Judith Prindle designed and planted the extravagant Whidbey Island gardens that serve as setting for Kirk's Prindle sculptures.
Kirk and Judith Prindle cultivate three flowery acres on a Whidbey Island bluff. Judith designed and planted the extravagant gardens that serve as setting for Kirk’s sculptures, from bronze birds to strung-together pots painted in primary colors. You’d never guess this piece that looks as if it might be a supersized horn from some giant, colorful beast was crafted from plastic nursery pots.
“I started with some hand-built ceramic stuff about 10 years ago. Then I went to bronze. Then I realized I needed to weld, and later started working in cement,” says Kirk, a retired cardiologist, of his personal art history. This multimedia sculptor is a renaissance man on an island rich in diverse talents. He acts in local productions and plays in a jazz quintet when he’s not out welding rusty bits of recycled metal in his shop or building a deer fence to protect his wife’s 250 rose bushes.
And how does Judith grow such glorious roses on a dry, west-facing hillside? The Prindles sunk a 7,000-gallon cistern beneath their driveway to collect the rainwater off the roof of the house. Overflow runs down into a pond Kirk dug alongside the long gravel drive. All three acres of garden, planted in sandy soil, are watered from the cistern. And the shady overflow pond, the setting for one of Kirk’s ceramic heron sculptures, is planted in shrubby yellow honeysuckle and stands of leafy yellow bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Goldheart’).
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While Kirk’s pieces are the permanent features of the landscape, Judith’s palette is ever-changing foliage and flower. The garden is skillfully choreographed by color, despite its comfortable air of sumptuous abandon. The entry garden is all grays and whites with touches of blue, its centerpiece a layer cake of a frothy, white-trimmed dogwood, Cornus controversa ‘Variegata.’
All the pale foliage is set off by a bed of maroon-colored roses, maples and purple hazel (Corylus maxima ‘Purpurea’) underplanted with black widow geranium (Geranium phaem) with dark purple flowers and equally dark blotches on its leaves. Around the corner of the house, the seaside garden is 450 breathtaking feet of west-facing water and mountain view, with an equally lengthy foreground bed of shrubs and perennials in blues and yellows. Golden hops and purple clematis grow up two tall metal armatures, and the steep part of the bank is blanketed in supremely fragrant rugosa roses.
Much of the garden’s lush charm comes from its tangle of vines climbing up trees, arbors and pergolas. Kirk jokes that Judith was planting the pergolas before the cement hardened. Two fragrant, creamy ‘Kiftsgate’ roses wind up trees. Various clematis and potato vine twine together for bloom spring through summer. One entry trellis is planted all in yellow and white flowering vines, the other in shades of pink, including the graceful rambling rose ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk,’ which climbs vigorously then cascades down in sprays of blush pink. Espaliered roses and honeysuckle cover all but a few inches of the house, turning it into, in Judith’s words, “one big swallow’s nest.”
When the garden is out of bloom, Kirk’s alliums persist. That’s because he sculpted them out of metal shavings from his fabrication studio and spray painted them purple. “When I do organic stuff, it’s because of this woman I’ve been living with,” he says, a sweet description of how he and Judith have influenced each other in their creative dance of collaboration.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “A Pattern Garden.” Her e-mail address is email@example.com. Jacqueline Koch is a Seattle-based freelance photographer.