A perennial delight

  • By Sarah Jackson Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:10am
  • LifeSnohomish

Don and Chris Hoerner’s garden is famous, locally and nationally.

In April, it was featured in Better Homes & Gardens for its luxurious perennial plantings and quaint design.

In 2008, its graceful exuberance won the Hoerners a third-place prize in The Seattle Times’ Pacific Northwest Gardens competition for home gardeners.

This Sunday, it will be featured for the third time in a decade on the Snohomish Garden Tour, presented by the Snohomish Garden Club.

The Hoerners, who have been gardening in their rural Snohomish development since 1998, have an exceptionally large, densely planted landscape that feels more like a public botanical garden than a backyard escape.

It is a perennial-lover’s paradise with large beds, curvaceous and painstakingly edged, surrounded by fat rivers of perfectly green lawn that flow down the hillside and through the back yard.

Don Hoerner, who recently retired from his post as chief financial officer for the Tulalip Tribes, maintains the turf not with weed and feed products, but by hard work and weed spot treatments, quite a feat on the half-acre lot the Hoerners maintain themselves.

Chris Hoerner, a retired special education teacher, has reveled in the garden since her retirement, which started shortly before the couple moved here 13 years ago.

Back then, the couple asked their builder to skip the boilerplate shrubs and lawn so they could make their own way.

After consulting with a landscape designer, they established the backbone of their garden with trees that today include myriad specimens, including more than 30 Japanese maples.

Two Red Sunset maples flank the exposed aggregate driveway. Japanese snowbells, which typically bear white blossoms, bloom a lovely light pink in the front yard.

In the side yard, a Shindeshojo maple, pruned for an airy effect, pairs well with three rusty grain augers. Spiraling up at different heights, the augers look as if they are boring out of the earth. Water splashes down each one into a small, rock-lined pond full of tadpoles.

The Hoerners, who have been on five garden-touring trips with local gardening guru Ciscoe Morris, have gathered inspiration from around the world.

Chris Hoerner particularly remembers an estate garden they toured with Morris at Hadspen House in England.

“Their whole garden was arranged by color,” Chris Hoerner said. “Color is really important.”

Though the Hoerners have grouped some plants by similar bloom and foliage hue, they also use lone splashes of color to unify far-flung areas of the garden.

In the side yard, burgundy-leafed trees and shrubs play like a subtle but strong baseline, starting with a magenta-flowering clematis climbing a maroon Japanese maple.

Just 15 feet away, that same tone is echoed in the fluttering leaves of a smoke bush.

Farther down the slope, there it is again in a lace-leaf maple and, farther down still, another maple known as Bloodgood.

Orange-flowering plants, including many tropicals, make a warm statement in the front yard next to the driveway.

Healthy red and pink roses, including a Hot Cocoa variety sporting a most intriguing ruddy red tint, band together on the south side of the house.

Throughout the lush garden beds, which embrace the house in a snug hug, visitors will find another repeated hue: gold.

Bursts of yellow guide the eye through the side yard. That includes a Missouri sundrop ground cover, a shaggy and happy false cypress, a brilliant golden smoke bush, and smatterings of Welsh poppies.

In the back yard, Japanese forest grass puddles at the edges of a wide stone stairway that leads to an upper tier of lawn.

Don Hoerner built an arbor to stand over the stairs and the couple crowned it with a climbing yellow hybrid rugosa rose. Ten feet away, a glowing full moon maple plays off the soft color with a much brighter greenish gold.

Most dramatic of all, a towering golden locust looms high in the backyard garden with thin, frilly foliage that is tiered, light and bright.

The Hoerners, with so many years of gardening under their belts, say it’s time for them to slow down on planting and start editing.

That means removing plants that are sick or just don’t work, such as the diseased apple tree they recently took out.

It won’t be easy, of course, for the plant collectors.

“There are always new and exciting plants,” Chris Hoerner said with a rueful grin.

No matter what they do, their perennial collection — which demands nearly constant deadheading — it will still be a full-time job.

“We can’t really go on vacation in the summer,” Chris Hoerner said.

“We do all the work,” Don Hoerner said.

Snohomish Garden Tour
The Snohomish Garden Club’s 27th annual tour will feature eight gardens in and around Snohomish.

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Tickets are $12 for ages 14 and older. Buy tickets, which include the full details on the tour gardens, at local businesses and nurseries. Tickets will be available on the day of the tour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Snohomish Library, 311 Maple Ave., Snohomish, where there will be a plant sale.

Information: Call 425-374-8622 or see www.snohomishgardenclub.com.

Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037; sjackson@heraldnet.com.

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