Whidbey Island Garden Tour offers hidden delights

At Heron’s Roost, an artistic Chinese moon gate opens to a plant-adorned fountain and invites visitors to savor the tranquility of this well-designed natural setting. - David Welton photo
At Heron’s Roost, an artistic Chinese moon gate opens to a plant-adorned fountain and invites visitors to savor the tranquility of this well-designed natural setting.
— image credit: David Welton photo

After wheelbarrows are pulled out of sheds, tools sharpened and hands immersed deep into compost rich soil, gardeners hit their strides with the advance of spring.

Presently all over the island, this scene is being played out at home gardens, whether they be closer to the coast or within the shady nooks of local forests. And while masterful gardeners are hard at work, the Whidbey Island Garden Tour is also prepping for another ramble, when visitors are invited to roam the grounds of these enchanting creations.

Tickets are on sale for the June 25 tour of four private, residential gardens in Langley, Freeland and Greenbank. Each garden offers unique features carefully crafted to make the most of the island’s climate, while delighting one’s senses.

The idea for the tour started 17 years ago when some entrepreneurial-minded women got together.

“What’s interesting about the tour is that it was founded by a group of women who wanted to show off some of the secrets of the Whidbey community and its hidden gardens,” said volunteer Penny Harger.

“Over the course of the years, there have probably been about 50 gardens featured,” she said.

All proceeds from the tour are donated to community organizations, which blends the tour’s appreciation of the art of garden design with supporting programs that promote generosity and healthy living.

The tour takes advantage of June’s optimal bloom time, and draws busloads of tourists from off-island.

“We’re big with the bus tours, so we tell people to buy their tickets early,” Harger said.

This year, the featured gardens sport names that evoke places one might find in classic literature: Rivendell, Fox Hollow Farm, Marshedge and Heron’s Roost.

Rivendell looks like the perfect setting for a Hobbit living under the protection of magical forces. Ten acres of woodland trails and five acres of cultivated gardens make up this mastery of mature gardens with its “Northwest Passage,” a lily pond, a maple grove and a meditation glen, among other horticultural delights to discover on both sides of the deer fencing.

Fox Hollow Farm welcomes Peter Rabbit and his ilk, as well as deer and hawks. It also provides a home for chickens, sheep and two miniature donkeys on its sublime spread of grasses and perennials mixed with Pacific Northwest native plants. Wanderers can also enjoy its two ponds and cascading waterfall. More formal gardens surround an impressive central “chateau” at Fox Hollow, which uniquely combines a working farm with ornamental gardens.

Marshedge garden is a half acre where beauty is cultivated under the dry shade of mature Douglas firs on a sandy slope.

Here is a peaceful habitat for both birds and humans at the edge of a 10-acre marsh where visitors may find inspiration on how to meet the challenges of a compact garden.

Beyond an artistic Chinese moon gate is Heron’s Roost, where a fountain invites visitors to savor the tranquility of this well-designed natural setting.

Wandering paths wind around a goldfish pond, fuchsia and daylily beds, a bluff with a view and into a meadow.

Beyond a tea house, a meandering meditation trail leads one into a serene forest glade.

Harger said the tour has a limited 1,000 tickets and involves about 60 volunteers in addition to its board of directors.

“The two new gardens on the tour are a real treat,” Harger said, adding that tour organizers are careful to include a variety of designs so that visitors can see examples of both expansive gardens and smaller, more intimate ones.

The tour is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are available at


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