Localgardeners show well

Published on Thu, Sep 16, 2004 by ack Kintner

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Local gardeners show well

By Jack Kintner

Four area gardens, three of them in Birch Bay and one in Blaine, won awards in this year’s Whatcom in Bloom competition sponsored by the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department.

Roger Dews of Birch Bay placed third in the category of ecologically sound gardens. Birch Bay Leisure Park won second place for individual businesses and third place in the entrance with a sign category. Blaine’s well-landscaped Free Church Unitarian placed second among churches and places of worship, and James Still of Cottonwood Lane in Birch Bay placed second in container gardens and third overall for residential gardens of one-half acre or less.

Still, the electrician who rents the small Cottonwood Lane cottage where he built his project, claims to know “almost nothing” about gardening. “I just started cleaning up the yard and putting in things I’d like to see, and a couple of years later this is what it looks like,” James said so modestly that you end up believing him, or at least wanting to.

The soil, he explained, is terrible, mostly clay, so he set numerous pots and other containers around in the ground and surrounded it all with a lawn that he built up out of topsoil and horse manure. Despite fall’s imminent arrival next Wednesday (at 8:30 a.m. PDT to be precise), Still’s small plot is jammed with color, everything still energetically blooming away as if it were really late spring.

This time of year, Birch Bay neighborhoods whose owners leave for the season begin to take on that drab and somewhat exhausted post-summer vacation look they’ll keep until next Mother’s Day, making Still’s lively and vigorously colorful yard look a little out of place. It’s as if a piece of the merry old land of Oz was left behind at summer’s departure, leaving his end of the alley glowing with the sunny radiance of a hot June morning.

“It makes you wonder what first place looked like,” he joked as he showed a small but industrial strength water garden he created to replace his landlady’s modest mud puddle, made from a discarded waterbed liner that happened to land in a shallow depression on a rainy day. Still said that when the contest judges came through they spent “about 10 minutes here. They were busy, but they stuck around a little because they liked it.”

The attention to detail is inspiring, as if Still worked not area by area but square inch by square inch. There’s not even a dime-sized piece of real estate he hasn’t somehow pondered over and fiddled with, and the result is well worth a visit. Just go east off Birch Bay Drive near The Thai Steakhouse on Cottonwood Lane and take the first left, Cottonwood Court, and go all the way to the north end. You can’t miss it.