When Claudia Loy was asked by a friend to design a garden for the first Point Defiance Flower and Garden Show, she agreed, if reluctantly. It was a way for the owner of Key Center’s Sunnycrest Nursery to support the first show, and a way to bring a little piece of the Key Peninsula to the other side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

By the time the show was over, “A Timeless Beach Retreat,” Sunnycrest’s grand marquee display, was awarded “best in show” by the Tacoma Garden Club among 14 gardens.

The garden was inspired by life on the Key Pen, “where nature’s unspoiled beauty, clear bright light and miles of waterfront create fulfilling, unmatchable opportunities for work and play,” according to the garden’s promotional brochure. “The positive, nourishing environment of Key Peninsula supports talented artists, designers, builders and growers who have contributed to this garden.”

Loy’s goal was to promote the peninsula, so she worked with local talent— from builder John Carlson, who built the beach house, to artist Beverly Pedersen, who painted the artsy umbrella.

“Every project we do requires certain imagination and creativity,” said Carlson, owner of Carlson Builders, Inc., a local company that grew from carpentry work done by a one-person crew to building custom homes and remodeling in Kitsap, Mason and West Pierce counties. For this project, the design involved panels that can be easily assembled, or disassembled and transported with a pickup truck.

After months of planning, thousands of dollars of expenses, and many hours by friends and volunteers, the gorgeous setup was a hit at the show, hosted at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma in honor of the park’s centennial and attended by about 9,500 people. Loy had to focus on the bulk of the design in April — one of the shop’s busiest months. The uncooperative weather didn’t allow all the plants to bloom as hoped, but anyone who saw the end result would not have guessed how stressful and time-consuming the process was.

“I had an excellent crew. It was fun,” Loy said. “People said they had an emotional connection (to the garden) and it had soul.”

From businesses selling material at cost and donating labor, to members of the Bayshore Garden Club volunteering as docents, to many community members who contributed time —“A Timeless Beach Retreat” came together in the spirit of the Key Pen. “It definitely shows what a class act we have here on the Key Peninsula,” Carlson said.