Gardening where the sidewalk ends

True Fellowship July 23, 2009

When bloggers get together in real life, you can sometimes see the internal wheels turning and the human hard drives ticking over as the upload of information takes place. As a segment of humanity, we can seem incapable of simply having an experience without also giving in to the urge to document it in some way, at least in relation to our chosen subject matter (I hope I’m not offending anyone by saying this, and please feel free to disagree if it’s not the case for you!). I don’t think this is a bad thing – it keeps us engaged and curious and open to noticing so much of our surroundings. It definitely adds an extra dimension to any garden visit.

At our recent and (for me) most enjoyable gathering yet, I found it fascinating to hold two thoughts simultaneously in my head – here is what I am seeing, and I wonder what they are seeing as they look at the same thing? (They being the stalwart members of SAGBUTT, our ridiculously named but endlessly wonderful crew of Seattle Area Garden Bloggers United to Talk.) Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long to find out, since the posts began going up the very next day. I’ll link to those, below. It’s like the movie Rashomon (only less violent) – one event experienced from many viewpoints, all of them compelling, especially for one who was there.

We were invited to tour the 7-acre property that Daniel Mount shares with his partner Michael, in the valley of the Snoqualmie River just east of Seattle. Over the course of years, with Michael having got there first and bravely launched the major gardening efforts despite encroaching wetlands weeds, semi-annual floods and marauding bears, the two have carved out a wide swath of cultivated ground while also helping the natural landscape to shine forth. It was truly awe-inspiring to see their work, which must seem endless to them but obviously provides immense enjoyment as well.

On the Cook’s Tour (which Michael likened to “herding cats,” and which I missed a lot of because I was one of the stragglers at the back, having conversations and proving Michael correct), we saw the results of all their year-round hard work and planning.

Here are our gracious hosts (Daniel on the left and Michael on the right), telling the story of how they started a gigantic long-stemmed rose bush from a single rose that threw some roots while in a vase. The second photo shows one of the amazing roses.

Daniel & Michael

Rose bush that grew from a single long-stem rose

The centerpiece of the homestead is a 160 ft. long bed of mostly edibles. It’s what I always imagined I would have if I had the space, time, energy and drive to grow pretty much everything I ever wanted to eat. Seeing it first hand though, and realizing the amount of work it would take to prepare, plant, maintain and harvest all of it, pretty much cured me of any latent desires to grow on such a scale. I am happy just to visit and marvel, and content to go back home to my puny but still somehow satisfying scale of efforts.


This has been a great summer for Northwest tomato growers, all the heat and sun have really helped the fruit to get a good start and start ripening early. I imagine this greenhouse, used to give extra heat to tomatoes, peppers and eggplant grown directly in the ground, will yield a bounty beyond expectations. I should have had someone stand here for scale, this vine was easily almost 7 feet tall:

Towering tomatoes in greenhouse

I had never tasted a fresh black currant before, only jams made from them, which I never liked. Sampling the tart, ripe, rich-tasting fruit made me want to find a home for one in my garden. Molly said they are easy to grow from cuttings, as she found out once by using what she thought was a dead stick from one to mark another spot, only to find that it had rooted and sprouted leaves not too much later!

Black currants!

The downside of abutting marshland and living a block from a river – predictably regular floods. The upside? Happy gunnera! I hadn’t seen its flower/inflorescence or whatever it’s called before. There were two hiding under the spiny stalks and getting-massive leaves. This plant is only two years old, but seems happy so maybe will achieve monster size before too long.

Gunnera inflorescence

My camera did not want to capture the true, deep pink hue of these tall monarda, massed in partial shade and growing to at least 5 ft. tall. It did happen to catch a happy bumblebee giving truth to the flower’s common name, Bee balm.

Bee on bee balm

On a warm summer day, it was so peaceful to wander at the woods’ cooling edge, on paths the guys have carved out and maintained by many hours on the riding mower. They do not use any herbicides or other nasty chemicals to control weeds, so it’s all mowing and hand-pulling and back-breaking hoe-ing to keep things like bindweed and invasive grasses in check. From left: Molly, Liisa, Michael, Daniel, and Paula, with Jean in the foreground. Not pictured – David Perry, who is probably off making some art-quality photo somewhere.

Garden bloggers in the woods

Woodland scene

(OK, I have completely failed to condense this into a reasonable-size post. I will have to try for a continuation, which I hope will include more photos of the array of edibles and ornamentals, some fabulous planter combos, and the glorious food that everyone brought.)

