One of the perks of working at Swansons is being able to visit PNW gardens. While the majority of gardens we visit are public, it’s always a treat to visit personal gardens and explore what local gardeners are doing in their private spaces.
Nestled in an ordinary block north of Seattle, there is a floriferous wonderland called Fishtail Cottage. Complete with a white picket fence, romantic cottage garden flowers, and a bevy of animal greeters, you might feel like you have wandered out of the suburbs and into a modern fairy tale land.
The sun is shining and air is filled with the perfume of David Austin roses. I can feel myself relax as I walk up to the meticulously cared-for front garden with its white picket fence and gated arbor framed by a pale pink climbing rose and white phlox.
Outside the fence, a variety of Hostas grow in the dappled shade of Japanese Snowbell, spilling onto the sidewalk. Later, I learn that the garden’s proprietor, Tracie Fish, plants a border of spring bulbs and bleeding hearts along with the hostas. In the spring, the bulbs emerge first, then the bleeding hearts begin to flower, and finally the hostas fill in and cover the dying foliage of the early spring bloomers.
Stargazer lilies, planted to honor a dear friend with Melanoma, intermingle with pure white phlox and an abundance of Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangea. I enter through the gate and make my way along a charming walkway bordered by boxwood, peonies (I will have to visit again when they are in bloom), and bright pink ‘Polar Joy’ topiary roses.
As Tracie Fish, the garden’s creator, opened her front door, I am immediately greeted by three adorable and extremely energetic white pups who are excited to lead me around their garden. The dogs have free rein in the garden as do a flock of gorgeous Silkie chickens (I was fortunate to arrive just days after a dozen new chicks had hatched!) who are enjoying a dust bath of their famously fluffy plumage.
The dogs and the chickens seem to get along just fine (Silkie chickens are quite passive and agreeable) and all the animals are, at least mostly, respectful of Tracie’s garden. The chickens actually help reduce aphid populations and turn over the soil in dormant beds between seasons. Their custom-made coop (what she calls the chicken church) is part of an elaborate outbuilding that also holds a garden potting shed. Like everything in the garden, it is carefully crafted and beautiful as well as functional.
It was 2006 when Tracie Fish and her husband planned the design of a new house in this neighborhood. The couple made sure to include ample room for outdoor living and the result is a stylish outdoor living room, complete with fans and heaters that allow it to be useable almost the entire year. Steps lead down from the living area to a lovely outdoor dining space and also to both the chicken coop/shed and the main back garden area. Privacy was important to the couple and as the border plantings have grown they have effectively screened the neighboring properties, giving it a feeling of coziness, like a secret garden.
A sense of harmony is created by carrying certain plants and especially colors throughout the garden. Roses, especially in shades of pink, are one such element. Some of her varieties include ‘Mayflower,’ ‘Heirloom’, ‘Colette,’ ‘Wife of Bath,’ ‘Koko Loco,’ and ‘Nicole Carol Miller,’ named in memory of a passenger on a 9/11 flight. Boxwood is another plant freely used for borders and even planted in urns for classic, all-season appeal.
Although Tracie doesn’t like to add a lot of garden décor, she adds just a few whimsical details like birdhouses and arbors. The garden feels like a restful place where, on a warm summer day, one could easily spend the afternoon lounging in the shade of the living area with a book and a glass of iced tea, snuggling with the dogs and listening to the dragonflies whir by. I’ll have to save that for another visit but when I’m feeling like a need a dose of serenity, I’ll check in on her Instagram feed for lovely photos of roses, chickens, and the garden as it changes through the seasons.