Couple creates beautiful, smart gardens





Robert Sullivan and Skyler Walker, who own Tangly Cottage Gardening, create and maintain hardscapes and gardens up and down the Long Beach Peninsula.


Coast Weekend

OCEAN PARK, Wash. Tucked into a grassy knoll above the dunes, a tiny walled garden bursts with roses, herbs, tulips and raspberry vines.

Walk through the sanctuary that gardeners Skyler Walker and Robert Sullivan have created for Klipsan Beach Cottages owners Denny and Mary Caldwell, and you notice the heavy scent of Cleveland sage floating in the air above a birdbath. Elsewhere, you brush against pineapple sage and the aroma lingers. Cats play in this circular garden, including a frisky 7-month-old Siamese cat named Tommy. A pathway bisects the circle and leads visitors to a fountain built under a myrtle tree native to the nearby dunes.

The Caldwells, who run the beach cottage getaway year-round, say the garden is a favorite with their guests. The visitors especially comment on the decorative fence and gates that enclose the planting space. Denny Caldwell used salvaged pieces to create the lattice fence while Sullivan welded the decorative gates from rebar. Walker and Mary Caldwell selected plants, including Mary Caldwell's favorite roses and Walker 's choice tulips, to fill the garden and to train along the fence.

Not only does the fence look beautiful, draped in climbing roses, honeysuckle and delicate flowering vines that Walker seeks from Oregon and Washington nurseries, but a deer has yet to see the inside of the garden. The living barrier has deterred all of the resort keepers' hoofed visitors and has allowed the couple the pleasure of growing deer preferred plants in what otherwise would be the voracious critters' dining room.

"We always get comments on this fence and some of our guests have copied the idea in their own gardens," says Mary Caldwell. "The deer have never made it inside."

Walker and Sullivan, who together own Tangly Cottage Gardening, apply gardening smarts to their projects, as well as lots of soil amendments. Walker skirted the Caldwells' fence with plants that deer don't like, such as pungent chives and fuzzy lamb's ears. The effect softens up the hardscape. Likewise, Walker recommends using human-made structures, such as obelisks or other spiky creations, within the garden to deter deer.

The pair boosts their clients' soil with copious amounts of rotted chicken manure and clay-busting amendments. The soil additions mean plants can often grow themselves out of minor pest and disease damage, especially with helpings of alfalfa meal or fermented salmon as fertilizer. Walker recommends a meal form of alfalfa versus pellets, because she thinks deer might be more attracted to the pelleted goodies than to the powdered version. To make the alfalfa even more unpalatable, Walker mixes in some manure. The plants like it. The deer don't.

Walker and Sullivan have created and maintain numerous gardens up and down the Long Beach Peninsula, including downtown city of Long Beach plantings, beach approaches at Long Beach and Ocean Park, an RV park, private homes and several bed-and-breakfast inns. Sullivan is developing his interest and art as a welder, creating imaginative gates, hose holders and other functional and decorative garden pieces. The Caldwells' rebar gates include a small metal shelf, thoughtfully welded next to the entrance gate for holding a gardener's coffee cup. A magical hose holder at the China Beach Retreat in Ilwaco, up the street from Walker and Sullivan's hillside garden and home, features the Chinese character for water.

Together, the couple is creating personal gardens for delighted folks, such as the RV park owner who wanted a beachside garden with pink and salmon flowers. It doesn't matter that you view the entrance to the men's room, the laundry and the clam cleaning station from the garden - all you notice are the swallows hovering above, the ornamental grasses waving in the wind coming off the water and the flowers chosen by Walker in all the colors of a beach sunset.

Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. "In the Garden" runs weekly in Coast Weekend. Please send comments to "In the Garden," Coast Weekend, The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online to

Get free seeds with National Gardening membership

The National Gardening Association offers new members 10 free packets of seeds this month.

Renee's Garden has made it possible for you to get vegetable, herb and flower seeds as a benefit for joining the nonprofit organization dedicated to gardening. Yearly dues are $19.95 and include a newsletter that you receive electronically over the Internet and discounts on plant and product purchases made through the association.

Learn more about the NGA offer by e-mailing, calling the organization at (800) 538-7476 or writing NGA, 1100 Dorset St., South Burlington, VT 05403.

Garden Calendar

Saturday, May 4

The Oregon Garden in Silverton offers a daylong workshop on creating water gardens. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and preregistration is required. Admission is $25 to $30. To reserve a place, call toll-free (877) 674-2733, Ext. 8246. Meanwhile, the garden also hosts a rhododendron show over the weekend.

The Berry Botanic Garden in Portland throws itself a 25th birthday party. For more information and directions, call (503) 636-4112.

Maurice Horn leads a free workshop on "Gravel Gardening" at Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose. The session, which covers how to extend the range of growable plants through the use of gravel for drainage, starts at 1 p.m. Take Watson Road, off U.S. Highway 30, and follow the signs.

A representative from Oregon-based Terra Nova nursery will talk about new perennials at a Tsugawa Nursery seminar. The class, which starts at 11 a.m., costs $5. For more information, call the Woodland, Wash., nursery at (360) 225-8750.


WOODLAND, Wash. The Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens open daily for their annual Lilac Days, running through May 12. The garden will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with admission by donation. For more information, call (360) 225-8996 or go online to

The Sunset Empire Orchid Society sponsors a May 4 bus trip to four orchid growers in the Willamette Valley. Passengers will leave the Astoria Red Lion at 6:30 a.m. and the Seaside Information Center Parking lot at 7 a.m. The cost of the trip is $20 to $25 a person, depending upon the number of attendees. For more information, call 325-7269 or e-mail

Published Thu, May 2, 2002 in Coast Weekend
Copyright 2001 The Daily Astorian