Chile Tour 2011: Wowed by the amazing gardens

January 19th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard

Wow! No wait, that is not good enough. WOW! No, still not enough. WOWWOWWOWWOW!!!! We saw some amazing gardens designed by Juan Grimm, a Chilean architect who has designed over 300 fabulous gardens. On Monday night he gave us a talk about his design philosophy and showed many photos. His philosophy would fit into Seattle very well. He believes the garden should fit into the existing landscape and, while he uses non-native plants, he also uses natives, but arranges them as a garden. He integrates the house and the garden together. At that point, as I was writing (“like Windcliff” – Dan Hinkley’s home and garden – into my notes, Mary Palmer leaned over to me and whispered “like Windcliff!”). Señor Grimm also believes that the existing conditions should be taken into account and gardens formed around them. At one garden he designed there was hardpan. Rather than fight that, he created a garden with ephemeral ponds.

Grimm pool photo

The pool at Juan Grimm´s house

The first garden we saw with Señor Grimm was one he started designing in 1984 for Pedro Tomas Allende (yes, related to the famous Chilean Allende family). This 20 acre garden was a delight! Agapanthus, with flower heads as big as humans, with orange daylilies behind, with an overstory of palms native to Uruguay. The gardens went on and on, with beds of Clivia, an aviary, and so much more the mind reels. I am not a huge hydrangea fan, but behind his house he has a large pond and at the far side is a sweep of pink mophead hydrangeas that were gorgeous!

Allende - hydrangea photo

Hydrangeas, as viewed from Senor Allende's house

Allende garden photo

This is the entry to the Allende garden, with an overstory of palms from Uruguay and Agapanthus with flower heads the size of human heads!

In front of his house, leading to the main garden, there were stairs that were topped in grass that one ascended from a patio that had pavers of fossilized wood. The same pavers were repeated, polished, in the home. Señor Allende was very gracious and served us refreshments on his patio overlooking the pond.

The second garden was that of Tomas Muller, who is currently the Chilean ambassador to the United Kingdom. This is a very modern house, perched on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean. We were also able to tour the house, which features fabulous art by Chileans, along with the fantastic view and gardens. Here, he has created a very naturalistic garden, again with a mixture of natives accented with interesting non-natives, that blends into the native landscape beyond.

Muller garden photo

Jim Heg climbs the rocks at the Muller Garden

The last garden we saw was his own, again perched on a cliff above the sea, a bit too close for comfort for those of us with a healthy fear of heights. In fact, the deck off the master bedroom was literally perched at the edge of a steep cliff, with no railing at all. Not a house for children, pets, night-walkers, or partiers! But the house was again beautifully integrated into the landscape, with a pool at the edge of the cliff.

Grimm garden phots

The view from Juan Grimm´s bedroom balcony is beautiful, but the drop is steep and there is no rail, so be careful!

Besides gardens, we also visited some Chilean wine palms (Jubaea chilensis) near the national park set aside for them. We planted a few of these in the new Gateway to Chile garden in the Washington Park Arboretum last fall. These were huge and I am excited about the potential for our new display in the garden.

The group learns more about the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis), a rare palm that is included in the Arboretum´s new Gateway to Chile display

wine palm fruit photo

One of the reasons the wine palm is so rare is because the large fruits are a favorite food, so not enough young plants are regenerating

We have been enjoying wonderful food, especially seafood. Two and three hour lunches and dinners with multiple courses are common and we are all feeling a bit snug in our clothes. Fortunately, next week will involve much more hiking and hopefully we will work it off. Our group has also discovered pisco sours, a delicious blend of the clear brandy that Chileans are very proud of, with lemons, a bit of sugar, and a dash of bitters. They go down a little too easily! We have also been enjoying the excellent Chilean wines at lunch and dinner. Chileans certainly know how to live the good life!

tour group photo

We enjoy one of several leisurely lunches

But lest you think we have just been imbibing, we have also been enjoying the excellent fruit juices. This morning I had melon and peach juices (separately, not mixed) and they were amazing. We have also sampled raspberry and strawberry juices. Why don’t we have these wonderful fresh juices in the States?

Speaking of wine, tomorrow we tour the wine country and visit some of the oldest wineries in the country. We will cap the evening off with a dinner followed by traditional Chilean dancing, as we had at the dedication to the Gateway to Chile celebration last fall. On the 21st we are off to the Lake District and a whole new set of adventures.

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4 Responses to “Chile Tour 2011: Wowed by the amazing gardens”

  1. Laine McLaughlin says:

    Thanks for writing, Sarah. Riz put this on Facebook so now I have signed up for the RSS in my tool bar. Hello to Mary Palmer, Nitajo, Dan and anyone else I know. I look forward to following your Chilean adventures.
    Laine

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by UW Botanic Gardens and UW Museology, John Burke. John Burke said: RT @uwbotanicgarden: Follow Sarah Reichard's travels in Chile, beginning with the amazing gardens of Juan Grimm http://bit.ly/dYNb8w [...]

  3. Ian Barclay says:

    I’m following with interest as well. BTW – if anyone can figure out what this plant growing in Pucon is (like if you see it somewhere else), I’d be delighted to know:
    http://www.growingontheedge.net/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3995&start=15

    PS. Mary this could be your chance to get seeds of Anarthrophyllum desideratum… unless you’re too early??

  4. Sarah says:

    Hi Ian,

    It is a little hard to tell what the plant in the photo is. Trees with simple evergreen leaves with entire margins are pretty common.

    Dan did get some seeds of Anarthophyllum for the UWBG collection.

    Sarah