There is always shared bounty as we depart from these get-togethers. This time, I went home with an Astrantia plant and some “back alley” volunteer poppy seeds from Jean, a Salad Burnet plant Molly had dug especially for me, and several gigantic heads of lettuce Michael cut for me from the array of over 500 they had growing out in the field. And I even managed to snag a few more of the awesome coffee bean sacks that Paula so generously shares with us every chance she gets. Thanks, all!


Even though we only see each other once a month at most, I feel a true fellowship is growing among the members of this group. That word has been spoiled a bit for me by church connotations and Tolkien geekery, (not to mention how can you be a member of one if you are not a fellow?), but here I do believe it applies so aptly. Everyone is busy, we all have too much to do at this time of year, but we carved a few hours out of regular life to come together with others who share a common interest. For a few fleeting moments, we didn’t accomplish anything or do something “useful” – we just enjoyed a garden and each others’ company. It could not have been more enjoyable or rejuvenating.

For more takes on this day, click here for Jean’s, here for Liisa’s, and here for Paula’s, and check back with Daniel, David and Molly to see if they provide their own versions.


12 Responses to “True Fellowship”

  1. Grace Says:

    Well, I’m sufficiently jealous now. Are you happy. LOL! What an honor to be part of a great group of “fellow” gardeners. I’m thinking that if it was enjoyable and rejuvinating, then it was useful! (What are they feeding that tomato plant?)

  2. RainGardener Says:

    Oh my looks like you had one great day! How delightful to get to spend the day at their place with everyone else there to enjoy it with! Oh how I wish there was more down here and more people that wanted to share it all with each other.

  3. Aerie-el Says:

    Your post puts me in the moment, and even though I couldn’t be there, I feel like I was. What an incredibly wonderful gathering/get-together/fellowship! I miss all of you even though we haven’t met in person, and look forward to meeting you soon.

  4. Catherine Says:

    I loved reading this post. Even though I’ve only made it to one, on the days I know you are all together I wonder what you’re doing and how much I’m missing out. Their place is wonderful and so big. I can’t believe the tomato plants!
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. jean Says:

    Karen this is lovely. Your writing is so enjoyable. I love the Rashoman comparison. Someday I will have to see that movie.

  6. Bonnie Story Says:

    What great photos, I consistently love how your blog layout permits nice BIG pics. Many comments: First, you have nailed one of the main defining quandaries of the Human Condition: …I wonder what (others) are seeing as they look at the same thing? It won’t ever stop bugging you! It’s one of the things that keeps artists up at night! ;~}
    Moving on: Gunnera – a jaw-dropping Jurassic Park showstooper in my book. Great pic of the little bud.
    Currants: I have a post coming up in 2 days about harvesting a Gooseberry/Currant hybrid that you might enjoy. I adore Gooseberries even though they scratched up my arms pretty badly!
    SAGBUTT: Wunna these months I will happily join the group meeting and I’m very very inspired to do so. What a nice bunch and so much gardening talent. Will be great to swap stories and learn, and enjoy.
    One more SB note: Still not finding anything on Facebook (searches) but would love to join up there – I think I need another clue on that, with many thanks.
    Enjoy the weekend and stay cool!! Bonnie

  7. Tatyana Says:

    I missed it again! This time, I was fishing in Alaska. I read your post and was just plain jealous. Well, at least I caught a big fish! I have 3 black currants. They were good first years, but are not doing well now. Maybe, I need to feed them better. I also had a gooseberry/black currant hybrid that Bonnie wrote about. Berries were very tasty and birds loved them. It became a huge and I needed to dig it out. But I have its babies! As for the coffee sacks, I had several in my garden til recently. I threw them on the compost pile after I almost fainted when 3 snakes suddenly got out from them! Thank you Karen for the great story!

  8. Paula Says:

    Karen – you captured the day wonderfully! I’m also glad you included the Gunnera. I had a photo of it, but didn’t remember the name. Now I know. It is quite the plant!

  9. I think this is a ” perfectly reasonably-sized post” for this lovely day! It was good to see you all; I really look forward to new meetings during the autumn.

  10. Megan Says:

    I think it’s wonderful you’ve pulled off such a good group dynamic from a mere suggestion of a get together just a few months back. You guys have a great thing going. WOW I have gunnera envy today. Everyone’s gunnera is looking so big, mine is puny. I would be in heaven to live somewhere that floods regularly. All the bog plants would be mine!

  11. Jen Says:

    Wow- that’s a lotta square feet. And they’ve used every single one of them it seems. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Matron Says:

    Oh My!! How I wish I was over in Seattle for that one! It is wonderful to hear that the group is gelling together. That veggie garden is to die for… and dogs came along too! Matron would be in veggie heaven!

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