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Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Tacoma Treasure Shares his Garden

A few years ago  I was helping out at  Jungle Fever Exotics Nursery and a man hobbled in using a cane, started grabbing lots of plants, setting them aside, and asking for more.  When it was time to check out, he told me  to write an invoice for MultiCare,  a not-for-profit health care organization based in Tacoma that operates 93 locations in several counties. Wow! this unassuming man was Sheldon Arkin, whose work as head horticulturist for the MultiCare system I've admired for a long time!  Sheldon has been beautifying MultiCare's grounds for 24 years and still has a twinkle in his eye when talking about plants. In our discussion about his gorgeous work, some of which is only a couple of blocks from my house, he revealed that he had actually seen my garden and asked about a few things.  I helped carry his plants to the white van filled with green treasure.  "Look what I found today!" he said as he pointed out various great plants from all over the place.  Before he left, he invited me to visit specific MultiCare sites that he thought would be of particular interest and extended an invitation to visit his personal garden.  "Come on over anytime."  I decided to take him up on his offer.

Much has been written about this generous and kind  man who won't let disease or chronic debilitating pain slow him down!  For more about this incredible person look  here and here and especially here.

At the garden gate, we are greeted by this sign.

Sheldon's garden, which surrounds the home that he and his delightful wife, Patsi, have shared for 20 years, is a plant fiend's paradise, indeed.  When I visited, Patsi, who was about to mow the neighbor's lawn (they tend her garden as well) said, "I don't know anything about plants, I just mow the lawn."  However, as she showed me around it became clear that she indeed knows about and loves plants, perhaps just not as much as her horticultrualist husband.


Magnolia macrophylla  offers welcome shade on this warm afternoon!

Great grouping of colors and textures!


 Sheldon calls himself a shoe horn gardener because he thrills at finding new plants for his already-crowded garden and upon bringing them home, needs a shoe horn to fit them in!  (Sound familiar?) 

 The foliage of this ligularia always thrills me!
 This fabulous dense planting makes me forget I'm in the city just yards from the street. 
 More plant faves!
 A group of plants that replaced a corner of lawn in front of the house.
 Patsi says that the beautiful white birches in the front parking strip were her idea.


Years ago, when Mary Bridge Children's Hospital was looking for a groundsman who could grow roses, they found Sheldon.  He has created for them an award-winning rose garden.  His own roses are grown with  perennials and reseeding annuals at their feet - a treatment that I love!

 The large bush/tree in the background is Cytisus battandieri  or Pineapple Broom another of my favorites!

His exhuberant plantings and selfless nature make Sheldon the kind of gardener; the kind of person I'd like to be!



I'd not seen Senecio petasitis in person before.

 There were several of these large Echiums around the garden.
 We in the PNW sure love our tetrapanax!

 More tetrapanax beneath three metasequoias.  The trees were tiny when Sheldon planted them and now he's trying to decide which two will come out.
 Quite a few statues of St. Francis are tucked away in this urban sanctuary.

As I walk down the driveway to my car, I feel fortunate to have seen this special treasure-filled garden and to know one of Tacoma's own treasures, Sheldon Arkin.





22 comments:

  1. What a treat it must have been to visit his garden! He sounds like a really cool guy.

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    1. I was very lucky to see his garden and to meet him! He can't stop talking about plants so I find him fascinating.

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  2. Absolutely stunning. He sounds like such a wonderful man. It must have been a true honor. His garden style is wonderful with all those lush treasures. Speaks of a true enthusiast for sure

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    1. It was an honor! Just wait until I post pictues of his bananna garden at Tacoma General Hospital. There's even a tree fern!

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    2. Oh you are speaking my language!!!

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  3. What a great garden visit and story! Glad you happened to be a Jungle Fever that day...

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    1. I feel like I should hang out there more. I also met the Metro Parks horticulturalist at J.F. He's the one who does all the cool jungly stuff at the Point Defiance Zoo. Fun place!

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  4. Terrific garden, my favorite kind of garden story is as much about the gardener as the garden.

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    1. It was wonderful touring his garden and chatting with him!

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  5. That's exactly the type of person I want to be when I grow up! A delightful post, thanks Peter!

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    1. Oh Barry, we'll never grow up! Thanks for commenting though.

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  6. Thanks for the very inspiring personal story and garden tour.

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  7. What a cool guy! His garden is amazing! :) I love the white birch trees with the dark day lilies. Thanks for the story. I'm a bit of a shoe horn gardener, too. But I think I need to stop at 55 pots...

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    1. Thank you. It was a wonderful experience.

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  9. WAY COOL, Uncle Sheldon you friggin ROCK!!!

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  10. Sheldon is not only an accomplished, creative, innovative, brilliant horticulturist... he is even an equally amazing family man. It truly is wonderful to see his work, as we live across the state from him. He and Patsi have raised such beautiful, brilliant, self-sufficient daughters. They are truly generous, selfless, and loving people. I am honored to call them my brother & sister in laws. Congrats Sheldon. Congrats Patsi! We love you! Love Amy, Mike, and Victor

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    1. Thanks so much for this wonderful comment! They truly are wonderful people!

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  11. Just stumbled across this post! What an awesome property! As a local landscape builder (www.wilderoutdoorspaces.com) and gardener myself, it's always inspiring to see other Tacoma people making cool spaces!

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Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.