Visit to Dragonfly Farms Nursery, & goodbye Seattle Fling

The final event of last month’s Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling was an afternoon visit to Dragonfly Farms Nursery—“Where Abnormality is the Normality!”—in Kingston, WA, and a fun happy hour on the lawn.

Dragonfly Farms offers not only an enticing selection of plants for sale but beautiful and whimsical display gardens. Consider the gigantic metal orbs pictured at top. (I had a little fun with perspective.)

Their true size is apparent in this photo, with a fellow blogger in the picture for scale. In the foreground stands a temple of love, a classical garden ornament with a beautifully wrought metal dome. The gardens were sunny, despite the gray, drizzly day, with yellow flowers and golden foliage…

…like this…

…and this. Check out the heavy chain archway—how did they do that?

Farm implements stood in for sculpture throughout the gardens.

Plow discs have been made into succulent dishes.

A closer look

And bowls and plates find new life as garden-art flowers.

More china flowers

Seattle likes using decorative glass in the garden.

But mannequin hands? That’s definitely “abnormal.”

A rebar plant support frames this blue-and-yellow combo.


A fly rests on a daisy.

Bright summer color

There’s even a touch of formality with this short allee along a straight, grassy path.

Did you expect to see a palm tree? I didn’t. But its hairy trunk adds inviting texture to the garden.

The flower color is echoed in the stems of this pretty plant.

Purple and gold—lovely

And so is pink and gold

How about gold and white? I don’t love this combo as much, but look—it’s a stock-tank planter!

Colorful succulents in a tiny wheelbarrow

From the other side, with California poppies in the background

Of course Dragonfly Farms would have to carry some of these.

And for those willing to stuff plants in their suitcases, the sales tables beckoned. (Update 2015: Dragonfly Farms has permanently closed, unfortunately.)

After touring the display gardens, we Flingers were treated to a happy hour by sponsor Proven Winners. I neglected to take any pics of the beautiful spread they served us, but I did snap this fashionable trio, who, inspired by the millinery at the recent royal wedding, sported fascinators to the last event of the Fling: Helen of Toronto Gardens, Caroline of The Shovel-Ready Garden, and Vicki of Playin’ Outside. Rock that look, gals!

Take a closer look at Vicki’s regionally appropriate fascinator. The yellow bit represents a Seattle banana slug! And those are fern fronds too. Clever, Vicki.

Soon it was time to say goodbye to a beautiful and welcoming city…

…as well as garden-blogging friends from all over the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. From right to left: Carol of May Dreams Gardens (Indiana), Lisa of Natural Gardening (North Carolina), Kelly of Floradora (northern California), Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings (Oklahoma), and Kathy of Cold Climate Gardening (upstate New York).

My Austin friend Jenny of Rock Rose

Happy gardening and garden-writing, y’all! Next year’s Garden Bloggers Fling will be held in Asheville, North Carolina, organized by Christopher of Outside Clyde (details and dates TBA). I hope to see my fellow bloggers again then.

My thanks to Jim of Compost in My Shoe for permission to repost his photo of our group on the ferry to Bainbridge Island.

For a look back at my post about the tranquil Bloedel Reserve, click here.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Nature, only better: The transcendent Bloedel Reserve

The Bloedel Reserve is a place of utter beauty and almost spiritual peacefulness. Rain drips quietly from mossy branches, and the color green wraps you in a soft embrace. I explored the grounds for two-and-a-half hours—not nearly enough time to see all 150 acres, but enough to walk some of the trails at a slow, reflective pace, in peaceful solitude and deep happiness.

I visited the Reserve with other bloggers on the final day of the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling last month. Only a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle and then a short drive, the garden feels a world away from the bustle of the city. Our group toured on a Monday, when the Reserve is normally closed to visitors, so we did have to put up with a few noisy mowers as the groundskeepers did their work, but that was only where lawn rules, near the Bloedel family’s former home, now a visitors center.

In back of the house, a terrace overlooks Port Madison Bay, blanketed this day in clouds. It was the only rainy day of my Seattle visit, and we even had thunder and lightning at the start of our tour. The staff were kind enough to share their umbrellas with us. However, photography was a little challenging as we tried to protect our gear from the rain.

Professional photographer David Perry, who writes an introspective (and of course beautifully photographed) blog called A Photographer’s Garden Blog, joined us to offer free, short seminars on taking better photos. He is an excellent and entertaining speaker. It was a treat to meet him after following his blog for several years.

The mowers interrupted his talk for a while but eventually fell silent. After sitting in on one of David’s seminars and then eating a quick box lunch, I decided to embrace the silence of a solo exploration of the garden. I descended the stairs pictured at the top of this post and entered a forest trail.

