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, June 21, 2013

Vashon Island NPA Garden Tour part Five: The Garden of Mary and Whit Carhart

Alison's car has a built in GPS which is fabulous for garden tours.  Since heretofore,  most of my driving has been from home to work and other familiar places, I've not thought much about such a device.  When going to strange places, Tom and his smart phone which has a GPS feature are often along.   Being a Luddite, I haven't a cell phone either.  Anyway, Alison's GPS had a friendly voice that seemed very wise and didn't swear once if we didn't do what it advised.  Nice.

We turned down a driveway and came to a large clearing in the woods surrounded by meadow covered hills currently full of foxglove flowers and parked in the large grassy parking lot and walked through a red gate.  
 where we found a basket full of maps.  Wow, this is a large garden!  The Carharts are situated on a 20-acre wooded parcel, 16 acres of which are in Stewardship Forest.
 The parking lot is at the top of a huge hill which is beautifully planted with a wide variety of unusual shrubs, trees, and perennials.  The flowers on this Calycanthus, one of several varieties on the property, was large and impressive.

At various points along the path descending into the next levels, there are areas to "pause and reflect."  That's fancy talk for to catch your breath and look at the pretty stuff.
This area is graced by one of  the several pieces in the garden by island artist Clare Dohna whose work I've admired since first seeing it at DIG years ago.  Ms Dohna's own garden is also spectacular. See more here.

Dogwood in bloom. So pretty.

Cardiocrinum preparing to bloom, peonies at it's feet.  The way cardiocrinums bolt so quickly always makes me think of Jack and the Beanstock!

This part of the garden is on  a fairly steep hill.  I'd never seen stairs quite like these before. 

They just keep going and going.

With more areas to pause and reflect.

That's Alison walking behind the climbing hydrangea.

The larger path on the other side is a little more gradual. 

Every step of the way is graced with great plants like this Stipa gigantea.

Further down we begin to hear the gurgle of water and the incredible pond comes into view. 

 The garden is full of delightful pieces tucked away to be found by lucky visitors.  Here, another of Clare Dohna's mosaics perches on rusty metal circles.

The boulder outcropping fits the space so well it seems like it might have been an existing natural element.  Truth is, it's only been there for five years.

The water is not flowing in some sort of roaring waterfall but rather a nice melodic trickle.

The plants are beautifully grown and expertly chosen to fit spaces.  There are times when this garden  almost feels like it just sprung up this way.  (There must be a really great staff here!)

Now we're at the pond level.  The water is crystal clear and has a lovely teal color.  There are not plants or fish here and I'm wondering if this is strictly ornamental or if  the owners enjoy swimming here.

Here's that guy that's been following us around.  He was really impressed with the pond!

Here's Alison again admiring the island.

Yup, the pond has an island off on one side.  Look at all of the gorgeous foliage.  Rhododendron's leaf shape and indumentum contrasts beautifully with the color and needles of the conifer on the right.

So peaceful!

I fell instantly in love with this rusty metal circle.  One passes through this magic portal/star gate/moon gate to continue down to the next level where the houses and large perennial borders are.

Geranium palmatum on the right putting on quite a show.

Here we are on the next level. 

Another Dohna mosaic.
 Wonderful and huge bench near the front door.

Sign  in the midst of the sunny perennial borders area.

Expanse of lawn flanked by wonderful plantings.  That's the bay in the background. 

Allium, clematis, peonies, delphiniums, and oriental poppies are the stars of the floral  show right now.  Hakonechloa is used liberally in this area of the garden.  and why not?  It's a gorgeous grass!

Peony and a lovely sarracenia duo.

Interesting color!

So beautiful!

Whimsically painted play house or perhaps garden tool storage.

On this level there are lovely views of the bay below. 

And paths leading down to the beach.  We didn't explore these as they aren't mentioned on the map but others did go down to the lowest level of the property.

Breathtaking Azara  microphylla variegata!  I'm so glad that I put a couple of these in my shade garden.  I wonder if mine will ever be this big and beautiful?

Round the other side of the house looking toward the guest house and garage.

Wood storage area with more perennial fabulousness.

Sculpture installation of girls playing or  dancing.

Clematis arbor leads to a seating area with brightly painted Adirondack chairs.

And a lovely view of the bay.

Hakonechloa "waterfall."  So well done! 

wonderful shade plants with nice unobtrusive labeling!


Another large outdoor sculpture.

 I've lost track of where exactly this is but it's grand!  One of the things I love about the PNW is our towering Douglas firs and cedars.

Hot pink heated up with gold foliage or cooled down with purple foliage.  Beautiful either way so why not both?

You guessed it Clare Dohna!
Podophyllum pleianthum with those impossibly glossy leaves.  How can some people not notice how wonderful plants are?

Looking back up the path at the moon gate.

 Crinodendron hookerianum.

We walked the driveway back up to the top of the garden and saw this potting shed.

