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Cover Story Design Notebook NW Gardens Plant Life Taste Now & Then

Plant Life
Design Notebook

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The Moody residence on West Highland Drive is celebrating its 100th birthday. Sweeping cut-glass transom windows allow light to dance throughout the main floor, which is set beneath stately box-beam ceilings. Period moldings, custom tiling and extraordinary lighting fixtures are among the home's many amenities.
'Stairways to Heaven' Tour
Six private houses and gardens on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill will be open for a walking tour on Sunday, June 2, from noon to 4 p.m. Funds raised will benefit St. Anne School and Rebuilding Together Seattle, a charitable organization that rehabilitates houses for low-income elderly and disabled families in need. The "Stairways to Heaven" tour includes St. Anne Convent, which was built in the 1930s and is still home to three nuns. Its 12th-century-style brickwork and the handcrafted, beamed ceilings in its chapel will be on display, as will a 1902 Victorian home on West Highland Drive, restored in authentic detail down to its nickel hinges. Pre-sale tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for seniors; day-of-tour tickets cost $25.

For tickets, call Queen Anne realtors Gerrard, Beattie & Knapp at 206-285-1100.

No-Headache Hoses
Tempers and plants will be saved by stretchy, loopy new hoses that expand and retract like overgrown Slinkys. Nothing is more irritating than a kinked up, intractable hose. How many lilies have you decapitated when dragging a heavy hose around the corner? Such garden travails are over with this clever new product that resembles Shirley Temple's curls on steroids. The "Go Anywhere Hose" is durable, lightweight, UV-resistant polyurethane, stretches to 50 feet, then recoils on its own (gently, it doesn't snap) to 28 manageable inches for storage. Now that's true innovation. Two hoses can be joined to reach a full hundred feet, and they deliver the same volume of water as a standard outdoor hose. Available for $39.98 at Fremont Gardens Nursery (4001 Leary Way N.W.; 206-781-8283). City People's Garden Store (2939 E. Madison St., 206-324-0737) carries a 25-foot Apex Color Coil, "the hose that recoils itself," for $33.99. For the deluxe version, check out the "Ultimate Anaconda" carried by Restoration Hardware for $89. It stretches 75 feet, and has a wand with multiple settings and padded handle.

Black Magic
Spring flowers in sweet shades of pastels start to look a little insipid by late May. If you've grown weary of baby pink, lilac and primrose yellow, nothing adds depth and contrast like a hit of glossy black. British nursery woman Karen Platt is devoted to promoting plants with ebony flower and foliage, which she describes as sexy, mysterious, fashionable and exciting. She owns a nursery in Sheffield, England, specializing in black plants, and has just launched the International Black Plant Society.

If growing plants as dusky as a raven's wing hasn't been one of your gardening goals, Platt's book, "Black Magic and Purple Passion: A Comprehensive Guide to Dark Foliage and Dark-Flowered Plants" (published by Karen Platt, Great Britain, 2000), might change your mind. "Black is the color of the sophisticated garden," Platt declares, and goes on to admit that few plants are truly black, but rather purple, bronze, maroon or green so deeply pigmented as to appear nearly black in some lights. Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') may be the one truly black plant, but the darkest hellebores, purple-leafed cannas, Iris 'Demon' and a wealth of other near-black beauties offer dramatic contrast to spring pastels and the hotter shades of summer. To order Platt's book (also available at Flora and Fauna Books in Pioneer Square) or to join the International Black Plant Society, visit her Web site at

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On a cool Northwest evening, family and friends can gather around all four sides of this portable patio fireplace.
Firelight Dining Alfresco
Discouraged by chilly evenings and the high price of heat lamps? Target has come up with a great-looking outdoor fireplace in flat black with an appealingly squat, stable shape. Its deep hearth holds plenty of wood for a warming blaze. The fire is easy to see and enjoy, as all four sides of the stubby little stove are made of mesh doors that open wide for cleaning and loading in more wood. The Deluxe Outdoor Fireplace costs $149, at all Target stores.

Northwest Design, Naturally
The colors, light and textures of Seattle and the Northwest are celebrated this season in home-design collections. Nine new colors of Corian evoke an Oregon beach in sand and sea colors called white cap, oyster, stone-washed, sea shell and storm blue. Natural, quiet and harmonious is how Corian describes these flecked and rugged neutrals designed for vanities and countertops.

Seattle native and textile designer Gary Glant usually bases his designs on far-flung travels to exotic locations, but for this spring's collection he sought inspiration outside his own back door. Feeling appreciative of his home town, he's described Seattle's distinctive neighborhoods through fabric texture and color. Laurelhurst is a linen chenille with a horizontal rib, and comes in celadon, lake blue and dusty terra cotta, among other colors. Bainbridge Island has a pebbly texture to it, and Mercer Island is a breezy linen with an open basket weave. Glant's Seattle Collection has met with enthusiastic response in London and Greece, as well as around the U.S. Locally, the fabrics are available through interior designers.

Valerie Easton is manager at The Miller Horticultural Library. Her e-mail address is

Cover Story Design Notebook NW Gardens Plant Life Taste Now & Then

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