Sammamish couple’s garden a labor of love
By KEVIN ENDEJAN
Issaquah Reporter Assistant editor
August 22, 2012 · 2:26 PM
Tucked away in a small wooded neighborhood above Evan’s Creek Preserve sits one of Sammamish’s hidden gems.
And that’s just fine with homeowners Rick and Donna Cooke.
“For me it’s more sharing with friends and family,” said Donna, who has been contacted several times to show her garden on tours.
The Cookes first started working on their half-acre garden after buying their home in 1991 — when it was nothing but a barren piece of property.
“Our real estate lady didn’t want to show it to us,” said Rick, noting the space used to just be a rocky terrain covered in field grass.
The Cookes saw something else.
“I think for both of us it was like an empty easel — like a piece of art waiting to happen,” Donna said.
Now, with its bright colors and strong fragrances the garden is an awakening to the senses. It features approximately 400 different kinds of plants, including rhododendrons, lilacs, peonies, a burning bush, a magnolia tree and hundreds of other species.
Several of the garden’s 70 rose bushes were passed down from Donna’s grandmother to her mother.
“I’ve got some emotional ties, which kind of seems silly with plants, but every time I look at (the flowers), I think about them,” Donna said.
The backyard also features a native plant garden and an area that has several edible plants, including tomatoes, rhubarb and strawberries.
In addition to the foliage, the garden has several cobblestone walkways and raised railroad tie planters — a part of the project Rick won’t soon forget.
He still recalls the exact amount (287 bags of 80 pound concrete) he stirred and hauled down the hill in a wheelbarrow.
While building the planters, he had bunches of railroad ties brought in at a time.
“Most people go down with a pickup truck and need one or two, I was buying them and having them delivered in bundles of 30,” he said.
The project required 10 to 12-hour workdays on the weekends. The couple, who are now retired Boeing project managers, also devoted a couple of hours of work every day after their jobs before finally finishing the project in 1998.
“It was definitely a partnership, all the way,” Donna said.
The garden now requires about four hours of maintenance a day, three or four days a week.
It’s still a significant amount of time, but a sacrifice the Cookes are willing to make as they get to relax every night on their back deck. It’s also a favorite place to share with their five children and 13 grandchildren.
While Donna hasn’t opted to join the garden tour circuit yet, she doesn’t completely keep her garden to herself. She has gifted flowers to several weddings and funerals and creates a bouquet of flowers once a week for the local Starbucks.
She is also more than willing to show the garden to anyone who asks to see it.
“I love to share with people who love flowers,” she said. “That’s really what it’s all about.”
Contact Issaquah Reporter Assistant editor Kevin Endejan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-391-0363, ext. 5054.