La vita è bella nel giardino della Bella Madrona

My first individual garden post from the Fling is about the very last garden we visited. I guess it haunted me more than any of the others did. For me – more than any other – it drove home the concept of time as an ever unfolding, never resting phenomenon, that will transcend all memories, and eventually either engulf everything, or turn it to dust. As I was making my way through the gardens, I had this feeling of voyeurism – that I was somehow encroaching on stories from times long past, memories and secrets, created for other eyes than mine. At the same time, I rejoiced in finding that I have much in common with the creators of this garden. We share a love for weathered, worn materials, repurposing industrial- and everyday cast-offs and old tools that have long since lost their usefulness, as well as an appreciation for the absurd.

The entrance...

The entrance…

More formal plantings line the entrance path...

Exuberant, colorful plantings line the entrance path…

Stray from the path a little, and all kinds of surprises await.

Stray from the path a little, and all kinds of surprises await.

Stray from the path a little, and all kinds of surprises await.

The most astonishing bottle tree. In places, the bark is engulfing the glass. You almost expect the tree to start moving toward you!

The most astonishing bottle tree. In places, the bark is engulfing the glass. You almost expect the tree to start moving toward you!

Work in progress? Or remnants, waiting for a new purpose?

Work in progress? Or remnants of old, waiting for a new purpose?

Projects waiting to happen - still a mere twinkle in someone's eye...

Projects waiting to happen – still a mere twinkle in someone’s eye…

I loved the fun and whimsy of this garden! Notice the dinosaurs...

Succulents! I loved the fun and whimsy of this garden! Notice the itty bitty dinosaurs…


There is something very melancholy about rusty, abandoned, old tools that I absolutely love.

Gardening has taken place at Bella Madrona since 1980, although I think the spirits that inhabit the place have been there far longer. Out of the many gardens we visited, this one expressed an unmatched sense of mystery – a kind of magical allure that drew me into its folds. Many times, throughout my wanderings in the garden, I felt like I caught snippets of unfolding tales that were somehow frozen in time. There were countless details to be discovered along my path, each with its own story. But, as the outside voyeur I was, I  always seemed to be deprived of the story’s ending, possibly because it was only reserved for the initiated.

The coolest christmas tree I have ever seen!

The coolest christmas tree I have ever seen!

Would love to know what is going on here, but probably never will...

Would love to know what is transpiring here, but probably never will…

Wonder where this will lead...?

Wonder where this leads…?


Stranded on an imaginary shore…

To me, this was by far the eeriest part of the garden. Oh, if the trees could speak...

To me, this was by far the eeriest part of the garden. Oh, if the trees could speak…

A mere stone's trow away from the chairs was this...

A mere stone’s trow away from the chairs was this… Not sure I want to know…




The ruler of the world!

The ruler of the world!

So very true!

So very true!


A path lined by Madrones and clipped boxwood.


What was the name of this fabulous shrub again? Someone, please enlighten me…. I think it was ‘I’ something…



Love the little crown of agave in that tall pot!



The bottle patio. Wonder how many gatherings and parties it took to gather the materials for that one...


I kept marveling over this ball. So intricate!

At the very end of our stay, I was stunned to hear that one of the garden’s owners and creators was returning home from Hospice later that night, to die at home. I never got to meet either of the owners, but I suddenly realized that what I had been privy to viewing was nothing less than a life lived well – by necessity admired and appreciated outside of its pulsating core. I think it was at that moment that my full appreciation of the gardens of Sampson and Beasley kicked in. What a unique privilege to be invited to enjoy the works created by a lifetime’s worth of  joyful togetherness, love, passion, laughter, sorrow, friendship, fantasy, and creativity, on the cusp of such inevitable change! And, what a remarkable manifestation of strength, to be able to so amiably and generously open up the garden of your love and life at such a vulnerable point in time! I’m beyond words…

Bloggers, bloggers, everywhere!

Bloggers, bloggers, everywhere!

Peter and a couple of others that I can't recognize.

Victoria, Darcy (I think), someone I can’t recognize, and Peter.

Victoria, Pam and Brandon.

Victoria, Pam and Brandon.

Jeni, Matthew, Laura, and Scott.

Jeni, Matthew, Laura, and Scott.

Gaz and Gerhard.

Gaz and Gerhard.

Stephanie, dwarfed by giant Petisates leaves.

Stephanie, dwarfed by giant Farfugium leaves. Or, are they Petasites?

Ricki and cute pug Number 1.

Ricki and cute pug Number 1.

Tamara and Tammy with cute pug Number 2. Adorable...

Tamara and Tammy with cute pug Number 2. Adorable…

This was our last stop of a three-day weekend packed with one marvelous sight after another, and it was time to say goodbye. I can’t stop thinking of Geof – the remaining owner and head gardener – who so graciously took all of us strangers in and let us explore their creation, when he too – in a cruelly ironic twist of fate –  was nearing the time to bid a final farewell to his partner in life, love, and creativity. Bella Madrona is dreamy, surreal, and intensely spiritual. It was a treat to be allowed a glimpse of it. Regardless of what the future has in store for Geof and the garden, I wish the echoes of the many joys of their life together will continue to dance in the shadows under the trees. Anche il crepuscolo è bello nella Bella Madrona.


About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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13 Responses to La vita è bella nel giardino della Bella Madrona

  1. Ah Anna, such a bittersweet post. The kindness and generosity of Geof really was above and beyond. Those chairs did it to me too. I thought them creepy when I saw them on a sunny afternoon with several others (while scouting gardens) and then I had to head down that way on a final round to make sure we weren’t leaving anyone behind that night. It was hard to turn my back on them and must admit to sneaking a look back over my shoulder as I climbed the hill…

  2. linda says:

    Thank you Anna ! another lovely Fling post , creepy chairs and all !

  3. Jean says:

    I’m so sorry I missed that stop. I had no idea of the back story but thank you for expressing it so well. Beautiful.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Jean. Truthfully, I didn’t hear of it until we were actually gathering up for the bus back to town. I was heartbroken, and felt it gave our visit a whole different dimension…

  4. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Your words brought tears to my eyes. A truly special place that I hope will continue to exist. Our gardens, our lives, are ephemeral, though, and that’s what makes them something to cherish. This garden full of whimsy and mystery, pleasure and pain will stay with me as long as memory allows. Like an exceptional performance of a beautiful piece of music, it exists in time and may be gone but we are richer for having experienced it.

    MUSIC, when soft voices die,
    Vibrates in the memory;
    Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
    Live within the sense they quicken.

    Rose leaves, when the rose is dead, 5
    Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
    And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
    Love itself shall slumber on.
    – Percy Bysshe Shelley

    • annamadeit says:

      What a lovely poem, Peter! I wish we could go back and experience it all over again… Like my friend William said – a true garden should make you experience all kinds of emotions. If that is a requisite, Bella Madrona is definitely a true garden.

  5. Pam/Digging says:

    I had no idea of the situation of the owners — my heart aches to think of it. I can’t believe their generosity in welcoming us despite their personal pain. This adds another dimension to an already mysteriously magical evening at Bella Madrona.

    • annamadeit says:

      Baffling, isn’t it? I am still in awe of how generous and gracious that was. And yes, it definitely added a whole new dimension to the experience – it hit me right in the heart too.

  6. Heartbreaking, Anna. I had no idea. It makes our visit to Bella Madrona even more of a privilege.

    • annamadeit says:

      I agree, Helen. It made me feel very privileged and gratitude beyond words to the owners. I’m so glad I got to see at least part of their lives’ work and passion!

  7. Pingback: Foliage Follow Up – June 2015 | Flutter & Hum

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