Bring a pencil on pathways through the petals

On Saturday, June 27, the Petals and Pathways Home Garden Tour will be a focus on the gardening diversity within our valley. The tour is sponsored by the Master Gardener Foundation of the Olympic Peninsula. As visitors meander through the seven gardens, they might well find answers to their own gardening questions.

Two gardens have wind as a great intruder and the owners have experimented with plants that have the mettle to hold their own ground. Not many gardening magazines or books tackle high coastal wind with adequate suggestions. The owners have learned through trial and sometimes costly error how to create a sustainable garden. Take a notebook and pencil on the tour to record suggestions for plant, as well as pathway products.

Several gardens have a great deal of shade because of mature, majestic trees. Each is a study in art.

The observer gets to see a variety of plants that form the understory, layered in various heights and textures, and the eye travels from ground level to the tall backdrop of trees as well as scans scenes deeper in the distance.

In these gardens, hellebores, trilliums, pulmonaria, bleeding hearts and rhododendrons are planted beneath Acer griseum (paperbark maple), Acer palmatum "Lions' Mane," malus, beeches and doublefile viburnums and tree-sized, glossy-leaved mahonias such as "Charity" and "Arthur Menzies."

Deciding materials for pathways can be a conundrum for gardeners - where the pathways should be, the width and the material.

The gardens in the tour are examples of how pathways look best when they meander around and through the garden, certainly wide enough for a wheelbarrow or a wheelchair. Pathways in various gardens are made with pebbles, pavers, grass, thick mulch, slate or flagstone. Wide pathways also offer space for art. One garden has a lovely oversized green glazed pot as a focal point where several pathways merge.

Some of the tour gardens are large, some small. Some are mature gardens, existing more than 20 years, and some are only 2 or 3 years old, still growing into themselves.

Within all of the spaces, however, the owners have had to solve unique gardening problems: how to add height and texture to a piece of flat land; how to turn a sloping space into a knock-out rockery; where to put vegetables within the existing garden to create a permaculture or behind ornamentals; whether to have water features or not and then how to mask the pump; and how to plant in an area with little water, etc.

Their solutions might help visitors solve their own gardening questions.

An artist's eye is apparent in each of the gardens. Art work usually is used judiciously but always adds a new dimension. In one garden you'll not only see a lovely bronzed statue of a girl on a swing underneath a tall evergreen, but also funky, artsy rebar supports for dahlias, which, during winter months, stand on their own as art pieces.

Another garden has an oversized crowned crane sculpture, purchased in

Sequim but made in Zimbabwe from discarded oil drums. Arbors and gates invite the visitors into the gardens, each one created to fit the mood and nature of the garden.

Of course, all of us who are gardeners always are on the lookout for new plants and trees that are specimen plants, or those that add a textural punch or added drama to our gardens.

One specimen plant in at least three gardens is the pearl bush (Exochorda "The Bride"), a compact shrub about 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide with a profusion of white blossoms that drape like a bridal veil.

Another specimen is a Korean spice viburnum, which perfumes an entire area. In spring it's filled with pink flowers and in summer its red fruit fades to black-blue. As fall arrives, its foliage turns red and fades to burgundy. Euphorbia "Tasmania Tiger" adds texture along pathways and within the garden itself. Its silvery variegated leaves will top its stems with chartreuse bracts edged in white during the summer.

A dramatic sight on the

tour might well be the Tropaeolum speciosum, a climbing scarlet red nasturtium that has garnered the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. It climbs heavenward more than 50 feet up into a Port Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) and is a true drama queen.

Count on seeing and experiencing the effects of many new plants in the various gardens.

Tickets are $15 up until June 27 and then $20 the day of the tour. Visit www.petals to see where tickets can be purchased, as well as to note descriptions of the seven gardens.

Profits from the tour help support the three gardens sponsored and maintained by the Master Gardener Foundation of the Olympic Peninsula: Woodcock Road Demonstration Garden; Robin Hill Farm and the newly created Olympic Peninsula Demonstration Garden adjacent to Carrie Blake Park at the water reuse area.

The gift to the community from both the Master Gardener Foundation and the home owners who will be opening their gardens to the public is a deep commitment to using their land in a way that honors it as well as beautifies it.

Hours of work have been spent individually to collectively offer an array of gardens that offer a sense of serenity, a bit of whimsy, a space to grow vegetables and a lesson book to other gardeners.

The gardens showcase the multiple microclimates we have in this area and all of them point to the rich diversity, each with its unique set of problems to be solved within our valley.

Remember: Bring your notebook and a pencil!

Beverly Hoffman can be reached at

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