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PowellsWood, A Northwest Garden

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PowellsWood Head Gardner Moves On

Long-time Head Gardener of Federal Way's PowellsWood Garden is retiring at the end of the season. Avril Steele, a Briton who recently became a naturalized U.S. citizen, helped transform a landfill into a lush urban paradise.

Federal Way, WA, May 22, 2007 --( Occupying the southern tip of a 40-acre greenbelt Monte and Diane Powell bought just west of their Federal Way, Washington, home in 1992, the 3-acre PowellsWood is now an urban oasis designed to “restore the soul.” The garden features themed “rooms,” a man-made stream and a pond which uses natural stormwater and drains into Puget Sound.

But the beautiful gardens you see today had been used for years as literal dumping grounds. “Before we could restore the soul,” says Monte, “we had to restore the soil.” The first two years following the purchase of the land were spent working with regional authorities on a land reclamation project so the property could support plant life again.

For the last ten years, the day-to-day care of the garden has rested in the capable hands of advanced horticulturalist Avril Steele. And it's been more than just a job to her. “She just loves that garden,” says Monte—maybe because it's always a work in progress. “When you get to the point where it's a mature garden, you start changing things,” Avril says. “It takes a long time for ideas to come to fruition. You have to see it through the seasons before you can get a sense about whether something is going to be right in the garden.”

Avril's season with PowellsWood is coming to a close. Having just become a naturalized U.S. citizen, another long-term project come to fruition for the Briton, Avril will be spending more time developing the grounds around her own home in nearby Normandy Park—and PowellsWood has a begun a search for Avril's successor.

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PowellsWood, A Northwest Garden
Greg Wright

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