Northwest NEWS

June 12, 2000

Front Page

Working the earth is a labor of love for local gardeners

garden 1

Owner Anne Keith enjoys working in her rose garden the most. The seated woman, a life-sized bronze, adds a sense of grace to the garden. Other bronzes reflect the natural environment. This is one of the five gardens to be shown on the Woodinville Garden Club tour on July 15.

garden frog

The owner's favorite frog guards a six-ton stone, one of three stones that help create the aesthetics for the Zen Garden.

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A salmon-bearing stream runs under one of the stone bridges. Many sculptures, bridges, and walkways draw the eyes to peaceful settings.

Staff photo by Becky Nixon.

by Deborah Stone, features writer

   The Woodinville Garden Club is hosting its first public garden tour on July 15th. Five local gardens will be open for people to leisurely stroll through and reflect on the special qualities that make each unique and charming.

   The owners of the gardens are all dedicated gardeners with a passion for working with the earth. They spend countless hours in their gardens, cultivating, maintaining, and rearranging them, because for them, gardening is a labor of love, which nourishes their bodies and souls.

   At Anne's World, owner Anne Keith has developed approximately half of her fifteen-acre piece of land into different garden rooms with various seating areas. Old growth timber surrounds much of the property, but the eight acres near her house include rolling lawns, an original creek, and well-established tree and shrub specimens. Patios, decks, and extensive natural-looking placement of rock enclose the home that overlooks the lawns, the creek, a pond, and a Zen garden. The latter includes three huge stone columns, one of which weighs ten tons.

   Life-sized bronzes are strategically placed throughout the acreage. Some reflect the natural environment, and others add grace to a garden room, such as a seated woman in the rose garden. Other bronzes reflect the owner's sense of humor (an enormously round frog prince in the Zen garden).

   Additional features include a covered wooden walking bridge over the creek, an extensive peony garden, a picnic shelter with an oversized chess board nearby, two orchards, a stone and glass Victorian greenhouse with arbor, and a formal Shakespeare garden (under development).

   Keith has always loved the outdoors and the feel of the earth. She says, "As a child, I was always more comfortable playing in the mud than getting dressed up and playing with dolls. I loved animals and anything to do with nature."

   Keith has had greenhouses in the various places she has lived, but she has never had a garden this extensive before, and it has definitely been a challenge for her.

   "I have a full-time crew to help me, but I spend at least thirty hours a week myself working in the garden," comments Keith. "It's such therapy and so relaxing for me. Gardening is calming and I find serenity in it, as well as a way to express my creativity."

   Kathy and Tom Leitch have created a naturalistic wildlife habitat on their two-acre-plus piece of land. The garden includes a sunny orchard in a grassy field and old forest land. There are many native plants that can be enjoyed via a circular walking trail.

   Visitors approach the couple's home through a terraced entry that includes a garden bench placed beside beds of annuals and perennials. As members of the Backyard Wildlife Federation, both Kathy and Tom encourage wildlife with bird feeders, water features, composting, and hand weeding.

   "I love bird watching," comments Kathy, "and I spend time just sitting and watching all the wildlife that our garden attracts."

   According to the couple, their garden's best feature is the three-tiered waterfall with natural stones, along with all the cedars, ferns, and woodland plants.

   Kathy has been gardening all her life, as it has been a way for her to be involved with nature. She says, "Gardening gets me outdoors, and working with plants and flowers is very relaxing for me."

   She is able to spend several hours a day with her hobby, now that she is retired from her work as a surgical nurse. "My goal all along has been to create a garden that feels comfortable, not one for show," comments Kathy. "I think Tom and I have accomplished that."

   Jerry and Dorothy Stansberry's one-acre garden was one of the fifteen finalists for the Northwest Flower and Garden Novice Home Garden Competition for 1999. It is a peaceful place with perennial beds, shrub borders, vines, and open expanses of grass. There is a creek flowing into a natural pond and two man-made ponds with colorful coy fish.

   Large trees and plants surround the ponds and one tree holds a treehouse built for a grandchild. A small boat floats on the water, beckoning visitors to step in and paddle gently around the pond. There is also a greenhouse, which provides winter storage for over 300 dahlias that provide vivid splashes of color to summer borders.

   "The garden has an open feeling to it as it goes through fields," says Jerry. "I think it invites people to walk around and enjoy the whole experience."

   The couple has lived in the same house for thirty years, but it has just been in the last ten years that Jerry has taken seriously to gardening. He says, "I retired from teaching seven years ago and began spending more time in the garden. I am out there all day now, from early morning to early evening. I live in my garden and I play in my garden. I feel totally at home here. I think I have gardening in my genes because both my parents lived in their gardens, too."

   For owner Judy Thomas, gardening is her therapy. She says, "It's a need I have to fulfill. It's something I have to do because it's my joy. I love to put my feet in the dirt."

   Thomas's two-and-a-half-acre garden lies in an open setting with large, beautiful trees and broad perennial borders. An upper section includes a natural woodland walk with huge cedar stumps that are the remains of the densely wooded land that existed over a century ago.

   The lower garden has color everywhere with well-tended mature perennial borders. There are twig arbors, split rail fences, and whimsical garden art, much of it created by Thomas.

   "I think the focal point of the property is our 135-year-old historical home, made from old growth logs," comments Thomas.

   Thomas and her husband have lived on the property for twenty-eight years and their garden has often changed over the years. Judy says, "I'm a compulsive plant mover because I like to try different designs. I'm not a fastidious gardener either, but I do love to stay with one palette in one area. I also love to use lots of textures to make it more interesting. I look for unusual plants, bold, big plants."

   Owners Paul and Judy West have created a garden on their one-acre hillside property that offers several small, private restful retreats. Behind the couple's home is a patio with smooth, curved lines and serene groupings of bamboo.

   There is a waterfall which cascades into a pond surrounded by Japanese maples and grasses. A large arbor marks the back entrance to the house. On another level, above a walkway of individually designed concrete ledge stones, is an English garden (in development).

   Paul, a concrete artist, did all of the stone work in the garden. He and his wife spend much of their leisure time in the garden and do all of the labor by hand.

   "Our goal has been to make it a place we want to go to," says Paul. "Rather than having to seek this type of space out somewhere else, we wanted to have it right with us where we live."

   Paul takes pride in the variety of plants in his garden, as well as the seasonal colors they produce throughout the year. Even though a hillside garden presents many challenges, Paul never views these problems as frustrating. He comments, "I look at gardening as the pursuit of imperfection!"

   Tickets to the Woodinville Garden Club's public garden tour are available at Molbak's, or by writing to: The Woodinville Garden Club; P.O. Box 1764; Woodinville, WA 98072. Adult tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the tour.