Monday, August 29, 2022

The garden of Don Brooks and Chris Syrjala

Today we're headed back up to the Seattle area and the Northwest Perennial Alliance Hardy Plant Study Weekend that took place in mid-June. This garden was just a couple blocks off a route I traveled frequently when I lived in Seattle in the 1990's, it was kind of exciting to finally walk into the garden of one of those houses I drove by for years...

These mushroom-like creatures were street-side. Lights? They sure look like they might be, but I don't remember hearing that and can't tell by the photos.

Roots and all!

In the driveway there were daylilies for sale, a prior plant obsession that had fallen out of favor (so I was told).

Walking through the very private entrance gate.

During this three-day adventure (plus two shoulder days if you chose to partake) there were more gardens open than any person could be expected to visit, so one had to read the descriptions and come up with a game plan for what you wanted to see. I am so glad I got to this one, it was a perfect meeting of plant passion and personal creativity.  

Now we're moving out beyond the first fenced space (complete with a pond) into the great beyond...

Which is pretty fabulous!

This garden occupies a third of an acre in Seattle's Maple Leaf neighborhood, Don and Chris have lived here since 1978. Quoting from the event booklet's description: "The property has gone through many changes, from a large veggie/fruit garden, to a children's garden, followed by perennial borders, and currently a collector's garden. Probably the most accurate description would be a collector's cramscaped place. I love all things green and recycled, including stone and rusted items. I sometimes describe the garden as a collection of curiosities." You can understand why I felt very at home here.

There were agaves!

And ferns...

The garden description mentions that Mr. Brooks has retired from almost 40 years of professional gardening but doesn't say where he was working. I think he must have been allowed to take this sign home on his final day on the job (see my 2020 visit to Kubota Garden here)

I never managed to get up close with the veggie plantings under the framework, but I circled them and snapped photos from several angles.

Looking backwards, at where I'd just been.

I love it when there are interesting bits left out to examine.

Maybe left from a flowering and fruiting banana? 

Nicely done small rock garden.

With an interesting stone/color transition.

I love getting a look at someone else's work space. Lots of treasures in there.

These "snowflake" rocks were all around the garden, turns out they are a local (well, Snoqualmie Pass, in Western WA) phenomenon.

The rocks...
Suddenly I find myself wanting a ginormous stump slice to plant on.

Are you with me?

Hmm, mysterious stairsteps into a shady corner, let's explore!


Comptonia peregrina, sweet fern (but not really a fern).

Those veggies again!

"Stay off the deck!" (said nicely, with plants)

A concrete (or maybe stone?) version of the stump slice.

This is one of those very personal gardens that I leave feeling so lucky to have to have visited, almost like I snuck in to a private space where I wasn't supposed to be.

Thank you Don Brooks and Chris Syrjala for opening your garden!

All material © 2009-2022 by Loree L Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. A personal and creative garden indeed. Those metal mushrooms are making the entrance to the garden so enticing. They may have small solar panels on top that would cause them glow in the dark. I wish I could see that!
    Oh, to have such a massive stump! The creativity and planting it would inspire: the possibilities are endless.

    1. Glad you enjoyed, maybe you'll get the chance to visit this garden in the future.

  2. Stump slice me, please! What a great twist on a fern table. Gets the brain working, indeed.

    1. Surely you guys can come up with a stump slice?...

  3. I want the stump slice AND the snowflake rocks! Awesome garden.

    1. Ha, words I bet you thought you'd never be saying...

  4. Jeanne DeBenedetti KeyesAugust 29, 2022

    Lots of cool stuff there! I didn't make it to this garden when I was up there. Clearly, I missed out. Very cool idea for that stump slice. I have one and was thinking of making an outdoor table out of it but this is much cooler! And I love that upright "rock outcropping", with the big cement or stone ball behind it.

    1. I told everyone that I came across that it was a "must see", so sorry I missed you! (did I even see you that weekend? I can't remember)

  5. Quirky enough to be interesting but not so much that it takes away from the plants themselves. More so than most gardens placed on tour, it does feel like a very private space. As to the stump question, I regret every large stump I let slip away when we had 3 trees removed over the years (2 at the behest of our former nightmare neighbor). I did keep 3 smallish stumps from the peppermint willow but in retrospect wish I'd held onto some pieces of the large Eucalyptus.

    1. Yes! The even organizers (hello @tahomaflora) did a great job of selecting a mix of garden styles, I bet there was something that spoke to everyone on the tour.

  6. I wish I had been able to talk with you. So many people came through. I love your book and writings! Don

    1. Thanks Don, you were definitely a popular guy! I tried a couple of times to get to talk with you but your public was lined up with questions. I'm glad you saw this so you know how much I loved your garden.

  7. Lots of fabulous ideas to "borrow" here. Now, for the execution part. Hmmmm. Great post, again.

  8. This garden is INSANE. If I had a largish lot and could do what I wanted, it might look like that, with more agaves and fewer green plants. I-LOVE-IT!

  9. Fascinating garden. They are obviously very creative folks.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!