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.





Meditations On A Quiet Winter Walk

(I share this more to remind myself than presume to inform anyone else…) 20130302_DPP20130302_DPP-21



A walk, pregnant with moments of recognition,

whispered koans, repeated…

insights settling into awareness,

affirmations of invisible truths revealed…

Wonders seem even sweeter,



(The type I’ve used here is intentionally small, and with its curvaceous script flourishes, asks you to slow your eyes and look carefully, just as I needed to do when framing up each shot. You may click on any image individually to see a larger and more legible version…)


Mon Coeur En Hiver

My Heart In Winter

Meet the “Piglet” of roses in my garden, (as opposed to Tigger, Eeyore or Pooh.)


Rosa ‘White Meidiland’ is one of the least showy roses in my garden, and yet one of the most reliable. Certainly that is true this time of year when the calendar is ready to start its cycle anew, for this virtually trouble-free rose somehow manages to hunker down during our damp, dark Seattle winters and find a way to do a few small things beautifully.

The picture above was taken just yesterday, three weeks to the day after the flowering stems you see were first cut from my winter-humbled plant and brought to my kitchen windowsill. Just below is the photo I made the morning I cut them, December 9th.


Seriously, do you know of any other rose that will continue to push new blooms so generously for three full weeks or more after having been cut from the garden and put in water? (Two years ago, a few stems I cut for Mary’s kitchen windowsill kept blooming, quite contentedly for nearly six weeks.) I’m not just asking, rhetorically if you know. I’m asking because I’d really like to know and perhaps get a cutting.

Somehow, White Meidiland manages this sort of magic again and again, and just at that time of year when garden blooms for my kitchen windowsill are so very scarce and so much appreciated. Like little Piglet of Winnie the Pooh lore, White Meidiland does not let it’s diminutive physical size limit the size of its heart, its efforts, or its charm, which has led me to that grateful place where I think of this little rose as Mon Coeur En Hiver, My Heart In Winter.


Think of roses as fussy? Not this one. Not by any measure. Absolutely my most reliable rose this time of year.

Rose and Workshop related news: Renowned rosarian, Paul Zimmerman and I are going to be offering some full day workshops together in the coming year (dates and locations to be announced). Paul will bring his storyteller’s charm and his immense knowledge base of roses and rose care, and I will bring my understanding of the art of seeing, storytelling and photography in a garden setting. Our current plan is to divide the class into two groups, one spending the morning learning all about roses from Paul and the afternoon learning how to make more magical photographs of them from me, while the other group begins their day learning to tell better stories through photographs with me and then, following lunch, spends the second half of their workshop under Paul’s wise tutelage. Stay tuned for more info, or subscribe to the blog so I can add you to my mailing list, which by the way I promise never to sell. (BTW, the photography part of these full-day workshops will include, but not be limited to capturing amazing pics with iPhones/iPads > learning to finess those pics with some of the grooviest of apps and then quickly and easily getting them out there into your social media stream, looking like a million bucks.)

For more info on Paul Zimmerman:

For more info on unfussy roses:


Looking to create the next great garden “it” thing…

Knowing how important is it to draw proper attention to oneself in this crazy, loud, busy internet-freeway of a world, I’d like to announce my latest garden product, the HOSTA LUEGO, a trend-setting new pot design that I’ve developed for retail nurserys everywhere in an effort to move those tender plants that didn’t sell during the growing season, make tons of money, prove that I’m cooler than Bud-Light in a 16oz. can, and duh, that I can think way, way outside of that proverbial old box.

You’ve probably come to expect pot designs that feature living plants and the aesthetically pleasing textures and color palettes they bring to your little bit of garden heaven. OK, fine. But I would submit that that tired, worn out approach is like, so   . . . September, 2012. Furthermore, I would submit that the really cool kids are ready for something totally different this holiday season, something that won’t require any care on their part while still making them look both natural and trendy. And don’t forget, Zombies are totally cool. Dig?

Enter the Hosta Luego, the hippest new form of merchandise ‘cool’ is a colorful pot containing a hosta that has succumb to the rigors of approaching winter. Just look at those lines, the textures, the subtle colors. Add a simple red bow and ZOWY baby, these uber-hip gift pots will literally fly out the door like those monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.

