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Bellingham Couple Transforms Yard into Asia-Inspired Escape

When Terry and Jackie Lehmann moved to their Bellingham home, just north of Lake Whatcom, the backyard consisted of little but grass and a small deck. After 25 years of work, it has been transformed into an oasis, inspired by Terry’s appreciation of Chinese and Japanese culture.

“For me, it’s so tranquil,” he says. The Lehmann’s interest in travel grew with the garden—they’ve now been to China five times, each trip sparking new ideas. Terry spends the warm months perfecting this ongoing project. He builds something new each year—a patio, a gate, a structure for sitting.

He goes to all the seminars and design classes he can and is part of the Whatcom/Skagit Bonsai Society, where he has learned to nurture and trim small trees, like Japanese maple and jade. “I’ll be done when my body’s done,” he says.

A traditional Chinese tea house was constructed in the back of the garden. Built out of bamboo poles, it is the perfect place to sit and listen to the relaxing sounds of the waterfall.

Sculptures stand guard over the trees and plants. Terry has acquired them from several places over the years, including antique stores and the Seattle Home Show, which he attends every year.

A stone path meanders underneath a trellis covered with climbing hydrangea. Terry’s daughter, Heather, was married under the trellis, and he took it home after the wedding.

Terry stands in the sunlit greenhouse, where he cares for some of the plants before putting them in the garden.


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"Terry spends the warm months perfecting this ongoing project. He builds something new each year—a patio, a gate, a structure for sitting."