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Originally published November 22, 2013 at 12:13 PM | Page modified November 30, 2013 at 5:01 PM

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A garden both practical and beautiful enchants kids, cats and grown-ups

This Magnolia gardener grows vegetables from seed, arranges flowers and collects unusual plants. The garden is so botanically interesting that horticulture instructors bring their plant-identification classes to her garden, yet it’s also a place for grandchildren to play.


Special to The Seattle Times

“I DON’T DO too many flowers . . . besides dahlias, lilies, roses and lots of ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas,” says Kathleen Pierce. This Magnolia gardener pretty much “does” everything. She grows vegetables from seed, arranges flowers and collects unusual plants. The garden is so botanically interesting that horticulture instructors bring their plant-identification classes to Pierce’s garden, yet it’s also a place for her grandchildren to play and for family to dine, relax and snack on grapes fresh from the vine.

Pierce and her husband, Doug Beighle, bought the house and .85-acre waterfront property in 1998, and a few years later set in to transform the plant palette of lawn and Leyland cypress into something more rich and diverse.

Three years ago, when Pierce decided to add an entry garden and greenhouse, she hired Jason Henry of the Berger Partnership. When she became serious about growing food, she sought advice from Colin McCrate of Seattle Urban Food Co. Such expertise, coupled with Pierce’s hard work and artful eye, has led to a garden of neatly interlocking, proportional spaces that flow graciously from one to another.

There’s the sunny stone patio with fire pit and Adirondack chairs that beckons you to hang out awhile. The sleek lines and peaked roof of the greenhouse modernize the garden and provide indoor workspace on cold, wet days. The vegetable garden’s grid of raised beds contrasts with curvaceous arbors and winding paths.

Despite the garden’s extravagant beauty, the property is anchored by practicality. The pickleball/bocce ball court doubles as a place for the grandkids to ride their scooters. A green-roofed storage shed serves as backdrop to the front garden. “I do have to climb up on a ladder to water the green roof, but only three or four times a year,” says Pierce.

Jason Henry designed the greenhouse, built of triple-glazed glass by Architectural Glass Inc. of Seattle. It holds a photographer’s sink for seed-starting and flower-arranging. Fans cool the greenhouse in summer, a space heater keeps it warm in cooler months.

“The potatoes are getting a little aggressive here,” says Pierce of the leaves spilling across the path between raised beds in the vegetable garden. The entire garden, not just the edibles, is gardened organically, and Pierce makes compost in a worm bin and a tumbler to continually enrich the soil. She starts all her crops from seed and hasn’t bought a vegetable in three years.

A Belgian fence composed of 13 fruit trees divides the newer garden from the older one. One side of the house is festooned with an espaliered pyracantha, whose golden-orange berries served as color inspiration for the vividly painted grape arbor.

Pierce is intrepid about all the work involved, including pruning the Belgian fence three times a year. Rhonda Bush of Carefree Designs helps out.

When it comes to color, Pierce favors gold, purple and violet, balanced with gray foliage. “I don’t do pastels, but I am using more white because I like it at dusk and in the evening,” she says. The front garden features a ‘Black Swan’ purple weeping beech that Pierce describes as “not so dark as to be sinister.” Purple smoke bushes, dark-leafed berberis and pittosporum continue the color theme through the garden.

Pierce ticks off her garden’s great pleasures: the physical work keeps her in shape, and the scientific, intellectual side of it keeps her interested. Then there’s the spiritual. “I meditate when I’m out there,” she says before concluding with the aesthetic/creative part she so obviously relishes.

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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