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When we arrived at the entrance to Abkhazi Garden, we both stopped for a moment as if afraid to open the gate. The reason for our hesitation was clear enough for us: we wondered – is this garden still as beautiful as we remembered? Or perhaps it is now totally changed, or has fallen into neglect? We had visited Abkhazi garden several times after it was saved from the developers. Our humble donation was only a tiny drop in an immensely successful and quite heroic public fund-raising campaign in 2000, which led to the acquisition of the garden by The Land Conservancy.
Slowly, we stepped into the garden leaving the city street behind us. We found ourselves in a woodland, under towering old rhododendrons and native Garry Oaks underplanted with lush ferns and hostas. As we were slowly walking a winding path through the garden, all our fears completely disappeared. We noticed how splendid the garden looks, cared for not only with expertise and knowledge but also with love.
Love and passion are ever-present here, making it quite a magical place. It is “the garden that love built,” love between its creators: Peggy and Nickolas Abkhazi who shared the same passion for their new piece of paradise, a safe haven in their rather dramatic lives. After their death, it seems like that love was carried on by all the people whose hard work and dedication enable the garden to flourish. One of the first were Christopher and Pamela Ball who continued to keep up this world-class garden for the next 10 years.
When the land was submitted for rezoning, Cyril Hume, a garden historian led the fund-raising campaign and the garden restoration. All the head gardeners who came after him shared the same passion and devotion to the project. Today, the garden is in the capable hands of Jeff de Jong and a group of impressively skillful volunteers. As a result, Abkhazi Garden is resplendently beautiful.
“For me, gardening is a work of joy,” says Jeff. “What you love doing – it’s not work. It is for me a privilege and honour to take care of Abkhazi garden. Peggy and Nickolas are always on my mind. I ask myself: is it something that they would approve of? I recently planted Magnolia grandiflora knowing that Peggy loved it and had it in this garden. In order to honour the Abkhazis I thought it was the important plant to have. In this garden the challenge for me is to preserve its sense of history, and yet still progress and move forward.”
We finished our garden tour inside Abkhazi house, built by John Wade in the style of simple modernism. Broad glass windows offer spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains, while connecting the interior to the exterior spaces. Perhaps the most striking feature of the house is that organic flow with the surrounding landscape, perfected in architectural designs of the tropics.
While working on our book ”Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean”, we were often fascinated by architects who mastered this skill of seamless integration of outside and inside spaces, like Oliver Messel, or Lane Pettigrew. Standing on a stone-paved patio, we marvelled at the brilliant layout of the garden complementing the natural landscape.
“Peggy’s wish was that the garden was going to be seen by the next generation” comments Jeff. “Thanks to the Land Conservancy, it’s going to be seen by even more generations to come.”
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Until next time, cheers!