How Champagne Creek Came to Be

Champagne Creek began over 25 years ago when Ed and Kathy Fries purchased an acre parcel on Lake Washington in the Pacific Northwest adjoining a second-growth forest.  Now encompassing 7 acres, verdant gardens are dotted with fanciful follies, aviaries house ornamental pheasants, and century-old trees frame a restored Champagne Creek.

Whimsical structures include Clucking Hen Palace, home to unusual breeds of poultry; a French Aviary, “let them eat cake” style with exotic pheasants; Doges Palace, a Venetian-inspired folly and tower; a Chess Pavilion, and a 100-year-old beachfront cabin.  Unusual ferns, fuchsias and woodland treasures are found throughout the gardens. "Frabbit" homes and a fairy garden are tucked into the shade. Many enjoy seeing the final resting place of Anubis, God of the Underworld, after his around-the-world travels advertising the 2012 King Tut exhibit culminated in Seattle. He is flanked by historic 70-year-old palm trees from the University of Washington collection.

When the original center 1.35-acre parcel was purchased in 1992, it had 30-foot tall invasive blackberry, ivy covering mature fruit trees, shrub-size weeds and brush so thick it was impossible to venture off the driveway. The adjoining parcels on both sides, which were added later, were similarly neglected properties and had no existing gardens.

Kathy visited Heronswood, Dan Hinkley’s renowned garden, in 1995 and, like many garden designers in the Pacific Northwest, she felt a strong connection to his approach to developing a woodland garden under existing second growth conifers. Preserving habitat for the native fauna and continuing to welcome and provide for the wild birds was also paramount. With the goal of working with the existing native matrix of large madrone, cedar, Douglas fir and salal as well as the challenging slopes, a series of gardens and meandering paths to explore have emerged.

In addition to being mindful of the land and its wild residents, Kathy adopted a philosophy of reuse and upcycling, repurposing the rocks, branches, bricks and cement debris on the property. Paths are lined with logs, fallen trees are repurposed into bridges and poultry roosts, and discarded pavers are used in walkways. Found objects and vintage treasures are incorporated throughout the garden. The “funnel garden” is one example. 

In the early days, Kathy would wear a headlamp to work in the garden after long hours at her full-time job as an aerospace project manager. After five years, Kathy felt as if she had made negative progress, noting the piles of debris – bricks, old wood, gravel, branches, weeds, soil, rocks - all over the property from various projects. Still believing in her vision, Kathy continued to work the grounds, wanting to capture the magical feeling from her childhood travels with her family. Visits to magnificent gardens and castles with follies, fountains, topiary and knot gardens made a lasting impression and a desire for an enchanted garden of her own. 

Slowly transforming the overgrown property one small bit at a time, an inviting and eclectic garden began to take shape. The knot gardens and brick circles were some of the early areas Kathy developed. Large Banderas granite boulders from a local quarry were placed on a blank slate just off the original driveway in 1997. 

Having wanted roosters and chickens since she was five, Kathy decided to add exotic fowl to the mix. She hired the talented John Akers to convert a dilapidated shed on the site into her first chicken coop in 1999.  John Akers contributed several more structures, resulting in a whimsical collection of follies. Aviaries to house ornamental pheasants – “the koi of the garden” - were added later, giving visitors an opportunity to view and appreciate species seldom seen up close. 

Other features of the site include Ed’s Pond, a large natural pool fed by Champagne Creek, a 100-year-old beach-front cottage and one of the few gravel beaches on Lake Washington suitable for salmon spawning. A moist meadow with fruit trees - the former owner’s large dog run – now blooms in spring with daffodils, rivers of checkered lily (Fritillaria meleagris), violets and primroses followed by ajuga, columbine, poppies, iris, hostas, lilies, and fuchsias in summer along with ripening fruit, a good example of succession planting.

We hope you’ll enjoy a glimpse of Champagne Creek and experience the wonder of childhood again.  

Cinderella, the family dog, is a Hovawart. Bred to be faithful guardians to livestock and the home.

Cinderella, the family dog, is a Hovawart. Bred to be faithful guardians to livestock and the home.