Looking for gardening inspiration? A botanical sanctuary perfect for strolling? All for free? Head south on SR 167, pick your way over to the Kent-Kangley Road in Auburn, and soon you’ve arrived at this place. Soos Creek Botanical Garden is the brainchild, labor of love, and home of Maurice Skagen, a retired Tacoma Community College librarian whose Norwegian ancestors settled on the Soos Creek Plateau in 1890.
For nearly 50 years, Skagen and his partner, Jim Daly, have gardened on 22 acres of former farm and dairy land originally owned by Skagen’s ancestors. They have transformed their property into eleven themed gardens connected by meandering paths that fork to a tributary of Soos Creek. Now the garden is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 3 PM, in spring, summer, and fall.
My favorite area of the garden is the Carlmas Long Borders, inspired by several garden tours in Britain and by the writing and work of British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. Skagen’s “opposing borders” run 500 feet long and are separated by a grassy expanse. The palette of plants he’s chosen effortlessly blend color, shape, and texture. His color scheme – Jekyll’s cool colors sandwiching hot oranges and reds – simultaneously soothes and leads the eye down the border. In mid-spring the mid-border erupts with blooming deciduous azaleas and orange-flowered euphorbias. Later in summer cannas, crocosmias, and dahlias draw the eye.
When you visit Soos Creek, chances are good you’ll run into Skagen who still puts in many hours a week working with the plants. He has plenty of volunteer – and some hired — help these days but Skagen, a humble man in his 70s, can’t help but get his hands dirty.
He is also a history buff and has built a heritage center located on the property. Over the years he has compiled a fascinating collection of photographs, maps, and documents reflecting the rich history of the early settlers on the Soos Creek plateau. For more information on Maurice Skagen and Soos Creek Botanical Garden, click here.
Soos Creek Botanical Garden is free and open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 3 PM, in spring, summer, and fall.