AS YOU PASS a palm tree on the dry slope leading up to the front door of Tory Galloway’s stucco house you might think you’re in the California desert. Round the corner of the veranda and change continents. Now you’re gazing down on a valley of eucalyptus groves and semi-exotic-looking plants. You’d never guess you’re about a mile from Puget Sound, near the seaside town of Indianola on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Such dislocation is quite intentional. Galloway orchestrates experiences as she plants her global garden. Walk down the slope, and you’ll stroll past a French sport court to a flowery English garden, with plenty of South American, Australian and New Zealand plants along the way. Each garden area is visually separated by banks of foliage dividing the property into separate rooms, or in this case, bioclimatic zones.
The former owner of Piriformis Nursery in Fremont, Galloway moved to the Kitsap Peninsula a decade ago with her partner, Trudy Jones. They were in search of more property to garden and the sense of community that Jones remembered from growing up in the area. They bought a 1921 Mediterranean-style home high on an acre of hillside. After they discovered the house was riddled with dry rot, they tore it down to the studs and started over. The home they resurrected on the same footprint is so faithful to the original house that some people thought they’d just painted the place.
“We came from a small Wallingford garden to an acre of nothing,” is how Galloway describes the garden transition. For the next three years her gardening consisted of layering chips over cardboard to smother out the grass and improve the soil. Was it daunting? “Oh no, we had a blast doing it,” says Galloway, who describes Jones’ role as “mostly a willing participant, a good weeder.”
Galloway’s inspiration to plant drought-loving plants comes from the property’s sandy soil, full-on sunshine and the Mediterranean style of the house. “The soil is pure sand, so I spread lots of horse manure for nutrients,” she says. “It’s tough love; I give the plants a huge drink when I plant, and that’s about it.”
The feel of the garden is pleasantly casual and meandering, with poppies sprouting up through the gravel terraces and massive clumps of deep burgundy barberries contrasting with the garden’s many shades of green. Rusty pieces of drainpipe and old farm machinery are placed here and there as accents. “All the mechanical things are rusty junk I used to sell at Piriformis,” says Galloway. “It’s mostly from Eastern Washington.”
The garden’s glory is its international palette of foliage plants with highly textured and variously colored leaves. Galloway’s current favorites are feathery leptospermums from Australia, which have so far escaped winter freeze damage. There are evergreen oaks, spiky Italian cypress and plenty of chartreuse euphorbia. A Chilean firebush (Embothrium coccineum) draws hummingbirds when it blooms hot orange in May. Bottlebrush shrubs (Callistemon spp.), also from Australia, bristle with brilliant blooms.
How does Galloway, who has been fighting cancer for nearly five years, take care of it all? “I made friends with a neighborhood arborist,” she explains. “Mulching with wood chips seals in moisture and keeps down weeds.” She gives plants room to grow to their natural size and shape, reducing pruning and transplanting chores. Easy-care, sturdy plants like the pewter-leafed Rosa glauca and barberries are repeated through the landscape. She emphasizes foliage over flower, spotting in color with vigorous plants like the ‘Pardon Me’ flame-orange day lily. She sites plants according to their needs, with eucalyptus, lavender and ceanothus thriving on the droughty hillsides, and blueberries growing in the damper spots.
Toward the bottom of the garden, Galloway built a long pergola from timbers salvaged from old outbuildings. Beneath the pergola is a gravel pétanque court, the more petite French version of a bocce-ball court. There’s also a little sitting area, a place to relax at night under the light-draped pergola and soak in the feeling of being submerged in the wilds of New Zealand.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.