The back garden is back in business with lower-maintenance plants, a focal shed, and lots and lots of inspiration
LORENE EDWARDS FORKNER’S name might ring a bell, as the author of a number of gardening books, or as the current editor of “Pacific Horticulture” magazine. You might well have shopped at Fremont Gardens, the tiny urban nursery with all the cool plants, which she owned for many years.
Perhaps you remember the garden Edwards Forkner designed for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Can you picture the garden’s lust-worthy shelter that helped her win top honors? A version of that charming little shed now holds pride-of-place in her recently renovated garden in West Seattle.
Edwards Forkner’s garden seems to be in a near-constant state of change in response to fresh ideas and her changing neighborhood. Most recently, she and her husband, James Forkner, undertook a major back-garden remodel.
“When a big new house went up behind ours and took away our privacy, and I got a new job, I walked away from the garden and it went feral,” explains Edwards Forkner. “My biggest garden failure was in creating a garden I couldn’t keep up with.”
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So she set in to create a lower-maintenance landscape, no small task for such an avid plant worshipper. Edwards Forkner had three main goals for the renovation. First was to screen the garden for privacy. Second was to create space for outdoor living, and third was to design and plant a garden that could take care of itself. Or nearly so.
“The special plants didn’t even matter so much anymore,” she says. Only a few remnants of the old plantings remain, including a gorgeous Eucryphia at the back of the house, and a bunch of acanthus and evening primrose she’s been unable to root out.
The renovation challenges were great. The tall, new house overlooking the back garden is out of scale with the couple’s city-sized lot, which is set at an awkward diagonal. Edwards Forkner hired Seattle designer Virginia Hand to come in and consult.
“I told her that we needed a great idea for the space, and that we wanted some kind of shelter that felt like a porch … I love a shade porch,” says Edwards Forkner.