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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #239

Garden Touring in the Pacific Northwest by Jan Whitner, 1993

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2014-07-01

Garden Touring in the Pacific Northwest cover

You may wonder why a tour book more than 20 years old would still be useful and of interest. Details such as opening times and admissions are out of date, most of the gardens described have gone through significant changes, and, sadly, some outstanding gardens—like the Berry Botanic Garden in Portland—are gone.

The answer is the quality of the descriptive writing. Jan Kowalczewski Whitner had an ability to bring gardens alive, for example this opening about the Arboretum: “At first glance, it looks simply like a tranquil Northwest woodland garden, but Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum actually contains exotic horticultural treasures around every bend in the path…”

I’ve read a lot of garden touring books and the layout for many is reminiscent of the Yellow Pages. By contrast, this book is a series of vignettes, stylishly inviting you to keep reading, even if the destination is not on your travel itinerary. Her description of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia was an excerpt for the Winter 1992/93 issue of the “Bulletin” and includes such descriptive gems as “…the twisting papery branches of the deciduous hydrangeas show off well against the berried hollies in winter…” or “a magical woods…bordering a shallow lake dotted by uprooted snags that look like drowned bonsais.”

Tucked between the major gardens are fascinating bits on minor parks, noteworthy plantings in public places, and private gardens that were—at that time—viewable by the public. If nothing else, this is a walk through garden history, and will leave the reader with a richer sense of our region’s gardening heritage.

Excerpted from the Summer 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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