If you know Richie Steffen you know he's the thread that connects all those dots. I'd asked Richie if it would be possible to tour the Miller Garden while I was in Seattle for my talk (May of 2020), and he generously agreed. Then, of course the talk went virtual and there was no visit.
Fast forward to September of 2021. I was planning a trip up to Seattle and asked Richie if I might sneak in a visit. The Miller garden, like Lotusland in California, is in a rather exclusive community and has a cap on the number of people who can visit annually. So you can't just drop by, you have to be granted one of the few visits that are offered up annually. Thankfully Richie said yes, and that's how I happened to be at the Miller Garden on a sunny, but chilly, morning in September.
The Miller Garden is the former residence of Pendleton and Elisabeth Carey Miller. In 1948 the Millers purchased five acres of land just north of Seattle with expansive views over Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. This was not my first visit to the garden, I'd previously toured in 2013 (photos here) with a group from the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon. Eight years is a long time though, the garden and I had both changed.
Touring with Richie was amazing. He's a well known lecturer and garden-star in these parts. I had his tremendous plant knowledge (and the garden!) all to myself for 2-hours. We talked and talked about plants as we walked—I only managed to retain a small amount of what we talked about. Unfortunately I simply snapped a photo of this unique stump-top water bowl as we strolled by, and didn't manage to ask questions about it's making.
I loved these wooden stepping stumps with their attractive and practical anti-slip coverings.
Here my mouth fell open. Cordyline indivisa, wow. These dramatic plants are not often seen in these parts. The only other ones I know of are (were?) at the Pacific Connections Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum, and they were much smaller.
Since my visit last September, the Seattle area has suffered an extreme cold spell—both in temperature and number of days below freezing. Early reports I've read from the garden are hopeful these plants will live on, however cordylines seem particularly good at hiding their damage, until one day when they just fall over. I speak from experience, fingers crossed these make it.
At the time of my visit the garden was so lush and green you'd never know how hot and dry our PNW summer had been.
There is a small lawn in front of what was the Miller's home, and now acts as the offices for the Miller Garden and the Great Plant Picks program.
At this entrance to the home is a patio covered with containers of many shapes and sizes.
There was something special about this plant, but do you think I can remember what it is? No I cannot. But I knew it was a story I wanted to share with you, so I sent off a message to Del Brummet, Head Gardener at the Miller Garden.
Del was kind enough to share the story: "...this is Epigaea asiatica relative of the East coast native E. repens. Elisabeth Miller grew this well in her garden for many years and after she died essentially the plant died in a few years. It needs really good drainage and regular watering as it is an epiphyte. In the late winter it gets these amazing hanging pink blossoms. Now we are growing it in this container of rock/sand with a bit of bark and that rotting chunk of wood in the center until we can propagate a bit more and try it out in the garden..."
As luck would have it Del also found a photo of the plant in bloom and sent it, along with permission to share. Thanks Del!Hmmm, lookie there! Another Cordyline indivisa, and mix of carnivorous plants and a tiny agave.
More colorful cordylines.
The garden also had a nice collection of potted pyrrosia. Potted so they could be moved around as needed for their ideal growing conditions.
Pyrrosia lingua 'Hiryu', I believe.
This one I purchased labeled as P. linqua 'Dragon's Tail' at Swanson's Nursery a couple years ago, I'm not sure if that's what they're calling it, and yes, this a very fuzzy photo, but the record keeper in me needed to include it!
Pyrrosia lingua 'Cristata'
A pulled back view of some of the pyrrosia pots.
And now we're back around the front of the house...
And this is where we end today's post, and will resume our visit on Friday...
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