A tour of amazing gardens

June 19, 2013 

Curious what my garden looks like? Here’s your chance. My hometown of Enumclaw is hosting a tour of eight local gardens to benefit our hospital care van. The tour is Saturday and includes garden art vendors at every garden. I’ll be giving a seminar at the garden that is hosting the food vendors. The topic will be “Shortcuts to a Show Garden” and you’ll learn tips on how anyone can dress up a landscape with very little time or money.

Now here are the best shortcuts from some of the amazing gardens you’ll see on this tour:

Use outdoor art work you cannot kill.

At the Roc Nob garden and welding studio, you can explore 5 acres of outdoor sculpture surrounded by unusual specimen plants. An easy shortcut is to remove an ugly or sickly tree (George Washington had the right idea about cutting down that cherry tree) and replace it with some focal-point art. “Primitive-futuristic” outdoor sculptures incorporating stone and metal make this a garden that will transport visitors to a whole new world.

Flatter the garden with fine foliage.

In the La Penske garden, there are mountain views and cold, cruel winds. With drought-resistant plants that boast colorful leaves, the landscape comes alive with color but is low on maintenance. It is the deft arrangement of the burgundy barberry, golden spiraea and deep purple smoke trees that light up this country garden. Arranging plant material for maximum contrast is a shortcut you can use in container gardens as well as in the large-scale landscapes. You might not need to buy any new plants to put this tip to work. Just rearrange the colorful plants you already have with a new eye toward foliage contrasts.

Add a personal touch with tiny details.

Every visitor will fall in love with the “cowboy” theme garden on the Enumclaw garden tour, but you don’t have to be into rustic Western collections to make your own garden a personal work of art. You’ll be inspired by the tiny details such as how orange and peach flowers work well with the aged patina of recycled containers. Pick your own color palette and echo it throughout your garden for a landscape that is cohesive and personal. Display your personal collections outdoors during the summer months to give a patio a cozy living-room flair. From pottery to antiques, use what you have to decorate your outdoor space.

Get creative with containers.

In the Matson garden, the owner recycled silver-hued garbage cans, coal scuttles and tin tubs, then grouped them all together to create a vignette of up-cycled elegance that looks as if it came right from France. You are welcome to take photos at this garden tours and use them for inspiration for your own creative container gardens.

Unusual plants always will steal the show.

Sometimes all a garden needs is a new and interesting character to ramp up the drama. You’ll find unusual trees, flashy flowers and shrubs that only the owners might or might not be able to identify in these show gardens. Black Lace Elderberry, Golden Lantern Magnolia, gold lime light currant, a Peaches and Cream maple and deep blue gentian are a few of the specimen plants you’ll see up close and personal on this garden tour. Seeing plants in a garden rather than in a row of pots at a nursery is a much better way to imagine how these garden stars will perform in your garden.

Use ground covers to add easy care color.

My own 2-acre garden is an example of weed-blocking groundcovers such as saxifrage and lamiums that help to light up the shaded areas and also provide a carpet for a collection of garden rooms. You’ll see golden foliage as an accent in my blue-and-yellow garden and also as a border in the woodland walk. I also use pulmonarias instead of a lawn to surround an ivy gazebo — not only do these ground covers thrive in dry shade, but they flower and also hide the uneven ground full of mole holes. Come see my brick wall with colorful tile inserts — I might not have any blue poppies in bloom, but I do have a “forever blooming” blue poppy tile displayed on the wall.

Just add water.

From birdbaths filled with floating flowers to giant ponds of koi and trout, you’ll see new ways of using water in the garden at every stop on this tour. A water feature can turn any garden into a showplace — and will make the birds happy as well.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.

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