Debra Prinzing

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A horticultural “welcome home”

August 7th, 2010

The view from our rental house in West Seattle at sunset. It reveals the purplish silhouette of the Olympic Mountains and a peek of Puget Sound.

I drove into Seattle on Monday, July 19th after spending three days on the road from Ventura County. My husband and two sons were already settling into our new rental home in West Seattle while I hung out with the (not fun) packers and movers in Southern California.

FINALLY – the house was emptied, cleaned and ready to wow potential buyers. And it was time for my return to Seattle. With the Volvo station wagon crammed to the brim with breakable garden sculpture and pottery, the many plants I couldn’t say good-bye to, a few pieces of clothing and my faithful Lab, Zanny, I left for my Pacific Northwest destination. I hit the road Friday evening with four books on tape and a tank full of gas. One night bunking at the borrowed home of Palo Alto friends who left me a key, followed by one night in an artist’s rental apartment that Amy Stewart found for me in Eureka, Calif., and a third overnight at a dog-friendly hotel in Portland . . . and we got here by noon on Monday.

I was happy to unload the car, although with 20-plus steps from sidewalk to house, I burned quite a few calories doing so. It took nearly 2 hours to unload properly and check that my mostly succulent menagerie was unbruised and that nothing was damaged due to my occasional need to slam on the brakes!

But there really wasn’t time to dawdle because I had to get cleaned up and dressed for my friend Stacie’s garden gal’s soiree, the second annual event. While vacationing in Seattle last summer, I was able to attend Stacie’s delightful summer garden party in her highly-published North Seattle landscape. Earlier this year, way back in February, Stacie asked me to let her know when I might be back in Seattle so she could work around my travel schedule for her 2010 soiree plans.

The garden gals, from left: Me, Kathy Fries, Deborah Cheadle, Stacie Crooks, Marty Wingate, Wendy Welch, Lorene Edwards Forkner, Nita-Jo Rountree, Gillian Mathews, Janet Endsley and Tina Dixon (kneeling)

I was greeted by a charming stone duck - peeking from a hedge at the Bloedel Reserve.

As it turns out, I anticipated being at a family wedding in mid-July so I assured her that something around July 19th would be ideal. Little did I know that (a) the bride and groom would skip the formal wedding for a simple civil ceremony (and three-week honeymoon in Mexico) and (b) that I would not be vacationing here in July but MOVING HERE!! Life occasionally throws us some very wonderful surprises and this one came courtesy of the company my husband works for deciding quite recently to relocate its corporate headquarters from Pittsburgh to Seattle.

Back to Stacie’s party. This one was scheduled for late afternoon-early evening when the light is quite delicious and the day’s temperatures begin to cool. A gifted landscape designer and sustainable gardening educator, Stacie recently joined the board of trustees for the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

For some magical reason, she obtained permission to host a private gathering on a day when the garden isn’t normally open.

Let me tell you, the prospect of joining Stacie and some of my very favorite Seattle women friends kept my eyes on the road and my foot on the pedal while I drove from LA to Seattle over that long weekend.

Here’s some background on Bloedel Reserve, excerpted from the 9th edition of the Northwest Gardener’s Resource Directory(Sasquatch Books, 2002), my very first book project that I inherited from the wonderful, late Stephanie Feeney:

The most massive Katsura tree I've ever seen.

From the time Prentice and Virginia Bloedel acquired this 150-acre property in 1951, they began a sensitive courtship aimed at marrying the designing hand of man with the natural attributes of the woodland setting. Over a period of 30 years, and with the commissioned partnerships of wisely selected professionals (Fujitaro Kubota, for help with the Japanese Garden, and landscape architects Thomas Church, Richard Haag, and the firm Environmental Planning and Design), Prentice Bloedel orchestrated the development of many garden rooms set in the varied landscape of second-growth hardwood and conifers, meadow and wetlands, glens and gullies.

While incorporating influences from the Japanese and the European gardening traditions, a respect for the natural attributes of the land prevailed and pervaded. There are now 84 acres of second-growth forest and 66 acres of altered landscapes. The result: a native woodland crisscrossed with shady paths, meadows, and a broad selection of formal and informal gardens.

So here is a selection of photos taken that lovely day, including a group shot that we staged by placing self-timing cameras on the bench perfectly aligned with the reflection pool (above). At the bottom of this post, I have included details on visiting Bloedel. The garden is more accessible to the public than ever and offers some delightful summer concerts, guided tours, classes and other events. It is worth a visit and you’ll want to set aside a full day to do so.

This is the quintessential photograph often captured by amateurs and professionals alike. The perspective is elegant and inviting, with the Bird Refuge and pond in the foreground; the original estate framed by native northwest conifers, in the distance.

On the east side of the estate, there are brilliant views of Puget Sound facing Seattle. The massive planting of Hakonechloa macra in the foreground emulates soft ripples of the water.

A view through the towering trees and sun-dappled understory, taken from the deck outside the Japanese-inspired tea house where we gathered

The Reflecting Pool mirrors the sky and treetops.

The Reflecting Pool is contained by a wall of green hedging, making it separate from the semiwild woodland.

Fujitaro Kubota's Japanese garden, a quiet, contemplative space.

One of my favorite design details at Bloedel is this alternating turf-and-stone pattern next to the Japanese gravel garden.

Observe and appreciate the hand-raked lines in the gravel.

Dapple light plays on stone, gravel and moss of the Japanese garden.

The cobbled walkway leads toward the Japanese teahouse. Note the attractive low fencing on either side, made from lashed bamboo poles.

I think this is a golden form of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), glowing against the darker evergreens.

Bloedel Reserve, 7571 NE Dolphin Drive., Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-1097

phone: 206-842-7631

Open: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday (summer hours – open 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday-Friday); Sunday 10 a.m-4 p.m. (open Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day).

Admission: $12 (discounts for seniors, military and children 5-12; children under 5 are free).

Membership info: At $55, the basic annual membership is a great bargain because a single membership entitles you to bring a total of 4 people each visit.

3 Responses to “A horticultural “welcome home””

  1. Lorene Says:

    It was a magical day into evening…but I still can’t get over that you took off on this adventure before you’d even spent a night under your new roof! It’s soooo good to have you back. oxoxoxo Lorene

  2. kate gormley Says:

    Dear Debra,
    So glad to have you back in the Seattle Area! You are such a treasured asset to the gardening community.
    Thank you so much for your kind words, beautiful photos, and great publicity for Bloedel Reserve. We are so glad to be able to welcome more people to the garden!
    Kate Gormley

  3. Lydia Plunk Says:


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