Whatcom Magazine

Whatcom Falls garden reflects eye for detail, nonstop care

Shelley Jepson, shown in May 2015, enjoys creating secluded pockets in her large Bellingham garden.
Shelley Jepson, shown in May 2015, enjoys creating secluded pockets in her large Bellingham garden. The Bellingham Herald

Who: Shelley and Ron Jepson

Residence: Whatcom Falls neighborhood, Bellingham

Question: How did you become a great gardener?

Answer (from Shelley): I knew my two grandmothers’ and a great-grandmother’s gardens well. They lived into their 90s, so I had many hours with them on summer vacations.

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

Answer: Our garden is mostly carved out of old overgrown blackberries, with two small hillside drainage seasonal creeks. The 2.5 acres was mostly in deep shade from cedar, Douglas fir, and maple trees. We wanted to make some areas for our two small children to play in.

It all began with a path to the barn and a lawn. Ron is a compulsive designer, so together each evening we would draw on the kitchen table. The original creation seemed to take on a life of its own, and we sought professional guidance in several areas from local designers who were involved with Whatcom Horticultural Society.

I love hidden walkways to discover little golden gems growing where you least expect them.

Shelley Jepson, gardener

I think Susann Schwiesow planted the “garden room” idea-seed with me back in about 1990, which has taken root, so today we have several areas that feel secluded, secure and inviting, either warmed by a fire, or cozy with lights and cushioned seating. I love hidden walkways to discover little golden gems growing where you least expect them — the “hide and reveal” theory!

Being stranded once and walking for miles on the Appian Way near Rome, we now have our own (much shorter) brick path “Appian Way,” which got a facelift this past summer and a new Italian inspired fountain.

Question: What is one plant in your garden that you have a sentimental attachment to?

Gardening is a constant challenge to find the right plant for the right place.

Shelley Jepson

Answer: My great-grandmother had a beautiful trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) in her backyard. We brought a start from Montana, but over the years I’ve had to replace it, and the fir trees get so big they start starving the understory plants, so I keep replanting.

Gardening is a constant challenge to find the right plant for the right place; it takes years and years to get it right, so you just keep repeating what works, and searching for improvements when the pests, water or light changes conditions.

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

Answer: Moles are so maddening: We will dig and catch, and pray a lot.

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

I love sharing the flowers and seeds, and of course, dividing plants, and sharing the babies.

Shelley Jepson

Answer: I “take off” only between Christmas and New Year’s for about two weeks, unless it snows; then it is very hard keeping the snow from breaking boxwood hedges, magnolia branches, and the aviary netting.

I have been known to use a headlamp, and give up meals to garden.

Question: What tool could you not do without?

Answer: My pruner is the most critical. Of course, it has taken its toll on my hand, so I’ve graduated to a ratcheted type that takes some of the strain off.

Question: What’s the best garden advice you ever received?

Answer: Don’t be afraid to jump in with both feet. Read, learn, do, persevere!

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

Answer: Walk through it, sit in our many little places talk, read, and share food and drink. I love sharing the flowers and seeds, and of course, dividing plants, and sharing the babies.

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