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

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden

On Wednesday I attended a class at the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden, on the use of wood and stone in the garden. It was an interesting class and included a tour of the garden as well as a fascinating demonstration by the leader of the class, Richie Steffen, on moving and arranging rocks and wood as edging for beds. We were very lucky -- Wednesday was the only sunny, dry day this week.

My friend Annette, who attended with me, commented, and I agreed, that the sunny weather made the wonderful layering effects in the garden more obvious and striking than last time we went, when it was cold and drizzling.

Blue sky above

Sunshine making the leaves overhead glow

Original basalt rock edges the small lawn area in front of the house

New path -- only about a year old -- where they tried to match the basalt edging as closely as possible, but using flagstone

Despite its newness, moss is already growing amongst the stones.

Gratuitous shot of double Trillium flower in the Miller Garden

Richie Steffen, garden curator at the Miller Garden, stands one of the large rocks used as edging on end. The usual advice on using rocks in the garden suggests burying it halfway, but Richie said, "It only has to look like it's buried halfway."

The form of many of the weeping conifers at the front of the beds was meant to mimic the shape of boulders. More advice from Richie: "Use rocks in odd numbers, and often you can hide their size, make them seem larger than they are, by allowing plants to drape over them."

Rock bed edging -- and a sweet plant combo, Hakone grass and Saxifrage 'London Pride' -- with the flowers coming up through the grass, it looks like the grass is flowering

Probably every visitor to the Miller Garden hears the tale of how Betty Miller wanted to have a stone driveway, but the idea was nixed by her husband when he saw how much it would cost. So over the years, whenever a pothole appeared in the asphalt driveway, Betty would instruct the workers to enlarge the hole and fill it with stone paving.

Asphalt driveway with stone-filled potholes

Basalt stairs

Moss-covered stone

Basalt path beside the house

Cobbles on a moss-covered stairway keep feet from slipping

A combination of cut logs and stone as bed edging

Gratuitous shot of Pacific Coast Iris in the Miller Garden

Burnt log rescued from a logging operation for use in the garden

Old nurse log covered with licorice ferns and self-seeded huckleberry

Beautiful old moss-covered log

New log recently placed, with a rotted hollow in the center that will be a perfect spot for plants

The garden has many snags like this that have been left standing

Gratuitous shot of Trillium and Hosta foliage

After our tour Richie and two interns at the garden demonstrated how to redo a bed edge using big rocks and a hollowed-out log.

Richie Steffen, curator at the Miller Garden

Richie demonstrates how to use the pry bar to move a typical "one-man rock."

First he took all the rocks out that had been lying half-buried in the bed, originally placed by Betty Miller, and he re-arranged them. One of his goals in re-arranging the stones was to prevent soil in the bed from washing down the hilly driveway, which had just been re-paved recently.

Once the log and stones had been placed, Richie and the interns started placing plants.

"Give me that one!"

Richie mulls over the placement of rocks and plants

It was such a great way to spend a sunny day -- a fun couple of hours in a great garden with a friend. I enjoyed the presentation very much.

I actually attended a previous class on the use of native plants, and there are two more coming up that I am also signed up for -- one in June on ferns and another in July on Plant Introductions. I'll post more pictures of the garden then.


  1. Great workshop and beautiful garden. I remember when moving rocks with a pry bar used to be easier! I love the flagstone pothole in the asphalt.

  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful day in this spectacular garden! I've never been there so it's fun to experience it through your posts! Thanks for taking us along!

  3. There's nothing like old logs/roots to "sell" the look of a woodland garden. Beautiful!

  4. Stunning! I'm loving all that moss!!!

  5. What a nice way to spend a day! I'd like to bring some large rocks into my own garden but I have to wait until the number of projects I've already got on my husband's "to do" list comes down - I don't think he'd react kindly to a delivery of rock right now. Our home sits in what was a rock quarry in the 1940s but, unfortunately, all the large rocks were hauled away long ago...

  6. I love the look of the stone paths, but, OH, the weeding. I've been crawling around on my butt for two weeks, can't you tell?

  7. I love the way the plants have spread and mingled to give a naturalistic look.

  8. That's a beautiful looking woodland garden Alison, and it's atmosphere is undeniable!

  9. What a beautiful garden and what a great class!

  10. Lucky you to have been there twice, with more visits in the horizon. Were you any more enchanted with the place this time around?

  11. Gorgeous pics, Alison. I love the nurse logs and all of the natives. Looks like a very useful class, thanks for sharing.

  12. Love their use of stone. That is one raw material in short supply in this part of the country. The workshop looks like great fun.


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