Garden On, Vashon

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VAA Garden Tour Previews: the Small Garden

May 30th, 2013 at Thu, 30th, 2013 at 7:06 pm by Karen Dale

Friday is the last day for discount tickets for VAA’s garden tour.


Don’t you long, sometimes, for a garden always ready to welcome you home? 

I visited with Miles Small today, enjoying a cappucino on the dining deck overlooking the waterfall pond. “This is a garden to decompress,” this very busy, well-traveled publisher told me. “I didn’t want another hobby… I didn’t want the kind of formal garden I knew back in Cleveland … We wanted something sustainable, all native plants that could take care of themselves … and I wanted this garden to look good in the rain.”

The front garden was once a long construction driveway used by the contractor who started the house. He had to abandon the project: the Smalls picked up the shuttered home and finished the interior before turning to that unlovely driveway four years ago. The big boulder in the waterfall came from underneath the house, bulldozed to the side until Miles found a spectacular use for it.

By starting the garden’s design after living there for some years, Miles knew visitors weren’t clear where, exactly, the entrance began and ended. Now a stout arbor walls off parking from garden, while a sequence of open garden spaces—fire circle, waterfall pond, raised decks—draws visitors through and to the front door. This landscaping was designed by the Smalls, drawn up by Olympic Design, and installed by GroundWork landscapes. 

The couple entertains a lot, sometimes hiring “Loose Change” to play from the upper dining terrace while friends circulate. Sometimes, he said, “this front porch looks like a Latin American house party, with everybody sitting on chairs with beers between their feet” as they keep an eye on the garden. (I counted 15 chairs along that long porch—and told him they’d be welcome rest to you footsore garden tourists.)

A treat unique to garden tour is that you will be welcome INSIDE the house—the only way to the back porch overlooking the forest beyond is through the welcoming double doors, past the sunken living room, and out the kitchen door. The massive wood columns holding up the second floor are peeled doug fir logs from the property; don’t miss the rustic balcony railing, its spindles likewise made of peeled branches.

So when you need a little respite during garden tour, peel out for Maury and the Small’s relaxation/decompression garden.

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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