ENTERING ART WOLFE’S GARDEN, perched on a cliff in West Seattle, is like entering a work of art: one painting and one performance at a time.
Wolfe, a world-renowned photographer, grew up in West Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in fine arts and arts education. In a typical year without COVID, he spends seven to eight months on the road, taking photos in remote locations. His work, which he describes as “focusing on what is beautiful on Earth”, is rooted in conservation, and he is a passionate advocate for the environment and indigenous culture.
An avid global traveler, Wolfe always returns home to recharge in his garden, where mature cedars and carefully sculpted black pines frame a distant view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Range. Carefully placed standing stones populate the landscape, a reference to mountains nearby and around the world, while the sound of spilling water channeled from pond to pool provides a calming soundtrack to the tranquil, mostly green setting.
For 35 years, Wolfe has tended this landscape, but when he bought the property in 1986, it was abandoned and unwanted. Both the house and the hillside were completely engulfed by English ivy. Where others saw nothing but back-breaking work, Wolfe saw the view and the trees, and set out to create a garden inspired by his travels to the Far East and the beautiful alpine landscapes he explored while hiking and climbing.
Gardening is a refuge and a seasonal practice for Wolfe. “I love working the land,” she says, enthusiastically describing how he carves the branches of black pines (Pinus thunbergii) using wire and stone weights to create unique tree characters in the landscape.
In addition to the artful black pines, the foliage of the red Japanese maples (maple maple) provides contrast to the green color scheme, while its sculptural members introduce graceful lines into the landscape. brass buttons (leptinella squalida) cover the garden ground plane with a fine texture and provide a carpeted backdrop to the occasional fern. The result is a serene composition. “I’ve resisted adding a lot of flowers,” says Wolfe. “I like them, but I’m looking for continuity throughout the year.”
Warm red flagstone paths winding through granite boulders, ponds and waterfalls encourage visitors to stroll through the garden. Everywhere you look, little vignettes of mossy stone and twisted branches speak of the maturity of the deeply tranquil landscape.
“I look out a window and I see green; I see the sky, the water and the mountains,” says Wolfe. That is no coincidence, according to the photographer, who at 70 is still traveling the world. “My garden cheers me up and gives me energy,” he says.
Wolfe is pleased to open his garden once again for the West Seattle Garden Tour. This is the third time that he has participated in the popular fundraising effort that supports the community that means a lot to him. This year’s tour takes place on Sunday, June 26, from 9 am to 5 pm Tickets are available online and from select retail partners. Details at westseattlegardentour.org.