The garden is located a few miles north of Olympia, Washington State, USA. It is not really a nice, manicured sort of garden suitable for public use. It is usually quite messy (to varying degrees) and it is on a private estate. However if someone wants to visit it can perhaps be arranged. I am no longer living in Olympia but I usually go back to visit or work on the garden at least once a month. At these times it sometimes works out to arrange a brief visit and tour, although admittedly these days there is not a lot to see if you don't like Eucalyptus.
THEME AND PURPOSE
I used to think of the theme for the garden as "investment" for a number of reasons. Now though I think of the theme more as "cool plants that I happen to like, especially eucalyptus". It is kind of an ecclectic Eucalyptus and Australasian plant testing ground to see what will freeze and what will survive. These plants are interspersed with reliable performers that I like (some planted by me, some planted by my mother, and some came with the original garden), and things I haven't been able to talk my parents into removing. It is also a huge stockpile for cuttings and seed of interesting garden plants that do survive. It is my hope that the experiences gathered in this garden will be useful to the gardening public at large.
DESIGN AND LAYOUT
The garden is set on 1.3 acres of gently sloping land. In short the garden is about plants, and I more arrange the design (to the degree that one exists) to fit the plants (and ease of taking care of them), rather than selecting specific plants to fit an existing design which is what most normal people do. Thus the design is generally based on what plants will thrive best in certain locations and compliment each other in the landscape. Functional and utilitarian considerations are generally given a back seat to these other factors.
About 1 acre of the garden consists of a large field that was formerly a horsepasture. This is where my mother's greenhouse and a large vegetable garden are located, as well as my cacti/succulent garden. The soil here is a heavy clay that dries out in the summer and in some places is poorly drained in the winter. It is not possible to irrigate the whole area, and so relatively "tough" plants (especially Eucalyptus) dominate the area, at least those which can tolerate some degree of summer drought.
The remaining 0.3 acres are generally a bit more disorganized and ecclectic in composition, but not without some aesthetic design; since there are some areas with moisture retentive soil, varying amounts of shade, etc. Different areas are on their way to featuring a small, shaded palm grove, tree fern groves, an arbor with kiwi vines, Chilean and Tasmanian rainforest trees, and beds containing Northern Hemisphere perrenials, South African plants and California natives. Because of the relative proximity to Puget Sound in this part of the garden, summer heat accumulation is significantly less, but winter frosts are not quite as hard.
The climate here can generally be considered as maritime with a slight Mediterranean bent. The average high/low temperature in January are 43/34°F (6/1°C), and the average high/low in August (our warmest month) are 76/53°F (24/12°C). These cool winter temperatures are not really warm enough for most true "Mediterranean plants" that do their active growing during the winter rains. But many such plants (at least those that are cold hardy) will flourish here because the dry season is shorter, and change their growth cycle to make new growth in the spring.
The warmest temperature I have recorded here is 102°F (39°C) in July 1998. The coldest temperature I have recorded here is 9°F (-13°C) in December 1990. Some other cold winters have seen temperatures down to 13°F (-11°C) in February 1989, 24°F (-5°C) in December 1994, 17°F (-8°C) in January/February 1996, and 15°F (-10°C) in December 1998. Some recent winters have been quite mild, though. For example, my coldest temperature in 1999-2000 was 28°F (-2°C), and the coldest for 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 were both 25°F (-4°C). The coldest temperature for 2002-2003 was about 24°F (-5°C) but this was quite a destructive frost because it occured at the end of October before many plants had shut down for the winter. In January 2004 a freeze occured across the region, but my garden did quite well, dropping only down to about 23°F (-5°C), though the temperature remained below freezing for three days. Essentially the garden can be considered as USDA zone 8b (possibly a cool 9a in some parts of the garden) and Sunset zone 5.
The garden receives about 65 inches (1650 mm) of precipitation in an average year. Summers are very dry and rather warm compared to other maritime climates, with most of the precipitation falling in late fall, winter and early spring. Summer precipitation is certainly far too little to be relied upon to keep plants well irrigated. This is the "Mediterranean" element to the climate of this region, as compared to other temperate regions where rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year and summers are more moderate.
Compared to other maritime climates, it is slightly colder here in winter than, say, London. It might be about on par with Edinburgh as far as winter temperatures are concerned. Although it is not really any colder here than most of Seattle, it is generally a less favorable climate for most subtropicals, because of the excessive winter precipitation and reduced winter heat and sunshine (esp. during temperature inversions) compared to Seattle.
The garden contains a very wide variety of plants, with over 750 species, cultivars and varieties represented. This number dropped when I moved from Olympia and took many plants with me. But the plants I left behind are growing so much that the garden certainly doesn't feel empty. A few things have also been lost, and some new things planted. Click here for a list of plants in my Olympia garden.
The links here will take you either to texts written previously about these plants (which formerly made up the content of the old "My Plants" page), or to seperate web pages cataloging those plants. However, there are a great many plants in the garden for which I have not written anything up yet. Photos of many of these plants can be found in the photo galleries.
To the degree that time permits I am able to exchange plants and seeds with other people whose gardening interests overlap with mine. Click here to go to my never-quite-organized exchange page on GardenWeb.