FOR MORE THAN 30 years, I’ve been peeking over fences and around hedges into the gardens of my West Seattle neighbors. Ours is a vibrant community where the beach meets a bustling business district, surrounded by neighborhoods filled with gardens and green spaces. Thanks to the West Seattle Garden Tour, once a year I get to legitimately explore a variety of lush landscapes and unique gardens.
Now in its 25th year, this year’s tour features nine residential gardens, all botanically plumped and charmingly primped for delight and inspiration. From a historic 2.5-acre property that was once the estate of Seattle pioneers Laurence and Ida Colman to a personal playground infused with color and the inventive use of upcycled materials, the mix is diverse and eclectic.
Enjoy the dappled shade of an elegant landscape surrounding a venerable 100-year-old home furnished with mature trees and shrubs skirted with layers of shade-loving perennials and a tapestry of ground covers. Or revel in open space and dramatic Puget Sound views from a relatively new modern garden designed to tackle contemporary environmental issues with permeable surfaces, organic practices and pollinator-friendly plantings.
For some, these outdoor spaces provide a daily dose of beauty and refuge from a busy life. For others, their gardens are a creative laboratory or home to a living collection of treasured rhododendrons, Japanese maples or dwarf conifers.
Visiting gardens is refreshing and a remarkably productive way to pass a summer’s day. Marvel at bountiful perennial borders; companionable outdoor living spaces; and productive kitchen gardens filled with fruits, vegetables and cut flowers as you gather ideas for built garden structures, water features and exciting container garden combinations.
And, while it might not be as sexy as a recklessly blooming June rose or as impressive as a towering fir, anytime I visit a garden, I’m always looking for creative solutions for managing the back-of-the-house-side of garden-tending, like organizing work space and tool storage, hiding the compost bins or — hope springs eternal — ways to tame unwieldy hoses and control marauding snails. The seed for new projects is sown — maybe I should try backyard beekeeping?
But the West Seattle Garden Tour is so much more than just great gardens. Since 1995, the not-for-profit, all-volunteer organization has raised more than $400,000 in support of a variety of local nonprofits promoting garden-based, educational and artistic endeavors. Together with a robust slate of sponsors that essentially doubles the proceeds from annual ticket sales, each year the organization grants around $25,000 to beneficiaries in West Seattle and neighboring communities.
Sound interesting? Join me on the West side!