Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I finally got to see the Miller Garden!

One of the gardens I was really hoping to see during the 2011 Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling was the Elizabeth Miller Botanic Garden. At the time I didn’t realize they require reservations, reservations that typically “sell out” the same day they are made available. Only 500 visitors a year are allowed access to the garden, and no tour buses thank you very much.

Why is it so hard to see the Miller Garden? It’s located in an exclusive gated community north of Seattle. As you might imagine the neighbors aren’t thrilled with the idea of garden tourists overrunning their well paid for peace and quiet.

The garden is the creation of Betty Miller (who passed away in 1994). The Millers moved into The Highlands in 1949, their lot occupies 5-acres and runs all the way to the Puget Sound. The Highlands was an Olmstead designed project and the first gated community on the West Coast. All reports are Betty Miller planted with zeal, not caring if the million dollar view was obliterated, the garden has a strong framework of native plants, and not your typical ones.

The tour on which I was finally able to visit the Miller Garden was arranged by the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon (HPSO), Richie Steffen (curator at the Miller Garden) kindly agreed to take a dozen HSPO members through the garden. So on a cloudy Wednesday morning in July (during the tour titled ‘Rare and Choice Plants of the Miller Garden’) Richie charmed us all with tales of the garden, it’s creator and of course the plants!

One of my favorite stories was of the rivalry between Betty and a friend. They were always in competition to see who could have the newest, rarest, most desirable plant in their garden. Afternoon tea parties became an opportunity to show off their latest acquisition. I believe that friend was Ione Chase, of the Chase Garden, however I am relaying on a foggy (month old) memory and poorly scribbled notes so I could be wrong.

I do remember however that Richie credited Betty with the introduction of my beloved Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass) to the United States. Thank you Betty!

What follows are my (greatly whittled down) 40 photos from the area around the house and woodland garden behind. Tomorrow I’ll share an even larger group of photos taken on the sunnier west side of the house facing the Puget Sound. Sadly I won’t have plant i.d. on every beautiful specimen. If I don’t mention a name and you’re curious please ask in the comments and I’ll try to track it down.

Here Richie is pointing out the beautiful (and late, in July!) bloom on a Rhododendron glanduliferum.

Betty Miller desperately wanted a stone driveway from the main road down to the house but once the bids came in it was deemed too expensive and regular old asphalt was used. However anytime a pothole developed the maintenance guy was instructed to dig it out large enough that stones could be used for a patch.

If my notes are correct that is a Blechnum novae-zelandiae (fern) next to a fabulous rhody ("teddy bear" is the only name I can seem to find for it).

This is the largest Rhododendron stenopetalum 'Linearifolium' (Spider Azalea) I have ever seen. It was breathtaking.

I've forgotten what tree Richie said these huge cones came from, aren't they amazing?

Woodwardia unigemmata

Serious plant lust...

And of course every amazing garden has to have a drool worthy stand of Impatiens omeiana...

Finally we end this part of the visit with a plant in a container up near the house. It was one of the first plants I noticed when I arrived and I hadn't recalled ever seeing it before. I fell hard and fast. I asked Richie about it and he confirmed it was a ginger (Zingiber malayensis). He even mentioned where he'd bought it, just up the street. Sadly I didn't have time to visit that nursery but managed to locate one in Portland the week after I got home. Thank god, this one could have caused me sleepless nights.

Tomorrow we return to the Miller Garden and visit the sunnier west side of the garden...

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. If this post appears anywhere but danger garden it has been reposted without permission.

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