Monday, July 21, 2008

A garden of friends

My friend Kim and her husband Greg are the leaders of our small group from church. One of the many things all the ladies in our group have in common is our love of gardening. I have to be honest and say my garden is the unruliest and I definitely have the most weeds. But I love my garden.

Kim called me earlier in the week and invited me to go to Seattle on Sunday for a garden tour. How could I pass up an invitation to peek into the gardens that are hidden behind closed gates and winding city streets?

I met Kim at nine o’clock with my Starbucks chi latte in hand, my walking shoes on, and my camera ready to shoot. We drove south to pick up Kim’s mother Sherry who decided to drive and we took the scenic route back to the freeway around Big Lake and McMurray Lake.

I’ve lived in Washington for ten years but have only taken an occasional trip to Seattle with my husband Larry when he has a business trip and I get to sleep in, shop downtown, and enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant. I don’t know my way around Seattle and after a whirlwind tour today, I still don’t know my way around but I had a great time sightseeing and enjoying all the different areas we visited.

The first garden was near Seward Park and it was filled with exotic plants and garden art created by the owners. Visually it was hard to see everything the first, second, or third time looking into the small pocket gardens. The paths all connected back to each other and the lowest garden was a green swath of grass that would be perfect for a dinner party. The textures of the plants and the sheer variety were almost overwhelming. Pictures were posted throughout the garden to show what it looked like before the owners transformed it into a showpiece that obviously brings much joy to the owners. I asked if they had a master plan before they started and they said no. They just started removing the grass and adding plants and it grew.

So from southeast Seattle we headed to the northwest section via downtown. Sherry drove like a pro, and she should because she lived in Seattle for forty years and worked right downtown where she had her own antiques and collectibles stores at Pikes Market. Kim was riding shotgun and acting as navigator. Several wrong turns, up the hill, down the hill--wait didn’t we go up that road once before?--and we arrived at the second garden.

Sherry took one look at the house and said she was ready to move in and she hadn’t even seen the garden. The home was wood shingled with all the trim done in black and it was magnificent sitting on top of a hill over looking Lake Union. The small front yard was enclosed by a black fence and a small formal triangle garden bordered with a boxwood hedge sat just inside the front entrance. Turning to the right was a gravel garden with a round ceramic art piece from Little and Lewis just before we dropped down several steps into the side garden with views of Lake Union and north Seattle. A small candelier hung in corner, wind chimes dangled from trees, and the patio umbrella was dressed with brass hearts that looked like oversized charms on a bracelet. The tiniest fuchsia I have ever seen with flowers about one half inch or less was tucked into a small walkway garden on the backside of the house. Not a large garden, but the plants, the house, and the view made it probably the most spectacular of all the homes we visited today.

We drove down the hill and stopped at Seattle Pacific University and sat on the front lawn to eat lunch. Sherry had thought of everything and had packed turkey and Swiss roll ups, drinks, chips, and not one but two kinds of cookies. What a treat, because I thought we would probably stop and buy a quick lunch somewhere and this was so much fun to sit in the sunshine and really enjoy the beautiful summer weather.

Next we were off to the university district to an older neighborhood filled with surprises. The curbside raised beds were filled and overflowing with lavender. The front of the house was filled with waves of black mondo grass and a lime green mondo grass. An angle trumpet was one of several centerpieces in the side yard and the owners dig it up and move it to a shelter each winter because it is a tender annual here in Washington. A fountain that dropped into a small pond led us to the back yard with a small sitting area across a wooden plank bridge. Around the corner--another pond filled with gold-fish. Lanterns hung overhead and a most unique art piece made from a piece of wood that was completely covered in nails of every size.

Time was running out and if we hurried we might made one more garden before five o’clock. We headed north and the last garden is still in the beginning stages. You can still see where the paths have been carved out and the plants were beautiful but young and not matured to fill in and out to cover the space. They did have some unusual plants in the garden and they were selling potted plants, which none of the other gardens did. Kim and Sherry both bought several selections and then we headed north.

When we first arrived, Kim had shown me around her father’s new garage that my husband and every guy I know would be envious of, and her mother’s studio that is built over the garage. Now, Sherry was giving me a personal tour and showing me some of her art work that will be used to sell pattern packets. She also told us her idea for a book on art and painting that she is working on. Every nook and cranny is filled with books she collects on art, painting, cooking, and vintage children’s books. Her art pieces include bowls, boxes, chests, and just about anything you can paint on. It is the sort of room you could just curl up in and savor everything as the day slipped away.

Friends are like flowers, you tend them and care for them and they grow more beautiful and treasured.

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