Birrell garden at Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling

After spending more than half the allotted time admiring Shelagh Tucker’s garden (on Day One of the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling), I realized I was running out of time to see Suzette and Jim Birrell’s garden and darted next door. How different from Shelagh’s dry gravel garden. Here a shady stone path winds through naturalistic woodland-style plantings toward a sunnier space beckoning with flowers.

Crocosmia, one of several stunning specimens in their garden. You don’t see crocosmia in Austin, but it was in bloom all over Seattle and will probably forever remind me of that city.

These interesting metal knobs caught my eye.

As you enter the left side of the back garden, a trio of towering Douglas firs (I think) creates a shady bower for a hammock.

A metal woodpecker eternally pecks away at one of the trees.

More crocosmia, plus heuchera in bloom

Looking back toward the house. The lawn has been shrunk to a reasonable size for play, and deep gardens surround the patio, including a large vegetable garden in the sunniest spot near the house.

Turning your back on the house you see the focal point of the back garden: a bright blue shed with green- and fuchsia-trimmed windows and doors. In the shade of an old crabapple/apple(?), a croquet set stands ready for play. Tempting!

The blue shed must brighten up even the soggiest winter days in Seattle.

Inside, we were all exclaiming over the clever light fixtures: upturned galvanized pails. A sloping roof and high windows keep the shed light and airy inside.

This beautiful border with silvery eryngium anchors one end of the vegetable garden.

More flowering perennials

A wider view shows the extent of the vegetable garden. A boulder-edged gravel path curves gracefully through the space. No geometric divisions here.


The Birrells include many rusted-metal touches in their garden, including these metal-capped fence posts with handy decorative hooks attached.

This bee hook is in use, holding a watering can and a garden tool at the ready.

A wider view shows Carol of May Dreams Gardens in her signature green on the left, and Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden and Robin of Bumblebee on the right.

A pot of colorful annuals catches the morning light.

Sweet peas climb a metal tuteur.

More crocosmia, with what looks like barberry in the background

The rusty metal accents continue with this beautiful garden gate, which leads back to the front garden…

…where this thoughtfully placed white pot gleams in the shade garden.

Mossy trees are another standard Seattle sight.

Both the Birrell and Tucker gardens gave us a fantastic start to the Seattle Fling. Coming up next: The Dunn Gardens, where we had lunch and enjoyed a docent-led tour. For a look back at the private garden of Shelagh Tucker, click here.

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

13 Responses

  1. Alison says:

    I never noticed those capped fence posts in the Birrell garden, I love them! I am getting such a kick out of reading all the posts now from the Fling, they remind me of things I saw and didn’t photograph and they continue to show me things I never even noticed! I didn’t even look inside the shed, I think all those bright colors scared me away.

    Ooh, I loved the bright shed, but I do have a weakness for bright color. Weren’t the fence caps nice? —Pam

  2. Donna says:

    Nice look at the garden, Pam. There were many interesting things to be found, but my favorite is the bright blue shed. What a pop of colors.

    Yes, I loved the shed too. —Pam

  3. jenn says:

    I’m always amazed at the view from your camera lens, Pam. You have a great talent for composition!

    Thanks so much, Jenn! —Pam

  4. Good eye, noticing the fence posts, I missed those. I think I related more to the Birrells’ garden because of the shade. The shed was such an eye-grabber.

    It’s nice to get ideas from beautiful shade gardens, isn’t it? I have a lot of shade in my new garden too. —Pam

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Such an inviting place. I think that garden magazines have missed it by not having you shoot for them. I felt like I was there. Great.

    Aw, thanks, Lisa! I’m glad you are enjoying the photo tours. —Pam

  6. Greggo says:

    really liked the fence post caps, they would be so easy to build. Would like to know where to get the hooks, however. Just got back from Texas and brought with me a Texas “star” for my newly started Texas garden. Those post caps would look good also. Don’t think my Kansas neighbors would mind too much. lol. You guys are soooo dry.

    Oh yes, a star is essential for a Texas garden. (We live under the Death Star, you know.) How fun that you are making a Texas garden in Kansas. I look forward to reading about it. —Pam

  7. cheryl says:

    OMG! I love it! Especially the shed with attached greenhouse. I like the flow of this yard; very casual yet tidy. Do they ever really have time to use that wonderful hammock? I agree with Lisa.. your photos are always fabulous!

    The hammock was certainly inviting, but yeah, I suspect it doesn’t get much use. Thanks for your kind comment, Cheryl. —Pam

  8. commonweeder says:

    How did I miss that gate? You got such great pictures – especially that bit of lawn. I am not against all lawn, although my husband wishes I were. We have not succeeded in eradicating ours.

    I’m not against all lawn either, Commonweeder, especially not a low-care, chemical-free lawn that is used for recreation or even negative space in a busy garden. The Birrells’ lawn was lovely. The key for me is not to use lawn as a default but rather as a thoughtful part of one’s landscaping or garden. —Pam

  9. Interesting that the bright blue shed shows up in every post I’ve seen on this garden…and I didn’t take a single picture of it! Great garden capture Pam…

    You successfully avoided the predictable shots, Loree. :-) I almost didn’t post the shed photos because everyone else has already done so, but then thought, what the heck, I LIKED the shed and want to include it in my post. Maybe someone out there hasn’t seen it already—ha! —Pam

  10. […] up: A happy-hour visit to Ravenna Gardens. For a look back at the lovely Birrell garden, click […]

  11. Darla says:

    Beautiful captures of this garden. I for one have not tired of looking at the cheerful shed on every post I have read about the fling.

    It’s interesting how cheerful that blue turned out, isn’t it? You’d think in a cool climate you’d want yellow to visually warm things up. But the blue works beautifully. —Pam

  12. Thanks for the tour. What a beautiful place! I love crocosmia, but after having some for a few seasons, I haven’t been able to get them to survive our winters. I like how they have vegetables in the front. Those artichokes are beauties!

    They are! Their vegetable garden was really quite something. —Pam

  13. Frances says:

    Lovely photos, Pam. I spent more time at the Tucker garden, too, being drawn to the sunny gravel. The blue shed was inspired and the veggies were so well grown. I missed the fence posts, thanks for catching that detail!

    My pleasure, Frances. That’s the fun part about reading everyone else’s posts—you see so many details you missed. —Pam