Garden of the Month: A Walker Street retreat

Lorraine Vail's and Ed Smith's garden at 780 Walker St. Larry Rosengren photo
June 29, 2022

Lorraine Vail and Ed Smith created after taking an OLLI class

By Ruth Sloan

Lorraine Vail’s and Ed Smith’s garden at 780 Walker St. is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for June 2022. It is a very special garden in many ways, not least of which is the couple’s desire to share the beauty and knowledge they have gained through creating this garden.

Lorraine Vail’s and Ed Smith’s garden at 780 Walker St. Larry Rosengren photo

They started with a nearly blank slate in the fall of 2013. Lorraine took an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) course at nearby Southern Oregon University, taught by professional landscape designer Fran Adams, during which she submitted a design for the OLLI courtyard garden. Completing that assignment earned the homeowners complimentary consultations on their home garden from Adams and from Seth Barnard of Solid Ground Landscape. Ultimately, Solid Ground installed the hardscape and did the initial planting, working from Lorraine’s design. Solid Ground continues to consult on design and provides seasonal assistance although Ed and Lorraine take care of it day-to-day, averaging 10 hours a week.

Lorraine Vail’s and Ed Smith’s garden at 780 Walker St. Larry Rosengren photo

A second phase began during the pandemic when the couple had time on their hands. During this phase, Ed, a talented woodworker, completed the attractive fence and added gorgeous gates in 2020. This allowed them to plant without worrying about deer preferences. They have had problems with bears trying to climb the fence (and doing significant damage in the process). The side garden provides a more intimate space for relaxation and contemplation, and is very colorful at this time of year.

Lorraine Vail’s and Ed Smith’s garden at 780 Walker St. Larry Rosengren photo

A unique and charming feature of this Japanese-inspired garden is “The Garden Box,” a display case that they installed to inform passersby about the garden. Changing the contents frequently allows them to describe specific plants, share photos, and enchant with poetry about the garden.

Both Lorraine and Ed enjoy the many changes in the garden throughout the year and look forward to seeing changes between years as plants change and mature. An important aspect of their design is contrast in color and texture. Among the couple’s favorite plants are horny goat weed, the variegated leaves of which stay beautiful all year; spirea in its many forms; brunnera; and weeping redbud. 

Peruse the Garden Box and peek through the gate to enjoy this special place.

The Ashland Garden Club has been selecting Gardens of the Month, from spring through early fall, since 2000.  Nominations are gratefully received at Check out the Club’s website at for information about meetings.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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