Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I finally got to see the Miller Garden!


One of the gardens I was really hoping to see during the 2011 Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling was the Elizabeth Miller Botanic Garden. At the time I didn’t realize they require reservations, reservations that typically “sell out” the same day they are made available. Only 500 visitors a year are allowed access to the garden, and no tour buses thank you very much.

Why is it so hard to see the Miller Garden? It’s located in an exclusive gated community north of Seattle. As you might imagine the neighbors aren’t thrilled with the idea of garden tourists overrunning their well paid for peace and quiet.

The garden is the creation of Betty Miller (who passed away in 1994). The Millers moved into The Highlands in 1949, their lot occupies 5-acres and runs all the way to the Puget Sound. The Highlands was an Olmstead designed project and the first gated community on the West Coast. All reports are Betty Miller planted with zeal, not caring if the million dollar view was obliterated, the garden has a strong framework of native plants, and not your typical ones.

The tour on which I was finally able to visit the Miller Garden was arranged by the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon (HPSO), Richie Steffen (curator at the Miller Garden) kindly agreed to take a dozen HSPO members through the garden. So on a cloudy Wednesday morning in July (during the tour titled ‘Rare and Choice Plants of the Miller Garden’) Richie charmed us all with tales of the garden, it’s creator and of course the plants!

One of my favorite stories was of the rivalry between Betty and a friend. They were always in competition to see who could have the newest, rarest, most desirable plant in their garden. Afternoon tea parties became an opportunity to show off their latest acquisition. I believe that friend was Ione Chase, of the Chase Garden, however I am relaying on a foggy (month old) memory and poorly scribbled notes so I could be wrong.

I do remember however that Richie credited Betty with the introduction of my beloved Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass) to the United States. Thank you Betty!

What follows are my (greatly whittled down) 40 photos from the area around the house and woodland garden behind. Tomorrow I’ll share an even larger group of photos taken on the sunnier west side of the house facing the Puget Sound. Sadly I won’t have plant i.d. on every beautiful specimen. If I don’t mention a name and you’re curious please ask in the comments and I’ll try to track it down.

Here Richie is pointing out the beautiful (and late, in July!) bloom on a Rhododendron glanduliferum.

Betty Miller desperately wanted a stone driveway from the main road down to the house but once the bids came in it was deemed too expensive and regular old asphalt was used. However anytime a pothole developed the maintenance guy was instructed to dig it out large enough that stones could be used for a patch.

If my notes are correct that is a Blechnum novae-zelandiae (fern) next to a fabulous rhody ("teddy bear" is the only name I can seem to find for it).

This is the largest Rhododendron stenopetalum 'Linearifolium' (Spider Azalea) I have ever seen. It was breathtaking.

I've forgotten what tree Richie said these huge cones came from, aren't they amazing?

Woodwardia unigemmata

Serious plant lust...

And of course every amazing garden has to have a drool worthy stand of Impatiens omeiana...

Finally we end this part of the visit with a plant in a container up near the house. It was one of the first plants I noticed when I arrived and I hadn't recalled ever seeing it before. I fell hard and fast. I asked Richie about it and he confirmed it was a ginger (Zingiber malayensis). He even mentioned where he'd bought it, just up the street. Sadly I didn't have time to visit that nursery but managed to locate one in Portland the week after I got home. Thank god, this one could have caused me sleepless nights.

Tomorrow we return to the Miller Garden and visit the sunnier west side of the garden...

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. If this post appears anywhere but danger garden it has been reposted without permission.

33 comments:

  1. great garden, thanks for sharing this with your blog !

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    1. You are so welcome...I wish more people could get in to see this wonderful place.

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  2. I'm glad you got a chance to visit the Miller Garden and that you shared the experience. Wow! The plants and setting are spectacular but I also couldn't get over how meticulously groomed it appeared to be. Please tell me that the garden is tended by a dozen or more full-time employees (or a large group of elves) so I don't feel so bad about the comparatively poor upkeep of my 1/2 acre...

