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Rockin’ through the Walker Garden
By Peg Boettcher

Neighbors of the nosy variety must have had a field day with the Walkers. What were they doing in their back yard? The window curtains next door must have twitched when the Walkers began to bring carload after carload of rocks home—ten tons, in all, from an out-of-business Oregonian rock shop—and the pile in the driveway began to swell with thunder eggs, agates, petrified wood, chunks of bright glass and colorful river rock. Tongues must have wagged on this quiet West Seattle street of cozy homes as their owners speculated why Milton, after working swing shift at nearby Boeing Company, chose to spend his “leisure” hours in manual labor.

Weighing in at a whopping 135 pounds and measuring five feet, six inches in height, Milton was an unlikely candidate for a second shift as a stonemason. But what he lacked in bulk and experience he made up for in sheer perseverance and the pleasure of creation.

Actually, it all began in failure. Around 1959, he tried his hand at putting a decorative lake in his hillside back yard and loathed the result. To draw attention from it, he built a few miniature mountains. From then on, there was no looking back. The corn patch was replaced with an entire snowcapped mountain range complete with roads, an airstrip and ornate waterworks. The Irish moss and blackberry vines that once covered the yard gradually made way over the years for an interwoven arrangement of fanciful fountains, walkways, seats, planters and arbors, all built without written plans.

As wonderful as the rock creations are, they would only be half as marvelous if it weren’t for Milton’s wife, Florence, and her love of gardening. The exuberant ephemeral bloom of azaleas, rhododendrons, roses, iris, and even a topiary animal all thrived under the loving application of her green thumb and provided a lively counterpoint to her husband’s solid arches and walls.

If there ever were any nosy neighbors, their curiosity would long ago have been satisfied by the Walkers’ generosity. For as much as they loved working in their garden, they loved sharing it. They threw it open for Mother’s and Father’s Day every year, so all could enjoy the butterfly stepping stones, the bicentennial tower and the grape arbor.

Maybe Milton Walker had a curious itch of his own to satisfy. “Mom said that Dad loved to dress up as a tourist and wander incognito among the visitors,” says his daughter. When asked what he hoped to hear, she replied, “I don’t think he ever heard anything bad. He always had a smile on his face at the end of the day.”

The Walker Rock Garden is open from June through Labor Day. The family happily continues the tradition of sharing the garden, but prefers visitors to phone for reservations. The number may be found under Walker Rock Garden in the residential listings of the Seattle phone book.

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