Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guiltless Gardens Rain From Seattle Skies

Guilt-free gardening. Welcome to Seattle.

It rains 142 days a year in this town. Gardens like this one--PowellsWood, just south of Seattle in Federal Way, Washington--grow lush. Gardeners can indulge in water-loving plants and lawns without a guilty conscience about using the Earth's resources selfishly. It is one of the main reasons Seattle is on my short list of places I would like to live. I'm from semi-arid San Diego where it averages 43 days of rain but usually seems like it never rains.  Homeowners where I live use sprinklers year round to maintain gardens and the lawns we seem to insist on. 

Granted, if I did live here I would also have 142 bad hair days (my tresses are naturally untamed and a flat iron can be a waste of time on rainy days). Vanity aside, I still think it is worthwhile for non-stop views of evergreen trees, backyards like the one above

and gardens that feature man-made streams and ponds. 

In the early 1990's this land was a dumping ground.  A home builder, Monte Powell, purchased it and began preparing the land for a garden.  Once established the gardens were opened for public tours and events. 

It was only the beginning of May when I visited, yet the deep borders were full. A sheared hedge serves as a garden wall. This two-acre site, described simply as "a northwest garden,"

features garden rooms and also has a woodland garden and a modest home on site.

 I found myself attracted to this unusual combination of yellow foliage and pink tulips.  I think it works in part because it is surrounded by lots of dark green.

Spring blooms in bright colors were everywhere.

But wait, so were the water sprinklers.  Really, in Seattle?

One of the crew was setting out one-gallon vines that she wanted planted before an upcoming event. "I notice sprinklers in the garden," I said, "and I was just wondering how often you have to use them." She told me that sometimes, during the dry summer season, the gardens need water for maintenance.  But during the last few years Seattle has had even more rain than usual and she acknowledged that they haven't actually used the sprinklers in a few years.

A few years?

Wouldn't that be nice.

Indeed, during my recent five day visit to Seattle it rained four out of the five days I was there.  At least it was sunny the morning I visited PowellsWood but the sky later broke open while I was driving back to the city and it dumped buckets of rain.

But even in the middle of downtown Seattle, 

 I was compelled to stop and admire this small plaza garden that was simply stunning in green and white, thick with a canopy of maple trees,

evergreen pine trees and an abundance of white blooming rhododendrons.  Simple northwest garden pleasures that seem to pour effortlessly from the skies in a big way.  And I just can't get enough.

This is GardenEnvy.

Copyright 2012 by jayro. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lakewold Gardens: Elegance Combined With Classic Pacific Northwest

I'll never forget the time I first saw rhododendrons blooming in Seattle, Washington. It was a little more than 10 years ago.  I heard that rhodos are legendary in the Pacific Northwest.  
But still I wasn't prepared. 

 I was a passenger in a car, driving with my family and having realized I was seeing giant rhododendron shrubs blooming en masse I gasped loud enough that everyone in the car, including the driver--my poor husband--thought an accident was imminent.

The shrubs can grow very large, reportedly as much as 100 feet tall. The flowers themselves are large and they bloom in clusters. And they seem to come in just about any color you might want including pink, red, white, blue and yellow.

I am still in awe every time I see them.  
They are a stunning part of the Pacific Northwest landscape. 
The Lakewold Gardens in the Seattle area has gorgeous woodland gardens 
and boasts as many as 900 rhododendrons on site. There are about fifty of another favorite Northwest staple, the Japanese maple trees. 

Lakewold began as a new property in early 1908, and the original owner intended it for a summer cabin. The property was eventually donated in 1987 as a non-profit estate to preserve 
its famous garden for public and private use.

The current home on the property is large but unpretentious. The elegant gardens definitely steal the show, beginning at the front door with this statuary, a moss covered tree, and a large expanse of lawn.

That lawn and the property is engulfed by wooded gardens of large trees and shrubs. The initial garden layout is thought to be influenced by the Olmsted Brothers, of Central Park fame in New York, who designed numerous landscapes in the Seattle area, including a system of city parks. In the 1950's the garden was formally designed by Thomas Church, another famous American landscape designer. 

Walking into the back yard, I didn't anticipate the stunning
views I would see in this park like setting with a view of Gravelly Lake,

boxwood parterres and a wisteria covered patio. There is also a view of 
Mt. Rainier, though it wasn't visible on this partly cloudy May day.

This beautiful herb garden sits close to the 
back of the home near the kitchen.

Additional boxwood parterres line a walkway

studded with cherry trees that lead to a tea house at the edge of this 10 acre garden.

The view of the tea house is just as gorgeous as the view from the tea house.

Inviting benches throughout the garden surrounded by the rhododendrons are picture perfect.

My favorite view is that of the pool with blooming cherry trees;

they are stunning and definitely add elegance to this garden.

Pale pink rhododendrons also provide a great backdrop for the pool.

Tucked and hidden in the wooded areas toward the lake are several areas designed for peace and quiet.
 I loved  the small garden room dedicated as the Peace Garden.

It did feel peaceful here and I am glad that I took the opportunity to relax.

And, only after sitting here for a while did I notice an unexpected ornamental sculpture
seemingly carved into the bark of tree, and something I would have missed
if I didn't sit down and just let my eyes wander.

Nearby, a reflecting pond

 mirrors back beautiful images of colorful trees and sky. 

I could look at these trees all day.
Japanese maples are irresistible

for color, form and texture. 

And what could be more perfect than a picnic in the shade near the lake?
Well, a picnic table made only from tree trunks and

with moss spreading through the center like a table runner, that's what.

And then, just beyond the table,
there is a colorful glimpse of Gravelly Lake. 

Walking out from the wooded garden

without a second thought I silently add the Lakewold Gardens to my growing list of personal favorites.

This is GardenEnvy.

Copyright 2012 by jayro.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Japanese Garden At Huntington Library Reopens With A Splash

The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens recently reopened
 its newly renovated Japanese garden on April 11th.

The $6.8 million renovation celebrates the centennial anniversary of

this garden, which began in 1911.

This nine acre garden is 

popular and quite busy on this Sunday afternoon in late April.

A few years ago I visited this garden for the first time

 when numerous plum, cherry and peach trees were in bloom, 

which is typically between January and April, 
according to the Huntington website. It was gorgeous.
It is always a great time to visit a Japanese garden in Spring.

But it is serene and quite beautiful at any time.
For now, however, we can enjoy the Japanese maples

and this fringe tree in bloom.

The garden has several water features

including this new $1 million waterfall high above the stroll garden 

and the tea house that was shipped all the way to Kyoto 
to be renovated by the son of the original builder and then shipped back and reassembled on site.

In the peaceful Zen garden, lined on the opposite side with ginkgo trees,
 water is represented by raked dry gravel.

But the best moment of my visit occurred at this most simple
of water features next to the teahouse

where this happy Western bluebird visited several times 

and allowed me to snap away

while he splished and splashed himself in a bath!

This is GardenEnvy. 

                                                            Copyright 2012 by jayro