Whatcom Magazine

Neptune Beach garden boasts tropical look

Shown in June 2015, John Hansen enjoys his garden at Neptune Beach.
Shown in June 2015, John Hansen enjoys his garden at Neptune Beach. The Bellingham Herald

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.

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.

  Comments