Pacific Northwest | February 1, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineFebruary 1, home
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First Place
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Special Garden Issue

 Illustration Pacific Northwest garden contest
Second place
An Artful Oasis
Second-place winner Will Green, seated in the back-garden patio with his white boxer, Chassy, says that when selecting and placing plants he thinks first of color. Happy expressions on the faces of garden-tour visitors last year inspired him to enter this competition.
DASH, PIZZAZZ, color and style are all welcome at Will Green's place in West Seattle. Dahlias sway like piñatas over this cosseted jungle of annuals and perennials, trees and shrubs. Summer visitors walk under trumpet vine and glory bower into his mariachi band of a garden and instantly become part of a fiesta.

Where space is available in his astonishing array of plants, Green has tucked tables and chairs, trellises, compact patios and statuary. The 50-by-120-foot lot appears to be planted as intensively as a garden-show display.

Green's sophisticated plant choices, skillful pruning and artful placement of container plantings keep the textures, shapes and dimensions in his five outdoor rooms from becoming jumbled.

Garden judges agreed. They ranked Green the second-place winner in the 11th-annual Pacific Northwest Competition for Home Gardeners. He receives airfare and hotel expenses for two to attend the 2004 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.
Water features can be small, yet effective. This hidden pool in the front garden is dotted with duckweed. Nearby are Canna 'Tropicana,' dahlia 'Bishop' and liatris. Green inserted soil in the freeze-cracked gargoyle's head and added a few sedum cuttings.
"It's like one huge flower arrangement," one finalist judge commented. Preliminary judges labeled this a "wondrous garden," with "great plant variety" and effective layering. All were struck by the first-rate plant pairings and spotless maintenance.

Green was inspired to enter after 850 people ventured through his garden on the West Seattle Garden Tour in July 2002. When he wavered, a co-worker at Union Square Grill, where he is a waiter, handed him an entry form.

One benefit of wise planting is privacy. Once guests pass through a wooden gate and into the front garden, they are in Will Green's Seattle. There are small patios to the left and right. The latter has alternating squares of concrete pavers and grass, and borders lush with tall dahlias and lilies, hydrangeas, a smoke tree, white phlox and clipped boxwood. A compact gazebo, holding a mirror to extend the garden space, serves as an end-piece.
A small patio in the back garden is enclosed by trumpet vines, including Campsis x tagliabuana and C. radicans. The perennial Persicaria 'Black Dragon' adds interest, as do the white blooms of Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle.' The tree in the background is a black honey locust.
Green often frames viewpoints with arbors or trellises, while using vines or planted baskets to embellish the arbors. Dozens of potted plants, as well as variegated cultivars — including daphne, buddleia and hebe — add zip.

Coleus and golden sedum work as accent edging, the jewel-like golds and purples of their leaves vivid against gray pavers.

Green, who is in his mid-40s, liked the jungle foliage and vivid color he found in Mexico in the 1980s. He gets a kick out of having an English-garden-meets-Bali-Hai kind of place in Seattle. "I'd rather duck for a trumpet vine than cut it back," he says.

He matured into a confident plantsman first by potting up large containers and by asking questions of others in the gardening community. At Freeway Park and corporate gardens in downtown Seattle, Green studied the professionals' planting methods. He discovered that the right plants and curving, gently sloping pathways mitigated his lot's fairly steep front-to-back slope.

It was only about five years ago that he began to paint his tropical theme with a broader brush.
Steps down to the back garden and an old garage are lined with a number of the gardener's most-useful plants, including 'Wine Frost' and 'Carnival' dahlias, hostas, golden oregano, white phlox and golden-leafed fuchsias.
In one sense, his garden is a series of walk-through, color-keyed arrangements, he says. Pinks and blues are close to the house, a "red bed" lies along the north side in the back garden, and a tropical zone with multiple shades of green, heavy on the chartreuse, stands near the back of the lot.

Potted hostas — many from his mother's garden — line a brick and concrete-slab walkway on the north side of the house and usher the way to the back garden. The hosta border morphs to a planting bed of pink dahlias and lilies, then fuchsias and ferns. Farther on, there are bright-red dahlias, ginger lily, Himalaya honeysuckle, banana and impatiens, among countless others, along a winding grass path.

Nearby, sheared boxwood globes outline a small water feature. Overhead is a sizable empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa), which is sawed to the ground every year or so to encourage growth of giant-size leaves.

A few paces away are a cutting garden for flowers and herbs, a small dining patio and a section stocked with neat rows of vegetables.
Recycled rain chimes peer out of a boxwood snipped to a caterpillar shape. A serious case of whimsy here, though the gardener claims this example was temporary.
Scents help knit the garden into a whole. For example, fragrances from Asiatic lilies, for which Green has a passion, echo from one area to another.

Student renters had trashed the house before Green bought it in 1988. He shot a few photos to mark the starting point, then cleaned up, cut down, hauled off and dug in. He brought in plants and compost, and his father built a front walkway and fence for the modest, 1917-era home. Now, where once had been an apron of grass and a bleak house, he sets an elegant table on his deck and entertains company amid tropical splendor.
Water spills over the lip of an old birdbath and onto a cement and ceramic leaf in a shady part of the back garden. Here, Green uses black mondo grass, golden baby tears, elephant's ear (Alocasia) and chartreuse duckweed to further his tropical theme. Sensing something missing in the composition, he has added a couple of red dahlia flowers as floating accents.
Green's partner, Rich Thomas, has helped build brick walkways and tends the scores of dahlias, which are repotted every February. Tom Stevenson, a friend, also assists.

Green's garden is a force for change on his street. Folks have begun to beautify their plots near the sidewalk in this Highline neighborhood where "people don't usually talk to each other."

That glory bower on each end of the entrance arbor is still small, but will twine to 12 feet, Green says. Who can say? Its reach may embrace the neighborhood.
Photo  Photo
Chassy holds court on the front patio next to an urn with a weeping larch, while eucalyptus, star magnolia, banana and windmill palm in the background suggest there is global warming in West Seattle.  Green created a tranquil setting a few steps away from the entry gate, where variegated jasmine, purple passion flower and golden hops twine on a steel arbor.

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Dean Stahl is a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

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