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A taste of spring — the Cavanah Garden Party

It’s the waterfalls that Dolores Cavanah really enjoys — the way the water crests and falls; the rippling sound as the water drops into the ponds.

Everything else that has been built up over the past two decades in her amazing garden is, arguably, just window dressing to the waterfalls — but how many people can say they own their own private waterfalls coupled around amazing color of rhododendrons and roses? The Cavanah Garden has been internationally recognized as one of the best gardens in Washington state, probably the West Coast.

And, unless you’re a good friend of Cavanah, one of the only ways to see the garden is through a fundraiser on Sunday, June 2, benefiting Montesano Community Education. While, in other years, organizers have just done garden tours, this time, there’s a wine tasting. Suggested donation is $25, which includes a selection of outstanding wines and food by Savory Faire. Tickets are available at Marshall’s Garden & Pet in Aberdeen, the Elma Variety Store in Elma and Valu Drug in Montesano or call Judy Thompson at (360) 581-3935.

Tickets are also available at the garden on the day of the event, which goes from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Sunday. The garden can be found by taking Highway 12 to the Brady exit. Continue north on Middle Satsop Road, following the signs for five miles to the Schafer Meadows entrance on the left. Follow the red arrows to the garden.

The event will happen rain or shine. Set on six acres in Schafer Meadows north of Brady, Cavanah started building it by hand and then relied on some heavy lifting by contractors. Yet, every inch of it was hand crafted through her vision. It’s hard to believe it all started as just cow pasture.

Cavanah set out to craft gently rolling green hills, a gurgling stream and a tranquil pond with a weeping willow dipping into the water. All of the existing trees — Douglas Fir, western red cedar, hemlock, blue spruce and stands of alder trees — would become the backdrop of her garden.

“Really, it’s not just a garden,” said gardening expert Don Tapio, the extension agent for the WSU Extension Office in Elma. “It’s a mix between a conservatory and an arboretum.”

Besides the elegant trees reaching into the skies, there’s the shrubs that give color — burning bush, fothergilla, dogwoods, oak leaf hydrangea and smoke trees.

There’s the vegetable garden and just level after level of flowers, brush and eye candy, including many statues and pieces of art that dot the area. In some parts of the garden, there are actual rooms that are entered separated by vine-covered gates and doorways, including antique doors from a chapel imported from Durango, Mexico.

Cavanah says she keeps changing the garden as she dreams and gets inspired by what she sees.

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