Tucked away in the side roads and trees of Bainbridge Island is an eye-catching home garden. Barbara Weissman, with help from her husband, Eric, has coordinated the creation of garden space that is more than just pretty flowers, although there are plenty of those. Several areas in their garden provide a palette of different plantings, views and functions.
The Weissmans purchased their home and property in 2011 after retiring. They both wanted a smaller house, but Barbara wanted a decent garden and a weaving studio and Eric wanted a woodworking shop. They found a perfect match in a small house hidden away in the wooded neighborhoods of Bainbridge Island.
Their new home has much more land than their previous one. Not to mention their old place was on a slope in woods while the new home is situated on flatter land with more open space. Barbara Weissman had populated her previous garden with a wide diversity of plants over the years and wanted to bring some to Bainbridge Island. She managed to transfer over 400 plants but the old garden was so heavily planted, it would be hard to notice anything had been removed.
Glancing left upon arrival at the new home, visitors are greeted by a densely planted and well-maintained perennial border. Weissman had a fun time initially, planting the perennial bed along the northern border. She incorporated big shapes and lots of color to create an eye-pleasing garden for greeting visitors and for enjoyment from their northern outdoor seating area.
As with all gardens, it is an evolving drama because Weissman updates it with new plants and removes others.
The northern border containing the perennial bed also sports a small lawn, a shaded seating area, a self-contained stream garden and a veggie garden, ending at the northeast corner with a natural pond. Golden cedars on the border predated the couple’s arrival and were probably planted by the neighbors, but they add a sunny bit of color to the green border trees.
A well-tended and unassuming lawn hides a secondary purpose. Underfoot and unseen is a geothermal heating system the Weissmans installed to improve their home’s energy efficiency. It is a nice combination of form and function: open space for enjoyment that also contributes to home energy-efficiency.
With the purchase of the property, the Weissmans inherited a self-contained stream garden graced by a footbridge. A water pump recirculates water from the lower end of the stream back up to the top.
Unfortunately, the original stream garden leaked and required frequent refilling, but the Weissmans loved it so much, they had it replaced with a more soundly functioning stream. Now the repaired stream is surrounded by a multitude of irises, and various trees and shrubs that Weissman handpicked for the site.
The wetter south side of the stream supports swamp azalea and Iris ‘Black Game Cock,’ a striking dark iris with lighter edging on the petals. A white-flowering Pachyphragma graces the area, too. A plant related to cabbage and Cardamine, the Pachyphragma was originally purchased from Heronswood in Kingston 20 years ago and came with the couple from their previous home.
Just east of the stream garden is a natural pond. The two water features complement each other but are not connected. The pond dries up in the middle of summer, while the stream continues to flow with the help of pumps in its self-contained system. When the pond is full, however, it attracts wildlife, especially ducks. Of course, in true Bainbridge Island fashion, deer are also attracted to open, well-maintained gardens.
The garden is not immune to deer damage. With the island being almost like a deer preserve, the four-legged eating machines are always not far off and occasionally wander through the Weissmans’ garden.
Mostly, they don’t seem to do much damage but they took a liking to the vegetable garden. In response, Eric welded together a nice, functional garden fence to protect the veggies. The personal touch plus a rusted patina add a nice aesthetic value to a simple garden fence.
Between the house and the stream garden was originally an allee of old, diseased cherry trees. The Weissmans opted to remove the cherries, but in so doing, created space for a red-leafed Japanese maple to be moved from another garden area.
Now, that maple provides shade on hot summer days for a small, gravel-covered seating area on the north side of the house. From that cozy spot, friends and family can enjoy views of the stream garden and perennial border.
The eastern border viewed from the bedroom was overgrown and needed much work, including doing something about the drainage. Most of that side of the property has a high-water table, the source of their natural pond. In an effort to get things under control, the Weissmans contracted a local, well-recommended landscaper to assess the situation.
The landscaper installed drainage to lower the water table and Barbara Weissman selected and planted a garden consisting of mostly native plants and ferns. Included were native currants, Western Azalea (Rhododendron occidentalis), native strawberries and bunchberry. Nonnatives include a Gingko with gorgeous yellow fall color and a very-big-for-its-species River Birch with stunning, copper-brown peeling bark.
Around the back of the house in the southern portion of the garden are various beds with a mix of trees, shrubs and perennials. A dawn redwood occupies the southeast corner, lending a graceful, light-green presence near a patch of some of the largest native Petasites (Coltsfoot) one may ever see. A purple-leaved Angelica grows among yellow Hakonechloa (Japanese forest grass), providing a great contrast.
A Magnolia ‘June’ nearby produces large, pink spring blooms as well as a collection of Japanese maples. Most notable of the Japanese maples are the coral bark and Lion’s Mane specimens. The younger stems of coral bark maple are a beautiful coral shade of orange. The Lion’s Mane Japanese maple is slow-growing and produces beautiful, crinkly leaves.
The southern garden has beds surrounded by curved lawn. Straight lines are mostly eschewed in favor or curves. Various hydrangeas in the beds provide summer color, while the chartreuse-yellow-leaved Robinia ‘Frisia’ is golden continually through autumn.
Hellebores pop up their flowers in the winter to foretell the coming of spring. Nearby is an Embothrium, also known as Chilean Flame Tree for its bright orange to red flowers appearing in spring.
The south side toward the back of the property includes some more utilitarian features. An old, wooden swing set from the previous owners was converted into firewood storage. In the future, this will be removed and the area replaced with a woodland garden. Over behind the woodshop and weaving studio is an old orchard. Mostly it has Italian plum and various apples, but also a modest cutting garden to provide flowers for the indoors.
Before Eric and Barbara Weissman acquired their home, the previous owner made a living creating ceramic pottery. This legacy graces the garden in the form of large, ceramic garden pots blended into the planting beds. Like rocks or garden paths, the nonliving pots add interest and depth to a garden.
Barbara Weissman’s dedication to her garden is self-evident, and people have taken note. Her masterpiece has been on the Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour once, and twice on Garden Conservancy tours. The combination of her beautiful garden and weaving studio landed the home on the Bainbridge Island Studio tour last summer for the fifth year in a row. The Weissmans’ hard work is getting them noticed.