A family tours the garden of Brenda Ellering and Todd Bonime in Madison Park.
A family tours the garden of Brenda Ellering and Todd Bonime in Madison Park.

Madison Park Home & Garden Tour-ists got their steps in during the annual fundraising event on June 9, raising more than $5,000 to support McGilvra Elementary students.

The Madison Park Garden Club had hosted a home-and-garden tour since the’80s, but that event ended years ago. Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty in Madison Park worked with the McGilvra PTA to bring back the event as a fundraiser for the school in 2017.

The tour raised $10,000 for the PTA in its first year, and $4,000 last year. Organizers have had trouble finding homeowners willing to participate, so future events will focus more on gardens. 

More than 200 attendees toured eight gardens on this year’s map, and just one home.

Paula Rees and Jeff Thompson have spent the past three decades renovating their home and growing their garden at 808 33rd Ave. E.

The couple purchased their 1920s Tudor-style home in 1984, later building a more contemporary stucco addition, Thompson said. They expanded the kitchen where the back porch had been and added an upstairs guest bathroom in 2005.

Thompson used old sidewalk along the property to build a retaining wall. He said seeing how plants take shape and which types grow best was the most rewarding part of tending his garden.

“It’s classic of a garden,” Thompson said, “which I don’t think, when I started, I knew what a garden was.”

Participating in the Madison Park Home & Garden Tour was not only for a good cause, but it also motivated Thompson, he said.

“It was kind of an excuse to finish some things and clean it up,” Thompson said. “It seemed like a good thing for the school.”

First on the tour map was the garden of Brenda Ellering and Todd Bonime, at 2037 McGilvra Blvd. E. They purchased the property from friends in 2011, and the garden was already well stocked with nice plants, Bonime said. They repositioned a number of them around their own landscape design.

While their home wasn’t opened up for the tour, the main attraction was an outdoor entertainment room they created in an underutilized storage shed in the backyard, with French doors, a long dining table, intimate lighting, windows facing the garden and a little room for mixing drinks. Their home dining room only provided seating for six, Bonime said, and now they’ve hosted six dinner parties since completing the garden entertainment room. Bonime credits his wife for most of the project, Ellering having been a buyer for Alaska Airlines for 20 years.

“She came in under budget, within a thousand dollars, and this is what she came up with, and it’s just fantastic,” he said.

There were two gardens a stone’s throw from each other, on the southern leg of the tour.

Deborah’s Garden is tucked away behind lush foliage, next to its 3,000-square-foot Denny Blaine carriage house, but Realogics managing broker John Madrid was there to show folks the way. He said the carriage house, 205 40th Ave. E., was once used by a large home across the street. It’s now on the market for $2.9 million.

Down the street, at 231 40th Ave. E., is the former home of Zeke and Lexie Robbins. Their son, Spafford Robbins, greeted Madison Park Home & Garden Tour-ists, and shared some history of the garden and the home, which was built in 1895.

It used to be waterfront property, Robbins said, until Lake Washington was lowered for the Montlake Cut in 1917.

During World War II, the neighborhood grew a victory garden on a plot that is now part of the property. The street ends in a cul-de-sac, he said, because the city had once planned to use it for turning its trolleys around.

The Robbins purchased the home in 1962, and were the fourth owners.

“It’s just been a great old house,” Robbins said.

Three generations of his family went to McGilvra, he said.

Now that his parents have passed, Robbins plans on putting the Denny Blaine home on the market in July.