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Gig Harbor Garden Tour returns; here’s what you will see

Posted on June 23rd, 2022 By:

Garden lovers, rejoice.

The Gig Harbor Garden Tour is back this weekend, after a two-year COVID hiatus.

Five gardens, three on Fox Island and two in Gig Harbor, are featured in the 23rd edition. Each is unique, reflecting the personality and plant preferences of its owners.

Community Garden

The circuit begins at the Community Garden on Wilkinson Farm, where 48 gardeners rent spaces each year to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Each plot is distinctive. Some are filled with flowers — roses, delphinium, peonies, calendulas, snapdragons, Shasta daisies, sweet William and other bee-and-butterfly favorites.

Others are chock-full of veggies. There’s an abundance of kale, broccoli, onions, squash and colorful, frilly lettuces, peas and beans and even strawberries. Now that warmer, dryer weather has finally arrived, some gardeners are setting out their tomato and pepper plants.

Colorful pinwheels and birdhouses add a bit of whimsey to several beds.

There are also rows of blueberries and espaliered fruit trees along a fence, and a large eight-bed section reserved for vegetables destined for local foodbanks.

Torrens garden

Garden Two, close to downtown, is at the new home of Donna and Tom Torrens and. Unsurprisingly, is filled with Tom’s art. The Torrenses designed the home for aging-in-place. It includes gravel paths that are wheelbarrow- and motorized chair-friendly, low-maintenance plants and no lawn.

Donna calls the path that meanders through the garden the Path of Enlightenment. Along it are many unusual plants, including a couple rare rhododendrons, an early purple orchid, a beloved 80-year old dwarf Full Moon maple and a dwarf ginkgo.

Follow the path through the ginkgo-embellished gate and you’ll discover the vegetable garden. Peas, carrots, celery, garlic and an assortment of leafy greens and other edibles thrive in raised beds. A row of espaliered fruit trees underplanted with strawberries thrives along the fence.

Round the corner alongside the rock wall and you’ll discover Donna’s growing collection of bonsai, tucked into a secret meditation garden.  There’s a miniature wisteria, a larch, a ginkgo, a pine and several other species of evergreens, each in its own small container. Many are placed atop colorful, overturned pots.

“I love to come here in the mornings and just sit with my morning coffee,” she said.

Thoughtfully placed boulders and Tom’s metal sculptures provide focal points throughout the quarter-acre site: here a fountain and a small table, there a bubbling bird bath, a tall alien-like statue or, of course, several of Tom’s well-known bells.

Cross garden

It’s no surprise that the Fox Island garden of Sally and Bob Cross is an English-style delight. Sally is English, and she’s a garden designer. Her talent is apparent throughout the property, starting with the “Cotswold Cottage” sign by the front door.

Here you’ll discover an abundance of colors and textures –yellows, greens, purples and whites, whimsical art nestled among low-growing shrubs and container plantings. And that’s just the front section.

Be sure to notice the rare Rosy Crabapple Kiwi trellised next to the house. Its green leaves look like they’ve been dipped into white paint.

Beyond a gate adorned with a rusty bunny rabbit you’ll find the kitchen garden, a pond bordered by perennial impatiens and magenta Cape fuchsia. Nearby are an assortment of hydrangeas, hellebores, flowering currant and a magnificent pink snowball viburnum.

It’s a pollinator-friendly garden, with a beehive tucked near the pond. A trio of bird houses stand along a side path. The bright blue one was made by the Cross’s grandson.

There’s also a stand of gold and black bamboo, an Eskimo Sunset Japanese maple and an herb garden interplanted with purple cabbages.

Near the street, a huge lion’s head Japanese maple marks the edge of the property.

McDonald-Silver garden 

The hillside garden of Hollie McDonald and Scott Silver looks across Hale Passage toward Tanglewood Island and features a stream and natural waterfall that cascades from an old artesian spring.

When Silver purchased the property in 1994, the stream was overgrown with blackberries and other invasive species and was partially covered with concrete.

The stream ends in a pond bordered by native ferns, Japanese maples, annual impatiens, barberry, hosta, several varieties of Japanese forest grass, Japanese iris, hydrangeas, nandina, dwarf evergreens and other species planted on the slope. The couple also incorporates many container plantings in the landscape.

A stone stairway leads down the hill alongside the stream to the boathouse, a favorite place to hang out with friends and family, McDonald said.

Next to the home, there’s an outdoor shower for washing away sand collected on a beach walk.

Nearby, a hellebore and dianthus share a large container that’s completely hidden by the surrounding pachysandra. McDonald’s father made the wooden birdhouse that hangs from an eve of the house.

Fall garden 

The first thing you notice when you arrive at the Fox Island home of Robin and Donna Fall is the pond with its charming turtle artwork and the white roses and huge euphorbia at water’s edge. The pond seems to wrap the entire front of the house, looking like it’s always been there.

You also notice the decorative slate walkway that leads to the deck and the expansive view of the Narrows bridges.

Follow the gravel path down the hill to find a large kitchen garden. You’ll pass the big cutting garden filled with young dahlia, zinnia, aster and other flowering plants that Donna started in the English greenhouse. Later in the summer, they’ll be added to bouquets that she gifts to friends.

The path is bordered by an unusual apple green-and-maroon “Iron Cross” oxalIs, a frothy pink rodgersia, assorted grasses and a bright pink Japanese maple surrounded by hostas.

The vegetable beds are positioned in the parterre style, and there’s a bright yellow and blue English-style greenhouse (built by Robin) where Donna propagates many of the plants found throughout the five-acre property.

In the center of the veggie garden a metal trellis supports red, white and blue clematis. A huge bed of raspberries defines one side of the space.

You’ll also find Donna’s beloved David Austen roses tucked here and there in the landscape, an assortment of delphiniums (including an unusual, frilly magenta variety) and hollyhocks.

Want to go?

The tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 25; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 26. Tickets can be purchased at several area nurseries and hardware stores. Click here for details.

To volunteer, email [email protected] Funds from the tour benefit reading programs in local schools.