A collector's garden in Seattle

An eclectic Northwest garden

Most gardeners favor certain kinds of gardens. Lee Neff is an exception. In her Seattle landscape, she has a vegetable garden, rock garden, woodland garden, perennial garden, mini arboretum, and space devoted to climbers and potted plants. All grow on a site with an interesting horticultural past.

Once, this garden's rich loam supported a holly farm. Then it was cultivated by a notable collector, Loren Grinstead, the plant acquisitions chairwoman for the Washington Park Arboretum during the late 1930s. Grinstead planted such gems as a stately old Himalayan white pine, an immense Camperdown elm, an impressive Sawara false cypress, and a few Exbury azaleas.

After Neff and her husband, John, bought the garden in 1992, she hired Sue Skelly and Kelly Dodson ― horticulturists based in Poulsbo, Washington ― to help update it. Skelly supervised replacement of a circular driveway with a rock garden, while Dodson focused on introducing Neff to an array of unusual plants. Gradually, Neff designed and built the rest of the garden with input from friends, family members, and fellow gardeners.

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