There’s a little bit of Italy snugged up against the Sand Point Country Club golf course.

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SUE TONG bought a high-on-the-hilltop Inverness home 12 years ago. Out front is a wide-open view to Lake Washington and around back the rolling green vistas of the adjoining Sand Point Country Club golf course. The garden itself was 1950s era boring, with lots of azaleas and rhododendrons bordering expanses of lawn. For a consummate gardener like Tong, the place was a clean slate, an invitation to start planting.

Inspired by the southern exposure and her love of Italy, Tong went Mediterranean. She planted lots of lavender, boxwood, bay, roses, palm trees and spiky Italian cypress. Aged-looking urns are a recurring theme through the garden. “They give a feeling of antiquity and rusticity,” says Tong, who feels every garden should tell a story.

What used to be a grassy slope between sidewalk and front garden is now a densely planted rockery filled with white roses, ornamental grasses and silvery New Zealand plants. Tong added stone steps leading up the rockery and beneath an arbor for a dramatic entrance to the front garden. But even more drama lies just inside. Most of the front garden is taken up by a rectangular pond accented by a large, dripping leaf sculpture made by Bainbridge artists Little and Lewis.

“I’ve always wanted one of their gunnera-leaf fountains,” Tong says. She designed the pond, and her sons built it for her.

“I’m always trying to simplify, simplify, simplify,” Tong says of the limited plant palette in her front garden. Beige gravel crunches underfoot, the fountain makes water music and little cream-colored Mexican feather grasses (Stipa tenuissima) blow in the wind. By the front door, in one of the garden’s few shady spots, Tong pots up little evergreens surrounded by a medley of colorful coleus, begonias and heuchera.

Around back, Tong has created garden spaces inspired by her trips to Tuscany. A square pond, with dripping Little and Lewis columns, holds pride of place, flanked by four boxwood-hedged beds. White carpet roses frothing up around boxwood balls grow inside each quadrant.

“The boxwood thing appeals to me because of how it creates order. Then I like a little chaos, too,” she explains.

The strict geometry of pond and hedging gives way to a textural medley on the hillside behind the pond. Fan palms, tall splays of phormium, hebes, grasses and the huge leaves of prehistoric-looking Tetrapanax papyrifer grow up the slope to screen the garden from golfers playing the nearby course. A dogwood shades a blue bench, and paths wander through planting beds. While her foray into Mediterranean plantings has been largely successful, Tong claims she’s over zonal denial. “I’ve lost Meyer lemon trees, Hebe ‘Amy’ and olive trees in the colder winters,” she says.

Closer to the house, Tong’s sons jackhammered up the old aggregate patio. She had them build arbors and lay terraces and pathways of Kota stone, a fine-grained limestone quarried in India. A pergola shelters a long dining table, chandeliers dangling from its cross pieces. A shady seating area features comfy chairs and a couch drawn up beneath a big umbrella. At night the pond, palms and cypresses are lit so they can be enjoyed from the kitchen and sunroom that look out over the back garden.

“It was good timing, the restoration of the garden,” says Tong. She suffered a health scare a few years ago, and found her garden to be a source of healing and respite that helped her recovery. “This is where I need to be.”