Bainbridge in Bloom tour features in-town garden sanctuary

Leslie Marshall and Herb Hethcote relax in their lush in-town garden filled with “native plants and allies.” Their garden is featured on the 2011 Bainbridge in Bloom Garden Tour July 8-10.  - Connie Mears/Staff Photos
Leslie Marshall and Herb Hethcote relax in their lush in-town garden filled with “native plants and allies.” Their garden is featured on the 2011 Bainbridge in Bloom Garden Tour July 8-10.
— image credit: Connie Mears/Staff Photos

Bainbridge in Bloom

Enjoy a self-paced tour of six gardens from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 9-10. Festival hub is at Woodward Middle School, 9125 Sportsman Club Rd. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. Proceeds benefit Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council.

Patron Day and Evening in Bloom Garden Party and Art Auction is July 8.

Info: visit



After moving into their home in the Commodore neighborhood in 2006,  Leslie Marshall and Herb Hethcote didn’t spend much time gardening. Their yard was typical suburban, predominately lawn enclosed with a hedge of shrubs.

But at an auction in 2007, they bid on “just a few hours” of landscape consultation with  landscape designer Shayne Chandler. At first he brought the couple interesting plants he’d found on his world-wide travels. As the yard transformed, the Iowa transplants enlisted him to come up with a plan for the whole yard. Trained in the fine arts, Chandler envisioned a lush refuge on the in-town lot.

“This is his canvas,” Marshall said while prepping the garden for the 2011 Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour this weekend.

The term “garden tour” generally conjures images of sprawling country estates, or multiple garden rooms connected by a labyrinth of trails, but Bainbridge in Bloom organizers chose the garden to show what can be done on a smaller scale, Marshall said.

The front yard combines a rain garden with xeriscaping and features drought-tolerant plants, evoking a Mediterranean feel. Berms surround a swath of grass coaxing rainwater to where it’s most needed.

You’d never know from the front of the house what awaits out back.

Through a densely planted side garden, one emerges into a lush collection of specimen plants.

“Leslie loves a lot of interesting plants,” said Chandler, a close friend of former Heronswood owner Dan Hinkley. “Basically, I’m an enabler.”

He took the flat patch of grass with a worn trail through it to new heights. Literally. Sculpting the landscape, he created rolling berms and gullies, keeping the center plantings low to borrow views of the half-acre pond on adjacent city-owned land.

They often see deer and even the occasional river otter. In winter, Hethcote said, he watched a coyote padding its way across the frozen pond. Birds frequent the sanctuary, too. They’ve counted more than 65 different species including five kinds of ducks on the pond.  This year a green heron showed up.

A more domestic visitor is the long-haired grey cat, Angel, who wanders in from next door.

“I see her stalking like a jaguar,” Marshall said. “Like it’s her own personal rainforest.”

Dense planting, including a magnolia, a few stands of bamboo, a big-leaf maple and a tall fence enclose the space so effectively, that standing in the backyard it’s hard to tell you’re in a development.

Along the gravel path, Hethcote points out a variety of intriguing specimens: aeonium, ginger, weeping Cypress, Idesia, and Clarendendron “Carnival” whose leaves smell like peanut butter. Even a palm tree and a banana tree? Touring the garden feels like traveling the world, with pockets of exotic bioregions.

“People say they have a mystical experience, that it illicits a meditative state,” Marshall said. “It’s like a lot of little neighborhoods that make up one big tapestry.”

Their friend, Channie Peters, who waters for the couple when they’re away, recommended the garden to the folks at Bainbridge Arts and Humanities Council which puts on the yearly tour as a fundraiser.

“They called it a ‘Collector’s Garden,” Marshall said.

She’s working on a numbering system as a key to the 650 different cultivars that inhabit the site. She makes a point of learning the botanical names of the plants she hosts.

Behind a wooden trellis, built by Hethcote, lies a terraced organic vegetable garden with snow peas, lettuce, garlic, strawberries and a new planting of squash.

Hethcote built some of the hardscape including the fence and the rock terrace.

“Shayne said if I could stack wood, I could build a rock wall,” Hethcote said.

The couple, both retired from teaching, “kind of help Shayne” tend the garden, said Marshall.


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