned their border remodel, I had no idea it was being redone so completely. (They must not have shown slides on this particular subject.)  The plants here used to be taller than me, including lots of cool shrubs and climbing roses.

the new center path

It absolutely made my heart drop in dismay when I saw how completely the border had been redone. The previous lush, towering over my head, mad and full garden was GONE. So much for Sheila and I needing an hour to explore it…I knew it will get big again but…I didn’t see why it all had to go. They say because of thuggish weeds in bad soil, but I had always heard the soil was wonderfully well mulched with washed dairy manure every year.

Probably any garden tourist from out of town who had seen the garden before and returned to see the makeover would share my feelings of *&%@!!

Here’s an article about the makeover.  ‘The designers’ own sensibilities and plant palette have changed over the years, and this is reflected in the new planting plan. “We’re opening up sightlines and planting for more of a tapestry effect,” explains Price. Rather than emphasizing the rare and unusual, they’re creating year-round structure and interest with evergreens like nandina, mahonia and boxwood. This go-round, rather than hitting a single summer crescendo, the border offers many lovely notes through the seasons.’ (full article at link)

So perhaps it never will be the crazily full blowsy garden with paths hidden from view.  The paths are safer now and the new stairs are a welcome alternative to the springtime slippery route one used to take down the slope.  Now, two years later, I suppose it looks verdant again.

A video on the Northwest Perennial Alliance website shows the process from the bare, cleaned out garden to the building of steps to the blooms in (probably) 2011.

I heard some stories from gardening friends in Seattle about the uproar behind the scenes, and found this fascinating article about how controversial the project was, how some volunteers left, perhaps forever, how the border committee was dissolved.  I would post the whole article here if that were ethical.   It’s excellent and gets across how the designers feel about the outcry:

“Great gardeners are not always necessarily great designers,” explains George Lasch, who was hired in March 2008 to supervise the renovation.

“It became a classic gardening-by-committee problem, and the editing choices made a decade ago led to problems that we need to address today.” He’s clearly stung by some Border lovers’ enraged belief that he’s laying waste to beauty. “We are saving things,” he insists. “We would love to save more, but can’t because of the editing and maintenance choices of the past.”

And here in the words of Withey and Price are their plans for the garden.  Two funnier and more opinionated gardeners would be hard to find.  “Now the garden has been given a second chance.  I will be the first to admit that the renovation has been controversial, as some people believe nothing should change.  Life however is full of changes and surprises, and no matter how hard we try and hold on, things cannot and will not ever remain the same.”

I know this is not the first time they’ve ripped out a garden and started over and made it better;  I was fortunate to hear, in the early 90s, some lectures of theirs about remodels of their own personal garden, including having to completely remove it because of some sort of exterior household repair.  So excuse my state of shock and dismay about the appearance of the garden in June 2010 and if you can, go visit it now to see how it’s coming along.

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Epping Garden, Newcastle

The Newcastle neighbourhood  was indeed full of new “castles” and  not really to the taste of these two cantankerous tourers (me and Sheila).  Sheila drove as Maggie had other daytime obligations for the rest of the weekend.  The GPS unit was flummoxed by the layout of the roads.  Finally we found the next garden.

terrace with a view

I am all for houses either old and full of character or tiny and felt uncomfortable in this neighbourhood.  But we both enjoyed this part of the border:

in the Epping garden

We had quite a time getting off of the Newcastle Hill and back to the main roads that led us to the next garden…

Ferrel garden, Bellevue

Ferrel front yard

When we got to this house we were disgruntled by wealthy modern east side neighbourhoods and we almost drove away because it looked unenticing.  After a brief disgruntled milling about the car, we said what the heck, we were there so we might as well have a look in the back garden.  (Study weekends are wonderful, exhilerating, and also tiring for two semi-recluses who, at least in my case, find it hard to sleep at hotels and, definitely in my case, extremely hard to rise at 7 AM for the daily activities.)



But things started looking up as we went around the corner of the house and by the time we got to the side gate, we knew we were in for something good.

fabulous side gate backed with blue

Alliums and birdbath

and from the other side...

a shimmering wall of water

All kinds of treasures appeared on lots of winding paths opening up onto entertaining areas. This is not a huge garden.


By now Sheila and I were both very happy and filled with the glee of exploring the sort of garden we love.




The garden abounds in places to sit.  Notice how the inside of the fence has been painted in vibrant colours:  Chartreuse behind the purple bench, and my favourite deep blue on the other side of the garden.

As we circled around the outside of the garden, we repeatedly glimpsed the grand gauzy white centerpiece.  We went all the round the outer areas first because the admirers thronged the center.

little pond near purple bench

exuberant growth

orange and blue

When you see something spectacular in a small garden, like orange glass against a blue wall, it takes a lot of gentle and polite jockeying for position and waiting around to get a photothat does not include several other admiring garden tourists.  

glass and moss

containers of blue


The middle of the garden cleared out so Sheila and I were better able to admire its centerpiece of gauze and metal.

a good look for a garden open day

We’d spent much time in Sharalynn’s garden and needed to get on to the afternoon reception at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, but there was still more to see.

from the center to the house; are those bowling balls atop the columns?

by the house

the sumptuous porch

We left reluctantly.  As with a garden I had seen in Gearhart, Oregon, almost two years before, I wanted to make a best friend out of the creator of this garden.

We had to get to that afternoon tea party and I felt all fizzy with excitement that finally my gardening sister Sheila would get to see the dramatically beautiful Northwest Perennial Alliance border at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

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Wheeler Garden, Bellevue


Despite people calling our region “The Pacific NorthWET”, there are usually some dry months in summer where one could leave the pillows out (although not often in my foggy riverside town).

another sit spot



arbour seat

garden shed and seating

I love the colours….especially the purple, of course…  Note the alternating flowers and candles on the table.

This lovely garden gave me several ideas, notably to remember that more is more when decorating one’s potting bench.

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The plant vendor room at the Hardy Plant Study Weekend opened Friday night before lectures by Withey and Price and by Eck and Winterrowd.   The plant sale was in a huge garage, with lots of horthead vendors and plenty of room to move, unlike the claustrophobic hotel meeting room at the Portland weekend (2007). Can’t remember what it was like at the Eugene weekend! (2008).

On Saturday our tour continued on the east side (Bellevue, etc.)

Whittlesey Garden, Yarrow Point

overview of veg garden from deck

Barbara Reisinger garden, Redmond

garden entrance

front and side garden

the formal water feature

the naturalistic water feature

I think if we get out of gardening and put our minds to making a pond liner with a pebbly grey texture, we might make a fortune!  A steep drop off into one’s pond discourages critters but is hard to hide, and this beautiful natural pond …and I would love to recreate it in my new garden…could benefit from my proposed invention.

exploring around the waterfall*


Above top:  Perfect planting around the pond.  Above, bottom:  Thanks for the cookies!  Right: “Why are all these people in my garden?” Oh, and I love that her husband, who was hosting, wore a nametag that said “Mr. Barbara”; his idea. (I met her at the Saturday night festivities, and she told me that he had surprised her with that cute nametag).

*I THINK we are still in Barbara’s garden in the set of photos of the waterfall. Here I learned the lesson: I need to take a photo of the car or something to punctuate between gardens.  If this is indeed the Wheeler garden waterfall (next), OOPS!

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