Saturday, July 16, 2011

June 26, 2011 Skagit Valley symphony garden tour

The ladies in my Cornwall small group, Kim, Doreen, Pam, and Fran do a garden tour each year.  I have gone about every other year and didn’t think I was going to be able to attend this year until a few days before.  Then when I realized I could go, tickets were no longer available online.  I emailed Kim to let her know I would not be able to go and she said her sister had to cancel at the last minute so I bought her ticket.  Kim, Doreen, Fran, and Fran’s cousin Geppie made up our group for the day.  Pam was off on vacation with her husband so she couldn’t join us.
Sunday morning the sun was shining and it looked like it was going to be a glorious day outside.  I had my sack lunch packed and after a quick stop at Wood’s Coffee, Larry dropped me off at Kim’s for a day with the girls in the gardens.

We were taking two cars and decided to meet up at the last garden on the tour and maybe doing the tour in reverse there would be a little less congestion.  Ha, ha!  The parking lot at garden #7 was almost full.  This garden backs up to Campbell Lake and has a subtle Asian influence with a wide variety of plantings, art, statues, a pond, guest house, and a modern twist with brightly painted oversized bamboo wind chimes, circles of black bamboo, lime green plantings, and the bright yellow low slung wooden benches.  A bridge over the pond to a Japanese tea house sat about midway in the garden surrounded by lush plants and trees.  Some of the symphony players were under a tent serenading the enthralled gardeners like myself who had cameras in hand snapping pictures and admiring what could be done with five acres, a lot of time, and money.  Finding an idea that you can recreate to scale in your own garden is what this tour is all about.  The Gunnera Leaf garden bowls that were tucked into the plantings were magnificent and Kim said that Pam knew how to make them.  Looks like Pam might need to teach a class.  This garden belongs to the owners of BooShoot Gardens in Mt. Vernon. 

The next garden stop was a hillside garden.  A sloping swath of green lawn disappearing into the forest greets you as you walk up the driveway to the garden entrance.  From the garden entrance you slowly work your way down a winding path past shrubs, plants, arbors, and flowering plants to the long lawn like path ending at a fire pit.  This was a serene garden that definitely takes a lot of time to maintain with the drop in elevation.

Garden #5 on the official tour, or #3 on our backwards tour, had us parking in a small lot to take one of four shuttles to the garden.   A quiet little street with a home set back into the trees surrounded by a decorative fence, plants, and a shoji style gate.  This Asian inspired garden was small and tidy, filling in every nook and corner of the garden spaces and leaving you feeling relaxed and refreshed.  The home is literally built on a rock with a Kio pond in the front yard, large stone steps, sweeping views of the bay below from the second story deck, peeling bark from the Manzanita trees, and situated to be part of the landscape.

It was definitely warming up as we were winding our way back into the town of Anacortes to view a small city garden.  Tucked into every corner of this garden were trees, shrubs and flowers.  Containers full of flowers were mixed into planting beds and borders filling the garden. Moss covered rocks and rock pathways surround by moss, gave texture and softness to the garden.  A German birdhouse was the focal point of the garden and the visitors were treated to more symphony music.

Our two groups were sort of split up by now so Kim and I decided to go into Anacortes to the starting point of the tour at the will call at How It Works on 4th Street, where tables had been set up on the lawn and a three piece jazz ensemble was playing, to eat our sack lunches.  It was a relaxing break with the sun warming us and letting us rest up for the last three gardens on the tour.

We were going to deviate from the tour again and do gardens #2, #3, and then #1, closest to farthest away.  We pulled up in front of garden #2 and saw the rest of our group.  We parked across the street from the garden but as we started to get out of the car we were mesmerized by the garden right in front of us.  A white picket fence, limbs from a too tall shrub/tree that were starting to hang over the sidewalk and a pink rose that had wound its way up into the branches caught our eye.  We decided to take a closer look before checking garden #3.  A home with river rock on its lower half and white clapboard wood on the upper half standing on a small rise surrounded by a rock wall brought us to a stop.  Small flower beds, bordered with brick, were filled with flower plants; and beyond was what looked like a small guest house.  We oohed and aahed as we walked down the street admiring the lush plantings and wondering what some of them were.  On the other side of the house was another white outbuilding with a rather large dog hanging his head out an upper window to let us know this was his home.  As we turned to walk back down the sidewalk, the owner came around to see why her dog was barking.  This was the unexpected and remarkable encounter of the day.

