An Artful Oasis
WITH PROFUSE PLANTS SMARTLY PAIRED, A BLEAK PLOT TURNS TROPICAL
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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