01 Aug Seattle Garden Blogger’s Fling – Day 2
Day 2 dawned bright and early as I headed over to Jessi Bloom’s house for our carpool. Jessi’s little farm in the city is near my South Snohomish County house, and certainly has far more interesting life forms. I got to meet her chickens and her new little duck. Andrea and Jayme hopped in the back seat and we cruised down to the Silver Cloud Inn.
The first stop for the gaggle of bloggers was the garden of Christopher and Michelle Epping, perched high atop a hill in Newcastle on the Eastside. As we crossed Lake Washington on the I 520 bridge Mount Rainier was visible through a slight haze, so all the locals pointed out our pride-and-joy geological landmark to our out-of-town guests (factoid: it’s the tallest mountain in the lower 50). Once we were on the Eastside, we drove up, up and up to Newcastle, finally arriving on a residential street with sweeping views of the Seattle skyline and the Olympic Mountains beyond, where Christopher met us with one of his two Maltese in tow.
I first met Christopher and Michelle in the summer of 2006, when they entered the Pacific Northwest Gardens Competition, which I chaired for ten years on behalf of the Arboretum Foundation, the Seattle Times and the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Their garden won third prize in the competition that year (out of over 120 gardens) and they were featured in Pacific Northwest magazine. That’s quite a feat for a garden that only began in 2001, as a blank slate, with only the lawn and patio in place. It’s easy to see that they have been become true hortiholics, and often share their garden for clubs and organizations. They have a mutually agreed upon division of labor – Christopher says he likes to buy the plants, and then Michelle finds a way to put them together. She obviously has an artist’s eye for doing so.
Christopher and Michelle have completed many more projects since I last saw their garden. There’s a very steep hill at the rear of their property, and back in 2006 the landscaping was on hold, since they did not know what was going to happen when the house was built on the lot behind them. Now that construction is complete, they have planted in pockets so that the plants spill down the face of the slope. They used a special soil in the planting pockets for erosion control that sticks better to slopes, available from Hendrikus Organics.
Also new were an iron railing on the edge of a steep stone staircase, created by Elijah Burnett of Burnett Forge. Elijah won the “Best in Show” for his hand-forged garden gate in the My Garden Gate Exhibition at the 2011 Northwest Flower & Garden Show, which is where Christopher and Michelle met him. The railing has wonderful detailing, with flowers and curlicues, and at the base it has “roots,” as if it is growing right out of the ground.
Another new addition is a beautiful bench below the stone water feature from Hidden Springs Design, also an exhibitor at the garden show. And they have added a sweet new potting shed at the side of their garden, surrounded by lavish containers and whimsical art glass baubles, and a new massive open trellis, in a sunburst pattern, to help shade their patio. Here and there they have added decorative garden lights by Stone Manor Lighting, which they also found at the garden show. (I think it’s safe to say that Christopher and Michelle were really doing their best to help the economy at last February’s garden show.)
We tore ourselves away from the fantastic view and headed on down to sea level, across Bellevue and over to Medina. Our Fling organizers promised us that “Denise Lane’s garden will wow you and feed you, spirit and soul”, and they were so right. Her one-acre garden, nurtured over many years, has been a real labor of love and a deeply needed source for Denise’s spirit and healing. Where to start to describe this memorable garden?
There’s a bit of everything in Denise’s garden, but it doesn’t succumb to “oneitis” as many collectors’ garden do. Instead, it all melds together, and Denise has carefully situated the many elements where they would be most at home. There are sunny perennial beds, a large bog area nestled into woodlands, and a 10-ton rock from Marenakos Rock Center, now surrounded by lush plantings with a more intimate seating area behind it. I first saw this rock a few years ago shortly after Marenakos delivered it. Denise was looking for a rock “with presence” so it wouldn’t disappear in the garden. It looked humongous sitting on top bare soil. Now it has settled into its new home beautifully, and you can almost miss it nestled amongst the sweeps of plants that surround it. Perfect.
