When the Oak Harbor Garden Club asked Patti Lang to showcase her yard as part of its annual garden tour taking place Saturday, she reacted with a shrug.
“We don’t have flowers. It’s not that kind of garden,” she recalled. “But then they said they wanted a variety of gardens so this is the woodsy one, I guess.”
Lang lives with her husband Steve, dog Bailey and nine chickens she calls “the girls” on a sprawling 30 acres of forest north of Oak Harbor, some two miles south of Deception Pass.
Twenty years ago, the couple built a gazebo near the pond that came with the property. Then came the house, huge barn-size sheds for Steve Lang’s excavation company, a greenhouse, a chicken coop, a newer chicken coop and a small guest log cabin.
They bought the property from the late Buster Krieg, a friend of Steve Lang. They call it “Buster’s Pond.”
“I’ve always loved the woods, being in the woods. We lived at the beach before but being in the woods is sort of my element,” said Lang. “It was always my husband’s dream to own this place.”
The couple hosted their two children’s weddings on the grounds and now grandchildren enjoy watching eagles, deer and other wildlife from the perch of the wrap-a-round porch.
Saturday, Lang will encourage visitors to walk around the pond and through the many trails that escape into a towering evergreen forest of red cedar, Douglas fir and white fir. Along the way, they may spot many native plants that have ended up in her numerous gardens around the house and along a terraced slope.
“We tried roses and all that other usual stuff but it didn’t work,” Lang said. “So we pretty much stick to all native plants. If it’s intended to grow in the wild, it’s intended to grow here. Much of it I just go out and dig up and then transplant.”
Lang’s landscaping will be the featured home on the garden tour that features six locations. Live music, light refreshments and tea will be served throughout the day.
Tickets, costing $18, are still available for Saturday’s 18th annual Oak Harbor Garden Tour. The fundraiser is one of several the club organizes throughout the year to support its mission of planting flowers and small gardens around Oak Harbor, such as Hal Ramaley Park.
Garden stops will be along West Beach Road, Swantown Road and in the San de Fuca area. The Swantown location features snails, but the good kind, said Linda Bos, lead organizer of the tour.
“These will not eat any of your plants,” she laughed. “They’re all dead.”
The owner collects snails made from all kinds of material, ceramic, mountain ash, even manure, Bos explained. “She probably has over 300 snails and a small garden that’s beautifully done.”
A variety of gardens and locations are selected by a committee every year, Bos said. Some are found via recommendations and some gardeners want to show off their hard — but rewarding — dirty work.
“Two residents with homes along West Beach Road approached us about wanting to be in the tour which really surprised us,” Bos said. “When you think of all the wind and water along the that stretch, you don’t think gardens. But we went and checked it out and said, ‘You’re in.’”
Patti Lang knows she’s lucky to be able to spend her days in garden boots and gloves with permanent smudged-stained knees on her well-worn jeans.
For 15 years, her outfit wasn’t country but corporate. She worked in banks in both Oak Harbor and Anacortes.
Then the couple took a gamble. Steve started his own excavation company while Patti tended to the many seasonal demands of their growing property.
They recently bought the adjoining 10 acres on the south side when they heard it may be cleared and logged.
“We couldn’t bear that,” she said. “Steve refuses to take down any tree at all.”
The pond is full of bass that eagles and hawks love to pluck. One bald eagle hangs out daily watching for just the right moment, Lang said. In the winter the pond freezes, leading to many ice skating parties and cozy nights in the log cabin.
But these days, it’s hot, hot, hot.
At least, in the greenhouse, where tomato plants thrive under the sun-drenched roof. “During the recent hot spell, the temperature reached 105 degrees in here,” Lang said.
Between the pond and house, a vegetable garden of plenty grows winter squash, summer squash, pumpkins, dill, onions, five rows of corn and enough potatoes for a few thousand picnic baskets full of potato salad.
“There’s three different varieties of potatoes growing, Yukon, small red ones and white,” Lang said.
Mountain lupine, blueberries, huckleberry, apple trees, salal, lavender, vine maple, hemlock and fern also pop up around the property.
“It’s all trial and error,” Lang says of her planting choices. “Some work, some don’t.”
On the small hill leading to the pond, the couple just put in a dry creek bed, featuring a cascade of spilling rocks and large wooden carved bear waving a paw.
It helps that her husband moves earth for a living, owns his own company and parks all his “big boy toys” on the property.
Many a day, Patti Lang can be found on the Kubota riding lawn mower, circling the large swath of lawns that circle the pond and swirl in and out of the woods.
“Sometimes I think Kubota will get tattooed on my butt,” she laughs.
“I’m on that thing so often.”
The Oak Harbor Garden Club Tour is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 1. An $18 donation includes access to six gardens, refreshments and live music. Tickets are available at Oak Harbor Chamber, Greenhouse Florist & Nursery, Hummingbird Farm, Mailliard’s Landing Nursery, Wind & Tide Bookshop, bayleaf and 3 Sisters Market.
For more information: 360-929-5547. www.oakharborgardenclub.org