Opening the gate and stepping into Linda Mizar’s garden is like stepping into the wonderland of a gardener’s imagination. Meandering walkways lead the visitor around and through 21 imaginary rooms of garden discovery. A collector of garden art and miscellany, Mizar has grouped her collections into unique garden areas and named them accordingly. Tying the entire property together with a recurring theme is her interest in Asian-style gardening and art.
The entry patio features a well-set stone surface where the brick pathway that leads around the house begins and continues through each of the garden rooms. A topiary dragon guards the wall along the entrance garden separating the Mizars from the neighboring property, while Japanese stone lanterns that Mizar calls “pagodas” catch the eye as they emerge from the foliage throughout the entire property. Judiciously placed as markers to light the way, even in sunlight they give the wanderer a sense of direction. Mizar’s collection of baby buddhas bring a sense of joy and sweetness as focal points here and there, asking for a moment of quiet contemplation in this most unusual garden of delight.
Purchasing the property in 1978, the Mizars faced the task of clearing out wild blackberry brambles around the old abandoned apple orchard and moving piles of old, rusty farm equipment before they could begin building their home. Tucked into the countryside of rural Bremerton, the house faces a small cul-de-sac that is set back from the main access road, giving one a sense of peacefulness and distance away from city noise. The back of the property falls away into a deep ravine, which serves as a natural greenbelt and doesn’t require attention by this ambitious gardener.
Mizar has landscaped nearly every inch of about 1/4 acre of the property surrounding the house. She has used the massive Douglas fir at the entrance of the home and an ancient apple tree in the side garden to anchor the planting beds in those areas. A lover of nature and birds, she has incorporated birdbaths and little bubbling water features wherever practical.
Solar lighting provides illumination after dark, with myriad fairy lights strung throughout the landscape wherever practical. A large solar collection panel keeps all the lighting and fountains running without the use of home electricity.
The creative use of found materials is evident throughout the mini garden rooms Mizar has named to differentiate each area of her garden design. One particularly resourceful example is the use of old TV antennas for espalier frames. The antenna is barely visible through the foliage of the nonbearing holly on the side of the house opposite the Dragon Garden Wall. Here and there are also remnants of the rusty junk the couple found during the cleanup. Tall thrift shop candle sticks are used to elevate plants, gazing balls and statuary, and tomato cages serve as peony props.
The wanderer will find many areas to sit and rest or linger and contemplate, to chat with a friend or simply sit quietly, listen to birdsong and study the surroundings. Some sitting areas are placed in shady spots to escape the heat of a summer’s day and others are in the open. There are two inviting red Adirondack chairs for basking in the sun and several tables offering space to enjoy a drink or write a letter.
A highlight of this garden is the expert use of plants so well suited to the Northwest. Placed in exactly the right place, Mizar has captured with an artist’s eye every moisture and light variance with the right plants. There are drifts of hostas, clusters of Japanese forest grass, rhododendrons, peonies, daisies and artistic mixes of colorful floral and foliage.
The family pets are laid to rest in the Rhodie Memorial Garden, while a family of fairies frolic on a dead snag of tree. Ferns fill every shady nook and cranny, while carpets of tiny ground covers hide the soil and, more importantly, prevent weeds from interfering with shrubs and perennials.
Whimsical umbrellas in the Owl and the Pussycat Garden that surrounds the trunk of the old apple tree lend a colorful and humorous reminder of an old children’s poem. Amazingly, this tree still bears fruit on occasion.
A traditional Chinese red wooden footbridge leads over the dry creek bed into the Asian Garden. Lifelike salmon swim through the dry creek while strings of red-and-aqua-colored ceramic fish hang from a tree. A ceramic bench, clusters of stone lanterns nestled between the grasses and expertly placed pots of plants and maples complete the perfect picture of this garden room. The Asian Garden is backed by a bamboo fence, overhung by a large burgundy acer palmatum.
Wandering past the Asian Garden, the path leads to the stone labyrinth, which is inspired by a labyrinth in a garden on Vashon Island. Chairs are conveniently placed adjacent to the labyrinth for rest and contemplation.
Moving into the shaded area behind the Asian Garden, a found vintage porcelain sink is filled to the brim with edible flower varieties. A bank of rhododendrons and maples forms a transition from the manicured horticulture of the gardens to the naturally occurring plants at the edge of the ravine. Leaving the labyrinth behind, a rock garden and sturdy stone steps lead back up to the drive, opposite the paved stone entrance at the front of the home. This sun-drenched area is studded with succulents and Mediterranean plants such as lavender and other heat-loving varieties.
Although this garden has been 44 years in the making and the “bones” were planted many years ago, the continuing upkeep, maintenance, filling in with new plants, dividing perennials, etc. is nearly a full-time job. Mizar has done a great deal of the work herself, with occasional heavy- lifting help from her husband, Larry.
For the past seven years, Mizar has had to employ some extra help. She has three “right-hand-men,” Benito, Miguel and Mingo, who prune, haul, lay stone work, spread mulch and more, putting in 12-hour days when called upon. Mizar also gives a great deal of credit for design, ideas and the placement of garden art to Arlene West of Floral and Foliage.
When all is said and done, a garden is a personal expression of one’s love of the natural world. Linda Mizar’s garden is her meditation and her heartfelt offering to those who would come to visit and share it with her.