Meet the Gardeners

Juan & Prudenso work behind the scenes to help keep things beautiful at Albers Vista Gardens.


Gardens can be an immense amount of work, especially gardens measured in acres rather than fractions of acres. And often the wonderful people who work so hard to keep these larger gardens looking their best are shy, practical souls, seldom seen and almost never heard or publicly acknowledged, despite their important roles. Which is exactly how many of them would like to keep it, by the way.

I feel lucky to be invited into so many beautiful gardens during the course of a year, to spend such intentional, contemplative time picturing and understanding them. I feel pretty lucky too to be able to count as friends some amazingly talented landscape and garden designers, in addition to that larger group of folks who garden merely for their own food and soulful edification. And though these garden makers’ unique stories and philosophies continually stir my imagination and burnish my respect for them, I must admit that there is also something mysterious and wonderful about those shy, behind the scenes garden folk, workers Iike Juan and Prudenso who in this particular case take their marching orders from Dr. John Albers, mastermind and creator of Albers Vista Gardens, a ferry ride away in Bremerton, WA.

One morning last month I spent several hours photographing autumn colors and stunning plant relationships in Albers Vista Gardens, beginning at first light. I heard Juan and Prudenso arrive about an hour after me and for the rest of my time shooting there, these two diligent gentlemen kept busy digging and moving, and weeding and planting. And no matter where I moved within that multi-roomed, multi-acre garden I could hear occasional snippets of their musical laughter and unfolding conversations (in Spanish), floating upward from amongst the trees and through the colorful shrubs.

It made me smile.

Chances are you will never meet or even see Juan or Prudenso during a visit to Albers’ wonderful garden, but you would most certainly glimpse their handiwork as you wandered, room to room, if you did visit. And at least some the lush fruits of John’s vision and planning, magical glimpses that you could not help but appreciate would have been realized partly because of the carefully tended labors of these men and the help of others like them. This is true with so very many fine gardens.

So I thought maybe you’d enjoy meeting them, if only virtually. Of course, they smile more when there are no cameras pointed their direction.

I do wish you could hear them laugh.

Come Walk With Me…

Glimpses from a Bloedel Reserve walkabout.



For many avid garden lovers, this weekend’s stunning, Premier Plant Sale would have been all the reason needed to head to The Bloedel Reserve. Not me. Not quite. The main reason I carved out time on an otherwise busy Friday to hop a ferry across the sound was to walk and sit, and kneel once again within those immense, lush, silent spaces that make up one of my favorite gardens, to attune my city-battered eyes and ears to a world that one can actually see and hear breathing, and to breathe with it. I went, first, for healing and wonder time in the garden and once again found my vision-hungry heart stretched and fed. There is big magic afoot on Bainbridge Island and it is always worth the effort to immerse oneself within it.


The air was cool and wet, pregnant with woodland smells and mist, and birdsong.




Along deep, shady pathways, wondrous things are happening. Tomorrow there will be different, wonderful things happening. This is exactly as it should be.




20130405_DPP-244Look around, maybe just over the crest of that grassy hill. Some important, much-needed lesson awaits you, awaits your discovery and affirmation. Are you game?


20130408_DPP-29Yes, of course I brought plants home from the sale. Several of them as a matter of fact. But no matter how amazing these new garden members are (that’s one of them to the right), they were not my primary reason for visiting. For me, one of the great beauties of ‘Bloedel’ is this,   “…the best things that you could ever possibly hope to take home from this wondrous place are not for sale and cannot be bought. They are not reserved for the highest bidder, but are instead yours for the seeing, the hearing, the smelling, if only you will walk a bit, tarry a bit, and as always, if you’ll merely say, yes.”

Namasté, my friends.