Ana Kimball bought a country home to get away from it all, and transformed her wilderness garden.
THE GARDENS AT Ana Kimball’s Maury Island home flow together with ease — one would think they’re original, though she completely changed the landscape in 2010, shortly after she purchased the home.
Kimball’s permanent residence is on Capitol Hill, but she was drawn to the Vashon area thanks to the persistence of her dear friend and gardener, Marynell Matt. “That spot — having that much acreage, a little view of the Olympics on a clear day, and being at the end of the road” was perfect, Kimball says.
The house and garden sit among 5 acres of mostly wooded, remote land on Maury Island, which is connected to Vashon Island by an isthmus. That was one of the selling points. The space has gone through a major redesign, and Kimball has manipulated the landscape to her liking. She enlisted the help of Vashon-based landscape architect Bob Horsley, a recommendation from Marynell.
“The initial site planning posed big problems related to existing vs. needed use and function,” notes Horsley. “The house and site had a driveway straight to the front entry of the home with a large, amorphous parking area dominating the front of the house. We created a new driveway through an undeveloped area.”
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Now, navigating to the front entry takes people on a short journey under a modern-looking arbor overburdened with grape vines and hops — a whimsical tunnel of greenery leading to the front door. Some of the grapes are sweet and delicious, but Kimball has to beat the squirrels to them if she wishes to indulge.
This long walkway empties onto a circular patio of Pennsylvania Bluestone and an antiquated stone wall built with Snoqualmie granite by Kimball’s friend and mason, Bill Parsons.
“It took a long time, but it was done by an artist’s hand,” says Kimball. “He is a perfectionist, and even went as far as to design this triangular pulley to shift the rocks into place.”
A deck off the back of the house was built to be big and open — a welcoming space making the transition from house to the outdoors effortless.
“When I bought the house, the back patio was an ugly, square, brick thing with a hot tub,” Kimball says. The sunken hot tub was moved away from the patio and into a private space, and the deck was enlarged. “We wanted (the space) for yoga,” and entertaining, says Kimball.
The deck overlooks and drops off to a meadow that Kimball had seeded after regrading the land. Across the meadow is an area she envisions eventually housing a yurt, or structures for spending time in the wild. She likes being “back in the woods and listening to the woodpeckers.”
Perhaps the most cheery and ingenious spot on the property is the fenced garden, which lies just outside Kimball’s kitchen door, adjacent to the house. Before the redesign, cars would park here.
“Bob said, ‘I have a radical idea — you’re parking in the flattest, sunniest spot of the yard,’ and suggested moving the driveway to make it farther from the house,” Kimball says. Now, two steps across a gravel pathway and through a bespoke garden shed allow for easy access to the blooms, vegetables and fruits that lie in wait.
“It’s a vegetable and cutting garden,” says Kimball. There are blueberry bushes underplanted with strawberries, a raspberry patch and espaliered apples, plums and pears. A local gardener helps plant and tend the space, and in summer adds zucchini, tomatoes and all sorts of warm-season vegetables. There also is a small dandelion patch to feed Kimball’s pet rabbit, who also happens to love raspberry leaves.
The cutting garden holds rows upon rows of solid dahlias, sweet peas, delphinium, peonies, zinnias, sunflowers (for the birds) and lots of lilies.
“My gardener will say we don’t have room (for more plants), but we find it,” says Kimball. “I love to buy plants, either from a catalog or when I see stuff out at sales. It’s such a joy to go pick out plants.”
In the shed, which stores tools and holds a potting table, sink and work desk, there is a chest freezer to store the overflow of berries, and curing space for potatoes and alliums. Outside, a wall of shelving holds various vases and pieces of ceramics — a collection of colorful items Kimball intends to use to make garden art some day.
“I keep wanting to make garden art to give to someone,” she says. For now, they add a pop of brilliant color, even on dark winter days.
Also in the shed is a picture of Marynell Matt, who not only beckoned her to the island but also helped design the space, select plants and connect Kimball with local garden professionals to help. She passed away in 2012 in the midst of the project and never got to see it completed, but, “She’s very much there,” Kimball says.