• Greg Graves

A Garden of Memories

Primula nepalensis

I’m headed off in a few days to create a few more memories for myself. I’m going back to Japan to travel a bit north which is a different direction that last year, In the mean time I thought I would repost this blog from last year about memories in the garden.

I’ve seen many nicely designed gardens that are much prettier than mine. They have the perfect plant combinations and the right colors to make them stunning. Anyone could walk in and appreciate the fine work done in creating the garden. What makes a garden special for me isn’t just the plants but the connection between other people or places.

I grew up in North Dakota so the gardening season was very short. I remember geraniums, hollyhocks, moss roses, peonies and zinnias growing in my Mom’s garden and also both my grandmothers gardens along with the vegetables. To this day when I see these plants I associate them with my childhood and the fond memories working in the vegetable garden. Most years I grow some of these if not all.

Rare red maidenhair fern from the Miller garden

For several years I had the opportunity to work at a botanical garden with many rare and unusual plants. Some had funny stories attached to them and the original gardener. When I retired my co-workers gave me some of my favorites. Now when I see them in my garden they remind me of my friends at the garden and the funny stories.

Gordon Collier on the Chattham Islands

While I was working at the garden I had the opportunity to host a number of speakers who came to Seattle to lecture for the Northwest Horticultural Society. I would tour them around some of the local gardens and nurseries and often they would buy themselves plants and an extra one or two for me. I made a point of putting them in a special place in the garden. I have a little section filled with silver leaf plants from my friend Gordon Collier, a plantsman from New Zealand. A very unusual Leucoseptum has developed into a very nice specimen plant in the garden. It was a gift from an east coast gardener after a little shopping trip to Heronswood back in the day. I also have a topiary in a container pruned by Pearl Fryar, topiary plantsman extraordinaire, that he created while staying here. There are many more that arrived at the garden in similar fashion.

Having had the opportunity to spend days with great plants people has inspired me to use some of their ideas in my garden. I feel lucky to have had Dan Pearson and Andrew Wilson, a couple of British designers, give me tips. I still think of them when I see certain plant combinations in my garden.

Clematis tibetana

Travel has also influenced my garden. Trying to recreate little vignettes from some of my favorite gardens transport me back there when I see them. I have an oak tree my friend Linda got from Great Dixter and that reminds me of the field of blue bells the mother tree was planted in and the wonderful day we had there. I have a number of topiaries in the garden that remind me of the many topiary gardens Linda would drag me through during our travels. 

Paeonia veitchii in Tibet

I’ve been on several trips to look at plants in the wild. Seeing Paeonia mascula in the garden reminds me of seeing it on the rocky cliffs in Sardinia or Paeonia veitchii growing at the edge of the woods in China. I often bring back seeds so that I can add interest to the garden from places I have been. Seeing my patch of Primula bulleyana is nice but in my mind I see the field of it along a lake on the Tibetan plateau. 

Drifts of Primula bulleyana in Tibet

I may have been very lucky to garden like I do but we all can make connections between our plants and people and places. The Zinnias from my grandmas garden make me smile just as much as the rarest plants in the garden. I look forward to keep on creating a garden of memories. I’ll be posting photos from Japan for the next couple weeks on Old Goat Farms Facebook page.

Primula nepalensis

Silver leaf cyclamen


#people #design #memories #OldGoatFarm #places

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


20021 Orting Kapowsin Hwy. E.
Graham, WA 98338
Phone: (360) 893-1261
E-mail: oldgoatfarm@comcast.net