Expression of a Marriage in the garden… (Part One)

If there is anything in my life I feel grateful for, its my garden and my chief shoveler, stump puller, rock hauler, digger, planter & builder extraordinaire, Dan the Man, who makes all things gardeney possible.   Here is what he deserves a great deal more of, but hasn’t gotten since May 2003 outside Cortona, Italy:

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I dedicate this post to him and his lovely, stubborn gardeney curmudgeonliness.

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When we first moved to our home it was January 2005, in the middle of Winter.  The ground was hard, it was cold.  There was mossy grass and lots of trees and a funny little red Japanese maple tree.  There were two trees planted right in front of the front deck.  When Spring came, we planned to cut them down.  Then the Robins built their nests and there was a natural delay in our plans.  Here are some of the babies.

The funny part of this delay is that I got a chance to see what other folks in my new neighborhood had in their gardens that grew well and  that I liked.  Since I had moved from Northern California 1000+/- miles north, I was unfamiliar and could use the input.  But I was so anxious to get going that I am sure I would have planted things that I didn’t have enough sunlight to grow successfully.  Mine is not a rose garden kind of yard.  It is not warm or sunny enough for anything but certain old wild types, or decendants of Rugosa roses, like this one, called Hansa.  Fragrant and magenta in color, but I don’t really want that as the dominant color in my yard, so I planted just the one.  It’s huge.  Thank you little robin babies for making me take my time and look around more before I got crazy in the yard planting all the wrong things.  

Grasping at straws, the last Hansa Rose. by arrowlakelass.

Rhododendrons & Azaleas

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I lived in Takoma Park, Maryland for a long time and had a wonderful Azalea garden.  So, nostalgically I was more than a little happy to have a yard that was cut out of a forested mountain and perfect for Rhododendrons of infinite varieties…

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We also continue to plant Columbine near our largest Azaleas & Rhododendron bed, at the front of the bed.  The bushes are growing and becoming taller than the Columbine, but is was a race the first two Springs here.

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We intend someday for the entire big bed to be all Rhododendrons & Columbine, but this year some Forget-Me-Nots made their way into the mix and the blue was kind of nice.  Now I will probably never get rid of them, either because they will come back naturally, or because I see something I like in it.  It’s easier to be flexible and accept a happy accident.

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We have another area where we have planted shorter Azaleas, a few different Hydrangeas (Wow, Limelight is gorgeous), Taller Elderberry plants in the back to screen the neighbors yard and more Heuchera varieties in the front.  We are also integrating some Spring flowering bulbs here and there.  It’s a work in progress and some other interesting things sometimes come up there in the weeds, which we are constantly after.  There is something that grows around here that is kind of fern like and has delicate little pink flowers and a root system that will choke the life out of anything nearby.  Don’t be fooled by the appearance of delicacy, it too can be a terrible illusion.

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We have a wonderful large deck off of our kitchen.  I grow herbs right next to the door so I can grab what I want when I am cooking.

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I also grow a collection of cocktail tomatoes in a barrel there.  I have to plant early to have any success at all.  The growing season is short here and I am better off starting with hothouse plants than seedlings.  This year, Dan painted the deck in the early fall and extended the pergola to support a sunshade on the far side.  I love it out here.

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This is a view of an area that Dan cleared with a little help from me.  There were trees, abandoned stumps, blackberries that had to be ripped out, and  native ferns, which we cut back and kept.  We planted a bag of 100 daffodils where we could see them from the windows and companion planted wildflowers, way to thickly it turns out.  We got an enormous truckload of 4-way topsoil mix and it was a job spreading that stuff out.  We keep doing that as we progress through the yard.  Everything in life needs fertilizer and healthy soil or an equivalent.  I love my red wheel barrow.  It makes me think of Dr. Williams:

The Red Wheelbarrow

William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upona red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

The Perennial Garden

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This is my favorite part of the garden.  I love how these plants demonstrate seasonality so clearly.  The red Bee Balm in the front of this picture I started with a small three inch pot.  I planted it the first year I moved here by the walk, and we have since divided it numerous times, planting it in a mixed row with Ribbon Grass and varieties of Lavender: right next to a dusty road that goes down to the lake.  It catches the dust and draws lots of buzzing bees and hummingbirds.  Behind it here are Irish Eyes Rudbeckia and Black Eyed Susans, next to it Catmint and Day Lilies in a variety of pinks, mauve, peach.  Love them!  There are also lambs ears.  I found one variety I adore that has prehistoric looking huge leaves.  I also have a very green type that has gorgeous coral bell like flowers.  I have scattered a few of these here and there.

