NORTH COAST NATIVES      - Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap, & Jefferson County, Washington

Iris douglasiana*

How I work: 
While I have some expertise in native plants and sell them in my nursery, I am by no means a purist. I enjoy incorporating native plants into a landscape as much as the homeowner desires.  This may be an entirely "wild", all-native planting, a functional planting for slope retention or wetlands or wildlife enhancement, or incorporating a mix of native and non-native plants in an ornamental design. 
For new garden or landscape installations, I like to involve you, the homeowner, as much as you wish to be involved.  
For those who want more involvement, I am open to communication at every stage.  We can meet and discuss the general look you want in your landscape, specific features or plants you like or dislike. We can go "window-shopping" together at local nurseries and I can explain the plants to you. I can give you feedback on what will work and what won't.  As I work up a preliminary design, I'm likely to use email to send you information about plants and other features I'm considering.  
Typically, I use my initial design much the way I use a recipe in cooking: as a general outline and starting point.  I show up with a truckload of plants, more than I think I will need, set things out, squint, tweak, put a couple of things back in the truck, talk with the homeowner, return with a couple more things... 
The finished product will have most of the overall shape and feel and plant types suggested in the original design.  But it evolves as plants are installed, I visualize the space as it will look as plants grow and change over the seasons and the years, the homeowner has reactions or ideas, and I discover what's available in the nurseries.
Typically I will do most of the shopping, unless the client wants to do it or already has the plants s/he wants to use. Some landscapers just hand the client a plant list, but that doesn't save the client money if plants are charged as I do it, at no more than regular retail. It does take the client a lot of extra time, and isn't to their benefit unless they are really plant-knowledgable and enjoy the shopping process. I have the advantages of knowing the nurseries, being able to find the better quality plants, knowing what makes a reasonable substitute if the first choice is unavailable, being able to wheedle special orders, etc. For native plants, I can often provide things from my own inventory, or from wholesalers, at a considerable savings compared to prices at a garden center (if you could find the plants there at all).

I emphasize transparency about fees, and consumer empowerment and education about the landscaping business. For information on how the business works in WA and some guidance regarding costs and quality, see various articles in my blog: "the landscaping jungle", "a few tips on price control…", "Common errors of homeowners and landscapers", etc. These all still live at my old blog,

For planting, bed preparation, soil amending, berm building, stonework and other hardscaping, I can work with you or with subcontractors you know, or refer you to good people for the job at hand. I manage and coordinate. 

Pedicularis contorta
Mt Rainier *

I provide itemized bills for all plants, so that you know exactly what you are paying for- and you will find that you are paying the same as, sometimes less than, you would pay if you bought the plants yourself.  
At the end of every project, interested homeowners will also receive a list of all new plants with descriptions of what to expect from them over time, and how to care for them.
If the homeowner agrees, I will check back in a few months later and again the following year (no charge) just to see how things are going, and see if anything needs tweaking.  I'm always happy to receive updates or questions via phone or email.
Occasionally, I will recommend plants whose chances in your landscape I'm not entirely confident about, specifically in terms of deer browsing and of winter hardiness.  For hardiness zone issues, I will let you know of my concerns, and make recommendations for winter protection.  
If a plant I have recommended dies or does poorly in winter due to a hardiness issue (and not to abuse or neglect!)- I will replace it free of charge the following spring or summer.  If a plant suffers too much deer damage, likewise I will happily come retrieve it and replace it.

Please contact me with any questions you have about my services, or any information on this site. Additional photos of my work, including "before/after" photos, and references are available upon request.

I look forward to talking with you!


Bainbridge Island Garden Makeover

The client wanted an overhaul of the central garden area next to her deck in her sunny back yard.  The space was occupied by grasses and yellow day lilies: inoffensive but uninteresting, and better as background than as a central focal area.  We took out most of the grass and day lilies, and amended the sandy soil.  As the yard was frequently visited by deer, I chose an array of plants that deer won't eat at all.

We placed a line of Lonicera nitida 'Twiggy' along the side of the deck, to hide its underside as viewed from the yard.  This compact little shrub has gold and russet tinges, and will stay just the right size.  Yarrow, Agastache, and Gloriosa Daisies give a blaze of deerproof color.  Small, lovely variegated 'Admiration' Barberry repeats a note found elsewhere in the yard.  And one of my faves, Red Majestic Contorted Filbert, provides winter interest with twisted stems, leaves that come in purple and slowly change to deep green in late summer.  A slow-growing dwarf, the tree provides "bones" without ever blocking the view or getting too big for its britches.

Port Orchard Estate Overhaul

The original plantings for the part-shade, part-sun entryway gave a haunted house look, with unattractive, overgrown shrubs obscuring the front door.  We replaced those with a grouping of pots containing small Contorted Filberts and Calibrachoa (back) and seasonally rotated bright flowers- in this fall arrangement, mahogany-red Rudbeckia.  A small gold-leafed Sumac tree also occupies a large pot, sitting in the garden section to the left of the door alongside tall purple perennial Verbena and Salvia nemorosa.  To the right of the door on a wall that is always shaded, we built a trellis and planted variegated Fatshedera, a stout vine to ten feet long with large, glossy, green and gold leaves.  Peeking around the corner on that side are late summer/fall blooming Queen Victoria Lobelias- scarlet flowers, glossy burgundy foliage.

A brick porch in front of a dining room with windows that allow one to see "through" the house to the back.  Planter boxes contain an array of annuals and tender perennials.  The garden bed on this shadier end of the front yard contains Astilbe and dwarf hardy fuchsias, the variety 'Golden Gate', with bright gold leaves and bright red flowers over many months.

