by Peg Keenleyside
The sudden passing of my gardening friend and writing colleague Jody Hackleman late last year left me reflecting on the way our gardens might be seen and celebrated as a kind of legacy of our life’s journey.
We have memories, of course – and I shall treasure some good ones with Jody – and pictures and the scribbled notes in our cookbooks and the things we wrote, but what greater pleasure can it be for those who remain when a gardening friend passes on than to spend time in their garden?
I’ve been reflecting on this because Jody was a mainstay in the ongoing project of the Tyee Drive beautification project that began as an initiative of the Point Roberts Garden Club, a club that Jody was so dedicated to. Retiring from work life in California in 2007, Scott and Jody went on the Point Roberts Garden Tour that year and were inspired to join the club, and later became part of the beautification committee.
For those of us who find our day brightened and hearts lightened by the burst of spring daffodils in the berms lining the sides of Tyee Drive between Benson and Gulf roads, there’s a comfort in knowing the work and imagination of a friend, neighbor or colleague lives on in our community in a way that is renewed every year.
I sat down with Scott Hackleman, Jody’s husband and president of the garden club, to talk a little about Jody’s vision for the Tyee Drive beautification project and the kinds of plants she was working with to develop the berms’ year-round visual interest.
“The Tyee beautification project grew out of the club members’ ideas,” said Scott, recounting that it was in mid-2000s after the Whatcom County parks department planted the trees lining the drive, that the club began a co-venture with the county to develop the public right of way between the curbs and the private properties along Tyee Drive. Masses of old barbed wire and fencing were removed and the first berm creation was built south of Nielsen’s in 2006.
“Jody’s love of gardening was inspired by her grandmother and father who had a big cottage-style garden around their old family home in Vancouver,” Scott said. After years of gardening in the difficult, hot climate of California, Jody welcomed the return to the temperate Pacific Northwest gardening traditions of her youth.
It was around 2008 that Jody and I began working together to bring speakers to the club meetings (always a challenge), and together with Rhiannon Allen, club secretary, started collaborating on this column. Jody’s joy in gardening and her enthusiasm for the garden club was a huge boon to the club as the Tyee project grew and the scope of the club shifted and expanded.
“Jody’s passion was that the club should be about people sharing their gardening experiences in a supportive environment,” Scott said.
According to Scott, after Jody became the club’s vice president in 2010 her personal vision for the Tyee project began to be more articulated: “Because we have limited support from the county in maintaining the berms, and because watering is an issue along the drive, Jody realized the design and plantings had to be as self-sustaining as possible,” he said.
A full design for the long-term vision of the project came before the membership in 2011 and included a number of plant choices Jody had researched, and some further articulation of the vision of sustainability.
One of the design goals was to provide year-round garden interest. One of the ways to do this is through evergreen shrubs, and Jody’s foundation plant list included Escallonia “Newport Dwarf” with its small glossy dark green leaves and pink flowers, flowering red currant – a Pacific Northwest native that also provides winter food for birds, Ceanothus “Dark Star,” a long-blooming summer shrub that is heat and drought tolerant and Potentilla Fruticosa “Pink Beauty,” another low-maintenance hard-working evergreen.
A long-term vision of Jody’s had been to link the individual island-like berms into continuous flowing landscapes. Walking or driving, passersby can see how this has slowly been emerging along the drive over the past few years. It’s all highlighted by a major new feature berm that was installed in 2012.
Reading Jody’s In the Garden columns over the years, one of my pleasures was her great descriptions of spring and early summer blooming bulbs she was trying out in her garden; from boldly-colored tulips to pink daffodils to the esoteric Frittilaria family of bulbs, it was always a treat to read about her trials and tribulations. Always too, there was Jody’s marvelous sense of humor and willingness to be open to nature’s quirks and the never-perfect art of gardening.
Jody’s foolproof selection of bulbs for the Tyee project includes Crocus “Gypsy Girl,” Muscari “Valerie Finnis,” Festival Hyacinth and the hyacinthoides English and Spanish Bluebells.
One of Jody’s last sustainability visions for the Tyee beautification project was the Adopt-a-Berm program. In this program individuals or businesses in Point Roberts can support the ongoing development and maintenance of the project by caring for a mound. The program includes plantings, and the Point Roberts Garden Club has brochures for the asking if you are interested. To receive one or to find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.