Pacific Northwest | July 13, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineJuly 13, 2003seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
Camano Island
Laurelhurst
Ballard
Seward Park
Bainbridge Island
PLANT LIFE
NOW & THEN
SUNDAY PUNCH
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY VALERIE EASTON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE KOCH
Outdoor Living 2003

In saucepans and skates, pleasant paths and little sayings lie The Secrets Of A Soul
 
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The countertop in Dorotik's garden house holds a still life of antique tools, sedums and tiny pots of special plants she wants to enjoy close up.
BETTY DOROTIK PAINTS and draws plants, but her best botanical work may well be growing right outside her own front and back doors.

The sumptuously planted, cleverly detailed garden, high on a bluff on Camano Island combines Dorotik's penchant for collecting with her eye for plants. Worn boots and roller skates sprout sedums, grasses grow from the seats of old chairs, and the little garden house is packed with books and tools from Betty's childhood. The garden is pleasantly nostalgic in its choice of plants: roses climb trellises, hydrangeas grow lush and lilies abound. It is also full of surprises, like succulents in saucepans and purple ribbons fluttering from the dead branches of a now-unrecognizable Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy.' "I adored that tree," sighs Dorotik. It remains a handsome skeleton with its dressing of ribbons.
 
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Betty Dorotik and her puppy, Jasper, take a quick break on her back deck. She uses her garden as inspiration and studio for her watercolors and pencil drawings of insects, birds and flowers.
In the back garden, a thick holly hedge runs at an angle, serving as a windbreak for the roses. A gap is cut in its green expanse to reveal a little mailbox tucked among the prickly leaves. When the flag is up, it means tools are inside, ready to use. Words appear throughout the garden; "Imagine No Slugs" is painted on a rock, a sign given to Dorotik by her son reads "Betty's Little Acre," and an old plank by the herb garden says "Please Touch."

Dorotik grew up gardening in Texas. She and her husband, John, came to the Northwest when he was offered a job at Boeing, and they've never left. They moved from a shady garden in Bellevue to this sun-drenched, wind-swept bluff on Camano Island in 1993, and Dorotik has been planting ever since. She put in all the pathways and stepping stones herself, with the goal of being able to walk around the garden barefoot. She never had a plan, but started by figuring out navigation, avoiding all thought of a lawn, and planting herbs and roses in the sunniest areas. She went to nurseries, bought what she liked best, then read up on what conditions each plant needed. "A lot of stuff I just stick in the ground and it ends up blooming next to what it looks good with," explains Dorotik, perhaps a little disingenuously, for the garden is full of texture and color harmonies.
 
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The picket fence serves as display space for old skates and a little rubber boot planted up with sedums and pansies. Everywhere you look in Dorotik's garden are unusual embellishments.
Besides gathering all the odds and ends that decorate the garden, Dorotik devotes herself to her great loves, birds and roses. She's been collecting Audubon prints since she was 12, and spends much time painting and drawing birds and flowers. Conway artist Arnie Garborg fashioned a rusted-metal bird tree that stands outside her kitchen windows, where Dorotik hangs blocks of suet in little cages. Baby nuthatches sit on the narrow, rusty branches of the fabricated tree and vibrate their wings, asking to be fed.
 
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The entry arbor is draped with the peachy-pink flowers of Rosa 'Royal Sunset'; the garage in the background is sided in soft gray shingles like the house to serve as a backdrop to the garden.
The glory of the garden is the swarm of many roses, shown off by thick underplantings of poppies, herbs and low-growing perennials. Dorotik has gotten rid of all the hybrid tea roses, except for the soft-pink 'Tiffany' singled out to save because its flowers dry so well. She loves the pale, single 'Sally Holmes,' and she couldn't do without pink 'Bonica,' which has perfect buds that look lovely in an Oriental vase. 'Eddie's Jewel' is only 3 years old, but it forms a huge, draped fountain of hot-red bloom, surrounded by white calla lilies. There seems to be a story behind every rose. A blowsy, citrus-scented, buff-pink rose has the incongruous name of 'Jude the Obscure.' "I had to get that one because I'm Catholic," laughs Dorotik.
 
 Photo Roses are the glory of the garden. This especially fragrant English rose, 'Graham Thomas,' is paired with dark-purple flowers that show off its rich, warm color.
Overlooking the water in the back garden is a series of decks and patios set at angles to take full advantage of the wide view of water and mountains. A little formality is introduced with boxwood hedges, clusters of oxblood-colored pots holding sedums, and a circular brick herb garden. The decks are surrounded by salal, sheltered by madronas and enlivened by the chartreuse fluff of euphorbias. One little deck is topped with a pagoda-shaped pergola, another holds a dining table.

In contrast to these useful, more public outdoor rooms is a romantic little secret garden by a sunken pond where hummingbirds hover and bathe. Sheltered by a cream-colored Balinese umbrella, and carpeted in blue-star creeper, it is a separate, shady spot with tiny table and antique metal chairs creating the feel of a tea party about to happen.
 
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The back garden is open to the view of water and mountains, but around on the side of the house is a secret garden nestled next to a pond and surrounded by foliage. A Balinese umbrella shelters the antique metal tea table and chairs.
The essence of the garden, its details, memories and charms, seems to be distilled in the little garden house tucked beneath the trees alongside the driveway. "We were going to build a greenhouse, but I needed a place to store potted plants more than I needed the glass part," says Dorotik. The inside of an old desk hangs from the wall, the paned wooden windows came from a garage sale. Here, Dorotik keeps a childhood hoe, garden books and one of her mother's bonnets. An especially frilly coleus that might be lost in the garden is kept on the counter where it can be best appreciated. There's a little sink for potting, its tiles brightly painted by Dorotik with butterflies, hummingbirds and flowers.

A banner hung from the windows is lettered in Dorotik's sweeping calligraphy and reads, "Gardening is a series of ups and downs," and over the door she has engraved, "Only my garden knows the secrets of my soul."

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Old cooking pots planted with sedum may appear casual, but they are part of the detailing throughout the garden, where plants are meticulously groomed and objects with a history are treasured.
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Let no surface go unplanted. The narrow pathway along the shady side of the house leads past mossy baskets dripping fuchsias and petunias.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer. Jacqueline Koch is a writer and photographer who lives on Whidbey Island.

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