JIM VALLEY'S RAINBOW GARDEN
The Peninsula Gateway
By Patti McFerran/Special to the Gateway
Published June 2011
What better match for a garden tour whose fundraiser is promoting literacy than local songwriter and educator Jim Valley? He is the inspiration behind Gig Harbor-based Rainbow Planet, a children’s music cooperative.
Under the guise of a colorful and musical pied piper, Jim’s primary goal in life is bringing harmony, respect, friendship and peace to as many people as he can reach, especially children. And he does seem to reach out all around the world to fulfill his goal. He has taken his program to schools in India, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea and South America as well as all over the United States.
Highly acclaimed for his ability to connect with children, he admits that being an entertainer helps. He played in many rock-and-roll bands back in the ’60s, including a yearlong stint with Paul Revere and the Raiders at their peak. Jim has a knack for relating to any audience. He realizes that children learn in many different ways, and music is a great way to reach them. He encourages them to write their own songs, poems and stories.
Jim is a colorful and charming character, and his garden in Gig Harbor is a delightful place to visit. It was a likely choice for the Gig Harbor Garden Tour, and we were elated when Jim said yes. On my first visit to this garden with tour chair Karen Beck last fall, he told us how he got started as a gardener.
Rainbow Planet evolved out of his work as an artist-in-residence with the Tacoma schools’ gifted student program in the late ’70s. In 1981 he was staying at the Davis family farm near the Cromwell area of Gig Harbor while he started the Friendship Workshop to help children (K-5) get along with each other. During the summer, he started growing colorful flowers such as sweet peas, zinnias, asters, bachelor’s buttons, dahlias and baby’s breath in a field on the Davis’s farm. He sold them at the grange and Stroh’s and to wholesale flower companies. Zinnias were his absolute favorite, and he still grows tons of them to this day.
In 1983 he moved into a little house that was originally an 1898 general store located on a low bank in Cromwell. In the old days, people came by boat or ferry to the store. In 1993, Jim bought the house and kept clearing areas of natural growth to make garden beds. He grew his beloved zinnias but added delphiniums, some roses and more and more flowers. Today the charmingly remodeled house sits in the midst of terraced gardens connected by meandering rock paths and enhanced by art Jim has collected on his travels, much of it magical and mystical in nature.
Lately the garden has grown down the hill around the sides of the house and across the back toward the water. There are many new rhododendrons, roses, perennials and other interesting shrubs and trees.
If you would like to look at Jim Valley’s beautiful garden, check it out on his Web site at www.rainbowplanet.com. But if you would like to actually visit it and experience Jim and the Rainbow Planet first hand, buy a ticket to the Gig Harbor Garden Tour (June 25–26) and visit seven other excellent gardens as well. Tickets are available for $20 until June 21 at the outlets listed below and online at www.gigharborgardentour.com. After June 21, they will be $25. Hope to see you there!