Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:12 PM on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homer garden designer wins top international award

Staff report


Photo provided by South Peninsula Hospital

Above, members of the South Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary pose with garden designer Brenda Adams in the Serenity Garden. The garden was coordinated and partially paid for by the auxiliary. Standing, from left are Loretta Pyatt, Linda Partridge, Jan Goehringer, Carole Mann, Julie Barnes, Ann Patris, Jackie Dentz, Adams of Gardens by Design, Ruby Nofziger, Cleo Webb and Barbara Kennedy, garden coordinator. Seated from left are Jan Sparks, Doris Cabana, Tirza Parsons, Billie Swisher and Joan Evans. At right, a mounded island garden planted with tall grasses and perennials provides a privacy screen at the Serenity Garden.

Homer garden designer Brenda Adams has received the Perennial Plant Association's highest award for garden design, The Honor Award, for her creation of the Serenity Garden at the entrance to the South Peninsula Hospital.

"The award is the result of an international competition among top professional garden and landscape designers. Each year, a panel of experts in landscape design and horticulture make the award selections. They base their selection not only on artistic merit of the design but also on the creative horticultural use of perennial plants in implementing the design," according to a press release.

Adams, owner of Gardens by Design, is the only Alaskan ever to have won the award.

The Serenity Garden project started in 2009 with the completion of a substantial addition to the hospital creating a new entrance area and new access to the emergency department. Members of the South Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary focused their attention on the power of gardens to bring solace and healing power to visitors and wished to create such an area for the new addition, according to the release. To make this happen, they brought Adams into the project.

The first challenge was the space for the garden.

All the space outside the hospital building is either concrete, parking area or an extremely steep hillside. The only unpaved area was a forty-by-forty foot flat area surrounded on three sides by modern grey concrete or metal walls and windows. The walls keep a large part of the area in shade except in the early morning and the open side of the space spills directly onto a parking lot.

"The available space was downright bleak yet the objective was to turn this unappealing location into a welcoming, soothing and secluded sanctuary for people in distress," said Adams.

Developing private areas adjacent to a parking lot is difficult in Alaska because of the free-roaming moose. Fencing the area was not considered to be an option.

"To create an inexpensive privacy screen, I designed a highly mounded island garden planted with tall grasses and perennials. It shields the benches from approaching traffic and also gives someone sitting on a bench a delightful focal point for contemplation while leaving the distant view visible," Adams said.

Among the perfect scores granted to the Serenity Garden by the judges were those for "Plant Selection" and "Bloom Succession."

"Adams chose a subtle mix of perennials with rich textures and soothing colors. Blues, lavenders and burgundies combine with soft pinks, whites and greens to blend the garden with its surroundings and to invoke peaceful and calming feelings in the visitor," according to the release.

Since Homer is dependably snow-free only five months of the year, Adams wanted to select plants that would bloom from the time the snow melts in May until it returns in October.

"From the time the bulbs first peek through the snow through the end of the growing season, the Serenity Garden always abounds with colorful blooming plants, each succeeding the others through the summer. Then the tall grasses stand erect throughout the winter adding their beauty and motion to the winter tableau," according to the release.

The Serenity Garden has exceeded its goals.

Not only visitors, but also staff and patients spend time in the garden — rain or shine.

"It's truly wonderful to see a patient in his hospital attire, tethered to his medication pole enjoying the summer sunshine on one of the benches. A few moments of peaceful contemplation or just a relaxing escape from the stress attendant to being in or around a hospital are the gifts the Serenity Garden continues to give to the community," said Adams in the release

The Honor Award is the third and highest garden design award given by the Perennial Plant Association to Adams. The other two Merit awards were given in 2007 and 2009. Adams is a Master Gardener and was president of the 150-member strong Homer Garden Club for six years. She is a popular speaker at gardening conferences throughout Alaska and is just finishing a book on gardening in Alaska and the Far North.

The Perennial Plant Association was founded in 1984 and is headquartered in Hilliard, Ohio. It is a trade association of growers, retailers, landscape designers and contractors, educators and others that are professionally involved in the herbaceous perennial industry. The 2012 Honor Award will be presented during the Perennial Plant Symposium to be held in Boston July 4-10.

In addition to the Auxiliary and Gardens by Design, many other people and organizations gave time, money and effort to bring the Serenity Garden to fruition, said Adams. They include: the South Peninsula Hospital Foundation, Jay-Brant General Contractors; Mike O'Malley Construction and Concrete, Wolfe's Lawns, Matt Vogle, Jack Cushing, Karl Brinkerhoof and Suzanne Alvarez.

More of Adams' work and images of her other award-winning gardens can be seen at her web site, www.gardensbybrenda.com.