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

Friday, September 5, 2014

Soos Creek Botanical Garden

My friend Annette volunteers three hours a week, working at the Soos Creek Botanical Garden in Auburn, WA, and on Wednesday this week she emailed me at the last minute to suggest that I meet her at the garden after her work ended so that she could show me around. Because she works in their propagation department, sticking cuttings and potting starts, she seldom gets to actually walk the garden. So I met her and she showed me around.

Soos Creek Botanical Garden is the work of two men, Maurice Skagen and his partner James Daly. The 22-acre garden was originally part of 200 acres that Maurice Skagen's Norwegian immigrant ancestors purchased between 1891 and 1905. In 1968, when Maurice's parents deeded 5 acres to him, there was nothing here other than native trees and plant life such as Douglas firs, western red cedars, hemlocks, vine maples, big leaf maples, and native perennials, ranging from trilliums to skunk cabbage along the creek. Eventually Maurice was inspired by trips to England and Japan to create strolling gardens on the property. The garden has been open to the public since July, 2011.

A hops vine covers the welcome sign

There is a plant sale area next to the entrance, with borders full of sunflowers and Dahlias blooming nearby. The garden is open for plant sales the first Friday and Saturday in June and again on the first Saturday in October, as well as Saturdays from June to September.

Maurice working in the plant sales area

The garden is divided into several different rooms or areas, starting with the Heritage Flower Garden just inside the fence. I passed it on my way to the parking area, which is near the plant sales area, and walked back up to check it out.

Passages in quotes come from the Soos Creek Botanical Garden website.

The Heritage Flower Garden

"The Heritage Flower Garden was inspired by Aunt Nettie's flower garden which was full of shared plants from friends and neighbors. Roses are in abundance, many are heritage climbing varieties. Among the roses are peonies, heathers, irises and various perennials. The backdrop to this garden includes many fruit and ornamental trees. Look for Magnolia 'Elizabeth' with yellow blossoms, blooming in the spring. An old growth Douglas fir tree stands like a citadel over this garden."

That leaf on the right was the size of an easy chair. I could have wrapped myself up in it like a big burrito -- a big, very prickly burrito.

The Elizabeth Fenzl Garden Room

"As you move along the path to the Elizabeth Fenzl Garden Room, notice the tree peonies, umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata), Eucriphia and the mature Catalpa. This garden room has a feeling of enclosure, a quiet retreat for relaxed sitting. Many hardy Fuchsias as well as some unusual shrubs and trees including Parrotia persica, eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), and Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), make up the walls of this garden. Wonderful old 'Nelly Moser' clematis scrambles up a Rainier Cherry. Surrounding the house are many established plantings such as rhododendron 'Cynthia', climbing hydrangea, Aucuba japonica, magnolias, azaleas, and many more flowering trees."

Look at the colors in this mophead Hydrangea!

So fabulous!

There was a large variety of roses flaunting their hips throughout the gardens.

Fuchsias galore too.

Vegetable Demonstration Garden

"A large vegetable demonstration garden has been developed. The garden incorporates raised vegetable beds with paths 6-foot wide. Fig, apple, and Italian plum trees have been planted, and along the perimeter beds are blueberries, raspberries, aronia berry, rhubarb, corn, beans, squash, and more."

The garden donates most of its produce to help the local food bank. I did manage to blag one of its enormous Ailsa Craig onions, which was so large Nigel threatened to carve it up like a Jack O'Lantern.

Scarlet runner beans

Huge patch of squash and pumpkins

Schaefer Pond Garden

"The Pond Garden showcases many moisture loving plants, including water lilies, gunnera and umbrella plant (Darmera peltata) which blooms on bare stalks in spring. Look for the lions head maple at the south end of the pond. Along with ducks one can always find a reflection or two floating on the pond."

The building in these pictures is the Soos Creek Heritage Center, where early photos, historical maps, and newspaper articles about the farming life of the early settlers on the Soos Creek plateau are displayed.

Carlmas Long Borders

"Continuing down the incline are two opposing mixed borders which extend down the slope approximately 500 feet. The focus here is one of color and flows from cool to bright, sunny tones. The use of opposite borders was inspired by garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. A favorite specimen of visitors is the banana tree located near the top of the north border, which can reach 15-feet high each year before frost. Each fall it is carefully wrapped for winter securing it for the promise of spring. As you proceed down the kaleidoscope of color along the south path be watching for the spectacular snake bark maple, another favorite of guests. Other interesting plantings include deciduous azaleas, wingthorn rose (Rosa sericea), tamarisk tree, golden ninebark (Physocarpus), and Moroccan broom (Cytisus battandieri)."

More bright red rose hips

Oie Native Woodland

"Just as you would expect, this area is truly woodland, devoted to native plants, such as bleeding heart, trillium, twin flower, fringe cup, licorice fern, sword fern, and more."

The color on these oakleaf Hydranges was so pretty! Mine never get this pink.

Another gorgeous mophead Hydrangea

These colors just might steal my heart

The garden is currently open to the public from Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The garden is closed from mid-November to mid-March. There is no entrance fee although donations are appreciated. Docent-led tours are available, take about 90 minutes, must be scheduled ahead of time, and cost $3 per person, with a minimum of $25.

For more background on the Soos Creek Botanical Garden, here are some interesting articles.

A Life's Masterpiece at Soos Creek Botanical Garden 

Soos Creek Botanical Garden welcomes you

Grand garden for all: Partnership's hard work yields botanical paradise in Auburn


  1. The gardens are just amazing and so wonderful that they open them to the public. The colors and plants are all so beautiful.

  2. Wow! That looks like a hidden gem--or, maybe not so hidden, but I didn't know about it. Lovely pictures, too. I especially liked the close-ups of the hydrangeas. Thanks for the head's up about this place.

  3. I love hydrangeas when they start to fade like that. The colours are at their most beautiful then.

  4. So many great plants Looks like a lovely graden. TFS

  5. Posts like this have me convinced that there is no end to the botanical wonders of the PNW. I wonder what it would take to convince my husband to move?

  6. We have visited this garden three times now, in different months. Each time there is something different and beautiful going on.

  7. It was nice to meet you, even if just for a bit there. As an interesting tidbit, that Gunnera is one of the very, very few I've seen in this country that's verifiably G. manicata. Maurice said he got it special from Cornwall...

  8. What a beautiful garden and wonderful story! I must visit one of these days!

  9. That looks like an amazing garden. I loved the pictures of the oakleaf hydrangeas. You'll have to go back and capture the changing seasons!

  10. You had me at the sunflowers. What a great garden. I like the idea of a heritage garden based on old fashioned passalong plants.

  11. Thanks for the tour! What a beautiful place. The Hydrangeas are just amazing.....and the Dahlias.....those were Dahlia's, weren't they? In any case, they were so perfect looking.


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