Thursday, February 22, 2018

Visiting the Streissguth Gardens, a trip back in time

On January 12th I read a post on Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal that sent me down memory lane. The subject was the Streissguth Gardens on Capitol Hill, in Seattle. I lived on Capitol Hill from the summer of 1989 until the spring of 1998. My time there was split between two different apartments. I desperately wanted to own a home, with land...a garden! But I was barely able to afford rent on an apartment. I made due gardening in window boxes and on window ledges, it wasn't so bad. And I walked a lot, discovering hidden gardens that I could almost make believe were mine. This bit of land was one of them, but I never would have found it again if not for reading that post on Tangly Cottage.

The era when I used to walk through would have been around the same time the land, formerly a private garden, was donated to the city — in 1996, signed over to Seattle Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with the Parks Dept purchasing three lots south of the garden to save them from development. That purchase had been funded by a 1989 King County Open Space Bond Measure. The garden continues to be family maintained and run, while welcoming in you, and I, and preserving open space that could have just as easily (more easily?) been sold and turned into towering condos. I thank you Dan, Ann and Ben Streissguth.

My visit took place early on Saturday morning, February 10th. Andrew was shopping at the Amazon store at U-Village and I was here. Suddenly 20 years younger, the views, the smells, those years had melted away in an instant.

The younger me wouldn't have known this was Cycleman, but I probably would have thought it was pretty.

This seems like the way to head...

It was chilly that morning (below freezing when we left the hotel), but spring was clearly in the air.

Only now do I realize the stupidity of photographing a bench but not actually pausing to sit on it.

The pathway was urging me on!

Wow, these beauties! Trillium, about to bust open.

And those sweet yellow flowers...Adonis ramosa? Eranthis hyemalis (the Winter Aconite, thanks Ted!)

Pausing to look up at the blue sky I was rewarded with Camellia blossoms.

And Magnolia buds.

And a million dollar (+) view of Lake Union...

And the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

Back to the garden, Garrya tassels.


An Edgeworthia, not quite ready to bust open in fragrant bloom.

There were many beautiful Hellebore blooms.

Stachyurus praecox

Chimonanthus praecox, aka wintersweet

It's an odd gift to be able to return to a place you hadn't been in years, yet feel it so profoundly as a part of you that it's like you've never left.

I've honestly never thought of this place since leaving Seattle, but being here, I intensely remember walking through it. Wanting and yearning for soil of my own in which to garden. Now I have it, have had it for years, and I do not take it for granted. I am lucky.

Petasites japonicus var. giganteus

This was just one of many vignettes that had me wishing I could return in a month or three, when spring growth has really taken off.

I'm not generally a fan of the conifers, but this one was lit from within.

Saxifraga x urbium 'Aurea Punctata'


I also loved this ivy.

I'm ivy ignorant, anyone able to ID?


Rhododendron some somebody (love the shuttlecock shape).

I'm a sucker for a well done gabion wall.

This one was built to keep back a potentially troublesome (wet) bit of land.

It was clearly up for the job.

And in the drainage seep was this happy Gunnera about to push out some monster leaves.

Hmmm, ya...

One of those pretty spring bloomers, being all pretty...

But foliage! That's a year round bit of loveliness.

Electric Azalea...

Not electric, but still pretty.

I want to call this Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire', but what am basing that on? Absolutely nothing but the color. So who knows?

Those orange seeds! I love them, and I'm sure everyone but me knows what they are...

The veggie garden, way down at the bottom of the steep cliff-side I've been zigzagging my way down.

I read something about a pond and raccoons, this must be it.


And it's time to start climbing back up, up, up to my car. And 2018.

And head back to my Portland garden, with these memories fresh in my mind.

I've got the book In Love with a Hillside Garden (2009) on hold in our local library system, so I'll be returning to the Streissguth Gardens again soon.

Weather Diary, Feb 21: Hi 37, Low 23/ Precip .3" snow

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. What a sweet trip back in time! Next time I'm in Seattle, I'll look for this beautiful place. Thank goodness it'll be preserved and not turned into more urban infill condos! The ivy might be Hedera algeriensis and the red-seeded, evergreen iris is iris foetidissima. If you want some, I'd be happy to share.

    1. I saw that Iris foetidissima in your garden and tried to get a good photo, they all ended up blurry. I think I'll pass, but thank you!