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Here are Blue Salvia, Iris, & a closer look at the Irish Eyes.  I think these pictures are from 2006, from the looks of the tiny rocks beside the bed above.  Those have been somewhat improved with rocks I collect when we go to Lummi Island.  All kinds of amazing rocks wash up on the shore there.  We also dig some up as we develop our beds.  We have found some one and two man sized rocks.  We are collecting and sorting the rocks and using them in the landscape where we can.

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2006 – A view over the crazy assed Cosmos in the wild flower garden.

2008 Fall Front Deck

The deck was reworked and stained along with the trim on the house this Fall.  I love the new color palette.  The Huechera along the walk is a gorgeous mix of dark exemplars and looks amazing in bloom and is colorful most of the year.


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This Dahlia blew my mind.  The blooms were as big as my husband’s noggin!  I have to cut them when it begins to rain because the stems can’t support the weight of the flowers wet.

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Here are a few more Dahlias with the Cosmos that were on steriods in 2006.

Drunk Driver Intervenes in Our Garden Plan

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We are gardening away this grass little by little.  That is our overall plan.  No grass unless decorative in nature.  No lawn mowing someday.  The apple tree is no longer in the yard.  A drunk driver took it out in the middle of the night.  It had gorgeous green pie apples.  There is always a certain amount of violence involved in gardening, one might say, but this is not the way to go about it!

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In September 2006, just after the bottom floor of our house flooded with hot water for four days while we were away, a drunk driver careened through the garden and hits a tree, digging up the onions, murdering acorn squash & cucumbers, & misses the pole beans on the right.  We were in the midst of figuring out what we had lost in the flood when this happened.  It was stunning, to say the least.

Note the apple tree he took down to the ground on his way over to hit the much larger fir tree.  We got $1500 from the insurance company and kept on gardening.  If you look at the grass you can see the tracks where the vehicle exited our yard between the trees.  We now have a Gala Apple, a grafted Plum tree that includes Satsuma and some kind of pollinator,  and an Australian Bartlett Pear.  No fruit yet.

This Is Just To Say

by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

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This is my favorite lawn ornament, no not the hummingbird feeder, Dan the Man!  The man takes out stumps for God’s sake!

Future Meditation Garden Area

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Someday I hope to have  meditation garden amidst these trees…in the meantime we keep it clean and natural forest.

Shade Garden

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This is my grandson standing in front of our shade garden  in 2006.  This area has been developed quite a bit more since this picture was taken.

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We added a Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ Dogwood to the shade garden this year.   This is the classic white-flowering dogwood you see in gardens and parks everywhere in the Pacific Northwest in Spring.   ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ grows to about 25 feet by about 20 feet wide, so this will give us a bit of privacy in our back yard too.   So beautiful, and I can look out of my bathroom window or from the deck to see it.  There are a mixed collection of small Azaleas such as impeditum variety, Geraniums, Jacob’s Ladder, native ferns, varieties of Astilbe, varieties of Hosta, and some lime green Winter blooming Helleborus.

I will end this post here because it has gone on so much longer than I ever meant it to go.  Life is like that in the garden, time disappears when you work in a garden doing things that you love, the work is challenging and worthwhile, it reveals so much about life, and yet, life still remains a mystery  no matter how much you learn.  Like some of the things that volunteer in the garden here and there, mysteries.  Some are gifts, some are weeds.   In the Winter, there are catalogs and so much that can be learned in preparation for the next growing season.  I love it all.

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2 thoughts on “Expression of a Marriage in the garden… (Part One)

  1. I love your garden! It looks huge and wild and perennial and cultivated and meditative all at the same time!

  2. Thanks! It is looking like a construction zone right now & the garden has developed quite a lot since I wrote this piece originally. There was an 80% cut in the woods behind our house, so we were both appalled and happy to have more light.

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