Garden On, Vashon

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VAA Garden Tour Previews: Color in the Roehm Garden

June 16th, 2013 at Sun, 16th, 2013 at 4:46 pm by Karen Dale


 First, thank you to all who attended the reading from my book’s history of the Garden Tour. My campaign to raise funds to print my book “Garden On, Vashon: a year-round, years-back look at how we garden, farm, and cultivate our Island Paradise,” continues thru June: click here to see my Kickstart page.

Last of the VAA Garden Tour Previews—

Lovers of Color Spots—you must not miss the Roehm garden. Nancy Roehm LOVES a colorful garden, and she’s made hers vivid, contrasty, and piled on—and to keep going all summer when she’s home to enjoy it.

Nancy Roehm teaches math in our local schools. She and Chuck have lived on Maury Island for 22 years, but most of that time she was working full-time, and their dog had the run of the backyard. So Nancy started out front by landscaping in deer-resistant plants like those you’ll see in front of the house: hardy geraniums, ‘Hot Lips’ salvias, ‘Thorn’ penstemon, heavenly bamboo, lavender ‘Thumbelina’, golden sage. She told me that deer don’t eat the tuberous begonias in pots by the garage, says Nancy, “which get huge by the end of summer.”

Then their dog died, just as they came into a bit of money. 2004 became the year for the backyard rehab. They designed rock terraces to plant with colorful shrubs, perennials, and annuals (and better dirt than Raecoma has naturally) with some consultative help and construction assistance from DIG. Mike Wood built the large cedar gate, front deck, and pergola, while Chuck built the back deck, fence, and arbor. (Smell deeply as you go in: there’s a fragrant mock orange blooming nearby.)

Chuck wanted a water feature, Nancy didn’t. Ross Johnson proposed the compromise dry stream cascade tumbling its cobbles next to the bench in the Spring Garden. Earlier in the year, said Nancy, this back garden blooms in rhodies, azaleas, and tulips; later the hydrangeas bloom purple and blue in the shade of two huge madronas.

In the sunny rock walls, Nancy plants summer annuals like golden-leafed pelargoniums with hot red flowers, purple nemesia and paler ageratum, blue lobelia and red-hot petunias. Shrubs like rock roses, heather have bloomed already, but their pruned shapes ground the fireworks of golden oregano  against a red sunrose called ‘Stoplight” and the spikes of purple heuchera and catmint. Despite all the high octane colors, they are balanced; all the reds-yellows-blues fall in equal-distance around the color wheel—in what your old art professor would call a color “triad.” Later the nasturiums will throw in the complementary colors of orange against blue-green leaves and turn this border into a rainbow.

In the back, a salvia nemorosa blooms darkly in the center of chartreuse lady’s mantle. Behind them, a dead shrub has a second life as trellis for sweet peas. The ironwork gate behind, as well as one behind the house, was made by Islander Jim Farrell. 

This rock-wall terracing took two years to plant. “I aim for continuous flow of color throughout the seasons,” Nancy told me, showing me photos from the spring and fall. And she’s obviously set herself up for a summer of color pleasures that last the season long.


gardens on the south end of Vashon Island, on a sandy hilltop overlooking Quartermaster Harbor. "Garden On, Vashon" shares what the Island has to teach us about gardening HERE—from making soils to sowing seeds to raising plants to harvest, cooking, preserving, and designing new ways to cultivate your little chunk of Vashon Island. To contact me, email, or leave a comment.

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