  2. "Suddenly 20 years younger"... I'll be sure to go soon, I'd like that feeling too.
    What a treasure this garden is. The picture of the white Hellebore and purple crocus is just wonderful. The lovely orang seed pods belong to Iris foetidissima.

    1. Of course those 20 years returned as soon as I got in my car ;)...

  3. Tangly Cottage is so good at documenting everything -- photos and journal entries from 20+ years ago? Some great memories shared there, and it's so nice that she inspired you to revisit some of your own as well!

    1. Isn't she amazing? I don't know how she does it!

    2. Well, shucks!

  4. Somewhere else to visit on my "Summer Day in Seattle" this year. At this rate I'm going to have to get a hotel room and make it a week. It's amazing how far along everything was there, especially those Trillium.

    1. Oh you should! At least a couple of days for sure. And ya, I was really amazed by the Trillium.

  5. A garden well worth preserving. Definitely a neighborhood treasure!

  6. What a fabulous public garden! So many plants I see only in books and blog posts...

  7. Thank you! Another great place to explore when I am in Seattle. Will try to get there in April.

    1. Have fun! It's going to be exploding in April I am sure.

  8. I'm no ivy expert, but that looks very like 'Glacier', a white-variegated form of English ivy that is sterile. From a three-inch pot bought at the grocery, it's spread here to cover a big area underneath a beech where little else will flourish (not my intention, but once the process started I let it happen). To prevent reversion to all-green and possibly fertile and therefore invasive English ivy, it's necessary to keep an eye out and cut out any all-green shoots, but they're few and far between. 'Glacier's foliage is smaller than straight English ivy, also. Fall is its glory season, deep into mild winters. After the record-setting extended deep cold of this past December and January, it's fairly burned-looking, not setting off the hellebores as well as in some years, but it'll revive with rain and warmth.

    1. Thanks for all the info! Hope you get that rain and warmth soon.

  9. I visited the garden in June. Oh my it is pretty then with all the flowers blooming. One of my all time favorites!

  10. Wonderful hillside garden. Might the yellow flowered bulbs be Eranthis hyemalis (the Winter Aconite)?

  11. What a treat to be able to revisit this memory in person. Those cyclamen have been growing all these years just waiting for you!

  12. So glad you shared this and the timing is great since I'll be in Seattle next month! Can't wait to see this lovely place in person.

    1. I'm so glad you saw this and will be able to visit.

  13. What a delight to revisit a garden with a more mature eyes. Gosh I don't know lots of plants that you are able to grow but I love seeing them. I can imagine the excitement of seeing all of this beauty on display and dreaming of creating your own garden in the near future.

  14. I look forward to you going back!

    I love a gabion wall but always wonder how does one keep the weeds out?

    I only once managed to grow winter aconite (then it fizzled). I have killed three edgeworthias (one that Ann Lovejoy brought to me; I killed that one by moving it to my new garden) so I have some plant envy. Last year at Hardy Plant weekend I bought a TINY one of those red flowered trilliums. I am sure that is Midwinter Fire.

    When you took a left turn onto that upper path you totally transported me to being back there. I visited it in summer of 2003 but the year when I discovered it must have been 1989 or 1990, and I left Seattle at the end of '92.

    Could that be a flowering almond with the cloud of white? I just remember my grandma had one...and that it bloomed early.

    Great photo of the rhodo shuttlecock (and hellebores and so much more).

    Chimonanthus praecox is one winter bloomer I keep meaning to get. Thanks for the reminder. That photo is gorgeous.

    That sure brought back memories and felt like being there. I would feel my age now on the steps and slopes; I can remember navigating the whole thing with no trouble at all...

  15. A generous gift to the city, considering the price of view lots! A gardener grew a wonderful place with a generous heart.

  16. Wow. Thank you for the amazing memories! I used to work with Ann at the UW Behavioral Sciences Department. Dan was the former Dean of the UW Architectural School. Their home borders the garden to the North and is just as impressive in its design and presence. A close friend lived in the bottom floor apartment which has a massive tile veranda built over the garages. Hanging out there was very special for both me and my hound dog!

    I’m not much of a gardner, but I am in awe of those that are. I once mentioned to Ann how I had been doing “yard work” all weekend and she replied, “Some people call it work and others call it gardening”. I probably would have called it gardening if I wasn’t so intimately aware of the differences between gardens and blight.


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