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What would you recommend to the owners?
(from The Olympian, 2/05/09)
SEATTLE – Just as it has for more than a decade, Daniel Sparler and Jeffrey Schouten's garden next to Seattle's Seward Park will erupt again this spring with an intensity and rarity that brings gawkers from all over the country.
So unique is this carefully nurtured collection of flora that magazines rave, horticulturists come to study and garden enthusiasts line up to tour the terraces that drip with the hues and scents of far-off lands.
"It's an assault of three dimensions, depth and color," Sparler, 51, boasts. "It's all up and around you."
Trouble is, it turns out that a good third of the back yard is actually public-park property. And now the city wants it back.
The city's parks department is demanding that the men relinquish about 2,800 square feet of land that actually belongs to taxpayers. Park managers have ordered them to tear down a shed, a fence, compost bins and other fixtures that encroach into the park to make way for a native-plant landscaping project. They say they are simply defending public turf and acting consistently with several other neighbors whose yards have also illegally pushed into Seward Park.
But even though the officials are allowing all the rare trees, shrubs and foliage to stay, they have invoked the ire not only of Schouten and Sparler, but droves of their friends in the area's gardening community.
The couple are not disputing the property line. But to their supporters, the whole episode raises a serious question about city policy: When does being fair actually mean being unreasonable?
"It's not just a garden, it's a work of art," said Janet Endsley, the seminar manager for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show and a former Arboretum Foundation board member.
The Sparler-Schouten garden began in 1993 soon after the men bought their 1952 rambler on Seward Park Avenue South, above a small bluff that tumbles down to a park parking lot. It came with the old garden shed, a lawn, a sprinkler system and a fence - all on what is now identified as park property.
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