Colorful garden one of 8 on Snohomish Garden Tour

  • By Debra Smith Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, July 24, 2012 8:55pm
  • Life

As a child, one of Cliff Bailey’s jobs was to crawl into the massive stumps on his grandparents’ farm — dynamite in hand — to help clear the land.

Some 80 years later, Bailey’s family still owns that Snohomish Valley land and he’s still tending it.

Now, the retired farmer and his wife, Rosemary, put their energy toward caring for the colorful, lush garden around their charming farmhouse.

It’s one of the eight gardens featured on the Snohomish Garden Club’s annual tour, set for Sunday afternoon. The couple’s grandson, Justin Bailey, lives nearby and also is on the tour.

“We work it together,” Cliff Bailey said. “But it’s Rosemary who really loves flower gardens.”

Bailey gives his wife of 65 years most of the credit for the garden’s design, which features a Claude Monet-like blending of vibrant colors and lush leaf textures. But Cliff Bailey made his contributions too, including a burgeoning collection of dwarf evergreen trees.

After more than six decades of gardening, the Baileys have learned a thing or two. A walk around their garden showcases that wisdom. Here is some of what the couple shared:

Give gravel paths a try. They’re easy to push a wheelbarrow over and relatively inexpensive. Visitors will note that the paths are plenty wide for easy access.

Don’t be afraid to change. If you saw this garden a decade ago, you’d hardly recognize it. The couple removed an entire section and made it into a cow pasture, reducing some of the maintenance as a concession to age. Rosemary Bailey is fearless about replacing plants that aren’t performing. She also likes to incorporate the best of new offerings she finds at the nursery.

Add a touch of whimsy. Lots of charming surprises hide in the garden, including a collection of painted metal chickens. Sometimes garden art can become too much, but the Baileys strike the right balance by choosing pieces that fit their farmhouse garden, such as a rusted metal sunflower and an old box planted with sedums.

Repeat colors. Cliff Bailey proudly points out that his wife has a natural knack for combining various colors into a harmonious whole. He’s right. Rosemary Bailey said she aims for “color echoes” in her garden by repeating some of the same hues throughout the landscape. That provides cohesiveness.

Plant in swaths. The large garden is divided into various large beds. Rather than bringing home one of everything from the nursery, Rosemary Bailey arranges multiples of the same plant in swaths within the bed.

Keep birds out of the berries. The couple grows a variety of edibles, including berries. They tried netting last year, but after a bird got caught inside, they’ve now hit on a better deterrent. They’ve attached sparkly flashing tape to a single line that hangs just above their blueberry bushes. The birds have not bothered them at all.

Plant something fragrant near the door. On the path up to the couple’s home, an aromatic row of lavender lines the walkway. The bright purple flowers provide a pleasing burst of color too.

Use compost. The Baileys have an advantage most people don’t: free access to the family’s commercial compost business next door. Regularly spreading the stuff on beds and mounding it in planting holes is one of the secrets to why the garden is growing so well.

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or

Garden tour

The Snohomish Garden Tour, featuring eight suburban and urban gardens, is noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets cost $12 and advance tickets will be available at these Snohomish locations: Annie’s on First; Curly Willow; Joyworks; Kusler’s Pharmacy; McAuliffe’s Valley Nursery and McDaniel’s Do It Center. Other sites for tickets are: Machias Nursery (Machias); Molback’s Home and Garden (Woodinville), My Garden Nursery (Bothell) and Sunnyside Nursery (Marysville).

Tickets may also be purchased through the the website, Day-of-tour tickets will be available at the above outlets as well as at the Snohomish Library, Fourth Street and Maple Avenue, starting at 10:30 a.m. Children under 13 may tour free of charge with a wristband obtained at the library. There will also be sales of plants, raffle tickets and the event poster at the library.

More info: or by contacting Fred Rowe at 425-374-8622 or

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