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The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle

The Sunny Bank I was very excited to get the opportunity to visit this garden because I've heard so much about it. It did not disappoint. The garden was created by Elisabeth Carey Miller and her husband Pendleton who purchased the house in 1948. Mrs. Miller was a self-taught gardener who used her artistic skills (she majored in Art History) to create the stunning garden which features a dense canopy of native conifers. She became a plant collector and tracked down unusual specimens and was known as a well-respected plantswoman in the horticultural community. The front entrance Visiting this garden is not exactly easy. It is situated in a restricted community and there is a limit to the number of visitors per year. You must make an appointment on the website at designated times or you can find a tour group like I did. The address isn't listed either although even if you had it, you would have to get past the security guard at the gate to the neighborhood. I think if I lived in

Plants People Ask About


We've had a few open garden days during the past two weeks and we are winding down. Usually during these tours, everybody seems to ask about a particular plant and it will always be one you least expect. This time there wasn't one particular plant that elicited questions but several kept coming up again and again. 

 Peony 'Doreen' - Many of the peonies had already bloomed but this one opened at just the right time.


Rose 'Michelangelo' - The roses are really fabulous at the moment but the one that everyone asked about was this hybrid tea which is an upright growing variety, about 6 feet tall.

 Acer campestre 'Carnival' is a hedge maple with variegated leaves. Currently this one is green and white but shades of pink appear on new leaves.

Teucrium fruiticans 'Azureum' (Germander) - I brought this home last year on a whim and it has turned out to be a great doer and always seems to have blooms.

Silene uniflora 'Druett's Variegated' (Sea Campion) - I can never remember the name of this groundcover and always have to look it up. It has never bloomed as profusely as this year and it has looked like this for weeks. It is growing on the terrace steps underneath a potted Japanese maple.


Disporum 'Night Heron' (Chinese Fairy Bells)  is a striking plant in the shade border.

Cercis 'Hearts of Gold' (Redbud) - I was afraid that the leaves would loose the yellow color due to lots of shade but it is doing nicely.

Cotula 'Gold Buttons' is a groundcover from South Africa with very fine foliage and bright yellow flowers. I brought this home from the nursery as a rescue. It is doing nicely and is slowly spreading. It is good for xeric areas.


Golden Catalpa 'Aurea' (Catalpa bignonioides) - I know, a big tree for a small garden and one that might be best kept to a minimum by pollarding. I'm not sure how I will proceed with it as I know little about the practice.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. That wonderful redbud is a beauty. I've been wanting the variety Rising Sun for a while but with a small suburban lot I haven't been able to commit the space to it. I chose to plant Golden Spirit Smokebush instead. A smaller variety of the gold smokebush is out now but from what I can tell the leaves are not as round which is part of its appeal. And I can't fault you for that catalpa. Another beauty! The leaves are utterly delightful. Here in the deep south of Georgia this tree seems to be one of the first to lose its leaves in the fall and the last to grow new leaves in the spring but it is such a great tree one can't help but long for it. Again my space is limited so I admit these from afar and have thought about growing the Nana variety which is hard to come by. I've seen these planted in Dutch gardens with aplomb.

    1. I can identify with the limited space! I actually just got 'Rising Sun' a few months ago and have it in a pot but it doesn't seem to be happy. I hesitate to cram it into the ground somewhere but that may be what I do. Have you seen 'Flamethrower'? I know that one will be tempting if we get it next year. You will love the 'Golden Spirit' smokebush. It is lovely.

  2. Such useful info! I'm always curious about what attracts visitors' eyes. I've got that cotula and the silene growing in my garden right now and will attest to their good looks. Not that my silene is anything like yours yet! I love golden-leaved trees too -- the leaves on that catalpa are luscious!

  3. Had I toured your garden, I'm sure I'd have pestered you relentlessly for names of plants. All those you've shown here deserved the attention they received. The only one I have in my garden is the Cotula, which is a rampant spreader here.

  4. That Acer is very attractive. The Cotula is a darling. I can see why people were asking about all of these. I wish Michaleangelo would grow in semi shade. I would have to have it.

  5. No wonder they were getting asked about. All gorgeous. Did you survive all the open days? They can be hectic!

  6. The variety of plants you have are amazing. And I completely understand the visitors' curiosity. They are beautiful specimens. I love the Germander. Just gorgeous!

  7. Is the hedge Maple really a "hedge" size or is that just a term. I would love a short hedge of that somewhere in the garden.

    1. Linda, it can get 10 feet or more or at least that is what I read. An older established one that I saw in another garden was about 5 feet tall. It was probably trimmed. I will have to do a lot of that to keep mine down. I don't have a lot of room for it to expand.

  8. Phillip I am totally in love with your garden .. it would be my dream garden in fact.
    I'm a bit of a wild child gardener .. I see a plant I love and plant it helter skelter ?
    You asked about the blue "ground cover" , yes it is a campanula . I can't remember the specific cultivar. I have another one "Waterfall" that cascades and climbs but the flower isn't as neat and delicate as the one you like, although that shock of blue is still present. Night Heron is a plant I would absolutely love to have in my shade section, I have been looking for it. I am surprised to see a gold version of redbud, it belies the name ? LOL .. I understand your need for Golden Catalpa it is beautiful .. and indeed I have pollarded larger trees for my small gardens .. I would love a Gingko Biloba .. I love the leaf structure and that shock of stunning gold in the Autumn. Gardeners will always chase their dream plants. Gorgeous plants & trees !

  9. "everybody seems to ask about a particular plant...and it will always be one you least expect." I know what you mean. Rose Campion in my garden - go figure: the easiest to grow, self-sowing, least photogenic with the smallest flowers.

  10. If I was near enough to tour your garden, I'd probably question every single plant! They're all so unique and uncommon.


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