HOME & GARDEN: VCA’s annual tour showcases five gardens

The LaSalle garden includes a park-like atmosphere, complete with views of Puget Sound. (Courtesy Photo)

The LaSalle garden includes a park-like atmosphere, complete with views of Puget Sound. (Courtesy Photo)

Vashon Center for the Arts is excited to host the 28th Annual Garden Tour on Vashon Island. This year’s tour will feature five properties that show off the beauty of the island. In addition, there will be a garden-inspired visual arts exhibition in the Koch Gallery, a raffle (tickets $5 each), as well as an art bazaar in the Katherine L. White Hall lobby featuring island artists.

The weekend kicks off Friday, June 22, at 5:30 p.m. with a gala garden party at the acclaimed Froggsong Gardens. Guests will enjoy an evening of wine, delicious food, beautiful music and exquisite nature at one of the most beautiful locations on Vashon. Tickets are $145.

Foodies have a treat in store Saturday, June 23, from 4 to 6 p.m., when island author and farmer Kurt Timmermeister will speak at the Katherine L. White Hall about his new book, Farm Food Volume 2: Spring and Summer. Following the lecture, there will be a tasting of wines from Andrew Will Winery and Pollard Vineyards. Tickets are $25 ($20 for VCA members).

The centerpiece of this annual celebration of Vashon gardens is the years of love, work and attention our friends and neighbors devote to the land itself. This year’s selection promises to be a treat for all the senses.

Olson Garden

This lovely garden, located in a marine shoreline conservation district, is called Scarlet Oak and is named for the huge oak tree that dominates the first impression of the property.

Creating these gardens has been the family’s labor of love for 25 years. Each of the garden spaces is defined by location and purpose in a relaxed country garden theme: a big red mailbox marks the driveway down the hill past the hydrangea border on the left. The English gates garden is planted with vegetables, roses, perennials, flowers and any other vegetation liked by the deer. The Native garden spreads under the big Douglas fir tree. A new stump garden is taking shape where dangerous trees were removed.

The courtyard garden is down the brick walk and through the gate. There is always something blooming year around.

As visitors leave the courtyard through the old double wood gates, they will step into Tea Crabapple Way. They may want to try out the chairs on the Seaside Lounge beachside or the swing beneath the more than 100-year-old king apple tree. Around the deck, they will see the peony border originating from tubers that were planted in 1925 and brought from the Olson family home in Minnesota.

There is an active stream that appears above the ground from the west and runs down on the southern border of the property, underground to the sound. Out of respect for the shoreline and the health of Puget Sound, the Olson’s use all-organic products.

Laster Garden

When the owners bought the property four years ago, they acquired a house that had been partially remodeled and a vacant half-acre lot sloping steeply to the water. At the time, the slope and the abundance of blackberries made it impossible to get to the waterfront. In short, it was a perfect blank slate with a stunning view.

The concept that emerged is a Japanese meets Pacific Northwest meets Zen-feeling to the entry and the formal gardens. The gardens feature sculptural stone walls, blue slate patio and a granite-infused water feature. Visitors will find layered Japanese maples, a specimen mature pine that had been trained in the bonsai style, specimen rhododendrons (including a King George), scented azaleas, dogwood and grasses.

As the property moves away from the house, more natural gardens flow down to the water, where visitors will find Gowdy spruce, more rhodies and Japanese maples, native salal, thunderhead pines, shore pines and then more grasses.

The owner describes the sloping terrain as Monet’s hillside, “an attempt at a Darwinian, drought tolerant, deer resistant perennial garden and a lot of lavender.”

The south section of the hillside picks up the owner’s Zen/native sensibility with a water feature, more shore pines, salal, rhodies and maples complimented with a fire bowl and Adirondack chairs.

Gravel paths and stone walls descend from the upper garden to the waterfront with a granite bulkhead and two massive stone staircases to the beach.

Lisa Hummel worked on the upper Japanese Pacific Northwest garden, and Suzanne Hattery worked on the more native grass/gravel sections.

LaSalle Garden

This park-like property is designed for many uses, including as a community gathering and retreat space. Large scale sculptural pieces, pools of water and vast Puget Sound views make this property near Point Robinson on the east end of Maury Island a true island treasure.

More than 40 years ago, sculptor Gar LaSalle teamed up with his former landscape design teacher, Richard Haag, to bring the vision of an Italianesque estate to life. Haag’s award-winning credits include Gas Works Park in Seattle and the Bloedel Reserve on Whidbey Island. LaSalle and Haag’s artistic partnership has brought an evolving serene public park sensibility to a tranquil private setting at this Vashon property.

The gardens are a work in progress, featuring three large ponds and a waterfall. Lawns studded with chestnut trees roll into an adjacent vineyard. The grounds also contain major sculptures by LaSalle, including “Venus de Milo in Asparagus,” which offers a surprising visual “reveal” from the circular path at its base. New columns by Russian sculptor Grigory Reva have been commissioned to surround the flower and vegetable beds.

A spacious stone patio off the modernist home designed by Northwest architect Wendell Lovett offers unobstructed 180-degree views of north Puget Sound, including Mount Baker and Whidbey Island.

This property offers a touch of Italian landscape melded with the unique vistas of the Northwest.

Benjamin-Meyer Garden

This property was originally conceived and designed as a Japanese “pond and stroll garden.” Current owners Larry Meyer and Tyler Benjamin have worked diligently to bring it back to its original form after years of overgrowth that nearly swallowed the initial design and details.

The Japanese-inspired rock work and three-tiered pond and stream comprise the central structure of the backyard space. Unearthing and restoring water feature structures has been central to the renovation of this lovely garden. An outdoor seating space with vine-covered pergola anchors and overlooks the water, creating a starting place for the visitor’s stroll.

The current owners have nurtured the original Japanese maples and evergreens back to healthy life and have added many others throughout the space. Views of the Olympics on the west side of the rear yard enhance the Zen-like feeling.

As the property continues to reveal old details and new ideas, the owners are excited about the possibilities of continuing to enhance the natural landscape around them.

Andrew Will Winery Garden and Grounds

Owners Chris Camarda and Robin Pollard have a special treat in store for Garden Tour visitors this year, as this is the only garden on display attached to a commercial wine-making operation.

The beautiful property flows gracefully around a stunning Miller Hull-designed home and winery, wine storage building and offices. The acreage nestles in a stunning natural setting, surrounded by protected Vashon Island Land Trust property.

Walking the grounds, visitors will experience rich and varied garden environments, including shade garden, diverse creek growth and even a vast compost pile tucked into the woods. The garden includes lots of vegetables as well as a collection of Asian pear, peach and cherry trees. The apple tree plantings include rare and historical stock.

Private sitting areas and paths encircle top-flight accommodations for chickens and Berkshire pigs. Pollard also planted a “micro” vineyard for aesthetics and to transform a grassy area into something more complimentary to the Andrew Will Winery. The vined area allows her to experiment with varietals that are designed to thrive in the Western Washington climate.

Plantings also serve an environmental purpose: Pollard placed native plants in a river rock bed to help contain and manage the water flow from the working winery. It feeds into a small blueberry patch.

Tickets for the tour are $30 (or $25 with the early-bird special). Tickets for the Friday garden gala at Froggsong Gardens are $145. Tickets for the Saturday event with author Kurt Timmermeister and a wine tasting are $25 ($20 for VCA members). To buy tickets and for more information, see vashoncenterforthearts.org.

The Will Winery Garden and Grounds are rich and varied — and include chickens. (Courtesy Photo)

The Will Winery Garden and Grounds are rich and varied — and include chickens. (Courtesy Photo)

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