Chase Garden Update

The Chase Garden, like those of most plantspeople, is ever changing, with established areas undergoing renovation and new possibilities being explored. While many of the elements for ensuring a successful transition from private ownership to stewardship by the Garden Conservancy and the Friends of the Chase Garden are being put in place, the garden itself does not stand still. The Friends and the Garden Conservancy have recently hired gardeners to assist the Chases with routine garden maintenance as well as with new projects. Gardener Jeannette Matthews, with assistant Misty Silva are maintaining the high standards of care established by the Chases while also helping finish parts of the garden that were never fully resolved over the forty years it has taken to create this garden gem. And as the accompanying report confirms, Caroline Eells has joined this team for 2001 and is helping the Chases accomplish even more.

The Friends of the Chase Garden have helped in the garden by seeing to it that trees that had grown up in the view of Mt Rainier or had otherwise obscured parts of the garden have been removed. When he was in his seventies, Emmott Chase would climb the tall firs on the property, but, at ninety-three, he is now content to have an arborist help with pruning and removals. With the tree work completed and paid for by the Friends, Ione Chase has taken a fresh look at the garden and has reworked a number of areas, especially along the entry drive  to create a more welcoming look for the four to five hundred visitors a year who come to see the Chase garden.

Outside of garden maintenance, much of the emphasis in the past two years has been on documenting the history of the garden and its maintenance practices. A garden as dependent upon plants as the Chase garden needs a knowledgeable hand guiding it. It is hoped that by documenting the Chases’ forty years of garden experience, as well as their maintenance practices, future gardeners will be better equipped to sustain the “look” of the garden and carry the Chases’ vision for it well into the future. Rosina McIvor of the Friends has taped dozens of hours of conversations with the Chases and these have been transcribed. Hundreds of slides have been catalogued and many digitized. A plant inventory is underway and a record of maintenance practices is being compiled.

The Friends have also focused on developing local support for the garden. An open house was held to introduce the garden to local leaders. The Friends, with the assistance of Caroline Eells, are actively recruiting volunteer gardeners. The Friends have recently instituted a membership program and, with the support of the Northwest Horticultural Society, have printed a garden brochure and compiled many hours of video-taped interviews with the Chases. The Friends open the garden for tours in the spring, promote it at various shows and presentations, and sponsor a number of fundraising events through the year.

A feasibility study is underway, assessing issues relating to future public access and use. Recommendations for future development are being prepared by Duane Dietz, thanks to funding from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust. This follows a strategic plan written by Seattle garden designer and consultant, Doug Bayley.

Much work remains to be done, but by helping the Chases take good care of the garden, the Friends and the Garden Conservancy are preserving it for current generations to enjoy while also creating the basis of support that will sustain the garden in the years to come.