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    1. No elves, no huge staff! I hope I'm remembering correctly in saying just 2 interns (who were with us on the tour, as they were new and learning about the garden) and one full time gardener, plus Richie. Pretty amazing huh?

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  3. fabulous gardens!
    potted plants compositions are so amazing.
    do you know the plant with orange berries?
    and the ground cover nder the fern 3 pictures later?

    Thanks for sharing

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    1. The ground cover under the fern is a Saxifraga, S. ‘Primuloides’ and the plant with the berries is (I believe) Smilacina racemosa or False Solomon's Seal.

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  4. Oh, I am so jealous, lucky, lucky you. This garden is on my bucket list. Some day I'll get to it, I think the NPA does something similar. What nursery had that ginger? Was it Sky? What a gorgeous plant! Love the driveway with its stony patches, that is so clever.

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    1. Yes indeed Alison I've heard that's another great way to get into the garden. Join the NPA and then attend a class at the Miller Garden.

      Yep, he bought it at Sky. I so wanted to visit but we ran long and I needed to get back to Portland and spring Lila from the dog hotel so I didn't dare go.

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  5. Beautiful place. Greetings from Polish.

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    1. Hello Joanna, thank you for visiting.

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  6. I like shady gardens and this one is great.

    The Rhododendron look lovely. I am amazed at how far behind they are in terms of growth. I take it these shots weren't taken in August?

    The teddy bear one looks a bit like my Rhododendron bureavii, but the leaves are bigger. Bureavii certainly has the same colour indumentum.

    I also like the Impatiens omeiana - they look even better than mine! Ha ha!

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    1. I was there on July 17th, so yes that rhody was blooming quite late. I left really wishing I had splace for one of those rhody's with the brown indumentum.

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  7. That Teddy Bear rhody is so appealing, with its downy indumentum and its gorgeous coloring. I've often wondered about the Miller Garden - you show that it's so worth a visit (if you can get in!)

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    1. It is indeed Jane, maybe the HPSO will do another tour?

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  8. Beautiful garden. Collector's gardens are always so special and this one with its personal touches is especially nice. Glad you finally got to see it and bring it to us.

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    1. A couple of people warned me that it "wasn't my kind of garden"...I disagree, there's something for everyone!

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  9. Hooray for seeing the Miller Garden! Thanks for sharing it with us! One of these days, I'll sign up for an NPA class to see the garden but your post is almost as good as being there myself. Looking forward to your next post!

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    1. I look forward to your take on the garden, once you make it there.

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  10. Just spectacular! Your photo's captured the spirit of place with justice, so much so its on my bucket list.

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    1. Yay! I hope you make it there (camera in hand of course).

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  11. Gorgeous layering. Did the homeowner design it herself?

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  12. I could totally get lost in there! Thanks for sharing! Such lovely, lovely plants and plantings...

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    1. Actually I could too, and not just figuratively!

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  13. Oh, to be that quirky and to be celebrated for it! What a wonderful space. I'm so glad you found that ginger--I gasped when I scrolled down. Totally worth losing sleep over.

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    1. Portland Nursery on Stark...they might still have some left!

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  14. What an amazing woodland and plantsmans garden Loree, well worth the wait and the effort to see it! And I find it charming how the potholes were repaired with stone, a happy compromise!

    That Zingiber is gorgeous and new one to me, any ideas if it'll be hardy for your area (because if it is potentially it'll be hardy for ours too)?

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    1. A wonderful compromise indeed, one that adds an entirely different character to the place.

      Sadly no, the ginger isn't hardy here. It's in a container. Another one to try and overwinter!

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  15. This is so great. I have never been either so it is great to see pictures. Thanks Loree

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  16. The pine cones look like Coulter pine, Pinus coulteri, with those big wicked claws projecting from each scale. They can get up to ten pounds, causing a lot of damage to a person or car when falling off the tree. An office building I worked at had a row of them along the street with signs warning of the danger. Both the office building and trees were removed to make way for a Wal-Mart.

    John (Aberdeen, WA)

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    1. Yep I think you've got it! I remember the 10 pounds part now.

      Wal-Mart, gotta love progress....

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