In the Garden: July 2018

By Rhiannon Allen

Last month, I wrote about how different Point Roberts gardeners create wonderful gardens based on the front yard/back yard property layout. While that layout is typical of American and Canadian urban gardens, there are two other layouts that are also common here.

The first is a consequence of our hilly topography, with road, garden and house on different elevations. Sometimes the slope is steep as one sees on Whalen Drive, and generally requires terracing and robust retaining walls. Sometimes it is less dramatic, but nonetheless challenging for a garden designer, as seen in two gardens on this year’s tour. In both cases, founding members of the Point Roberts Garden Club had bought houses on weedy, untended lots that sloped downwards from road to house. Both gardeners came to the realization that sloping yards allowed them to create a garden that is best designed to afford views from the house looking up towards the road.

But these gardeners created very different views. For one, the gardener’s love of quilting and piecing quilts comes out in the geometry of her garden, which she carefully planned to appear symmetrical, even though like many a quilt the two sides are not identical. From the wide verandah, visitors can look back on the inclined quilter’s patch garden and marvel at the flashes of color planted throughout the front garden, popping out like a finely made quilt. Landscape bricks and low retaining walls define winding paths that are contemplative to walk, enhancing the meditative geometry of the garden. A side path leads to a less structured yard still under development.

The other gardener created a less formal garden for her own viewing pleasure as she sits and reads on the small patio by her front door. Starting with a Laburnum (gold chain tree) and a Japanese maple, she carefully placed plants for maximum growth and privacy, as well as their ability to stabilize a hill and absorb runoff from the road. Having a steeper incline to tackle, the house is approached by stairs planted with a living carpet runner of woolly thyme and blue star creeper. Rocks have been carefully placed to define lush beds of lavender, hydrangeas, and peonies.

These small front gardens contrast with a third type of property in our community: the estate-sized garden. This year, three striking gardens illustrate what can be created on an acre or more. All take advantage of the space to fashion different garden areas, but you will find that each gardener has woven different areas together nicely.

One garden nestled in the forest features a series of dramatic garden rooms that reflect the owners’ love of art, crafts, music and birds. The garden rooms are tied together with repeated colors, garden art and bird-themed features like feeders and a chicken coop. Each item in this garden has been carefully selected and placed with an artist’s sensibility so that the garden feels like a work of art itself. A water feature backed by a wall of curiosities would not even fit in one of the two small sloping gardens. This water feature fills the garden with the music of moving water.

A second garden is nestled into a large park-like garden originally designed by noted landscape designer David M. Ohashi. Lovely woodland paths meander past boulders, hydrangeas, ferns, rhododendrons, roses, and cunningly situated garden decor. A commanding dining pavilion was built from Douglas fir, felled and milled on site – a feature which would be completely out of scale in a smaller garden. The current owners have skillfully woven space for their Peruvian Paso show horses into this woodland lot. As with the previous garden, animals, trees, shrubs, and garden art lead the visitor from one area to the other.

Our final garden was also professionally designed. The owners worked with the Philbin Group to craft a garden that took advantage of ocean views while complementing a modern house. One enters this property by walking down a long shaded driveway framed by native shrubs and ornamental grasses. The geometry of a formal entrance with hardscaping and compact shrubs fits the lines of the house. But wander to the side and one is treated to a sweeping view of an expansive lawn backed by rows of grasses and lavender waving in sea breezes, a dry stream bed, a hidden path, and a magnificent view of the Gulf Islands.

Of course, palettes of this scope are not affordable by every gardener. But it is remarkable how each gardener on the tour manages to create an aesthetic experience using the properties they bought. No matter the shape and size of your own property, you will find something to inspire you.

Thanks go to Sandy James for her input. Garden Tour XV is Sunday, July 15, with tickets going on sale on Sunday, July 1.

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