Who: John Hansen
Residence: Neptune Beach, west of Ferndale
Question: How did you become a great gardener?
Answer: I grew up in Waitsburg, in Eastern Washington, on a wheat farm, 20 miles from Walla Walla. My dad was a wheat farmer and I learned a lot on the farm.
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I use containers of all sorts, such as wood, ceramic, terracotta, cement and chimney flues, plus work boots stuffed with succulents.
John Hansen, gardener
My mom grew a vegetable and flower garden. I learned a lot of gardening from my mom, and when I moved to Bellingham I learned more by visiting garden nurseries, attending plant sales, and being a member of the Whatcom Horticultural Society.
Question: If your garden has a theme, how did you develop it and carry it out?
Answer: I was inspired by English landscaper and writer Beth Chatto, who wrote “Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden.”
I have a tropical look; bamboo, palms, banana plants, lavender, different types of grasses, succulents, euphorbias, hellebores and Solomon seals, cone flowers, and more. I carried out the design by building two wine-bottle walls, putting in sculptures that I used for my theme parties, such as replicas of the statue of David and the terracotta warriors.
I use containers of all sorts, such as wood, ceramic, terracotta, cement, and chimney flues, plus work boots stuffed with succulents. On my patio, I have a large mosaic wall from Mexico that I bought at a silent auction at Whatcom Museum. I also incorporated an auger from one of my dad’s wheat combines and assembled it into a water fountain.
Question: Tell us about one plant in your garden that is special.
Answer: The Gunnera. It’s a native of Latin America and many other tropical countries. It can grow extremely large and wide. It does need a lot of water. I like it because it’s beautiful and tropical-looking, and people always ask me “What is the name of that plant?” I have two of them on both sides of my garden, and they border my driveway.
Question: How can we grow three plants from your garden?
The raccoons come and eat my grapes in late August, and many of the grapes fall onto my patio cement floor. I took a garden hose and sprayed the raccoon with water one night and he hissed at me.
John Hansen, gardener
Answer: Because of my dry sandy soil and gravel, it’s easy to grow different grasses, succulents, and euphorbias. You don’t have to water them; they just grow in the sand and gravel garden area. Angelica also grows well.
Question: What is your garden nemesis, and how do you cope with it?
Answer: The raccoons come and eat my grapes in late August, and many of the grapes fall onto my patio cement floor. I took a garden hose and sprayed the raccoon with water one night and he hissed at me.
Question: How many hours a week do you spend working in your garden each season?
Answer: Some days I don’t do anything. During spring I spend 10 hours a week, during summer 14 hours a week, during the fall and winter I spend five hours a week in the garden.
Question: What tool could you not do without, and why?
Answer: Felco pruner. I prune a lot of things in my garden and cut flowers for my arrangements.
Question: What’s the best garden advice you ever got?
Answer: Spray the dandelions early.
Question: What’s your favorite way to share your garden?
Answer: By cutting my flowers for arrangements that I use for different functions all over Bellingham, participating in garden walks, and hosting an annual summer international theme party.
Question: What’s your favorite garden other than your own?
Answer: The Ron and Shelley Jepson garden is incredible. I mow there once a week and it’s so refreshing with all the trees, landscaping, and flowers. I’ve learned many gardening tips from Shelley, which makes me want to go in my garden to work.