The garden of Emmott and Ione Chase in Orting, Washington, is a testimony to the beauty of the natural landscape of the Pacific Northwest, to the modernist, Japanese-inspired design that came into its own in the 1950s and 1960s when the Chases built the house and garden, and to the vision of a couple for whom the creation of the garden was an act of love and personal expression.
One of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful gardens
The garden features serene woodland plantings, naturalistic alpine meadows, stylized rock gardens, Japanese-inspired reflecting pools, and a modest, low-slung modernist house against a grand view of Mount Rainier. Carefully placed boulders punctuate slopes blanketed by drifts of heather.
Open meadows offer a bold contrast to somber woodlands of tall Douglas firs, western red cedar, and hemlock. All garden areas are interwoven by paths that open up to mountain vistas and draw the visitor through the landscape.
The site, four and a half acres in size, evokes the simplicity of a Japanese garden, but remains firmly embedded in the character of the Pacific Northwest.
Native plants are a feature of the garden. See our Plants section.
Main garden areas
Chase Garden has something to offer in every season, and each area of the garden and property contributes its unique beauty throughout the seasons.
The principal areas of the garden are described below:
Designed by landscape architect Rex Zumwalt in the early 1960s, this modernist, Japanese-style garden at the house’s entrance combines gravel gardens and reflecting pools with rocks collected from the nearby Cascade foothills. The original design called for a variety of conifers to be planted in the gravel area but Ione Chase decided that the area had too many trees. The garden was planted with low-growing thyme and penstemons, creating a sense of openness and clean lines that highlight the beauty of a native vine maple, a Japanese maple, and a lodgepole pine. A wooden bridge crosses the reflecting pools to the entrance of the house. The entrance garden is bordered by a bank of white heather.
One of the few areas of the garden that is rectangular in shape, this simple lawn is surrounded by junipers and rhododendron. It parallels the woodland garden and has a sandstone slab bench that make it a place of peace and contemplation for garden visitors.
This canopy of second-growth conifers has been limbed up to provide enough light on the forest floor to allow vanilla leaf, trillium, false Solomon’s seal, and a variety of other Pacific Northwest native plants to prosper. For more information, download a PDF of “A Walk in the Woods,” describing many of the native wildflowers flourishing in the Chase Garden’s woodlands.
As you exit this garden, you come across a naturalistic planting of bear grass before entering the Meadow garden.
Inspired by the mountain meadows Ione and Emmott Chase saw on hikes, this area of the garden uses low-growing plants that thrive at this elevation and mimic the look of alpine meadows throughout the Cascades. The meadow comes alive in spring. Mountain phlox, lithodora, and ajuga mix with other spreading plants that bloom in an array of bold lavenders, oranges, and yellows with occasional taller perennials such as Japanese anemone or a sword fern punctuating the planting. Ione designed this area of the garden by tracing the patterns for the blocks of plantings on the area when it was covered with snow.
Summer Color Stroll, Noble Fir Lawn, and Fern Walk
Three Noble firs remain from one thousand planted in 1962 to be sold as Christmas trees. This area of the garden was one of the last to be developed. Originally, it had not been viewed as part of the garden, but was often used to hold plants that had not yet found a place in other areas of the garden. As Ione readied Chase Garden for its future as a public garden, she expressed an interest for this area of the garden to include plants that would extend the season of interest in the garden. The property had first been planted primarily as a spring and fall garden, as Emmott and Ione went to the mountains for the months of July and August. The Noble Fir Lawn and the borders that surround it have now been planted to match her intent, thanks to a grant from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust in 2011. Drought-tolerant plants, ferns, and summer blooming heathers provide visitors with water-wise plantings that add seasonal color and new walks to explore.
House, Lanai, Patio, and Lawn
Ione and Emmott Chase worked with modernist architect K. Walter Johnson to design their low-slung house, which seems to melt into the surrounding landscape and looks out at a spectacular view of Mount Rainier. The Chases did much of the finish work on the house, including the building of the stone fireplace in the main room of the house. The lanai and patio were designed in consultation with landscape architect Rex Zumwalt and provide a quiet area for visitors, overlooking a lawn and several simply planted borders. A row of junipers along the ravine’s edge mimics the profile of the mountain range beyond.