The garden/home owner said the home had been built by her grandfather who was a stone mason and after his death she bought the home.  She told us her grandparents had raised a baby gorilla in the building now housing the once loud and rowdy dog, Tommy.  Her grandfather had once owned a cannery in Anacortes and during the great depression he lost it but dug up the pink rose we had been admiring and brought it to the garden.  The owner was very modest and described her garden as something she loved to do, no formal training, no fancy tags on the plants or botanical names, just weeds with flowers as she called them.  Not really!  This is a home with a history, cared for and loved by one family, a garden the nurtures those that live there and those that walk by, and a glimpse at something appealing and special that it makes you want to stand and look a little longer.  (This modest gardener is actually a member of the Lowman family of Skagit County and Anacortes.  The gorilla raised in her home was Bobo the gorilla who later came to live at the Seattle Woodland Zoo).
We walked across the street to join up with our group and tour the structured town garden of a formal house.  It was pretty and tidy, all the plants had brass engraved tags, and photos on the patio table to show the before and after transformation.  It was nice, but I was still thinking about the garden across the street.

We all walked back across the street to see the garden Kim and I had become enthralled with.  And just like Kim and I, they oohed and aahed at the garden and we filled them in with the story of the home and garden the owner had told us.  Fran or Doreen, I can’t remember which, suggested we walk up the street to view several other homes that had nice front yards.  One was better from afar than close up, one home was very ultra-modern cement and plywood built in a neighborhood of older homes.  As we crossed the street we stopped to admire two similar homes that looked very Cape Cod-like in style.  One of the owners told us the homes were built about eight months apart and were Sears kit homes from the 1930’s.  (You can read more about the Sears homes at:   )  The owner also told us that where these two homes stood was the original plots for the Anacortes Opera House.  He said “K” Avenue was built extra wide to serve as the main street of town, but the builders were unable to convince others and Commercial Ave. won. 

Our second to the last garden on our tour was another backyard retreat just a few blocks away.  This garden is certified as a backyard wildlife habitat with a circular flagstone patio.  The small fence bordering the alley was covered in red poppies.  A vegetable garden took center stage with smaller herb gardens.  Birdbaths and feeders along with flowers, and shrubs filled this backyard making it a great retreat to relax in. 

Our final garden was in the Cap Santé neighborhood.  A small 1890’s Victorian home sitting at the end of a small street with a wrought iron gate covered in clematis greeted us.  Little treasures were tucked in between the plants--imagine a ladybug fashioned out of an old hardhat.  Alliums, roses, honeysuckle, delphiniums, peonies, and  white rock paths scattered with glass marbles added a little bling to the garden.  An ornate white wrought iron gazebo had more symphony players entertaining those on the tour. 

The rest of our group was finished and they headed up to the top of Cap Santé to the park to see the view of the town, the bay, and marina below, while Kim and I got a head start on our pre-arranged meeting place of the Longhorn Saloon in Edison.  This is a favorite place Larry and I make for chicken wings and chicken fingers and a great little biker restaurant.  Later in the afternoon Edison is not as loud with the rumble of motorcycles as it usually is around noon.  Kim and I wandered into a local art gallery to wait for our friends to arrive.

When we were all gathered we walked over to the Longhorn Saloon with Fran leading the group.  She opened the door to enter then backed out laughing.  She laughed so hard she couldn’t talk at first.  The waitress was wearing a bikini top with a short, short sheer skirt over the bottom, her hair pulled up with foil in it, eye make-up that went above and below her eyes, and tennis shoes.  This was new.  Fran and I both commented that usually the waitresses wear a Longhorn Saloon t-shirt and jeans.  I wonder if this is the new uniform.  We headed out to the patio where Kim and I ordered cold drinks and the others ordered dinner.  The waitress was cute and friendly and took excellent care of us; it was just her unusual attire that would make us giggle occasionally—and, of course, Larry wants us to go there soon!

We took Chuckanut Drive back to Bellingham and Larry picked me up at Kim’s.  It was a great day with friends touring gardens and sharing a laugh or two.
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