Garden On, Vashon

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Vashon Allied Arts’ Garden Tour: Froggsong Garden

May 25th, 2013 at Sat, 25th, 2013 at 10:51 am by Karen Dale

A series previewing the gardens open for this year’s Vashon Allied Arts’ Garden Tour. For tickets, visit VAA’s 2013 Garden Tour.


Cindy & Steve Stockett’s Froggsong Garden in Upper Burton has been on the tour twice before, but the 2008 Snowpocalypse sent 35 old growth firs crashing down in their upper garden and pasture, forcing much renovation. The rose pergola and tiled rill are still there, but much has changed since ’08—like the new/old Ruin.

Not having seen the other gardens yet, it’s possible I’ve started these previews with the WOW! garden of the tour. In the last 15 years, Cindy has devoted enormous energy and focus to this garden. I recently was told she was a Landscape Architect (not true: she’s entirely self-taught), but looking at this landscape she and Steve designed and maintain mostly by themselves, you can see why someone might believe she’s got that high a level of street cred.

“I’m always thinking of the design element,” Cindy told me. “When you work in your own garden, you are so familiar with it, you see what is lacking in areas, what needs to be moved or brought in to bring some punctuation. I do a lot of editing. Even when I’m sleepless at night, I’m moving plants around in my head.”

So let’s start at the entrance, the Upper Garden full of perennials. This was once shaded by the old firs, so the plants that came back after bulldozers cleared the windfalls were the strong, more sun-tolerant perennials. Color fluctuates quickly from golden chartreuses to dusky purples lightened by nearby variegated whites and yellow, such as this juxtaposition of yellow hosta, purple allium, and black cohosh. She’s seems to love pales and blues: cobalt objet d’art stud the garden. Blue-tinted plants like honey-bush and crambe, and all the white variegated plants, bring the light of our washy skies into the garden.


Boxwood, hand-trimmed by Cindy with sheep shears, binds this garden together, whether in cones, balls, hedges, or the long knot-garden beside the rill that the Stocketts installed in celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary. Follow the rill, recently retiled by David Blad, down to the goldfish pond. Behind it, enjoy one of Cindy’s favorite trees, a Cornus controversa variegata, nicknamed Japanese wedding tree for the way it naturally layers. On its right, a cryptomeria ‘Sekkan-Sugi’ displays its perennially golden tips; Cindy has three around the garden. 

Here I suggest you turn right, head up the steps past that hulking gray cardoon, and up the slope to the next addition, the Ruin. She was inspired by a ruin seen in Philadelphia’s Chanticleer Garden and decided to design one herself, with help from Ross Johnson of DIG, who created the ruin from her plans. The gateway granite stones traveled from India to Seattle as ship’s ballast, became sidewalk curbs, then salvage pieces bought by Ross many years ago. When he heard of Cindy’s ruin, he said, “I think I’ve already got its entrance stones.” The rest of the stone came from Marenakos.

From here, looking past the Acer drummundii, you can see the sweeps of Cindy’s design sense, her restraint in keeping lawns as negative spaces, using boxwood as thick outlines around lushly-planted beds. 

Go through the hornbeam arches into the outer Cook & Cutting garden. Beside the bee-humming tower of echium, you’ll see some strawberry plants—and not just ANY strawberries. These are Marshalls, the berry that made Vashon’s early reputation and used by B. D. Mukai in his packing plant. They were luscious, large—and too soft for much commercial trade—and when a plant-borne fungus came on Island in the 1950s, the Marshalls were mostly wiped out. They’re now very scarce, but Cindy found hers on Bainbridge, part of a Marshall Strawberry restoration project. Cindy’s a Friend of Mukai and hopes to bring Marshalls back to that garden as part of its restoration. For now, DON’T EAT HER MARSHALL STRAWBERRIES!

On through the south entrance of the fountain garden, then the rose pergola. It no longer holds climbers: they became too large, too hard to prune, and their deadwood underbelly was rather unsightly for her. She replaced them with tall modern shrub roses like the perfumed apricot rose at the pergola’s entrance, “Lady in a Mist.” 

There’s so much more to see at Froggsong: the Secret Garden, the Roundel, the house beds, the vegetable garden, the duck pond. This garden once sported many a New Zealand flax, but they became such monsters (and vulnerable to the hard frosts of recent winters) that Cindy “edited” them away. She still likes spikes—yucca and cordylines provide much of the punctuation, as in the roundel garden and in pots here and there.

So when you leave, turn and notice the red cordylines, like the grassy ‘Red Festival’ around the entrance path, then walk across the driveway and have a quiet moment in the Earthworks garden, with its stone cairns (done by Per-Lars Blomgren) and earthworks labyrinth. You’ve just been through a Masterpiece. You might need a quiet moment or two…


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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