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, July 8, 2016

Up and Up Farm

The Garden of Susan Miller and Tony Dambrava is aptly named as one travels up and up to get to their home and once there, the garden leads one up and up even more.  From the road, it appears as if this is the home.  The NPA sign is posted on the door so it's definitely the right place.   The landscaping is definitely typical of this area.  Big leaf maple, cedar, sword fern, moss on the roof.

One must travel Up the driveway to find the residence and garden. 

Susan's love of purple and gold is evident throughout the garden. 

"We live on the west side of Tolt Hill, so there's some uphill walking via stairs and gravel road to reach level garden beds.  Friendly horses' barn is at top of driveway."

"We retired to this 5-acre horse farm in 2004, surrounded by tall conifers and big-leaf maples, and very slowly began renovating old beds and building 15 new ones adding a couple tons of aged manure annually."

I fell in love with this solarium built on to the house.  Could you imagine grabbing a cup of coffee and the morning paper (that's a thing like a computer that you can still read if the power goes out.) and enjoying this space as the dawn breaks in the summer?

Sharing lunch with friends in mellow autumn light.

Cuddled up with a canine friend and a good book (like a kindle but heavy and with a lot of tedious turning of pages)  as winter rain drums rhythms on the roof.  What, nothing in the spring?  Of course not silly.  Gardeners can't sit still in the spring.

"We learned to landscape intentionally alongside the rock walls holding up the hillside, and paying attention to our NW-facing sunlight. My initial energies went into planting purple and golden foliaged specimen trees and shrubs.  I have now migrated to dwarf conifers, about 60 in three conifer beds, focusing on golds and blues, and shapes of weepers, balls, columnar, or ground covering procumbens."

"I was inspired, in part, by the South Seattle College's Arboretum's Coenosium Rock Garden, one of the finest dwarf conifer gardens in the U.S. I've shared these twin passions in Master Gardener presentations over the last decade."

Abies koreana 'Silberlocke' bears it's gorgeous cones even at an early age. 

Official garden greeter and tour guide.

"I have horse-leaning garden art and full and empty pots."  This garden art was very realistic looking to me, especially when Susan fed them.

At each level of the hillside there are platforms or balconies attached to outbuildings from which the lower levels of the garden can be viewed.  As Loree says, "There's always an agave."

Looking down, the grass path is on one level and to the left of the elevated bed is a gravel road leading up to the horse barn at the top.

In the arid area are yucca and cacti with tags from Cistus Nursery.  It's a sign.  Like a drinking game where you'd watch a television show with friends and have to take a shot of something whenever a certain name or phrase was uttered, when you see a plant tag with a cool nursery's name on it, you're obligated to visit.  It's much healthier and there are plants involved.

Opuntia fragilis (potato cactus)  is my current crush.  Fortunately I have one but it hasn't put on any new growth this year.

The idea of having the backdrop of huge trees is appealing to me as my views mostly include other houses.

"The house is painted terra cotta to serve as a lively background for my plant color preferences.  Rest your feet and have a snack in our solarium.  Mother Nature chooses the weather."

Looking up at the hakonechloa waterfall.

This garden is filled with great plants and interesting, well placed garden art but the best part is the welcoming and comfortable vibe of the place.

Thanks to Susan and Tony for opening their garden for us to enjoy.  It was a pleasure!


  1. What a playground of a garden, with all that space! So peaceful looking too.

  2. Beautiful! Lucky you, I'd love to visit this wonderful garden. The only reason to leave would be a visit to Cistus.

  3. Another stunning garden! I can see I live in the wrong part of the world, this is heavenly!

  4. Unreal! The solarium is fantastic (something I'd love to pull off someday) and the Hakonechola waterfall is ingenious. Lots of great ideas here, thanks for sharing!

  5. I clearly need more space. (glad you found the Agave)

  6. With all that Up and Up, I was expecting a view...but who needs a view with all of that wonderful planting. Truly the best of the Northwest.

  7. what a splendid garden !

  8. That hakonechloa waterfall is the best thing ever. I want one.

  9. I know this garden. I have had the pleasure of visiting it on a previous NPA Open Garden. It is a very special place.

  10. This is a garden hits all the right notes for me. I especially liked reading that Susan was inspired by the South Seattle arboretum: it's one of my favorite places too. And the Purple Weeping Beech is just a wonderful contrast against the evergreens.

  11. Wow, what a variety of plants! It looks like a garden full of treasures! I just love the sunroom. That is a whole lot of aged manure they add to the beds each year. They are putting those horses to work!

  12. What a stunning creation. They've done it right with the early planting of trees and shrubs. Those weeping purple beeches are gorgeous. I think mine is getting big til I see something like these.

  13. Whenever I see gardens surrounded by walls of conifers I get envious! There is so much to love in this garden -- how old is it? And that solarium is so wonderful!

  14. Awesome. Thanks for the visit, she said, sitting comfortably at home with the dog.

  15. Wow, what a beautiful garden, Peter. I like purple as Susan as well. And I liked this solarium and as you remind us what morning paper is, ha ha. Good sense of humor!

  16. wow, how gorgeous! leaves one speechless, really....lol!


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