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Originally published June 21, 2013 at 11:01 AM | Page modified July 7, 2013 at 10:58 PM

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Designer Phil Wood brings new life and light to Hawthorne Hills garden

A beloved dogwood had to go, but family loves what took its place.

Special to The Seattle Times

IT WAS LIKE cutting down a member of the family when it came time to remove the old dogwood with many trunks. An arborist advised that the aging giant shading Stephanie Doyle Scroggs' back garden was thoroughly rotted. During the 17 years they'd lived in their Hawthorne Hills home, the family had spent lots of time trying to figure out what to do with the garden, but taking out their beloved shade tree was never part of the plan.

Yet down it had to come, and with the help of designer Phil Wood, the family found there was space for raised beds and stone terraces in their newly sunny back garden. Now handsome stone walls and terraces, steps and gravel paths link the garden visually and make it easier to plant, care for and navigate. "With the steep slope at the side of the house, there was nowhere to entertain or to sit and enjoy the back garden," says Wood. Now the circular terrace is a perfect place for a gathering. This larger of two terraces is ringed with a bench for extra seating. The smaller dining terrace is sheltered behind the house so the family can eat outdoors spring to fall.

The kids still miss the grassy slope that was perfect for a Slip'N Slide, but Stephanie and her husband, John Scroggs, are delighted with the new structural elements, and beds filled with perennials and vegetables.

Stephanie, whose mother worked at Molbak's Nursery in Woodinville, was knowledgeable about plants even before the garden renovation. Stephanie gave Wood lists of what she liked and photos of gardens ripped from magazines. Space to grow vegetables and strawberries was on the list. She wanted plenty of practical perennials to bloom through the seasons. And she hoped for a garden sturdy enough to stand up to kids' play and Ringo, their lively Labradoodle. "Now with its strong shapes, the garden looks good year-round," she says.

Blues and yellows predominate, with Russian sage, lavender, asters and yellow cape fuchsias (Phygelius x rectus 'Moonraker') to attract the hummingbirds. A new, golden-tipped Japanese cedar, a stewartia and tall perennial grasses are planted around the perimeter of the garden as backdrop. Three dwarf 'Miss Kim' lilacs perfume the air in springtime, and a Japanese maple lends fiery fall color.

Most of the plants have survived Ringo's puppyhood, but Stephanie points out a few areas where she's waiting to replace plants until the dog matures. The raised stone beds along the fence line help keep plants safe. Herbs, nasturtiums, vegetables and strawberries grow here along with sweet peas trained up a trellis.

Low maintenance was important to the busy family, and they appreciate how easy it is to hose down the stone terraces. There's no lawn to mow in the back garden. The front garden, designed years earlier by Dean Backholm, is mostly small shrubs, sedum and easy-care ornamental grasses. There's a secluded terrace with two comfy chairs. "We wish we ever had time to sit there!" Stephanie says.

In a raised bed near the dining terrace, the family has planted, in memory of their departed tree, an 'Eddie's White Wonder' dogwood with teacup-sized blooms to make up in flower what it lacks in girth. And Stephanie's nursery-savvy mother loves the garden so much she wants Phil Wood to design her garden, too.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

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