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From the Greek isles to yours

Terry Moyemont (l) and Terri Stanley put plants in the picture; the couple exhibit garden photos and have opened a geenhouse. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Terry Moyemont (l) and Terri Stanley put plants in the picture; the couple exhibit garden photos and have opened a geenhouse.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

If Terry Moyemont and Terri Stanley were to read one’s palm, the pair would more likely identify an exotic tree than trace a life line.

The dynamic island duo – Moyemont is a noted photographer and documentary filmmaker, Stanley is a landscape designer – have opened an island greenhouse with a distinctly Mediterranean flavor.

“We wanted to do something positive about life and beauty,” Stanley said, “no matter what else was going on in the world.”

Dubbed Mesogeo – Greek for “Middle of the Earth” – the greenhouse on Roberts Road offers Mediterranean and tropical exotics like the Solanum c. purpureum that features 2-foot fuzzy purple leaves, and the purple-striped hearty ginger.

The particular beauty of many of the Mediterrano, from locales as far-flung as South Africa and southwest Australia, and thriving in the five Mediterranean zones, is their foliage.

“There’s a tremendous architectural strength to their leaves,” Stanley said. “Look at the palms, the agaves.”

The new greenhouse is a living catalogue of sculptural form.

A 15-year-old Yucca rigida resembles a miniature date palm, with fronds emerging from a small but sturdy trunk. The Morrocan sage grows large aromatic leaves.

“I think this is an aphrodisiac,” Stanley said. “Put this one in your bath.”

Some offerings have medicinal qualities to recommend them, like the South African Aloe ferox used for digestive ills.

“It’s not hearty in this climate,” Stanley said, “but it’s too fun to resist.”

Most of the greenhouse offerings are well-suited to the Pacific Northwest Zone 8 climate, which is also the northernmost Mediterranean zone.

“We do have dry summers – we are one zone away from southern France and Italy,” Stanley said. “There are a lot of plants we can grow.”

Stanley and Moyemont enjoy support among local proponents of the “tropicalismo Mediterranean movement.”

Long-established island gardens like Linda Cochran’s and Little and Lewis’ combine artworks in bold colors with the strong Mediterranean plant shapes to form the nucleus of a growing number of interested West Coast gardeners.

The design is 180 degrees from the English garden composed of “a whole bunch of little flowers,” Moyemont says.

The greenhouse concept grew from extended stays on Crete, where the pair were renovating a house.

Stanley had already fallen under the spell of the Greek landscape when, by chance, she found a garden book, Jacqueline Tyrwhitt’s “A Garden on a Greek Hillside,” in a market.

“I had been looking for clues as to how to handle the practicalities of designing a garden in Greece,” Stanley said.

The book led the couple to the Mediterranean Garden Society, a collaboration on their own book of photographs and text featuring both Bainbridge and Mediterranean gardens, and ultimately to Mesogeo.

They researched the history of contemporary Mediterranean gardening, reaching as far back as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Moyemont and Stanley toured Mediterranean gardens from Barcelona to Marrakech.

They visited the contained, walled garden of the garden-keeper’s cottage in a Tuscan villa and then an ancient garden with a grove of olive trees 2,000 years old.

They toured the garden of famed French nurseryman Olivier Filippi.

Moyemont and Stanley struggled to pin down the definition of “Mediterranean garden” in a context where the common names of plants often varied from village to village.

Drawing only the conclusion that the slippery nature of the reality made it more appealing, the couple returned to the island last July to write.

“We were writing the book and then there was this little hiatus,” Moyemont said. “The presses were slowing in New York. We needed a business to complement what we were doing.”

The pair briefly considered adding on a small, cold-frame structure to the porch of their north island home, but settled, instead on a greenhouse.

They erected the greenhouse, which came in a kit containing thousands of pieces – including a ridge pole 5 inches too long, and an instruction manual that left much to the imagination – during the first two months of this year, planting the first seeds in early March.

Running a design/nursery business makes sense, Stanley says, because it can be difficult to obtain desired plants in quantity for her designs.

“I design gardens so I procure plants,” she said. “Now I get to grow them.”

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Mesogeo Greenhouse is open only by appointment; call 855-9017. Terry Moyemont’s photographs of Mediterranean and Bainbridge gardens will be displayed at the Four Swallows Restaurant from July 2 through Labor Day.

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