Monday, March 25, 2024

Old Goat Farm, finally

We all have a garden or two that lives large in our imagination. One we always meant to visit, but never did. And then the property sold, or the garden closed—later when the garden comes up in conversation you feel a little sad tug at your heart, why didn't I...? Well, this is the happy story of my getting to visit one of those gardens before the gate was closed...

Old Goat Farm (OGF) is the farm, garden and nursery created by Greg Graves and Gary Waller at their home just outside of Orting, WA (approximately 25 miles southeast of Tacoma/150 miles north of Portland). Greg Graves is a name that lives large in our PNW plant community. I knew of him from his time at the Miller Garden, his legacy as a past president of the Pacific Horticulture, and his work with Great Plant Picks—yet I had never met Greg before I visited OGF last Tuesday. Sadly Gary Waller passed away in June of 2022.
Last summer I had every single one of the OGF open garden events marked on my calendar, and I didn't make it up for a single one of them. When Greg announced earlier this year that it was time for him to sell OGF (it just wasn't the same place without Gary) I figured I'd missed my opportunity. 

Then I decided to take matters into my own hands. I asked my friend Camille (who has visited many times) if she thought mid March would be an okay time to walk the garden, and if she'd want to go with me. Then I emailed Greg to see if he'd allow a visit, and just like that it all came together—and with perfect weather to boot!

Rhododendron pachysanthum front

And back...

Besides the goats (which you'll see in a bit) when I think of OGF I think of the rock gabion pedestals used throughout the garden. They're in so many photos I've seen of the garden. It was so wonderful to see them in real life, finally!

And even though it's still very early in the season there were ferns looking good on the fern table.

While we were admiring this rockwork Greg shared that Gary used to go out of town for a couple weeks each year to visit family, that gave him time to complete a few projects he had in mind that he didn't necessarily what to "discuss" before doing. I think we can all relate?

The moss could not have been better if it had been cultivated. The pot holds hakonechloa (Japanese forest grass) that has yet to wake up for the growing season.

Weathered to perfection.

It's hard to tell scale, but this is the largest Asplenium trichomanes I have ever seen.

Simple perfection.

Turning with your back to the above gabion pedestals this is what's a head of you.

Greg shared that the friend who was with them when they saw OGF for the first time was a lover of boxwood, so this boxwood city-scape (what it looked like to me) was done in her honor.

The rocks were stacked, the moss came later.

And the sword ferns too I would imagine, they have a way of moving about.

The sun made for dramatic shadows during our visit. I suppose some would have wished for overcast skies to improve the photography opportunities. Not me.

The back of the shed.

More rock-work.

Rhododendron strigillosum

The farmhouse and "garage", there was also a large barn that I failed to get a photo of.

I should have asked Greg how long it took to find the perfect rocks to fill the cages.

The more formal elements fit right in.

Love that roof!

In another outbuilding we greeted one of the resident peacocks.

And then Greg took us out into the woods...

The bit of planting and pathway work done perfectly enhances what's here naturally.

In one corner of the woods is Greg's stumpette...

I visited at the wrong time of the year to see all the ferns in their glory, but absolutely loved what I did see.

This part of the garden is fenced with a gate to keep the creatures out. Greg pointed out this one of the gate-gabions was bent and about a foot shorter than it's partner. A tree fell on it and drove it that much further into the ground!

Decaying log, but the bark remains.

I left this garden visit certain I need to add more Mahonia nervosa to my garden. It's a native, and the two I have could not have cared less about the horrible winter storm that made a mess of my other mahonia.

Plus their winter color is fantastic!

So, the goats... of course there are goats at Old Goat Farm!

They're charmers too...

Peeking in the greenhouses I got to admire this flawless Rhododendron sinogrande...

A ginormous pair of Woodwardia unigemmata.

And a handful of blooming Trillium chloropetalum 'Volcano' that Greg had dug to take with him to his new garden. 

Sciadopitys verticillata (Japanese Umbrella Pine) with extra chunky leaves.

I'm filing away the use of the cement piece as a base for raising up a container. Of course it wouldn't be nearly as fabulous without the moss.

In season I'm sure there's water dripping from the column and maybe a plant on top. 

After we completed the garden walk-around and were relaxing with a tall glass of lemonade, Greg said that he hoped my drive up to see the garden was worth it, that the garden wasn't at it's best. I assured him it was very much worth it. So very much...

It was one of those afternoons when I feel so completely blessed to be a gardener and exist in the company of so many other like-minded and talented plant people.

Of course before we left Camille and I had to take a pass through the nursery area. This tangle of wisteria trunks was nearby. Earlier Greg had pointed out a tall conifer from across the garden and mentioned the sticks you could see were wisteria vines, this is the base. Wow. 

I did leave with a couple of plants, but that's part of Wednesday's post! Thank you so very much Greg, for interrupting your day to spend time with us in your garden, it is a magical place.

