by Valerie Easton photographed by Barry Wong "IT NEVER ENDS around here; we're always thinking up more things to do," says Connie Aspinall...
“IT NEVER ENDS around here; we’re always thinking up more things to do,” says Connie Aspinall of the intensely planted Bellevue garden that pleasantly enslaves her and husband Tim. The couple digs ponds and streams, grooms hedges and cares for more flowering plants than you’d expect anyone could ever squeeze into a single garden.
Every spring, Connie pulls on thigh-high waders and climbs down into the chilly waters of the ponds to clean them out. She painstakingly dabs with a paintbrush to pollinate the oriental pears espaliered against the house. Tim has laid hundreds of feet of brick pathways, creating a navigation system that stretches from the front gate to the back shady corners of the garden where a stream meanders past ferns, hydrangeas and Japanese maples.
This gracious, energetic couple can’t seem to stop carving out new areas of the garden. “A friend gave me the tubers,” says Connie of her new dahlia and peony garden. She revamped the rose beds after visiting gardens in Tuscany, creating a more formal feel with boxwood balls and cones for year-round structure. “I gave so many of the hybrid teas away, but now I’m collecting them again,” she says with a rueful smile. The roses are treated to doses of alfalfa meal, mushroom compost and Terosa Rose Food in early spring. Local rosarian Bob Gold keeps the roses healthy with nonpoisonous spray, essential because the garden is also home to Mack and Molly, a busy pair of long-haired dachshunds.
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Before gardening fever struck in the early 1990s, the horse-acre lot was dark with big pines and cottonwoods. Over time, the Aspinalls have removed many of the big, old trees to let in sun enough to grow Connie’s beloved roses and lilies. Actually, she loves most plants and tries to save even the most truculent malingerers. Tucked behind the roses is a holding area Connie calls “the boxwood hospital,” where she babies along all the sickly plants she can’t bring herself to compost.
Tall conifers still shade the back of the garden, where Connie has planted ferns and more ferns. “I just added 11 different kinds of hydrangeas,” she says, pointing out the new pale pink ‘Blushing Bride’ and an arbor festooned with the flat, lacy blooms of a climbing hydrangea (H. anomala subsp. petiolaris).
But the Aspinalls’ garden is much more than a plant enthusiast’s wonderland. It’s a place to entertain that feels as welcoming as its creators, who are quick to greet guests with one of Tim’s freshly foamed lattes. Comfortable spots for respite or sociability beckon throughout the garden. Pathways meander around curvaceous planting beds on their way to a well-furnished, secluded little gazebo, an arbor-topped bench and a dining patio beside a pond. As we wander the garden, Connie points out a little nook with a waterfall that Tim created for her as a Valentine’s gift. Around another corner is a circular stone terrace holding a bistro table and chairs.
Does this hard-working pair ever take a moment to pause and enjoy the cushioned wicker chairs in the gazebo? Tim gracefully sidesteps the question: “We’ve had such fun . . . everything here is a little dream.” Connie gets right to the point: “We love it . . . What else would we be doing?”
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “A Pattern Garden.” Her e-mail address is email@example.com. Barry Wong is a Seattle-based freelance photographer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.