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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Pamela Richards

The Joans  Garden

Michelle and Chuck Joans wanted a garden with seating, a small water feature, and plants protected from their two delightful and energetic Portuguese water dogs.  We eventually decided on a patio, water in a container, a dog run and a fenced-in garden for their West Seattle backyard.

Now, a planting area contained by a wire fence supported by cedar posts dominates the yard. Clematis and honeysuckle climb the wire, which becomes virtually invisible.  On top of each grayed post sits a glass telephone insulator or a ceramic finial.

A dog run of playground chips lies between the garden and a patio made of old brick.  Substantial containers edge the brick walk and patio.  Comfortable blue Adirondack chairs and a table—all built by Chuck—invite one to sit and enjoy the nearby rose, scented daylilies and contained water feature.

As a decorating style, the Joans’ prefer a “primitive, rough” look: original birdhouses, a table topped with an old door and an obelisk of rusted metal embellish the garden.  Michelle protects the water feature with a freestanding old metal gate that re-directs the dogs to the path or their run; a solution both practical and aesthetically appropriate for her garden.

The Hill Garden

When Mindy Hill became a dog owner, her Issaquah plateau garden was a year old.  The spacious backyard was fenced on three sides but open along the house.  Jim Honold of Home and Garden Art designed a gate for one path leading into the garden;  and Mindy and her husband Tom installed a found gate across the other one.  Old wood fencing, which Mindy collects, closes off any remaining space.  Thus, her foot-tall Cairn terrier, Winnie, is safely contained.

In Mindy’s garden, plants and furniture and pieces “falling-apart old” blend seamlessly.  A dainty-flowered clematis weaves through an old gate.  An orange honeysuckle, a red rose and a yellow trumpet vine (Campsis) climb a rusted metal arbor sporting a large red star.  Scarlet yarrow (Achillea) grows in a container set on an old wood brick layer.  Tarnished toy trucks nestle beside chocolate daylilies and sherbert-colored coralbells (Heuchera).

And Winnie can stretch out in the shade beneath a wood chair with peeling red paint nestled between a peony and a black-leaved dahlia.

The Brewster Garden

My sister, Marjorie Brewster, had an established garden in north Seattle when her son’s black Lab came to live with her.  Jake is big and exuberant; and although he usually rushes along the paths, just one excited trip through some plants will destroy them.

Marjorie decided she would “direct where Jake can go” using the “plain” vintage pieces she collects.  In her garden, vintage always has been practical as well as pleasing.  Vines scramble through glassless small-paned windows.  Simple white plates stand upright, protecting clematis roots from the sun.  

Now, rusted fading metal bedsteads shield perennials and a small pink-leafed maple. Yellow motel chairs sit back to back on slabs of marble, guarding a delightfully gangly Lonicera nitida ‘Baggeson’s Gold’ that has shot up to five feet tall since Jake lost it as a urinal.  A weathered stool in a curve beside the path keeps Jake on the path as he happily trots to greet a visitor.  NWGN

Pamela Richards is the principal of Pamela Richards Garden Design, 206/781-2314,,


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