Larry Thomas of Edgewater Construction does much of the maintenance on the "jewel box" garden of Karen Sheridan.
Karen Sheridan's front garden is designed to be seen to its best advantage from the house instead of the street.
Yvonne Edwards' lawn, circular to represent unity and wholeness, is surrounded by flowers and shrubs. There is a bench for meditation.
A waterfall feeds a pond in a Japanese style where native water lilies float in Marlene House's rural Astoria garden.
The sun strikes an iris against a large stone, one of many placed in Marlene House's Japanese garden.
A detail of Sheridan's "jewel box garden" includes a small bamboo fountain.
A path of pavers welcomes you to Karen Sheridan's garden, but it is the details that capture the eye.
No matter what the weather is like this weekend, you can be sure it's summer. Why? Because nothing says the beginning of summer like gardens in all their colorful glory, and that's what the Lower Columbia Preservation Society's Annual Garden Tour is all about.
This is the 11th year for this tour, and the seven terrific gardens on view inspire a variety of adjectives, from "inspired" to "lovely" to "eclectic."
A word you don't often hear applied to gardens, though, is perfect to describe Karen Sheridan's downtown garden. That word is "exquisite." From the street, there is little indication of what is in store for you. Taller plants screen the small front garden, which is meant to be seen to best advantage from the living room. A white wooden gate crowded by a huge climbing rose hides a path at the side of the house. Pass through the gate and a shaded walk brings you to a small courtyard.
"Walking into the garden," says Sheridan, "is like walking into a jewel box." When you arrive, turn around, look in any direction; everywhere you will find something beautiful. "There is something lyrical, something unique wherever you look," she says.
Sheridan began the garden in 2006, and it was on the tour that year as a garden in the making. This year's tour will show you what a difference five years can make.
Another town garden is that of Yvonne Edwards. It is her first garden, begun when she moved to Astoria, and it was a lot of work (although she credits her husband Mickey with doing most of the work). The first year they did nothing but remove the hard clay topsoil and replace it with good soil.
Seven years later, they have what she calls "a meaningful, round garden." The garden has meaning to them, she says, because it is based on circles. "They represent unity and wholeness," she says. "They are reminders for our lives."
The garden also represents what grows well in Astoria. There are wisteria and honeysuckle ("We like to have vines; they make the garden look wild but cared for"), hydrangeas and Japanese maples.
They didn't research what would grow here, and they did little garden planning. "Whatever looked good at the moment, we bought, and if it didn't do well, we replanted it in a ‘hospital bed,' where it had a chance to live or die. It's an experimental garden," she says, and the plants that thrived resulted in "a real Northwest garden."
An entirely different kind of garden is that of Marlene House, located in the country, far from town. You drive along a narrow road through an aspen forest until you emerge into what was once a large field, and is now several gardens. As you approach the house, you drive past rhododendrons and a young fruit orchard of 145 trees, which replaces a forest blown down by the 2007 storm.
"I've been gardening for years," says House. "My first big garden was in '71 in Virginia. That was a fun place to garden - you can grow anything."
She began her present gardens 10 years ago. There are several gardens in one. Near the house is a pond with a waterfall. Beyond that, is a rose garden. Stroll around the house on the immaculate lawn and you pass a vegetable garden on the way to a Japanese garden. Come full circle around the house and there is a collection of hydrangeas, including two large climbers.
"I like rare and unusual plants," says House. "I like to find one-of-a-kind plants that no one else has." There is a little bit of everything in this garden, including a large bird population.
In fact, there's something for almost anyone on this garden tour.
Are you a fan of oriental gardens?
There's a lovely one created by Charles and Lorene Strong, who specialize in bonsai plantings. There is a potted weeping white birch, a Japanese dappled willow, and a 50-year-old juniper nestled in a rock. There are numerous Japanese maples, pieras japonica, hostas, peonies, a waterfall and much more.
Do you like ponds?
Reba Owens's garden, on Smith Lake, has three of them. She loves tropical plantings, including Brugmansia, passion flowers and Mexican shell flowers.
The garden includes a deer-proof rose garden and an English cottage garden full of begonias, lobelias, alyssum, honeysuckle, asters and day lilies.
The shade garden includes hostas, fairy bells, ladies mantel and begonias.
A small vegetable garden is also crammed with variety, from artichokes to pumpkins, dwarf apples, Asian pears and grapes.
The garden of Richard and Nancy Carruthers is of interest to any local gardener - it is low maintenance and deer resistant. It also has a spontaneous feel, achieved in a small space through the use of dwarf species which create a sense of depth as well as a tapestry of shapes, colors and textures.
Do you like a little flash and funk?
The garden of Bill and Dorothy Davidson is a departure from the ordinary, with plenty to interest anyone who likes a garden to reuse and recycle. You'll find wood planks from Pier 3 marking borders, used bricks in the grape arbor and propane heaters converted to lamps. The woodland area at the rear of this lush garden has been integrated into the planted area, with the use of many trees and "volunteers" such as ferns, foxglove and elderberry. Interesting garden art and funky decorations abound.
The garden tour costs $15 or $10 for LCPS members. You may join for as little as $15 when you buy your ticket. The proceeds go to "preserve, protect, and promote the historic architecture in the Lower Columbia region."