Which looks to have been a temple at one time.  So lovely and unexpected.  The doors are intricately carved!

And here we are at the red gate again.
There was a gentle continuity about this garden.  Area flowed into area and while there were stunning features, they appeared organically and didn't seem to be imposed upon the space.  This is a garden whose design seems to have been considered as a whole and the placement of new elements done in an unobtrusive way.  While this is  quite a grand garden, which is beautifully maintained, there seemed to be a feeling of ease and hospitality about it.  Although the map was handy so that nothing was missed, the garden itself seemed to beckon the visitor to follow paths in certain directions.   I was not left asking questions about why certain things were done as they were because the answer was clear:  Because it's beautiful and it makes sense.
Be sure to check out Bonney Lassie's post about this garden here.
Here's a power point tour of the garden last year from Youtube.  Interesting to notice the changes!
To learn more about this ambitious garden and it's maker, go here.


  1. This garden is over-the-top inspiring. It has the feel of the Northwest, yet every bit as grand as anything on an English garden tour. I find myself just drinking it in, as apposed to the last garden, where all the clipping and edging made me constantly aware of all the work involved. Thanks for the links. It was interesting to learn about the owner's full immersion in things horticultural to educate himself in the ways of plants.

    1. This is a pretty amazing garden One could not maintain something like this alone. O.K. one who works several jobs and likes to also sleep could not maintain something like this alone.

  2. Thanks so much for posting photos of Clare Dohna's work, I noticed the heron, but thought it was painted, and didn't see many of the others that you showed, I think I may have just been so stunned by the gorgeous garden overall. I actually have Pinned Clare Dohna's work on one of my Pinterest boards, I love it. That round stone with the metal centerpiece, and the sedums planted in it, how did I not notice that? And thanks for the link to the article about the owner, and the video. I think this was one of the best gardens we saw that day.

    1. The whole day was awesome & the order of the gardens in the tour was great! Clare's work is wonderful!

  3. My words can't begin to match my wonder at this place. Thank you for bringing it to me. I'm SO thankful for technology.

    1. Technology is wonderful! I'm glad you enjoyed this special garden!

  4. Haven't yet watched the video, but saved it for later, thank you! What wonderful HUGE garden. I can't even wrap my little brain around having that much space to garden in.

    1. As we walked uphill and down, I kept wondering if I could tend that much of a garden! Surely they have help to keep it looking this wonderful.

  5. You had me with your first photo, a hillside of foxgloves! I want it all, now all I need is an estate. Again, so many fabulous ideas in plants, decorations, arrangements, sigh... Thanks for this lovely tour. I want to thank you for your thoughtful comments on my blog, they make a difficult journey a little easier.

    1. Yes, an estate would be nice along with a staff. Although I sometimes think that having a garden helper would be a good thing, there's something special about doing it all myself.

      I'm very sorry about the diagnosis but am sending love and light your way and know that your daughter and family will come through this! That's one of the cool things about blogging - the communities that we build based on our common interests and the support that we can offer each other.

  6. Oh yeah! My garden totally looks just like that! WOW! WOW! WOW! Does one couple take care of all that? Have they ever lost visitors in there or is everyone given a GPS tracker to make sure no one hides in the bushes at night? Fabuloso!

    1. I was wondering the same thing about one couple taking care of all of this themselves. I'm thinking that they probably get some help. Heaven knows that I would have someone chop down trees, pull weeds and mow the lawn if I could afford it. It seems like one might get lost there but the layout seems pretty intuitive & paths look like they're going somewhere and they do. I was wondering if they'd notice if I simply moved into the guest house. I'm sure our dogs would get along famously!

  7. Fabulous water feature and garden art.

  8. Such a lovely garden and so inspiring! I can see many things here that can be scaled down to ordinary size gardens and I love the idea of having art in the garden, something I am working on for my own garden and for my son’s garden – my new project for this year. Thanks for the trip, absolutely lovely!

    1. One of the joys of visiting great gardens is being able to share ideas with others. I'm glad you came along on this trip. Your son's garden and the desire for low maintenance and a lot of flowers sounds quit daunting!

  9. How amazing and other worldly! Is this the lotusland of the PNW or what? Thank you for sharing this special place...still drooling!

    1. Although this is an extraordinary place, there are a lot of amazing estate gardens in the PNW. You should come visit sometime. How about next year when the garden bloggers' fling will be in Portland?

  10. A very impressive garden! I wish I could have a slope full of foxgloves like that...

    1. It was a treat to see this garden! Foxglove has naturalized well here, they appear on the sides of roads & in just about any open space. Love them!

  11. Incredibly beautiful. It seemed like not just a garden but an entire world all its own. There must be a bevy of gardeners to keep it up. What a fun day.

    1. It is an incredible garden. Just walking around it several times a day would be a good workout to say nothing of actually working in it!

  12. Thank you for sharing all the gardens from the tour. This, I think, would be my favorite.

  13. looking for Dede's sister. have Graham question.


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