Whatcom Magazine

Rebecca Meloy’s Bellingham garden full of color and whimsy

Who: Rebecca Meloy.

Residence: Columbia neighborhood, Bellingham.

Question: How did you become a great gardener?

Answer: At a young age I bonded with the life of growing food. One of my earliest memories is sitting amongst the branches as I gleaned the black cherries.

Having lived on a small Willamette Valley farm in my youth, I enjoyed the extensive harvest labor of the many crops, from strawberries in the early summer sun to hazelnuts in the autumn coolness.

Q: If your garden has a theme, how did you develop it and carry it out?

A: Mostly, I planted my 10,000-square-foot garden with varied shrubbery hedges, trees and perennials. I tried to create garden rooms, block views of nearby buildings, and pull in borrowed views such as the neighbor’s sequoia trees.

Q: What is one plant in your garden that is special to you?

A: I suppose that would be the magnolia tree that always blooms the week of my mother’s birth.

Q: How can people grow three plants from your garden?

A: Soil health is essential; I am dedicated to the use of compost. It helps to retain water around the roots as well as feed them. Through the years I have used an assortment of farm animal manure, sea grass, homemade compost and mushroom compost.

Location for each plant is essential: Grab a book and read about the given plant’s needs. Annuals grow fast, bloom, and die. Perennials have their yearly cycles and though they appear to die, they simply gather more energy in the root system to return the following year larger than ever.

The appropriate amount of water is essential: Lucky us, since we live where we do, usually watering is critical during the high summer. If you have neglected your soil, have too much sand, or are trying to grow in clay, expect to be watering every other day when the heat waves are strong.

Q: What animal is your garden nemesis and how do you cope with it?

A: Since I live near the harbor, the rodents I hate are rats. Importantly, my tuxedo cat, Juicy, and my calico Persian, Lou Lee, are alert and great defenders of the estate grounds.

Q: How many hours a week do you spend working in your garden in each season?

A: There are never enough hours worked weekly, year-round, to control the jungle I managed to plant over the past 35 years.

Q: What tool could you not do without, and why?

A: Clippers of all sorts are essential. Without them the garden would be impenetrable.

Q: What’s the best garden advice you ever got?

A: The best garden advice has been to grow organically using no poisons. As I child, I experienced seeing and smelling crop-dusting planes, trucks and tractors. Poison is not designed to further life.

Q: What’s your favorite way to share your garden?

A: My garden has become a rather secret and hidden one. In recent years, it is used mostly by my pets and wildlife. In the past I shared it with many children and families via art summer camps, with gardeners via tours, and with friends at my annual “clean out the freezer” potlucks.

Q: What’s your favorite garden, other than your own?

A: In 2013 I visited the Garden of Ireland in Wicklow with my son. It is the best I have encountered.