Fruit Garden Designer

Kristan Johnson, Garden Designer
“Whosoever plants a tree, winks at immortality”

Kristan Johnson was hired in the late 1990s by the Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation (WWFRF) to design the Volunteer Display Garden at the Washington State University (WSU) Northwestern Washington Research & Extension Center (NWREC) in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

Kristan held a degree in Landscape Architecture from Ohio State University and a Horticultural Therapy certification focusing on Wheelchair Accessible Edible Gardening from Edmonds Community College.

As the owner of Abundant Design for over thirty-five years he designed and built public parks, including the original design of Kah-Tai Lagoon Park in Port Townsend in 1982, as well as private gardens in the Pacific Northwest, incorporating elements of edible landscaping, permaculture, and wheelchair accessibility.

His work was featured in Better Homes and Gardens, the Seattle Times, the Everett Herald, and on Cisco’s Morris’ radio program. His article, Well-bred Fruit (for the Maritime Climate), was published in the July 2011 issue of Pacific Horticulture. He enjoyed teaching people how to grow their own fruits, nuts, and berries and taught classes at the University of Washington and Bellevue Community College.

Kristan knew and practiced what he called “the dance”, the art of keeping two opposing forces in balance. As a successful landscape architect he not only designed the garden, but also coordinated ongoing plantings and hardscape projects so they would complement each other and not undermine the garden plan or its future growth. Kristan was also always looking not only for edible plants but for amazing ornamental plants that would thrive in our climate and would be valuable additions to the garden.

His positive outlook, his great sense of humor, and his willingness to share his knowledge of trees and gardening motivated everyone while the garden was built. He, along with other volunteers, constructed the support structure for the espaliered pears, installed the copper piping for training the mature pear trees received from the WSU test orchard, planted trees, and transplanted established trees gleaned from WSU. Each espaliered pear tree presented a different training challenge.

He and volunteers also grafted many trees for the antique apple display. Additionally, Kristan’s passion for graphical design was instrumental in his designing and installing the garden’s QR-coded orchard tour signs.

Kristan and others also lobbied in Olympia, Washington, garnering the support of some powerful legislators for WWFRF at the time when having a demonstration garden of fruit trees that would thrive in the maritime climate west of the Cascades was not considered important.

Our organization suffered a great loss when he passed away in November 2020. He is greatly missed, but he and his work live on today within the garden he so lovingly designed.

Kristan’s Work:
Board of Directors: Permaculture Institute of North America 1985-1987
Board of Directors: Western Cascade Fruit Society 1985-1987
Board of Directors: WWFRF 1998-2020
Horticulture Therapy Certification, Edmonds Community College 1983
Landscape Architecture Ohio State 1980
Northwest Permaculture Convergence Speaker 2016
Permaculture Institute of North America: Advanced Teacher’s Certificate 1987
President: San Juan Islands Chapter: Western Cascade Fruit Tree Society 1986-1987
Teacher: Edible Landscaping, Bellevue Community College 1986-1988
Teacher: Edible Landscaping, University of Washington 1983-1986

“Whosoever plants a tree, winks at immortality…”, by Felix Dennis, poet, from his “Whosoever Plants a Tree” poem.