Garden History, Photography Information and Biographies
General information about the garden, the photos and Mike & Sandy

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Photography    Biographies

Garden History:

This garden is a labor of love created by Mike and Sandy Stoy. We have loved the outdoors all our lives and dreamed of our own little piece of wilderness for years. When we purchased a 4.85 acre wooded lot near Seattle in 1996 we had a chance to create the garden of our dreams. We sub-divided the land into one 2.55 acre lot and one 2.3 acre lot and built the house and garden on the 2.55 acre lot. Mike designed the house layout using AutoCAD v12; an architect created the framing plans. Davies Brothers Construction built the house.

We designed the garden together using AutoCAD v12 with some preliminary layouts done in 3D Landscape. The Blodel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, WA was a major source of inspiration for the garden design. We divided the garden into 47 planting zones, selecting a flower color scheme for each season in each zone, plus a time of peak flowering. Individual plants were chosen based on the micro climate of the zone and the color scheme (and whether they happened to be on sale!). Mike converted the garden plan graphics on the web site from AutoCAD using Visio and Photoshop.

The vast majority of the garden construction we did ourselves over many long days and even a few nights. After completing the clearing, stump pulling, grading and top soil installation we hired a contractor to help install the pond and rock wall. This turned into one of those "contractor from hell" stories. After we told him he had done enough, we had to add 30 tons of additional rock to the wall and pond and do a lot of concrete work to finish the job. Tom Butler (a friend who is a landscape professional) helped us install the sprinkler system. We also hired a contractor to lay sod, build the dahlia bed, and cut the woodland trails. The rest of the work we did ourselves with a lot of help from 'Kitty', our trusty 16hp Kubota tractor with the back-saving backhoe attachment.

We actually began propagating plants for the garden in 1995, a year before we purchased the land. We propagated a lot of our favorite rhodies and quite a bit of ground cover. In addition to the propagated plants we also moved eight large rhodies (4 - 5 ft tall) and a bunch of daylilies from our last house. A few plants were donated by our friends Jim Mackie and John & Camille Toczak who are also avid gardeners. The rest of the plants were purchased from more than two dozen local and mail order nurseries. Given the size of the garden, finding a couple of local wholesale nurseries that would sell to the public was a real money saver. The garden was mostly finished by the end of 2000 after four years of nearly continuous effort. Of course, no garden is ever really finished and we continue to move plants around to improve the visual appeal or a plant's performance.


All but a few of the photos used on the web site were taken by Mike. Since we began work in 1996 Mike has taken well over 70,000 photos of the garden (after all digital 'film' is free). He has saved about 7,000 of the best ones. Perhaps the hardest part of developing the web site was selecting the 500 or so photos we used on the web site from among these 7,000 digital images. Many of our favorite photos didn't make the cut.

The construction photos were taken with an Olympus Infinity 35mm point-and-shoot on print film. Half a dozen or so of the other photos were taken with an Olympus OM-2S 35mm SLR on Fuji Velvia. All of these photos were scanned with an HP S20 PhotoSmart scanner.

Almost all of the other photos were taken with an 1.3 megapixel Olympus D-460 digital camera. All of these photos (including the close-ups) were taken hand held. Fill flash was used on only a few of the photos. The original digital images were all 1280 x 960 pixel jpegs ranging in size from 400 kb to 1,000 kb.

In 2006 Mike finally took the plunge and purchased a Nikon D70s DSLR. A few of the photos on the site (mostly the macros) were taken with this camera as RAW images at 3008 x 2000 pixels.

All the images were reduced to 640 x 480 pixel jpegs of about 100 kb using Photoshop. The only digital manipulation done on the images was occasional removal of stray dirt on a flower and minimal sharpening and contrast adjustment on some images. The colors have not been altered or enhanced. A lot of the photos were taken in favorable light, usually near sunrise or sunset. We have a lot of wildlife visit the garden but so far Mike has not made much effort to photograph it.

The web site was developed by Mike using Dreamweaver and Photoshop.


Mike and Sandy met in college in Albuquerque and both moved to the Seattle area in 1981. We were married in 1986 and have no children (except our two cats, Cheeto and Jazz, who Sandy treats like her children). This gives us extra time and money to pursue our hobbies including gardening. We have both been avid gardeners since we purchased our first house in 1986.

Sandy has a BS in software engineering from the University of New Mexico and has worked for the Boeing Company on avionics software for the last 25 years. Besides gardening she enjoys hiking, skiing, sewing, cooking, and reading.

Mike has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois and a MS in mechanical engineering from the University of New Mexico. He has worked for a number of companies in the Seattle area as an engineer and engineering manager. He also runs a part time photography business specializing in wilderness images. Besides gardening and photography he enjoys mountain climbing, hiking, skiing, pottery, woodworking, and painting.

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