You know I love visiting gardens so when thriller author J. A. Jance invited me to tour her Seattle-area garden, I jumped at the chance. It’s a wonderfully imagined colorful space inspired by an epic poem by C. Day-Lewis. Jance fell in love with the poem decades ago at a reading.
“Baucis and Philemon” is based on Ovid’s mythical tale, which tells the story of how Zeus and Hermes visited a town where Baucis and Philemon, a simple couple who lived in a rustic cottage, took them in and showed great generosity when others in the town would not. Because the couple were kind, Zeus spared their lives when he destroyed the town because of its residents’ selfishness. He flooded it, killing all but Baucis and Philemon whose cottage was transformed into a temple. The poem ends with the touching image of the couple each transforming into a tree whose roots were intertwined forever.
A Garden of Words
When hired to landscape the garden, Jance’s designer wisely noticed she was a writer and asked whether she wanted words in her garden. She presented him with C. Day Lewis’s poem. The crew got to work, organizing the yard around that theme while including several points of interest. Take a look at this special outdoor sanctuary.
Though the garden features several Northwest plants, it also features some plants and colors that recall Arizona, where Jance grew up. Windmill palms line the pond and brightly painted stucco surfaces form a backdrop for plants and art.
These slabs carved with lines from the poem offer contemplative pausing points. As you read the words, you hear the trickle of the pond and smell the blooming wisteria. You’re surrounded by a tapestry of varying green, red, and blue-foliaged plants that together soften the view and make the visitor feel warm and serene.