BY VALERIE EASTON / Seattle, Washington, USDA Zone 8
NURSERIES OF NOTE
At her little urban nursery in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, proprietress Tory Galloway specializes in tough, drought-tolerant plants like agaves and hebes that stay lush through the dog days of summer. Galloway, a former landscape contractor (until she injured her piriformis muscle), offers expert advice on planting low-maintenance, year-round gardens with an intriguing selection of durable performers, many from New Zealand. For more information, call 206–632–1760 or visit www.piriformis.com.
The Meaning of Modern
Northwesterners pride themselves on being unbound by tradition—after all, we’re out here in the newest corner of the country. So why do many of our gardens remain reminiscent of flowery Jekyllian borders? It took reading the new book by popular BBC “rock ‘n’ roll gardener” Diarmuid Gavin to make me think about what modernism really means. Gavin’s book Outer Spaces (see “Recommended Reading,” below) is filled with intriguing images: aluminum eggshaped rockets, mesh tunnels, and a startling amount of metal abound. But I remain unconvinced that modern gardens need to be equal parts Star Trek, Andy Warhol, and Dr. Seuss.
We do have a few fine examples of modernist gardens in our region, including the minimalistic courtyard designed by Topher Delaney linking two wings of the Portland, Oregon art museum (pictured). Paved in rectangles of gray stone and enclosed with frosted glass panels, it features abstract and figurative bronze sculptures resting on slabs of concrete. The garden is so spare and colorless that by contrast it magnifies the textures of nearby leafy trees and the old redbrick museum.
Centuries of Chinese culture rest within a square block in Portland where a parking lot was torn up to build the Garden of the Awakening Orchid. Although rich in symbolism, this little walled garden strikes me as ultramodern in its urban sensibility and consummate balance of plants and architecture. Pattern upon intricate pattern leads into and through the garden, with sky and pines reflected in smooth ponds, rooms opening to bridges, and windows leaking views through the garden and out to the neighborhood.
Tacoma has a sleek new Antoine Predock—designed art museum with an open-air stone courtyard of astounding beauty and simplicity. Designed by Richard Rhodes, the courtyard brings the metaphor of water into the museum’s core. Blocks of aged, weathered granite are tilted and tipped to evoke a sensual sweep of silent wave, its stark undulation repeated in interior mirrors and the reflective glass and steel of the museum’s exterior.
Just as a stretch of granite celebrates the spirit of water-bound Tacoma, so, too, does the stark skeleton of an abandoned gasworks plant on the shores of Lake Union reveal the history and soul of Seattle. The logical thing would have been to tear down the rusty old hulk, but landscape architect Richard Haag left it to preside over Gasworks Park, where it has become as recognized and valued a part of the cityscape as the Space Needle.
Perhaps the essence of modern gardens is best captured at Terry Welch’s garden east of Seattle, a naturalistic wildlife refuge with overtones of Asian culture. It was here, admiring beaver dams and listening to birdsong, that I started to think that modernity is far more than stainless steel, whimsical ornamentation, or aggressive architecture injected into gardens to tell us we’re looking at something avant-garde. It is the essence of Welch’s garden that is profoundly modern, the fusion of cultures and influences into a new thing that is uniquely its own. This melding of international symbols and aesthetics, as well as Welch’s reverence for the land, its history and its creatures, is modernism for the 21st century. H
by Diarmuid Gavin; 2003; Dorling Kindersley
Diarmuid Gavin is an Irish garden visionary who designs gardens with a Mick Jagger thrill. The 28 gardens featured in Outer Spaces hold plenty of visual surprises, captured in color photos showing both inspiration and finished product. Despite a distinctly futuristic look. Gavin’s gardens appear sensitive to their sites and are softened by the artful arrangement of plants. Each is tailored for its owner’s needs, including play space for children and areas to eat, relax, stroll, or swim.