A hush

A sense of mystery and wonder

Moss cloaks everything in this climate, softening all hard surfaces with its ferny texture.

A chocolate-colored pond appeared, with a little waterfall…

…and a footbridge crossing over.

Silvery blue hostas along the bank, jeweled with raindrops, caught my eye.

Further along the trail, the heaviness of hemlock, Douglas fir, and western red cedar gives way to an airy, naturalistic allee of birch.

A single red-flowering shrub in bloom—could it be a rhododendron at this time of year?

The slender white trunks shine in the filtered light.

While trees and moss dominate the Bloedel—the highest and lowest layers—taller groundcovers are given a lot of play too.

Nearby, a dainty cluster of pink bells

A Japanese garden occupies the center of the Reserve, with several inviting paths leading in, including this one.

The simple beauty of wet flagstone set in grass…

…and mossy boulders.

In spring I am sure these flowering fruit trees (cherry? apple? peach?), mossy-trunked and -limbed, awaken with a profusion of frothy blooms.

Beautiful texture

I admired this zig-zagging design of groundcovers.

A wider view

A Zen garden offers a restful spot for contemplation in front of the guest house, built to resemble a Japanese tea house.

Stone and moss

Another gate and a more formal walk lead out toward the moss garden, but I’m not ready to leave the Japanese garden just yet.

In back of the guest/tea house, a sheltered deck and benches…

…an overlook…

…and a view of pond and garden.

You can see raindrops on the pond.

An elegantly contorted Japanese maple perches on one of the banks.

A “wishing bench” overlooks the pond too.

And now on to the moss garden.

I’d never seen anything like these golden carpets of moss.

Ferns, artfully planted, are set off by frames of moss. New fronds stick up like feather quills.

The sinuous branches of trees leaning toward the light wear cloaks of moss.

Such sumptuous, soft texture. This is a much gentler climate than that of thorny, prickly central Texas.

Near constant moisture makes it all possible.

An opening in the woods, and a formal reflection pool appears. I understand that the Bloedels are buried here. I can’t imagine a more peaceful resting place.

I don’t feel that my words or pictures have done justice to the beauty, serenity, and quiet joy of the Bloedel Reserve. But I hope they inspire you to visit one day. I’m astonished to think that I’d never heard of the place until the Garden Bloggers Fling, because it’s one of those incredible gardens that any lover of nature or gardens should visit.

Up next: A happy-hour, end-of-the-Fling visit to Dragonfly Farms Nursery in Kingston, WA. For a look back at the color-rich Farley Garden, click here.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Color-rich Farley Garden at Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling

Kate Farley’s west Seattle garden, which I visited on Day 3 of the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling, is a garden of exploration from front to back. I’m going to start in back, because the Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) were blooming spectacularly, a huge swath glowing salmon-orange in the strong sunlight.

Behind the Alstroemeria, purple iris, lilac phlox, and an unknown golden-leafed shrub jazz up the scene even further. Semi, daughter of Frances of Fairegarden, joins me in photographing the spectacle.

And then there are the twin tuteurs painted two vibrant shades of purple (or maybe one is older and has faded over time?). They add height, year-round structure, and of course color to the planting bed.

They also happen to look stunning with the Alstroemeria.

A tiny, elevated deck behind the house is shaded by an umbrella of the exact color of the Alstroemeria—a nice touch.

From here a small curving lawn sets off the cottage-style border.

Paths lead to secluded vignettes, like this glass ball on an old pedestal…

…and this stone-and-pipe sculpture—or is it a fountain?

Tucked into the back garden, a welcoming shed attracted our eager exploration. Here’s Melissa of Houston Garden Girl talking with someone in the spacious interior.

As in many Seattle gardens we visited, grasses add movement and texture and look especially pretty in the summer sunlight.

Colorful potted plants here and especially along the driveway give a lushness to paved areas.

One of several lovely roses blooming in Kate’s garden.

The front garden—and your first impression of the house—is very different from the more open, sunny rear garden. It is densely planted…

…and shady, with a narrow green tunnel that invites you in. A bench offers a quiet place for contemplation or conversation with a friend.

A lovely mix of shade plants cloak the ground, brightening the scene with white leaves and flowers.

And working my way back to the street, here’s an example of what you see curbside: a densely packed screen of plants hiding the house and main garden from view, but offering up to passersby a beautiful vignette of flowering tree, bench, and stone accents.

What a lovely gift for the neighbors.

Up next: the highlight of the Fling, our visit to the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. For a look back at Lorene Edwards Forkner’s “urban hillbilly chic” garden click here.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.