One of my favorite spots is a water feature, dubbed “The Ruin,” that is a circular raised cement pond, with seven tall colored-cement columns and a large drippy cement gunnera leaf, hand crafted by local artists Little and Lewis, of Bainbridge Island. Ferns, hosta, yew and ornamental grasses surround it. It was carefully sited to be viewed from inside the house.
We enjoyed another excellent box lunch on Denise’s plaza, a former pickle-ball court, now transformed into a contemporary work of art, with deep terracotta-painted cement accented with bold lines of black Japanese rock. A long, rectangular fire table is there to warm guests on cooler evenings, but we definitely didn’t need that on our rare Seattle summer day. Next to the new plaza is a full kitchen and a garden shed. Heaven!
After lunch our next stop was at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, a 53-acre garden with woodlands, wetlands, meadows, an alpine rock garden, a water-wise garden, and a woodland-style Japanese garden. The show-stopper was the recently renovated NPA Perennial Border, which cuts a wide, vibrant swath across from the visitor’s center and the lawn.
The Border was designed by the acclaimed local designers Charles Price and Glenn Withey, who are also the curators of the Dunn Gardens, where we visited the first day of the Fling. Once one massive, impenetrable herbaceous border, about 18 years old, it has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past three years. It is now a mixed border bisected with strolling paths and two grand staircases, all the better to get up close and personal to the plants in the collection. The perennials and shrubs have become established enough that I could clearly see the designers’ intent: a plant palette that jumps from bed to bed, as a slowly changing kaleidoscope of color changes from bold yellows and reds at the south end to cool silvery blues at the north end.
I know that Glenn and Charles have been bedeviled by the marauding bunnies and deer devouring many choice plants. They have come up with some very attractive fencing to help protect the most vulnerable plants and young trees. The new Border is also a lesson in what the deer and bunnies don’t eat. (It’s just too bad the deer can’t read 50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants, by Ruth Rogers Clausen, a new Timber Press book that was in our Timber Press Swag Bags. (My copy is going to my mother in California, who is constantly fighting the deer battle in her Bay Area garden.)
Our final journey of the day took us into downtown Seattle and to the waterfront, to enjoy the Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park. What was once a nine-acre industrial park is now a sweeping and open green space for outdoor art. The Z-shaped path has transformed the waterfront and is a tourist magnet. It was a lovely way for our out-of-state guests to get a feel for the richness of Seattle’s waterfront and the incredible views (the Mountain was out!), while still enjoying the green of the surrounding plantings. (I will confess, I like this park better seeing it in aerial views, where you can get a real perspective of how it all fits together.) Since it was about 85°F, the breezes coming off Elliott Bay were cooling and welcome.
After returning to the Silver Cloud Inn, we stopped by Suzi McCoy’s reception and enjoyed some Washington wines and hors d’oeuvres (well, except for me – I was the designated driver). Then it was off to dinner, and I’m glad we didn’t get pulled over, since I had four heads squeezed into my back seat, but only three seatbelts. I can’t even share what the conversation was – this is a PG rated blog! Let’s just say that today someone noticed some flowers that resembled a certain part of the human anatomy, and leave it at that.
Day 2 of the Seattle Garden Blogger’s Fling was pulled off by our intrepid organizers, Lorene, Debra, Marty and Mary Ann, with flawless precision. And even one of our bus drivers got into the act, bringing along his camera to photograph some of the gardens. And I do want to give a shout out to Mary-Kate Mackey, who did a grand job as our official Bus Captain. She made sure we all followed orders and no one got left behind. It was another wonderful day for the memory books, and returning home late, I shared the fun and excitement with my husband (a non-gardener). His response – “You have two more days of this?” My reply – “Oh YEA!” and then my head hit the pillow and I was out. ~ Janet
The Northwest Flower & Garden Show was proud to be a sponsor of the 2011 Seattle Garden Blogger’s Fling. Look for more photos from Day 2 on our Facebook page.