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All material © 2009-2024 by Loree L Bohl. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. It's got to be hard to leave a place you've poured so much of yourself into. I hope Greg finds a buyer that values the property as much as he and his partner have. I'm glad you got up there to see it! From the first shots on, with all the ferns and fern-compatible plants, I knew you were in heaven. I can appreciate the Mahonia nervosa, especially with that winter color. I loved the goats - if I had a huge property like that I'd have goats too.

    1. The property is so unique hopefully a potential buyer will want it for much the same reasons that Greg and Gary fell in love with it. Greg had a whole area of plants he'd dug to take to his new home (with a great view of Mt Rainer), so parts of the garden will travel with him.

  2. Must. Have. Trillium chloropetalum 'Volcano'

  3. What a lovely garden, so full of character.

    The metal frames with the stones in them look great.

    I would love to have something like that in my garden.

    The Trilliums are cute.

    The only Trillium that I have any success with is a Trillium chloropetalum var giganteum. It is just coming into flower now. It is a lovely plant, but so slow to bulk up. It has been in the ground for over 10 years now.

    My father-in-law passed away 6 years ago and we had a very cold and snowy late February/early March. The Trillium didn't venture above ground that year at all. I thought that I had lost it and I was upset that I had lost someone I loved dearly and a lovely plant. However, it did come back the following year and every year since :)

    1. Thank you for sharing your trillium story! I'm glad it keeps showing up to brighten your spring.

  4. Just at the nick of time, this visit was: I'm glad you took the initiative!
    I always like the look of rock gabion though somehow it never occurred to me it can be the base for a fern table... a perfect combinations I think.
    So that's what Woodwardia unigemmata can look like when it lives in a greenhouse all winter. I'm a little envious.

    1. I agree about the gabion as fern table base, a perfect match! Those woodwardia were AMAZING! Evidently they are placed at the top of one of the rock pillars, can you imagine?

  5. Thank you, Loree. I am so glad you took the initiative and went to visit Greg and document all that Greg and Gary created at Old Goat Farm. My very first garden visit when I moved to Washington in 2017, was to Old Goat Farm. My understanding is that all of the rock that fills the gabions was on the property. I remember visiting one day when a garden helper was busy digging up river rock to clear a new planting bed.

    1. Yes, I should have said that in the post (where the rock comes from). That makes the use of the gabion frames throughout the property even better.

  6. Thank you for visiting and posting this. Your photos show the beauty. I especially love the one of Greg walking through the woodland. Found myself in tears remembering past visits. Glad you got to finally see it and spend time with Greg.

    1. Thank you for commenting, and yes, when I was editing my photos that one of Greg walking into the woods seemed so poignant in light of the coming changes. He is a special man.

  7. Seeing all your photos which I throughly enjoy makes me realize I never took any photos! Too busy looking and chatting with Greg! Old Goat Farm, Greg and Gary. Thank you for such wonderful, beautiful memories. ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Glad you enjoyed! I hoped that I wasn't too annoying to Greg snapping photos as I did, after all I was there to meet him and see the garden.

  8. Lucky you! I love the rock work, the layout, and the Trilliums at this place. And the goats!

  9. Wow, so much to comment on in this post, a blast from the past. My wife and I visited OGF probably in 2008-09, when we lived in Edmonds, WA. I don't remember much about the gardens from that visit, but definitely the goats, and the incredible views of Rainier! What I definitely remember though is how delightful Greg and Gary were. Also, they were selling a few odds and ends, antiques mostly. My wife spotted a set of four of what I'm going to call parfait glasses, and she simply had to have them. We liked them so much we used them as every day, but they were so delicately blown that gradually we broke three, and have only one remaining. I still use it for bourbon...I think I'll use it tonight in honor of Gary!

    A very good gardening friend in Shoreline (Pam) gave me her Trillium 'Volcano' when she had to leave her garden, and I grew it in mine for many years. When we decided to move, she had another friend come and dig it up, and she grew it in her garden for many years. Then my friend (Pam) moved again, and the woman who had been plant-sitting Volcano, gave it back to Pam again, to plant in her new garden! Pam says Volcano is no longer being propagated, that's a shame, its a real winner.

    I think that Sciadopitys is called 'Green Star', it's unique look is the result of irradiated seed, causing the fused, extra-thick is on my must have list.

    1. There was still an area with those antique odds and ends, most of them were marked for the online auction that was occurring to help move things that Gary couldn't take with him. So that saved me from shopping! I wish I had room for a sciadopitys, especially that one.

  10. AnonymousJune 30, 2024

    can we still visit? ARS Convention was May/24 here in Bellingham. Can some of Steering Committee/Pilchuck Chapter come visit? 7/24

    1. The garden is permanently closed, the home sold.


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