Dove's garden is just one of those to be featured at the Georgetown Garden Walk on Sunday, July 10. On the walk are more than 30 gardens and garden sites. Most are tended organically and feature found items and repurposed materials. The walk is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and it's free.
JON DOVE is a one-man band for his Georgetown neighborhood, where he’s lived all his life. He may drive to Bellevue for his day job as an estate gardener, but he comes home to garden in South Seattle.
“We are fiercely proud of our very old and established community. We have dedicated gardeners here, and rich, river-valley soil,” says Dove. An early winner of The Seattle Times garden contest, Dove opens his garden every year for the annual Georgetown Garden Walk, scheduled for Sunday, July 10. Gardening has been a constant for this part of the city, from the Native Americans who cultivated root crops to later truck farms and hop fields.
Dove didn’t stray far from home when he bought a historic 1905 house he’d admired as a child. “After 22 years here, it’s still a fixer,” he says of the tall old house painted dark, dramatic shades of purple and green to show off the garden. As if Dove’s garden needs any help being showy.
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Though he describes himself as “just a gardener,” not a designer, Dove’s sophisticated sense of color, texture and scale is abundantly clear even from the curb. The wide parking strip is a leafy buffer from the street, with purple and golden Japanese barberry, euphorbias, hosta, bergenia and even a rose or two.
Dove’s prize for winning the garden contest in 2000 was a trip to the Chelsea Garden Show. While in England, he visited famous gardens like Great Dixter and Sissinghurst, and remains entranced by what he saw. “Now I play around with scale; I love the billowiness of everything,” he says of his extravagantly planted garden. Roses drape over a kidney-shaped patio in the shady back garden, hydrangeas loom large, and you’d never know that Dove anguishes over colors. “I guess I just like pink,” he concludes, although he’s utilized every shade of green to play off the dark house and orchestrate color harmonies.
“The stupidest thing I ever said a decade ago was, ‘The garden is done!’ ” says Dove ruefully. Over the years, he’s taken out most of the lawn, adding more small shrubs and evergreens. “I totally love sword ferns,” he enthuses. “They’ll grow anywhere.”
The major change is Dove’s transformation of an old garage into an atmospheric little garden house that beckons visitors through the shrubbery to peek in through the windows. He carved three distinct spaces out of the single-car garage: a covered patio, potting shed and the richly furnished garden house. This space fulfilled Dove’s long-held dream of owning a house with French doors. It also gave him a chance to haul out all the old windows, doors, furniture and even draperies he’d found “thrifting” over the years and put them to good use.
Copies of “Country Life” sit next to a striped armchair; stuffed pheasants, flowery prints and plaid blankets complete the ambience of a clubby English sitting room. Dove surveys the cozy space and says, “Look at all these chairs — but I never sit down!”
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “The New Low-Maintenance Garden.” Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.