Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Fling Things

Cherries from the West Seattle Farmers' Market
You know, it's hard to feel like blogging about the garden when it's so hot and dry that most of your outdoor time is merely running from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office and back again. My plants are struggling to survive and some are dying, but ever the gardening optimist I continue to think about what I'll do in the garden come fall. But in August, the here and now, how about a little trip to cool Seattle for a few of my favorite things I saw or experienced at the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling 2011?

Some type of veronica at Bellevue Botanical Garden
Originally I had planned to write a separate post for each day and/or garden, but I just don't think the time for that is in the cards. So I've picked out one or two things from each place to highlight. We visited both private and public gardens. At Bellevue Botanical Garden on the east side of Seattle, they have a fantastic perennial garden chocked with full-sun plants, most of which were attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators. If the sun hadn't been so intense and my fair skin starting to sunburn, I probably would have rolled around in all those flowers!

Rosa glauca
In Shelagh Tucker's marvelous garden I first spied Rosa glauca, a rose that's grown not so much for the little flowers but for the blue-gray leaves. I believe I remember Shelagh saying it can take shade. Andrea at grow where you're planted eventually got a cutting of it at Dragonfly Farms Nursery and I hope she gets it going so we can all have cuttings!

Shelagh Tucker's front yard
I loved seeing this open yet somewhat concealed-from-the-street sitting area in Shelagh's front yard. This area was modeled after Beth Chatto's dry garden (Ms. Chatto is a famous nursery owner and author from England). Several of the plants here were familiar from my days of gardening in Austin where drought-tolerant plants are the norm.
A shady spot in Shelagh Tucker's garden
Her side yard and part of her backyard were more shady. I liked this little vignette and combination of plants (hosta, oakleaf hydrangea, the odd poppy or two, Mexican feather grass). The Mexican feather grass grew so tall and with such dark seed heads that those of us from down South (mainly all the Texans and me) almost didn't recognize it.
Some type of helenium and ?? behind it
Shelagh is a master at plant combinations. This was the first helenium I saw in Seattle but certainly not the last. I may try to grow this next year.

Entrance to the vegetable garden at the Birrell residence
Right next door to Shelagh's house live the Birrells. Wouldn't you love to live next door to some incredibly good gardeners? I loved their ultra-comfortable backyard and their gorgeous fruit and veggie plants. Have you ever seen a more beautiful entrance to a vegetable garden? Actually, they had veggies here and there but this was the working part of the veg garden. And how about that knockout color on their workshop? It must brighten up a dreary, rainy day (I have to keep reminding myself that it rains there, although I think maybe that's a myth :-) ).

Clever lights in the Birrell workshop
One of the things I want to do with this post is show you some things that you can apply in your own garden. I.e., it doesn't always take much money to do some clever things. How about these bucket lights?

Agaves in a rock wall at The Dunn Gardens
We visited The Dunn Gardens, a historic suburban garden planned by the Olmsted Brothers in the 1910s. I highly recommend checking it out if you're in the area. Although this photo of the rock wall is not that great, I took it because I have a rock wall and I have the same kind of agaves growing in a pot. So why not move some to my wall? I thought this planted wall was just beautiful.

Find the drain here
How's this for an unusual way to hide a drain system? At least that's what I'm assuming is down there. There's a rain chain to the right and these perfectly placed stones were all around the building. Nice contrasting plant colors too.

Japanese forest grass with lilies and monarda
The Epping garden in east Seattle had the most monstrous hakonechloa (Japanese forest grass) I've ever seen. This is one plant I lust after yet can't have. The Eppings also had a stunning view from their hilltop home. It must be a challenge to grow on such a site though.

Water feature at the Epping garden
Seattle has a thing for glass and I saw lots of these blown glass balls in water features and accompanying plants in containers. And yes, I bought a few to take back with me. :-)

Kate Farley's garden
I was in awe over these tuteurs in Kate Farley's backyard. Well not just the tuteurs but the skillful way she combined their colors with alstromeria, roses, sweet peas and clematis. Oh my, you just had to be there to really experience it.

