Glenn Withey and Charles Price return to renovate the NPA Borders.

Withey Price PhotoTwo of the Northwest’s best-known garden designers, Glenn Withey and Charles Price, have returned to renovate the NPA Border at Bellevue Botanical Garden (BBG). The talented pair played a leading role in the design and creation of the Border in 1991, and for them, this is a special homecoming.

“We’re both excited,” Glenn said. “It’s like rekindling an old friendship.”

The renovation will unfold in stages over the next year or two. It is the first bold step in the execution of the proposed updated BBG Master Plan and will encompass many of the plan’s features, including view corridors to the future wetland gardens to the west, more graceful curves in the bordering lawn, and the elimination of the slippery grass slope at the south end of the Border. Improved paths will provide better access to the plants for visitors and volunteer crews, and added seating will encourage observation and enjoyment of the garden.

The overarching theme of the renovation is a healthy, dramatic demonstration of good horticultural practices. In addition to being beautiful, the Border and its maintenance will support the education mission of NPA and BBG, and inspire people to try these concepts in their home gardens.

The first step, an evaluation of the plants in the Border, has already begun. Every plant in the collection is being judged on its value, health and star qualities. Invasive and toxic plants will get the heave-ho, while good plants will be tagged for saving. “I see plants that need freedom", Charles said. “We need to bring some of the hidden treasures into the limelight.”

The entire process will be an education in how to renovate an established garden.

“Life in the garden isn’t static. Things keep evolving and changing,” Glenn explained. He compared perennial gardens to wardrobes. “Most people would giggle at the thought of wearing the same clothes they wore in college.”

The designers envision a border with more year round interest, more evergreen plants and plants that don’t require excessive maintenance to look their best. “I’m definitely older,” Charles said, “and I can safely say, so are most of the gardeners still interested in herbaceous perennials. We all want gardens that take less maintenance.”

The NPA Border has been a major feature of the Bellevue Botanical Garden for 16 years. The original Border team included Bob Lilly and Carrie Becker, who stayed on to maintain the garden when Glenn and Charles left in 1998.

“I admire their perseverance and dedication,” Charles said. “And they provided a valuable service, working with Susan Carter to create their Perennials book. It’s a wonderful resource for gardeners.”