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Christianson’s Nursery Drawing Garden Inspiration from Beatrix Potter


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Open Daily, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

(open until 6:00 p.m. beginning March 1)


Beatrix Potter's Hill Top


Many of us remember England's treasured author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter for her little animal tales such as "Peter Rabbit", "Mrs. Tiggy Winkle", and "Mr. Jeremy Fisher." Today, her legacy is stronger than ever. 150 years after her death, one of her books are sold every 15 seconds!


Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm: Every summer Beatrix Potter and her family rented a house in either Scotland or one in the Lake District, north of her birth city of Kensington, England. It was the Hill Top House (pictured above) where she was the happiest. As her affluent parents were over-protective, she mostly played with her younger brother and spent much of her youth drawing. She drew the world around her: nature scenes, animals, insects, and her favorite, fungi. Beatrix Potter composed many of her stories, inimitable drawings and books at Hill Top farm using the area's rabbits, ducks, toads, buildings, ponds, and garden for inspiration.


"I do not remember a time when I did not try to

invent pictures and make for myself a fairyland

among ... all the thousands of objects of the

countryside." -Beatrix Potter


UK's National Trust: Using the royalties she’d earned from her books, she purchased Hill Top House and Farm in 1903. With her inheritance, she bought more parcels of the land around the Sawrey area so as to preserve its outstanding natural beauty. In her later years, Beatrix focused less on her writing and more on practical things like farming and looking after her growing number of farms and acreage. In 1943, the year of her death, she bequeathed 18 farms and 4,000 acres of land to England's National Trust with the condition that the land stays in the hands of farmers who will continue to farm the land and also tend a flock of Herdwick sheep; her beloved breed of sheep native to the fells of Sawrey. The National Trust has cared for Hill Top Farm and its surrounding farms by protecting its nature, beauty, and history since her death.


"Hill Top’s half-acre cottage garden still reflects

Beatrix’s own informal, higgledy-piggledy style."



Drawing Inspiration from Beatrix's Garden

As the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival (NWFGF) dates approach, sharing information about our preparations with our readers is paramount. Ultimately, we hope to inspire you with incremental articles and interviews about our upcoming display garden design.


I invited Toni Christianson to an interview to discuss this year's display design and vision. She is the mastermind (admitted by her husband, John) whose imagination, creativity, and years of garden experience lead the way to memorable display gardens.


Stephanie: Thanks for joining me today, Toni. Tell me about the style of planting that will take place at the NWFGF at the end of this month.


Toni: Our garden is inspired by Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, located in the Lake District near Sawrey, England. She was a very private person and her gardens were for her own enjoyment. They definitely highlighted her love of nature and her personality. She did not try to control nature but to live side by side with nature. Our garden will reflect her more casual approach with annual and biennial plants left in the garden to set and throw seeds to come up as volunteers the next year. Today, we take out most of these plants once ‘they have gone over’ so they won’t reseed and take over but she left them to add color to her borders for years to come, only taking out the ones needed for other plantings.


Stephanie: What plants will you use to get that look?


Toni: Because forcing plants into flower ahead of their normal bloom time is dependent on weather, length of day, and soil and air temperatures, (all variables we try to control using 5 different heat and light zones in our greenhouses) we never know for sure which plants will make it to the show. The plants we’re hoping to coax into the role of volunteers are foxglove, violas, bluebells, pansies, and poppies. Primroses also fall into this category but most of their seeds need a cold winter to crack their outer shell in order to germinate. However, because we love them so, we’re still using many varieties including Yellow Cowslip and 'Quaker’s Bonnet'.  You therefore need to pretend that England has had several very sharp, frigid winters in a row.  


Stephanie: How will you get roses and peonies to bloom by the end of February?


Toni: First we put them in the Conservatory where there is heat in the floor. We’ve learned that soil temperature is part of nature’s way of waking dormant plants. With bottom heat they are likely to push new growth sooner. In past shows we didn’t have the Conservatory so forcing roses and peonies was much more difficult and strictly a guessing game. After they are showing growth, we move them to the Propagation House until they develop buds and then they go into the Front Greenhouse until the buds are showing color. Then they go into either House #5 or directly outdoors to slow them down. This is still a guessing game so we always plan on forcing more plants than we need. Our usual success is that only one out of ten plants in this category will be blooming for the show. 


Stephanie: I would like to know, as our readers may, about the excerpt by Beatrix Potter you featured in the current edition of the Garden Gazette. (shown below) What made you choose it from all of her other writings?


"I have lots of flowers, I am very fond of my garden, it is a regular old fashioned farm garden, with a box hedge round the flower bed, and moss roses and pansies and black currants and strawberries and peas - but onions always do badly. I have tall white bell flowers I am fond of, they are just going over, next there will be phlox; and last come the michaelmas daisies and chrysanthemums. Then soon after Christmas we have snowdrops, they grow wild and come up all over the garden and orchard, and in some of the woods.”

-Beatrix Potter

Photo by Emma Christianson


Toni: I felt this paragraph was the most descriptive of Beatrix Potter’s personality and her “higgledy-piggledy” garden style. She also uses a charming English garden phrase unknown to most of us. I think I will start saying ‘they are just going over’ to describe plants in our garden that are finished blooming.


Stephanie: What other elements will you include?


Toni: We will have three examples of English fencing; dry wall fencing, hedging or platted fencing, and rail fencing. We will also have many examples of antique garden tools.


Stephanie: Will you and John be hosts at the display this year?


Toni: Yes, we are delighted to be present and look forward to visiting with fellow gardeners – possibly some who have been to Hill Top Farm. Joshua Barwick (a ‘waller’ from Vashon Island) will be randomly present and we will also have valued staff members as well as our youngest daughter and our grandchildren host during some of the days. We plan on having a wonderful time. 



Our Flower Buses are full, but tickets for the Festival are still available for purchase in our Garden Store. Early Bird tickets are $20 and $25 during the dates of the show.


For more information, visit the Nursery or call 360-466-3821


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Open Daily, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

(open until 6:00 p.m. beginning March 1)


Christianson's Nursery | 360-466-3821 | 15806 Best Road Mount Vernon, WA 98273



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