Edmonds tour features garden transformed by hard work

Chris Wolfe had design help from his artist wife. His garden, however, is definitely a guy project, one that required architectural engineering to fix a major drainage problem and a lot of sweat installing nearly 100 tons of rock and gravel.

Chris and Tonnie Wolfe will show off their garden from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday as part of the 19th annual Edmonds in Bloom Garden Tour.

Seven gardens are on the tour, including a quiet woodland in Woodway, a Tuscan-style garden with westerly views in Edmonds and a fabric artist’s garden in Meadowdale, where the plants are often used to make dyes.

The tour offers a representation of the diversity of gardening in the Puget Sound climate, organizers said.

The Wolfes are happy to be part of the tour, which helps fund garden projects in the city and provides scholarships to horticulture students.

Only one element of their garden was there when the Wolfe family moved into their suburban home 30 years ago, and that big cedar tree still plays an important role in the all-season garden by filtering sunshine and soaking up extra moisture.

After a big snowfall in the late 1990s, the Wolfes realized that storm water run off from neighboring properties was pooling in their yard and even in their crawl space under the house.

Chris Wolfe’s solution was a 170-foot French drain system and the rehabilitation of his soil.

This required breaking up the clay dirt on the property and mixing it with lots of compost.

Rocks and gravel were trucked in. The plants were put in the ground when they were small. One two-foot Japanese maple at planting is at least 12-feet tall now.

What visitors will see Sunday is a serene, mature, foliage-focused garden that incorporates concrete decks and patios, gravel walkways, hillside berms and a colorful and texturally appealing collection of trees and shrubs.

It’s not exactly a low-water garden, but with the maturity of the plants, it’s close. No pesticides are used and the mulch is all natural, Chris Wolfe said.

“It’s really a low-maintenance garden,” he said.

About 20 years ago, Tonnie Wolfe told her husband, who is still working as a nonprofit executive, that he had to have a hobby in place before retirement.

Chris Wolfe, 67, grew up in Woodway where he gardened with his grandmother, so the idea of making plants his hobby was comfortable.

He jumped in.

“I started out as a collector of plants, reading and researching,” Chris said. “Then I got rational.”

Still, plant lovers will enjoy the wide variety in the Wolfe garden.

Chris Wolfe’s plants include many maples, all with distinctive features, including a lion’s mane maple, his favorite Japanese acer, which sports purple-red foliage in fall with orange-red patterns; a striped bark maple that turns from white bark to red with white stripes in winter; and a hawthorn leaf maple, with variegated green, white and pink leaves.

Other novel plants include a European beech, a Japanese cedar, an Arizona blue fir, a tulip tree, a Himalayan birch, a Serbian spruce, a golden cryptomeria and a ginko biloba.

In addition to the garden tour, the Wolfes also plan to open their home for the Edmonds Art Studio Tour in September, when Tonnie Wolfe will show her mixed-media paintings and eclectic fiber art.

“In our home and in our garden, we live how we live, not how we think other people think we should live,” she said. “This is our retreat, our sanctuary.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Edmonds in Bloom

Edmonds in Bloom Garden Tour tickets are available at Wights Home and Garden, Sky Nursery, Garden Gear, Bountiful Home and the Frances Anderson Center. Tickets, $15 each, also are available online at www.edmondsinbloom.com and on tour day at the first garden. That address will be on the website on Saturday.

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