Succulent trough at Lorene Edward-Forkner's house
Lorene, one of the hosts of our Fling, had a darling home and garden in West Seattle, and she's the author of the forthcoming Timber Press book Handmade Garden Style. Her garden is chock full of interesting items she made herself, including this "trough" for succulents made out of a rain gutter. I think it's a brilliant idea!

Lorene Edwards-Forkner's outdoor terrarium
This outdoor terrarium made from a very large industrial light fixture blew me away. Isn't it cool? Of course, if I tried that at home it would roast the plants in no time. But even here it was in a little shaded nook, and I'm sure Lorene occasionally pops the top when it gets too hot.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the neat little things, plants or objects, that I found on my garden trip. My very favorite place I toured was Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, which I posted about here. I'd like to give a big thanks to all the folks that worked so hard to make the 2011 Garden Bloggers Fling such a great success. It was fabulous; what more can I say?

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2011. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Peaceful Bloedel Reserve

Japanese maple
How do I tell the story of Bloedel Reserve? I can only tell you of the impressions this beautiful garden on Bainbridge Island made on me, and hopefully show you through some of the few photos I took how I felt. Bloedel Reserve was our last big outing of the Seattle Fling for garden bloggers. To say that the whole experience exceeded my expectations is no exaggeration. But I'll save the telling of the Fling experiences for later. Meanwhile, join me on this rainy day in Bloedel.

The silent mower
The photo of the lawnmower is a bit of joke. I was in the first group who attended the three photography workshops given by David Perry (the fabulous garden photographer and funny man to boot), and we were constantly assaulted by the sounds of mowers going as he spoke (it was the one day per week the Reserve is closed, so naturally it's when some of the heavy work gets done). The finally silent lawnmower was the first thing I encountered when I left the visitor center to shoot photos.

Garden gate near the Japanese guest house
I spent most of my time near the Japanese garden. The sense of peace there was palpable to me. Wherever I turned I saw majestic trees and the slight hand of man.

Rain and lack of a Death Star means gunnera grows quite large there.

Ever present moss
But many small things grow in Bloedel as well.

Near the visitor center is a Japanese guest house (the Reserve was only established in 1988, two years after the Bloedels lived there). One of the powerful aspects to Bloedel is the way in which each scene invites one to further exploration. Leaving the visitor center I saw this large pond and little glimpses of other interesting things to come beyond the pond.

Japanese guest house
Sure enough, the guest house appears.

The Dry Garden
Just outside the guest house is a traditional Japanese dry garden, very serene and meditative. I spent some time around the guest house, just imagining what it might be like to stay a long time there.

Stream outside guest house
Each step took me farther into tranquility as the light rain muffled sounds and deepened the green.

Rain on pine tree
While I was sitting and contemplating the beauty, I realized I had only one shot left on my camera (long story but my digital SLR died that day and my compact camera only had room for a few photos). So what would be my last photo of the Fling experience? Because I was in such a peaceful frame of mind, and because I wanted to shoot into the light (inside joke), I thought the raindrops on the pine tree I was near would be perfect. And so I hope my last photo brings you peace as well.

But one more thing - I want to leave you with some interesting facts about Bloedel Reserve. Prentice Bloedel took over the helm of his family's timber business but retired early to work on his property. This is from their website:
"Prentice Bloedel was a pioneer in renewable resources and sustainability. He was the first to use sawdust as a fuel to power his company’s mills. He replanted clear cut areas, and started a company that marketed fireplace logs made from sawdust. He also was deeply interested in the relationship between people and the natural world, and the power of landscape to evoke emotions ranging from tranquility to exhilaration. Indeed, some believe that due to his early school experiences and his bout with polio as a young man, Prentice Bloedel may have been ahead of his time in his understanding of the therapeutic power of gardens and landscape."

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2011. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.