My Gardener…

I don’t like to think of myself as insensitive, but often in my desire to change the world, write the Great American Novel, or see Donald Trump behind bars I forget to thank and acknowledge the one person who brightens my life every day. This week I want to put those other things aside and celebrate my wife and her magnificent gardens. I can’t really do them or her justice, but I can share the joy and beauty they both bring into my life.

Eighteen years ago, we moved into our condo and started our new life together. It was a great move in all respects (no pun intended). We discovered the condo on a bike ride. It was perfect – with the Burke-Gilman Trail on one side, Lake Washington and a marina on the other, Log Boom Park to the West, and a different upscale condo complex to the East. We’ve loved every minute of our time here.

The one missing piece for Marilynn, when we moved in, was the absence of a garden, but as a lifelong gardener, she went right to work making one (two actually). I’m not a gardener and I’m not interested in becoming one, but it’s always been an important way for her to express herself. Her two previous houses had plenty of open space, but the condo was different. She was starting from scratch with a bare, relatively small, concrete enclosure on one side and a dirt strip that had the character and consistency of kitty litter on the other. Daunting to say the least.

I regret not taking pictures when we moved in, but that was before the iPhone made it easy. All I can say is the space was bare bones – like an oversized uninspired dog kennel – but she was excited to have a space to work with. Never mind that there was no dirt, no pots, and no view. There was a hose bib and that’s all she needed to get started. 

Today, 50 ceramic pots line the lattice fenced walls of the enclosure, a large Japanese fish sculpture hangs over the gate and some hanging art adds variety. I’m still pretty clueless about plants, and at least once a week when I walk in the front door, she asks me if I saw such and such blooming. I usually haven’t and like an errant child she takes me by the hand and shows me what I missed on my way in.

In defense, I argue that it’s hard to see anything now, because of the jungle she’s created. It feels more and more as if the vegetation is going to take over and start eating visitors. I’m going to need a machete to get from the gate to the front door any day now.

All joking aside, M has made a garden paradise out of our bare bones concrete enclosure, and planted in such a way that plants and flowers bloom from early spring until late fall (along with pansies and ice plant over the winter). There is always color and fragrance, all timed and sequenced to provide color and pleasure to the nose and eye. The garden court is 18 years old now, and mature trees, camellias, azaleas, bamboo, and jasmine surround us with annuals filling in for seasonal color.

And, did I mention the back? That’s the area that includes our deck, a narrow flower bed and some grass between the building and the ivy wall marking the property boundary. Here, she brought in potting soil, peat moss, manure and elbow grease to create a bed for cut flowers – dahlias, iris, peonies, Hostas, day lilies, dusty miller and various herbs in boxes and pots.

So, on this day, when she’s in bed with a summer cold, I’m celebrating her and her gardens. I’m so aware that hers is a project of love and hard work. The gardens have grown like Topsy and she’s had to hire a helper. It’s too much for one person, but it’s the design vision of a passionate woman who loves her gardens. Here’s to my very industrious, creative, and beautiful wife.


  1. What a joy to see the “finished” product of Marilyn’s talents. (I say “finished” because all gardeners know that a garden is never ever finished.) Thanks for sharing your little slice of heaven with your fans!

  2. Lovely photos, lovely garden, lovely person.
    Reminds me that I know someone like her.Her name is Katherine, or Kit to most.She married a guy who has never planted anything that was supposed to grow. He is now surounded by roses, flowers he doesn’t know the name of,and bushes especially planted to attract humming birds, bird feeders, and a bath taken advantage of by friendly creatures( squirrels) and intruders( crows).Hope to see you guys soon. Dick

    • Hey Dick: Thanks, my friend. I could have written just exactly what you did – brown thumb, no names, totally clueless, but love what they’ve both created.

  3. A very well deserved tribute to a beautiful lady and her beautiful garden. So wonderful, Jack, that you appreciate it!

  4. What a lovely tribute to my longtime dear friend. However, the pictures don’t do the garden justice–it truly is a work of art. Thank you, Jack.

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