Garden On, Vashon

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VAA Garden Tour Previews: the Weiss/Gawith Garden

June 6th, 2013 at Thu, 6th, 2013 at 3:36 pm by Karen Dale

I’ll bet many folks remember certain gardens not for the plants, but for the great meals eaten there, the poured wine and flowing talk, the sheer enjoyment of The Good Life al fresco.

Linda Weiss & Ron Gawith’s garden is all about those moments. They enjoy life lived outdoors as much as in, and their garden reflects that lifestyle.

Once their yard was all turf. Now, within the wooden fence is a garden gridded like a Mondrian painting, all squares and right-angle turns, softened by shadow-play coming through eucalyptus trees and swaying bamboo. There’s still a central square lawn, but surrounding it are seating & dining areas, an outdoor kitchen where Ron might fire up a pizza in his Italian wood-burning oven, a kitchen potager in the back where you can graze for SunGold cherry tomatoes or raspberries red or gold or grab a handful of basil to top that pizza sizzling out of the oven.

It’s hard to believe that, when they moved here in 2004, they considered this down-sizing. Folks who took the VAA Garden Tour in 2000 might remember their very moderne house sided with galvanized ripple-steel in Cedarhurst. The exciting building material here are the rock-filled gabion walls—the first that Ross Johnson of DIG ever built—made of flat grid panels joined with metal spirals threading together the corners, then filled with rocks. The latest wall has only a shallow layer of rocks holding it down; a wall of Boston Ivy will grow here, chosen for its deep red fall color.

Behind this now see-through gabion is the Fig Walk; they do ripen occasionally, Linda told me, though she doesn’t know the variety. Back here you’ll also find the greenhouse, full of sedums, echeverias and cactus, geraniums and seedling starts. “The greenhouse was a christmas present to each other,” said Linda, pointing out her odd-ball rabbit’s foot fern in a pot against the back wall.

Down the barely-sloping walk you’ll go back a hedge of olearia, its white daisy flowers in bloom. Behind a screen of bamboo that Linda pruned up after reading this suggestion from columnist Valerie Easton, you’ll find another seating area of black chairs. Hopefully by tour, the gigantic rose ‘Sir Cedric Morris’ will be in bloom: it’s a single bush that must cover a good 30′. Linda & Ron keep bees, and this rose will positively vibrate with them. Also notice the engaging yellow flowers of the sun-rose nearby.

This garden is a sharp contrast to the shady, clay-laden Cedarhurst garden. Up here in Raecoma’s stony soil and warmer temperature, it’s easily to fall for that line about our climate being Mediterranean. How easily one imagines dining al fresco in these chairs, warmed by the heat radiating off these rocky gabion walls, prying open plump figs or sprinkling just-cut chives over oven-roasted potatoes. 

Come here last. Leave hungry.  

Tickets for the VAA Garden Tour are available online:

QUICK EVENT NOTE: In a week, I’ll be giving a reading from my new book, specifically the chapter reconstructing the complete history of the VAA Garden Tour. That event will be at 12:30 next Friday, June 14, at Vashon Bookshop. I’ll also have some big pages on display from the book; come early, get a cuppa from the tea shop next door, and peruse while you wait for the author (me) to arrive.

If you want to know more about the book project and the Kickstarter campaign running thru July 5 to raise money for its printing, go to Thanks!

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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