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Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then

Northwest Living
WRITTEN BY VALERIE EASTON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BARRY WONG
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Seamless on the Sound
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When the century-old Pinus strobus alongside the water died, Horder left it to weather to a fine silvery sheen, and to serve as a drilling post for woodpeckers.
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With stumps and stones and shades of green, a house, a garden and a place are one

A SILVERY SPAR of a century-old Pinus strobus presides over Jocelyn Horder's garden, its sleek skeleton and wisps of dead branches pointing to the snow-glossed Olympic Mountains. The property's setting is pure drama, from the view of craggy peaks to the salt water that laps across the mud flats of Liberty Bay to encompass the garden with liquid reflections of sky and trees.

The garden's naturalistic lines and harmonies complement the flat-roofed brick-and-glass house that seems to grow out of the rocks and plantings that surround it. On this piece of low-slung peninsula jutting into Puget Sound, with the smell of tide flats and the call of gulls, you could never imagine yourself anywhere but in the Northwest.

"I had no intention of having a garden like this," says Horder firmly. "My husband and I were boaters, which is why we ended up here." Then living on Mercer Island, she and her husband Garrett Horder often admired the peninsula as they sailed past. When property there came up for sale in 1980, the Horders bought an acre, a somewhat soggy plot at the water's edge.

The property was homesteaded in 1890, although little was left of that early farm but several walnut trees, a stone lighthouse and stone well house. Garrett Horder's architect brother, Morley P. Horder, designed the new house of floor-to-ceiling glass, facing due west for maximum exposure to the view and changing weather. The simple, elegant one-story building blends seamlessly with its surroundings, its roof of living sod emphasizing the integration of land and building.
 
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The breezeway between the main house and the guest house is thickly cloaked with wisteria. The decking spans one of the entry ponds, with a view of the bay beyond.
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Even though Horder loves trees, she knew she'd need to stick to low plantings for the point garden, the area between house and sea, to preserve the view. The soil was horrid, boggy clay, and at high tide the bay comes right up to the patio steps. Horder hired landscaper Dan Robinson to build up mounds of soil between the large granite boulders he brought in. "The first five years here were so discouraging," says Horder, "the soil was so bad and things didn't grow." Now creeping mountain hemlocks, weeping cedars, ferns, heather and various dwarf conifers sprawl between artfully placed hunks of driftwood, burned-out stumps and hefty stones.

A living tapestry of textural foliage blankets the point, with a few trees, such as a peeling-bark Acer griseum, planted close to the house. Short Rhododendron atlanticum have pink spring flowers so fragrant they perfume the whole front garden. The draping needled boughs of a yellow, prostrate deodor cedar brighten the many shades of green, as does a thick stand of maroon-tinged Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra'). An oak grown from acorns Horder picked up on a beach in Japan has grown sufficiently large to shelter the house from windstorms. Around at the side, tucked into a fenced corner, are intensive-care nursery beds for Horder's seed-grown treasures and a bonsai courtyard furnished with display benches, where she can indulge her love of trees in miniature.

On the driveway side of the house, Horder wanted to create a sense of welcome and define the entry. Robinson brought in rocks, stumps and tree roots, building waterfalls and ponds on both sides of the entry, and recirculating water beneath its paving. He tilted a gigantic cedar root on its side, and planted it with salal, rhododendron, ferns and a 100-year-old Japanese maple with lacy red foliage to play off the red brick of the house. A species plum from Asia, the only original living tree on the property besides an old fir on the hillside, overhangs the entry garden. Robinson comes back every June to prune the pines and Japanese maples.
 
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From the tree-studded hillside between the road and the water, it is possible to look out across the Horder garden and house to the old pine snag and Puget Sound beyond.
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Eight years after they moved in, the Horders bought another three acres behind the house, a bulldozed hillside covered with blackberries, completing their ownership of most of the cove. By then, Jocelyn was hooked on gardening, and when she asked her husband what they'd do with all that property, he suggested she have fun with it. She laid out gravel paths, put in sprinkler systems, and built raised beds for a 190-foot perennial garden running along the width of the cove. She added a vegetable and cutting garden near the driveway, plenty of trees, especially maples and birches, even a pumpkin patch for her grandchildren in a sunny spot by the road. "It isn't landscaped as such," says the no-nonsense Horder. "I knew what I wanted. Color isn't very important to me, and when I like a plant I find a home for it."

A gardener comes three days a week to help Horder with the raised border, filled with sunflowers, lavatera, dahlias, gingers, salvias, sedums and thalictrum. The hillside behind the border is planted in a sweep of naturalistic meadow that blooms bright with daffodils in the spring, later mellowing into a mix of grasses and wildflowers. Horder has the meadow cut down once in June, then lets it grow long and wild the rest of the year. Dotting the hillside are trees and shrubs Horder grew from seed she collected or exchanged, including hydrangeas, sorbus and evergreen oaks. Paths wind beneath trees grown large over the years, and past a row of apples and pears. The elegant arrangement of one garden opening onto the next, of views over trees and flowering shrubs out to the water beyond, belie Horder's description of herself as "just one of those collectors."

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A fenced bonsai courtyard tucked out of the wind alongside the house holds rows of miniature trees like this pear, most of which Jocelyn Horder grows from seed.
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An old stone lighthouse is one of the few remnants from the original late-19th-century homestead on the peninsula.
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The swept-back petals of pale cyclamen and the arch of fern blades soften the sharp contours of a burned-out cedar stump in the point garden.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her book, "Plant Life: Growing a Garden in the Pacific Northwest" (Sasquatch Books, 2002) is an updated selection of her magazine columns. Her e-mail address is vjeaston@aol.com. Barry Wong is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.


Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then

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