ABERDEEN — When the Roberts family purchased 40 acres across the road from their business, the Westport Winery and Vineyards-by-the-Sea, they initially had no plans for the rugged forested area.
Now they envision Grays Harbor’s first arboretum on the site.
“I’m known for my crazy ideas,” said Kim Roberts, who said she originally wanted the property in order to control the neighborhood that they love. She decided to broach the idea with her husband after it was brought to her by her longtime friend Don Tapio, an agriculture and community horticulture agent for Washington State University’s Extension Office in Grays Harbor and Thurston counties. Tapio had encouraged the family to start Grays Harbor’s first vineyard and winery back in 2007.
She and her husband, Blaine, along with their two grown children — daughter Carrie, Westport Winery’s general manager, and son Dana, head winemaker — plan to dedicate the land as a living museum or a botanical garden that will feature photographic and wildlife-viewing opportunities. The area is home to deer and elk, as well as many species of birds.
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Roberts said she hopes to work with Grays Harbor Audubon in recording the avian species on the site and work to create a better habitat for the birds. They also plan to configure the arboretum, and create informational sites on the different species of animals and plants within it, with the support of groups the winery currently supports with a portion of its proceeds from wine — including Grays Harbor Ducks Unlimited, the Grays Harbor and Pacific County Master Gardeners and the Twin Harbors Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The Robertses plan to focus on collecting plants that will thrive in the area, such as Japanese maples, conifers, rock plants, ferns, moss, lilacs, heather, azalea, rhododendron and wildflowers.
“All plants that will really like our soil and coastal weather, and that are deer- and elk-resistant,” said Roberts. “I see no point in fighting Mother Nature.”
The plants will be placed throughout the varied terrain and habitats, with consideration of the individual plants’ needs and the design of the landscape. Roberts, who has two architecture degrees from Washington State University, will lead in the design process.
The plants will be labeled and documented for any possible usage and with Latin and common names, date and source of their addition.
As for determining which of the current plants are noxious or invasive species, Roberts said much of that will be easy for the family.
“A lot of it is familiar to us as farmers, and we’re not big fans of chemicals,” she said, adding they plan on using mechanical means to rid the area of such plants — in other words, pull them by hand. They will also receive help from a local organization of volunteer gardeners in identifying which plants are “good” and can stay in place.
The family plans to plant in the fall and to rely on rain water on the nonirrigated land throughout the summer.
As for costs, Roberts said they will work with much of the same supplies they use at the winery.
“And I’m lucky in that I have a husband who supports my passions,” she added.
Roberts hopes to keep the land for decades and generations to come. The family also hopes to be host to schools and other organizations that could view the property as a fun and informative trip through nature.
What is to be called the Westport Winery Arboretum will be open for public viewing on an invitational basis as the plants are established.