Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hardy Plant Study Weekend -- Bob Barca's Hummingbird Hill on Whidbey Island

I am sooooo far behind on sharing my photos and thoughts on recent garden tours. I've just returned from Hardy Plant Study Weekend in Bellevue, WA, where I sat through several interesting and entertaining talks and went on garden tours every day for four days. I also want to share some of my photos from the Gig Harbor NPA tour over a week ago, which I attended with Peter The Outlaw Gardener and my friend Annette, as well as more photos from my visit to Far Reaches Farm. Where do I begin?

I've decided to start with pictures of one of my favorite gardens from Plant Study Weekend -- the Barca garden, aka Hummingbird Hill, on Whidbey Island, which I saw last Friday. Here's the description from the Plant Study Weekend program booklet.

"Here you will find the garden of a man who was passionate about plants and pushing the envelope of what you can grow. After a pretty good winter come and see what is flourishing and what has been replaced. For years Bob Barca spoke and shared aspects of gardening -- encouraging and inspiring many to try new plants or to plant for the birds. His garden is now tended by his widow and her sister, always involved in projects. Many of the hardscape features help the marginal Mediterranean climate shrubs overwinter. A collector of all things Proteaceae and more, Bob displayed collections in pots as well. Hopefully the Tropaeoleum will be in bloom as it covers the garage wall. No matter the weather it always feels like summer in this garden."

The salmon pink color that every hardscape element and structure is painted is the garden's signature color.

The walls are all built from cinder block and covered with mortar, then painted. Here plants pop up from some of the cinder block openings.

Euphorbia flowers perfectly match the wall color

An enormous Cistus was just smothered in blooms

There were huge Grevilleas blooming everywhere!

Grevillea 'Molonglo'

'Marshall Olbricht'

The cinder block structure reminds me of a pueblo

Arctostaphylos growing in the gravel

Clerodendron hookerianum

Melianthus major

There were also many, many plants that I didn't have a chance of recognizing.

I asked for and got the name of this flowering tree, but did the name stick with me? For maybe ten seconds. (There seems to be a consensus of opinion that it's Pineapple Broom/Cytisus battandieri)

Was the Tropaeoleum blooming? Yes, they both were.
Tropaeoleum tuberosum

T. tuberosum

Tropaeoleum speciosum

A large conservatory attached to the side of the house was also still full of plants.

I bet this stove keeps the space cozy in the winter

A fully functioning sink for washing up

I thought at first that Bob Barca's Hummingbird Hill reminded me of Mexico, or the American Southwest, but in truth, it is a place unto itself. I don't think I've seen anywhere quite like it, and doubt if I ever will again.


  1. Alison, you did a wonderful job of capturing the look and feel of this truly delightful garden. I am happy I got to see it with you. One other thing about the garden was the sound of water gurgling and splashing in so many places throughout.

  2. Agreed, not a Mexican look at all, but a totally unique style, so unexpected in the stormy Northwest. He uses color wisely, enough to give sparkle, but not overwhelm. I also like the way he enhanced common garden materials like cinder block to make them appealing.

  3. Nice work! There were TONS of birds in this garden as well as the unusual plants you beautifully photographed.

  4. I think I would have enjoyed visiting this garden very much. Thanks for the tour!

  5. Lovely lovely garden. Your pictures really captured the charm. The salmon is a great color for accenting plants similar to colors Monet used in Giverny. I think the yellow flower in question is Pineapple Broom - Argyrocytisus battandieri.

  6. A beautiful garden indeed! The Tropaeoleums are beautiful. I wish that I'd gone with you but am so relieved to have gotten some long-overdue work done in my own garden. I agree with Mata that the yellow flower is that of Cytisus battandieri (pineapple broom tree.)

  7. Can't say I'm crazy about the "signature color", but That Garden...WOWZA!

  8. I think the salmon color would have driven me crazy but the plants and gardens are wonderful. None of those plants grow here.

  9. A plant study weekend! With plant tours! I think I need to move to the PNW...

  10. Oh you do discover some awesome gardens, I wish i could tag along in real person but doing it via the web will have to do. I alsolutely lvoe that finish on the cedar blocks, it makes mine look really daggy (an Australian term)

  11. Loving the warm colours, planting, and arrangement of this garden Alison. Clever with the use of cinder blocks too.

  12. I went to this garden for Bobs memorial and was blown away. You could tell he put his heart and soul into it not just his pocket book. I was especially sorry I hadn't taken him up on his offer to visit BEFORE he passed unexpectedly. So glad to see the garden was open for a tour and still attended to. Great photos Allison. Thank you. I also agree with Marta and Danger about the yellow flowered plant. I just bought one a while back and that's what the tag on mine said.

  13. Great photos. I certainly did enjoy getting to see you and talk to you in person at the conference.

  14. What a wonderful place! Thank you for sharing it, I' ve never seen anything quite like it.

  15. Really jealous of their Tropeoleum speciosm. Mine stayed alive for two years before biting the dust. I am perplexed as to how to grow it. Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing.


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