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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.