Marissa Hsu still regrets the third Western red cedar she and her husband added to...
Marissa Hsu still regrets the third Western red cedar she and her husband added to their Broadview garden. This was Hsu’s very first garden, and she struggled with it for 20 years. “We had so many failures, year after year,” she says, including the death of everything planted beneath the trio of cedars.
After the family remodeled their home in 2000, Hsu sought help from garden designers Glenn Withey and Charles Price.
“Glenn and Charles wouldn’t do anything for us unless we put in a new fence,” says Hsu, “and they said all the grass in front had to go.” A sandstone courtyard, steps, pots and foliage plants replace what was once front lawn. But her husband, Norman Page, loves trees and wouldn’t negotiate on them. So now, the handsome new fence helps show off the three non-negotiable cedars along the street. Japanese maples, hinokis (false cypress) and mahonia are planted underneath. Chartreuse plantings like golden yew and Japanese forest grass lap at the edges of the stonework, brightening the shady entry.
“Glenn and his crew hand-selected and laid each of the stones,” says Hsu, pointing out pancake-shaped river stones, inlaid beach pebbles and granite millstones from China that enliven the sandstone pavers. Hits of color come from annuals in five large pots anchoring the courtyard.
After completing the entry, Withey and Price went on to perk up the shady side garden. They left a few of the old azaleas, rhododendrons and daylilies, adding a textural mélange of green upon green groundcovers. A billow of maidenhair ferns, the fat, froggy leaves of podophyllum, evergreen epimedium and shamrock-shaped oxalis bring new life to the older plantings lining the stone passageway along the house.
It’s in the back garden that Withey and Price cut loose with the color artistry for which they’re so well known. Purple clematis riot through golden ‘Sulphur Heart’ ivy kept clipped to prevent it from seeding. A tall urn holds a striped yucca aloft, fragrant lilies poke up everywhere, purple-leaf weigela adds a dark note.
The garden lapses back into quiet sophistication in the back corner, where it falls off into a wooded ravine above Carkeek Park. Here, a new viewing platform with stone bench, outlined in golden and variegated plants, sets the scene for reading or private conversation beneath a lacy canopy of chocolate-colored maples.
“When we first saw the garden, it was kind of mundane,” concedes Price. “Marissa wanted to bring it up to another level after the remodel.” While Hsu credits Withey and Price for selecting and placing each plant in the richly textural palette, the designers in turn claim she has become an excellent gardener. “Marissa cares for the garden — she does all the work,” says Withey. “We just come in a few times a year to prune, mulch and tweak.”
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “A Pattern Garden.” Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Barry Wong is a Seattle-based freelance photographer. He can be reached at email@example.com.