A grouping of pots on a deck with a water view: a huge pot for huge plants, Melianthus (Honey Bush) and Lobelia tupa.  Smaller pots contain red Alstroemeria, red osteospermums, chocolate-leaved dahlias with deep pink/light red flowers, and semitropical Lophospermum, a vine bearing many large wine-colored flowers, supported on a small obelisk.  The medium-large pot on the right contains more osteospermum, alstroemeria, and deep red flowering Abutilon, a semi-tender shrub in the Mallow family.

Suquamish Slope

A new home with a blank slate:  a very flat, bare, small front area with nothing but a small Stewartia to start.  We added berms for topography and large basalt rocks as accents for spare plantings emphasizing shrubs and grasses.   A large, steep, entirely bare slope occupied much of the side/front area. It is stabilized with slope-retaining and drought-tolerant native plantings; pink Alliums, bright yellow Wooly Sunflower, tall purple lupine and Red-flowering Currant add color.

A berm with large, flat basalt rocks provides a setting for plantings of dwarf contorted fir, hellebore, grasses, Midnight Wine dwarf Weigela, heathers, and a touch of Kinnikinnik.

another berm provides more topography, and also solves a problem with rain runoff pooling in the back of this section.  The berm is accented with basalt rocks and planted with grasses, heather, Blue Pacific Juniper and Rosemary.  A large pot holds colorful  'Kaleidoscope' dwarf Abelia.

My associate Daniel built a slate path from the street to the home's front walk. It is bordered by rocks and plantings of grasses, Kinnikinnik, and heathers. 

The steep slope of the large side/front yard area was made more accessible with a long path, paved with gravel and bounded by dry-stacked basalt walls, with dry-stacked basalt steps at the switchback. 

Poulsbo secret garden

Fifteen years ago, a high-priced landscaper planted native Western Red Cedars and Hemlocks along the fence, 15 feet from the house, 3 feet from the fence, and barely six feet apart from each other. Possibly the plan was to make a giant hedge, but the homeowners were never told of this plan, and found themselves with now giant trees filling up their narrow side yard. A second high-priced landscaper had filled the understory section with more trees (vine maples) and a multitude of large, sun-loving shrubs. The result was a dark, impassable, overgrown mess. 
We cleared out the tangle of misplaced smaller trees and shrubs, and removed some of the large trees that had dangerous twin trunks (a structural defect that can result in trunks breaking off and falling). We limbed up the remaining large trees to reduce visual clutter and open the space for gardens and human presence. 
To the homeowner's Hostas we added shrubs with beautiful, bright foliage and flowers, and gave space to some Hydrangeas that had been too crowded against the windows of the house.
Gold Himalayan Honeysuckle, Lonicera nitida 'Edmee Gold' and Hardy Fuchsia 'Golden Gate' all add color and lighten up the shade. Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold' will grow large quickly to screen one neighbor's rather funky fence, and compact, evergreen Aucuba 'Rozannie' screens off a visible corner of another neighbor's yard. The homeowner loves pink, and pink flowers bloom in every month that these snowbirds are present: Rodgersia, Fuchsia, Anemone, Cyclamen, and Colchicum span the months from spring into fall.                                                
There are also tall, graceful Telekias, shade-loving yellow sunflowers that bloom repeatedly through the summer, and orchid-like Toad Lilies with purple spots, blooming over two months in late summer.

A large container under a Japanese maple next to a water feature-- deep rust-colored coleus that harmonizes with the burgundy-leaved maple, reddish and ruffled Heuchera 'Zipper' that matches the red veins in the trailing, variegated Fuchsia 'Autumnale', and Begonia fuchsioides with its small deep green leaves and tiny pink flowers. This arrangement lasted and evolved over the summer and into fall, when this photo was taken. 

Port Orchard animal hospital  
This long-untended property was another one suffering from what I call the "haunted house" look: an overbearing, tall, overgrown, dark tangle of Rhododendrons and other shrubs, three deep, obscuring the front door, making the entrance look less than welcoming, and posing security concerns for night staff.  
We removed most of the shrubs, and pruned the three we retained into pleasing and open shapes. A tiered display bed was built with basalt rock edging and planted with brightly-colored heathers, shrubs, flowering ground covers, and perennials.  Two barrels full of suffering annuals were replanted with colorful annuals, perennials, bulbs, an evergreen shrub and evergreen trailing plants.

In the staff parking area, we removed a row of tangled old Chinese junipers that were turning brown and losing their needles due to too much shade.  We replaced them with a row of bright gold, neat shrubs (Lonicera nitida 'Edmee Gold')- shade lovers that will stay low and need no care.  Between the shrubs we planted the very handsome, drought-tolerant, evergreen ground cover Rubus calycinoides, a thornless blackberry relative that hugs the ground and cascades over rock edging. 

A tangle of azaleas and other shrubs in the parking area were thinned, less attractive ones removed, the remainder pruned into shape. To them we added tall and wide Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold', which has a lovely informal, irregular branching pattern that gives it a fluffy silhouette. Next to it, a gold-leafed Staghorn Sumac is vibrant gold turning to fiery orange/red in fall.

At the entrance to the client parking lot, we placed a number of large boulders and built a berm with a hand-stacked granite bench in a semi-circle around a planting of evergreen, drought-tolerant natives: Kinnikinnik and Low Oregon Grape. (More photos coming!)


* Iris and Pedicularis photos by Marianne Dresser