Creating Beautiful
Whidbey Island Landscapes


that celebrate the unique history, ecology and character of our island home.

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Finished – almost

The garden now has street-side charm.  In another month, the perennials in front of the fence will start blooming.  Still to plant - Heliopsis 'Summer Sun.'

The garden now has street-side charm. In another month, the perennials in front of the fence will start blooming. Still to plant – Heliopsis ‘Summer Sun.’

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Plants in the box (from Bayview Farm and Garden Nursery) need some time and warmth to start filling in.

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The crew from Art of Soil took special care to plant all the boxwood roots at the proper depth. We will wait to trim foliage to the same height once they’ve had time to settle in and start growing new roots.

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Arborvitae hedge needs some staking just like other trees until the anchor roots get established. And the patio furniture can emerge when it stops raining!

There’s a temptation to keep tweaking to make it perfect.  But what’s really needed is the magic and time that only Mother Nature can provide.  And our patience.

 

 

 

 

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Yes! Try this at home.

Tomorrow I am speaking to the Oak Harbor Garden Club.  The topic is, “Techniques, Tips and Tricks of a Garden Designer,” and will describe the process I use to design a new garden or renovate an older garden.  The intent is to give gardeners some of my tools – some of which they might like to use themselves, some they might want to hire out.

In the process of sprucing up my slide show, I got some recent photos of a garden I worked on several years ago.  It’s so exciting and satisfying to see that the owners took the plans, installed the garden themselves and are making the garden their own.  What a great job they’ve done!  And the best part – actually outdoors spending time with friends and family in the garden.  That’s what it’s all about.

before, path of destruction

before, path of destruction

after, the party route

after, the party route

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A Place of My Own

This weekend we gave our two-year-old grandson his birthday present – an indoor playhouse.  It has a pvc-like pole frame with a canvas cover.  The minute the frame went up he ran inside and shouted, “My house, my house, yay, yay, yay!” Then the canvas cover went on and he was delighted to also have a door and some windows with curtains, both of which he could open or keep shut.  When you are two, and everyone else is making most of your decisions for you, how powerful to have a space where you decide who goes in and out.   It was totally heart-warming to have him so enjoy something we’d picked out for him.  Seriously though, I’m going to need to lose a few pounds and get busy with some stretching if I’m to share many snacks in that house!

This got me thinking about my own very early fascination and love of playhouses.  Somehow my grandparents had one in the yard, which to my horror got recommisioned as a pump-house.  My neighborhood friends and I built many tree houses.  My interest in buildings continues to this day, in all sizes from Versailles to cozy little guest houses and chicken coups.

To some degree, my guess is that this desire for your own space, where you alone orchestrate at least a little corner of life is universal.  Many of those needs and desires are met in outdoor spaces as well – boundaries, efficient use of space, movement from one area to another, safety, warmth or cooling, privacy, views, a place to cook or sit,  to name a few.  For some reason I’ve never liked the phrase “garden rooms.”  Too catchy, I guess.  But I understand the idea.

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DIY Design

My beloved plant group Twilight met last week.  Three fellow garden designers and I led the group through some techniques we use for garden renovation.  One of the techniques utilized what is called a base map – which is a measured, to- scale, bird’s eye view of a garden – sometimes called plan view. (Click on the picture below to get a better idea . .. )  It’s a labor intensive drawing – both to measure and collect all the data onsite AND to create the drawing, even though I have fabulous drawing software (Dynascape).  I was astonished at all the great ideas flying around the room and how much got accomplished by each team of two in just under an hour’s time.  And it seems that everyone had a great time.

If you are interested in doing some of your own design, I’m happy to prepare this document for you and / or to develop a list of suggested plants customized for your garden and your preferences.  There are a number of ways for me to help you DIY.  Just ask.

Plan view drawing – ready for plants!

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Afield

This was a week full of field trips.  Luckily I love field trips.  I remember seeing bears and having a tuna sandwich on my very first school field trip to the zoo when I was in the first grade.  I home-schooled my daughters in elementary school and we went on field trips whenever we could.  Once when we were studying Washington state history, we dropped everything and took a trip to the Canadian border.

This Tuesday, I led a group of oh, so smart fifth-graders through Meerkerk Gardens, where I am the part time education coordinator.  On Wednesday, I went to the zoo with my daughter’s kindergarten class.  Friday I left the island with some of my BGFs (Best Gardening Friends) to tour a great garden near my old stomping grounds in Kirkland, followed by shopping trips to Wells Medina Nursery and City People’s Garden Nursery.  While I do enjoy reading about gardens in books or magazines, there’s nothing like visiting the real thing for inspiration.   I’m introduced to new plants, see old plant friends used in new ways, and discover interesting plant combinations.  I also often come home with fresh ideas for the hardscape part of a garden – fences, arbors, patios and the like.  What was great about this trip was that the designer and owner of the garden took the morning to show us around and talk about what her vision for her garden is and how she’s gone about developing it.  I was reminded that if you define what you want to do in your garden, what you want to feel and experience in your garden and make choices based on that vision, it’s easier to stay focused.  That’s especially good news, since like the rest of you on Whidbey my spring gardening is just getting started thanks to an exceptionally long winter.  And there is so much to do . . .

The Northwest Perennial Alliance. http://www.northwestperennialalliance.org/index.php has open member garden tours spring through fall. Whidbey gardens will be open on selected weekends in June and July.

And don’t forget to buy tickets for the Whidbey Island Garden Tour on Saturday, June 25.  http://wigt.org/index.html

 

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What’s the hold up?

New clients – who have already spent hours of thinking and effort as well as money in their gardens and have hired me to help them get the garden started.

Unfortunately,  everyone who knows me knows I don’t do anything quickly.    I am like Mr. Rogers in his song, “. . . I like to take my time to do it right.”  Small consolation in spring to a waiting client,  trowel in hand,  a big empty garden and a nursery just down the road.  I empathize, really I do.

So what am I doing anyway?  I’m sure they must wonder what’s taking me so long.  I’m accumulating an inventory of facts –width of the sidewalk, location of important trees,  septic tank location (and while I’m on the subject a plea to those responsible  to PLEASE put it someplace besides at the bottom of the deck stairs).  And I’m evaluating what I gather –good and not so good views, how hard is it to find the front door, where’s a good place for morning coffee?  Much of this my clients already know and thankfully pass along to me.

If I’m to do it right,  I have to experience much of it for myself, so that I  get a sense in my bones of what this place and my clients are all about.  I experience the garden while being in it of course, but here is the curious thing or magical thing, depending on your point of view:  The garden comes to life for me while I’m piecing all those bits of information together on paper – or computer nowadays.  It’s like those 3-D pictures that suddenly come into focus.  And then the ideas start tumbling out and the fun begins.

New clients.  Hope they think it’s worth the wait.

 

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