Garden enthusiasts can expect to see rolling lawns, seas of ferns and bubbling fountains at the 16th annual garden tour.
This year’s event features Hoquiam gardens, which provide examples of how to cultivate native and exotic plants in the wet Grays Harbor climate.
The tour, sponsored by the local WSU Master Gardeners, is an all-day event, taking place July 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Attendees will see six local gardens tended by Hoquiam homeowners, as well as the Burton C. Ross Memorial Rose Garden at the Polson Museum.
A true Grays Harbor garden
The Trillium Hill garden, tended by Barbara Bennett Parsons and Joe Parsons, is a must-see stop on the tour.
Visitors shouldn’t expect to see a traditional, orderly English garden — the Parsons use mainly native plants in their fern-surrounded garden, allowing plants to spring up wherever seeds land.
“We like native plants, we don’t have exotic tastes,” Bennett Parsons said. “I never try a plant that needs a lot of heat, needs something that we don’t have to give it. Why bother?”
They also try to use all-natural fertilizers. Instead of raking lawn clippings, they allow the grass to mulch. But Bennett Parsons’ favorite fertilizer can be found at the beach.
“I’m afraid most people don’t make use of clam guts after they’ve been razor clam digging,” Bennett Parsons said. “That is the best fertilizer in the whole world. It’s as good as gold.”
She uses the fertilizer on everything, first chopping up the guts in the blender. Bennett Parsons said she used to use the regular kitchen blender to make her fertilizer, until her husband protested.
Now the couple has two blenders: one for clam guts and one for food.
The garden is located at the Parsons’ home, a former orchard set on the north side of one of the Hoquiam hills. The original tenants terraced the property in the 1900s and planted cherry trees.
Most of the fruit trees are gone now, and the terraces serve as dividers for different parts of the garden: the top terrace is the picnic area, a middle terrace hosts a hammock during summer months and a lower terrace is occupied by a colony of honey bees.
The main garden, where the Parsons grow flowers and vegetables, sits behind the house.
Plants grow in raised beds surrounded by chicken wire, which prevents the local deer family from snacking on flowers.
Fox gloves, daisies, brightly-colored lilies and lavatera are planted along side each other, giving the garden a slightly unruly, whimsical look.
“We didn’t want to plant everything all on one eye level,” Bennett Parsons said. “We wanted to create a sense of mystery so people have to look closer.”
Bennett Parsons provides a home to nearly any plant that wants one, embracing plants that other people consider pests. She welcomes the oxeye daisy — a plant many gardeners don’t like. If the plant grows well and looks pretty, the Parsons will let it grow.
“I know some people sneer at nasturtiums, but that’s just wrong,” Bennett Parsons said. “They love our climate and they’re bright and cheerful. So we love nasturtiums.”
An homage to the past
For the Parsons, gardening isn’t just a hobby. It’s a way to commemorate Bennett Parsons’ parents: local artist Elton Bennett and his wife Flora.
The family bought the house in 1955 when Bennett Parsons was a young child and the terraces were still filled with cherry trees.
The flat space where the flower beds now sit used to be the badminton court and the lower terraces were used for the family’s vegetable garden.
Her parents died when Bennett Parsons was in her early 20s, leaving her the house.
All these years later, the Parsons still find reminders of Elton and Flora Bennett, such as the remnants of a loganberry plant Elton Bennett planted in the 1960s. Bennett Parsons’ husband planted a few starts in one of the garden’s raised beds, where the plant thrives with branches full of berries.
“I’m really thankful to be able to take care of the place I loved so much as a child,” Bennett Parsons said.
So much to see
The Parsons’ garden is only one stop out of six garden locations. Tickets for the tour are on sale now, and can be purchased for $12 at a variety of locations (see above).
For more information about the tour, contact the local WSU extension office at 360-482-2934.
Double Delights: The gardens of John and Phyllis Erickson, Jimmy and Elyce Chase
Trillium Hill: The garden of Barbara Bennet Parsons and Joe Parsons
Harbor High Point: The garden of John and Lynn Ogren
Quintessential Small Space: The garden of Arnie Martin and Jude Armstrong
The Treasure Chest: The garden of Lynn and Keith Kessler
Bay Beauty: The garden of John and Betty Lupo
Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased at the following locations:
• Marshall’s Garden & Pet in Aberdeen
•Harbor Drug and Gifts in Hoquiam
• Valu Drug in Montesano
• Elma Vatiety Store
• Everyone’s Video & More in Raymond
• Coastal Garden Center in Grayland
• Galway Pub and Celtic Imports in Ocean Shores