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Originally published Friday, August 2, 2013 at 11:05 AM

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A harvest of gardening news: Celebrate garden art, a good hire and bees

Check out the George and David Lewis Rooftop Garden at the Bainbridge Island Art Museum. The Arboretum finally gets a curator of living plants. And more ...

Special to The Seattle Times

Local news partner - Plant Talk

Valerie Easton writes in her blog about gardens and the people who make them.

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A ROOFTOP GARDEN at the new Bainbridge Island Museum of Art features work by island artists George and David Lewis. The simple, curvaceous, stone-like sculptures they've created for the space are a departure from their signature columns and fountains.

A river of beach stones winds the length of the small garden, with mounds of earth planted in drought-tolerant sedums and grasses. "To create sculptural interest, we designed large concrete stones we call 'river shapes' in soft earth colors, some with shallow hollows to hold rainwater for passing birds," says David Lewis.

Be sure to step outdoors and enjoy the quiet serenity of the rooftop garden before going indoors to be wowed by the elegance of the art museum, the first in our state to go for LEED gold certification. The George and David Lewis Rooftop Garden was a gift from Debbie and Paul Brainerd in honor of the artists.

Finally, a curator for the Arboretum

Our 200-acre Washington Park Arboretum has been without a curator of living plants for 20 years. That inexplicable hiatus has been remedied with the recent hiring of native Seattleite Ray Larson, who looks forward to the challenge of his new job. "This position is about more than curating plants; my role is to look at the entire landscape and how it can best serve the public as a resource for education, display and conservation," says Larson.

Even though Larson is the curator for both the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Washington Park Arboretum, the position is only part time. "I'm firmly committed to finding the funding to bring it to full time," says University of Washington Botanic Garden Director Sarah Reichard. "Our world-class collection requires nothing less."

Love your leaves

Seeking garden inspiration during the dog days of summer? Look no farther than a new book on leafy harmonies by two local garden designers. This is the time of year when foliage comes into its own, and Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz's "Fine Foliage: Elegant Plant Combinations for Garden and Container" ($16.95) celebrates shape and texture over flower. "It's not just a pretty book, but explains why these combinations work. We wanted to give gardeners the tools to develop their own ideas," explains Chapman. Both women specialize in container gardening; their plant savvy shows in every beautiful photo. Just think: a simple pairing of fuzzy, silver rhododendron leaves with the skinny blades of orange-hair sedge makes for an effective composition that looks as good in January as it does in June.

Honeybees at Sea-Tac

Who knew that the airport employed wildlife biologists? It hired its first one in the 1970s to reduce bird-strike issues, but today the job has expanded to include conservation, explains current airport wildlife biologist Steve Osmek.

The airport recently teamed up with the nonprofit The Common Acre on a bee project they're calling "Flight Path." Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of the first airports in the country to host an apiary.

"There's lots of vacant land around the airport as a buffer for safety and noise mitigation," explains Osmek. He sees hosting 500,000 foraging honeybees as a fine use of land covered in blackberries and native plants. The goal isn't to produce honey, but to support bees with adequate habitat and to raise hardy queen bees to strengthen hive health. Bob Redmond, the lead beekeeper for Flight Path, hopes that the program becomes a model for other bee-saving projects around the region and nationwide. Look for a bee art and education exhibit on Concourse B (where else?) early next year.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.

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