Photo by Peggy Sturdivant 
Mary Jean Gilman working the south slope at Ballard P-Patch.

At Large In Ballard: Art + Garden + Henry

By Peggy Sturdivant

“This is what Medicare looks like,” Mary Jean Gilman said while digging the south slope of the Ballard P-Patch. She was on high ground by an apple tree while below other P-Patch volunteers wrestled a stump into a wheelbarrow. No one paused. The 15th Annual Art in the Garden party is a week away with too much to do first.

The Ballard P-Patch at 8527 25th Avenue NW by Our Redeemer’s is one of Seattle’s oldest but as the party on July 30th will reveal, it is “realigned.” The P-Patch has moved and re-framed its plots and is now ADA accessible. Just as with negotiating who gets parking or the window office the realignment requested by the Department of Neighborhoods has not been without its bumps. All the more reason to stand by the new 2’ foot concrete wall and admire the efforts of the last 20 months.

“Two wheelbarrows can pass each other on the path,” Art in the Garden co-chair Cindy Krueger said. All of the paths are now 48” wide and have been graveled. During the realignment, which is part of P-Patches moving to the auspices of Seattle Parks rather than DON, everybody’s plots changed, with the exception of the enabled beds closest to 25th NW.

The project required excavation, surveying, concrete removal, woodchips, site plans, plumbing, graveling, more surveying and thousands of volunteer hours. Thousands. Hence, no Art in the Garden party in 2015. The gardeners were too busy reconfiguring, excavating, raising crops, and tending the Giving Garden that provides fresh produce to the Ballard Food Bank.

So Art in the Garden 2016 on Saturday July 30 from 11-5 is going to be a grand event with 22 artist booths, the return of Brats to the Maritime Pacific Beer Garden, and a live music stage sponsored by CascadiaNow. There will be food trucks (Spicy Papaya and Full Tilt Ice Cream). There will be a silent auction, the bake sale and most important, the pie auction. Some years back I sent my daughter to acquire the fresh from the oven peach pie, thrilled to pay the guaranteed bid just to get that pie. She held the pie box up high in the air from across the garden to show me her success.

But there’s a secret ingredient this year. Artists have always been part of the event, working on easels between plots. This year an artist will paint a mural along the new south slope wall during the party. That muralist will be Ryan Henry Ward, known as Henry on his work throughout Ballard and far beyond. What he paints during the Art in the Garden party will be completely up to him, although Krueger sent him a message about the garden’s love of gnomes. “But it will be a surprise for all of us.”

Art in the Garden is the only Ballard P-Patch fundraiser, and their fundraising goal is modest. The funds allow them to buy more tools, seeds for the Giving Garden, organic slug bait, hoses, some food for work parties and the occasional new wheelbarrow. Krueger said the P-Patch committee wrestles with whether this is the best way to raise money. But they conclude the opportunity to invite in the community to meet the gardeners and one another is more valuable than what they raise (in dollars). “Every year we have about ten new gardeners,” Krueger said, “but we’re not seeing them. So this is an opportunity. Roxanne Kennison, who wrote the press release, says, ‘Our biggest crop in the garden is community.’”

It has been a long haul since the start of “realignment” planning in November 2014, with many leaders for those thousands of volunteer hours. Mary Jean Gilman, a landscape architect who drew up the plans is still digging to be ready for the party. Frank Shields brought expertise and heavy equipment as gardener and owner of Excavators NW. Paul Pollets, a plumber by trade, managed the water station moves and installation. Tom Kintzi led the framing team for the new cedar frames, and was stumping out the slope with Jim Arnold on my visit.

The volunteers and gardeners need a day to play in the garden instead of work. The Brats and Beer Garden, live music, the pies, are all just bonus. Stand aside and let Henry do his work, gnome or no gnome, there will be pie.

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