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Camano Island
Seward Park
Bainbridge Island

Outdoor Living 2003

Fearless use of vivid colors and bold contrasts are just Begging To Be Ogled
The garden billows out to meet the street, with the parking strip planted in blue ornamental grasses, euphorbia and burgundy barberries.
GARDEN DESIGNER Dennis Hopkins started out with a blank slate of a front garden for an artist client who loves the color orange. Also purple, magenta and coral. The garden he created in Laurelhurst using this fearless color palette causes cars to screech on their brakes to take a closer look and passers-by to ogle the plantings. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the house is painted to match the garden, in tones of plum and evergreen with a fuschia-colored door.

The whole effect is magnified by the fact that two houses are painted to match the continuous stretch of garden across double city lots. The home owners needed more space, but hated to sell the house on which they had worked so hard. So four years ago when the next-door neighbor's house came up for sale, the owners bought it and built a passageway between the two houses. When Hopkins was told to be as wild and colorful as he'd like in designing the front garden, he had plenty of space to indulge in stone walkways, bold phormiums and a wide variety of vivid and textural perennials and shrubs.
Dennis Hopkins of Northwest Botanicals took full advantage of his client's artistic eye and the scope offered by a double lot to create a garden of sumptuous texture and stunning color play.
The back garden is older, funkier, with grass for the kids, Beagle puppy and Lucy, the dignified Great Dane. It is presided over by a fragrant, 40-foot-tall bay tree whose canopy dominates the space, casting dappled shade across patio and lawn. Six years ago, the owner hired an artist friend to design the back garden, but he used up the budget on the hardscaping before completing the job. He did finish a pink stucco wall whose archways divide the back garden into rooms. A round, raised vegetable-and-herb garden is squeezed into a sunny back corner, while apple and plum trees give the feel of the remnants of an old orchard. The owner threw a big party, asked everyone to bring a favorite perennial, and that is how the back garden got planted.

While the front garden is all about plants, in the back garden the unusual art pieces are what draw the eye. A stone-and-glass table made by local artist Nancy Mee serves as a seasonal display for flowers and twigs woven into its horizontal glass filaments. Sunshine is reflected in the blue-and-green chunks of glass embedded in a concrete obelisk.
The gracious old front porch is outlined in passion vine, whose intricate little flowers are an entire color scheme unto themselves.
Hopkins repeated key plants over and over, scattering them about with contrasting companions to create both drama and continuity.
The stone table with a bow of glass filaments in the back garden was made by Nancy Mee; the little cupboard beneath the bay tree holds the ashes of the family's late, beloved Labrador.
Construction had just been completed to tie the two houses together when Hopkins, who works for Northwest Botanicals Inc., was hired to design, plant and maintain the new front garden. He was faced with nothing but a pile of dirt, except for the maple, birch and plum trees left to lend scale to the newer plantings.

He began by laying wide stone paths that are a little rough around the edges to avoid a pristine or proper look, which certainly wouldn't go with the rest of the aesthetic. He built low rockeries to support chartreuse euphorbias and dark-purple hebes. And he followed his client's desire for plenty of orange accents through the seasons. In springtime, the garden is abloom with tulips in bright orange, red, yellow and dark purple — producing an effect the owner describes as "tarty, or early-bordello style." In summer, terra-cotta pots line the porch steps overflowing with hot-orange geraniums set off to perfection by the backdrop of plum-colored house. A series of phormiums, encouraged by recent warm winters to grow luxuriantly large, dominates the landscape with their dramatic dark spikiness.

Hopkins has created such visual impact not only by using limited and unexpected colors, but by repeating certain plants for continuity and effect. He doesn't cluster these favorite plants in groups of threes and fives, as you might expect, but rather scatters a few key plants about with their best companions. The hooded, tiered blooms and wide, shiny leaves of Acanthus mollis are shown off against dark slices of phormium, purple-flowering hebes are underplanted with yellow lady's mantle, and burgundy barberries highlight magenta Lychnis. Pale lilies, clumps of lavender, pink roses, euphorbia, hebes and blue-toned grasses come together in an explosion of compelling textures and contrasting colors. The richly planted parking strip carries the garden right out to the street with low-growing grasses, hebes, lady's mantle, barberry, euphorbia and sedums.

The distinctive color palette not only extends past the sidewalk but right up the steps and into the house. With an in-your-face take on colors favored by the Victorians, the owner chose greens and browns for the floors, with brighter tones of papaya, marigold and lavender for the walls. Each wall is painted in at least four different colors, furthering the voluptuously unorthodox effect.

These same interior colors warm up the garden, where yellow and chartreuse foliages play counterpoint to the burgundy, plum and chocolate of hebes, phormiums and barberries. Despite the hit of yellow and pink, "the garden looks pretty witchy at Halloween," says Hopkins as the homeowner chimes in — "and we embrace that!"

It is Victoriana with a thoroughly modern twist when the artist-owner's color palette comes indoors in shades of green, lavender, purple and marigold.
Passers-by slow to peer at the garden planted to match the house. Pink roses, pale lilies, chocolate-bladed phormium, drifts of lavender, scarlet lychnis and pots of orange geraniums are shown off by the dark-toned house.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her e-mail address is Barry Wong is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.

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