THE TREES ARE big, the house is small (but very cool) and the gardens are always growing.
Ben Oleson and Jen Zook are owners of Zook & Oleson Gardening (zookandolesongardening.com) and parents to Indie (15) and Jesse (12). Two dogs, Joaquin and Fiona, and an “ancient” cat named Vincent, complete the household.
An avid plantsman, Oleson’s approach to garden design is grounded in plants. “I’m a gardener. If you want a garden, I’m your guy,” he says. “I only design what I can install — and I’m not that handy.”
I politely disagree as we walk among several Ben-built projects on the family’s large corner lot in West Seattle. The landscape is abundantly planted but prioritizes family life. Built features, like decking, an interesting dog-friendly fence (it has windows at canine height) and outbuilding storage solutions for the active family’s outdoor gear, are integrated with ornamental shrubs and perennials, edible gardens and berries.
Bisecting exuberantly planted garden beds, an informal boardwalk leads to a citrus yellow front door. The canopy of a truly impressive silver maple (Acer saccharinum) envelops the front garden and bustles with life. “The tree is a community of animals, the only ecosystem