And then, come springtime, SUH-PRISE!!! Just imagine it, an actual, bright-leaved, living, growing plant will emerge from the architectural ruins of this lovely designer gift-plant corpse so that its loving owner can anticipate its demise all over again. Love!

Or, if you’re one of those hipsters who wants to give something totally unique but are a little afraid of the stigma of paying to ship dirt to your Aunt Marge down in Texas or your nephew Marvin in Moline, perhaps you should consider sending each of them their very own custom-cool version of this: Personalized video greeting and signed book. You supply the name and a few details, I’ll supply the smiles. Guaranteed!

Here’s a link to that sample video once again, in case you missed it.

Seriously, how much cooler & more personal a gift could you possibly give? For reals?



The Edible Bouquet

Fresh, seasonal and as local as it gets.

(Click to enlarge.) ©2012, David E. Perry. All rights reserved.

I may not be a simple guy but I like simple things. And I like to play. So today when it had finally become apparent that my two tomatillo plants were determined to take over the world, reaching outward in every direction to capture as much sunlight as possible in these shortening days of autumn, I decided, finally, that for the good of others it was time to reign them in a bit. It is what we gardeners do.

©2012 David E. Perry. All rights reserved.

You see, I still need egress to a couple of very prolific tomato plants that had become, more or less tomatillo-locked (think ‘landlocked,’ then picture two pushy tomatillo plants standing guard, blocking access and you’ll begin to understand just what I mean.) My wondrous, Hairy Tomato plant and my cheerful and generous, Sungold cherry tomato had become cut off from the rest of the world by these two paper-husked space hogs, and the fact that they are growing still and pushing out multitudes of tasty fruit daily meant that I really needed to be able to get back there to tend them and harvest their labors, timely.

Waste not, want not: I love the look of those pendulous, paper-husked fruits hanging downward from yellow-green tomatillo stems, and the dark-eyed, deep yellow blooms that serve as floral sirens to passing pollinators of every description. So rather than snipping off all of the fruits for a green salsa and tossing the stems into the compost bin, I decided to bring these whole, fruiting branches into the house for a few days so I could study them and enjoy their delicious, botanic architecture.

Simple things: Unfussy, one-element bouquets please me endlessly. And really, almost anything can qualify as bouquet material if one allows oneself to be a bit eclectic in one’s aesthetic. For me there really is only one guiding criteria; does it please the eye?

Sure, I sometimes like to build much more complex bouquets, floral collections of several different complementing shades, foliages and flower types, creating a layered celebration of color and texture, and abundance. But personally I find just as much pleasure, and do so far more often when I merely provide my inner kid with a ‘show-and-tell bouquet’ of whatever is happening in the garden right now, letting that be enough.

Today, tomatillo trimmings. Tomorrow, who knows?

Before bringing this one note samba indoors to my dining room table I wanted to photograph it in the late morning light, again though, sticking to the premise of simplicity. No fancy lights or diffusers. Just open shade, a rustic-looking water-pitcher-vase filled with fruit laden branches and a rust-patinaed plant stand made of scrap metal. Here’s what the setup looked like, as seen through my trusty iPhone.

©2012 David E. Perry. All rights reserved.

Just below: As is often the case, I needed to snip a few odd shaped branches and heavy fruits away while I was making my one-element bouquet and below you can see a quick little still-life of some of those trimmed tomatillos surrounded by nothing more than the dormant, late-summer grass of my back yard, demonstrating just how little it can take to make a simple, interesting picture. Keep an eye out for such possibilities as you create.

©2012, David E. Perry. All rights reserved.

Whether you are practiced and confident or always just a little intimidated, the idea I’m encouraging here is that bouquets should be thought of as utterly accessible and that you need not have some great abundance of gorgeous cut flowers, or an open account with a neighborhood florist in order to regularly enjoy a bouquet within your home. Try it. Try a simple, one-element bouquet and just for fun, let that single element be virtually anything. Carrot thinnings. Tomatillo trimmings. See if you don’t have fun with it. And see too if you don’t feel a bit freer for having given your own inner kid permission to play without the constraints of worrying what others might say. Tell all those clucking hens that it’s the latest thing on the internet, then grin mysteriously and walk away.

I’ll vouch for ya’.

©2007, David E. Perry. All rights reserved.


Sometimes a cigar . . .

Today’s straightforward lesson in perception:

Deep thoughts. Simple kitchen implements to help you make better photographs.