July Garden of the Month has a backyard secret
Wed., Aug. 10, 2016
“My first attempt at gardening was while I was stationed at Fairchild and we had to keep the area around our housing looking good,” Palmer said. He found that lacked any creativity, so when he bought his house he began collecting ideas, and the plants soon followed.
When he started his backyard, his canvas was nothing but grass shaded by one enormous maple tree, which he removed. “I don’t have a favorite plant because I just pick up plants I like and fit them in with my ideas,” Palmer said.
The entrance to his hideaway is framed by a wall of ivy he has carefully maintained for years. As soon as you walk past it you are met with a riot of color: yellow black-eyed Susans, pink rose of Sharon, Japanese maples, variegated dogwood, ostrich fern, hostas, clematis, Karl Foerster ornamental grass and one of the largest white Oriental lilies I’ve seen in a long time. A screened canopy provided a comfortable place to talk.
Surprisingly, with all this color, the garden isn’t stuffed with plants. Rather, Palmer has laid out simple, small beds surrounded by gravel paths. “I took all the grass out three years ago to cut down on the work,” he said.
Along the back of the garden is a raised bed with lilies, day lilies, more black-eyed Susans and annuals. The bed is framed in by a tall arborvitae hedge that blocks out the neighborhood noise. Against the east fence is a raised-bed vegetable garden filled with eggplant, onions and peppers. Nearby are two straw bale gardens full of tomatoes. On trellises against the fence he grows Asian long beans, bitter melon and opo squash his wife uses in her Filipino cooking. In a corner is his peach tree, which produced a bumper crop for him this year.
As we finished our tour, Palmer had one more surprise for me as we walked toward another dark opening behind his garage. “I didn’t want this area to just collect junk so I built a secret garden here,” he said.
Sure enough, we entered a patio area completely shaded by a concord grape vine with comfy looking lounge chairs and a little water feature for background music. At the far end, Palmer has planted shade-tolerant hostas and ostrich ferns backed by reed mats that give the place the feel of a tropical retreat.
“The lights come on in the early evening and it’s just a great place to end the day,” he said.
Pat Munts is co-author, with Susan Mulvihill, of the “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnw gardening.com.
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