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North Side oasis attracts club

Former yard of ‘weeds’ to turn heads this Sunday

The little sign hanging under the deck reads, “Life began in a garden,” and Liz and Gib Kocherhans could certainly add that it continues there, as well.

The couple have lived in their North Side house for 36 years. On Sunday, their beautifully landscaped yard on West Excell Lane will be on display as part of the Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane’s annual yard and garden tour.

“We have never been on the tour before,” said Liz Kocherhans, standing in the dappled sunlight under the big trees in the backyard. “We are not even members of the garden club – so we are excited.”

About 400 people are expected on the garden tour.

Walking up to the front door, visitors will immediately notice an unusual water feature built right up against the foundation. It passes under a bridge leading to the main entrance. Shaded by Japanese maples, the pond is lined with natural stone, and a waterfall can be heard inside the house through open windows.

“Our son started digging that on Mother’s Day weekend in ’92,” around the time the major transformation of the yard began, Liz Kocherhans said.

“It was just a big square lot, sidewalk-to-sidewalk grass, or weeds, if you will,” said Gib Kocherhans.

The Kocherhanses have six children; their son Gib K. Kocherhans landscaped the yard.

His career in landscape and water feature design includes the four-story water feature at REI’s flagship store in Seattle.

“It still scared the heck out of me when he started tearing things out,” the elder Gib Kocherhans said, gesturing to the flowerbeds and big rocks in the back. “But he does know what he’s doing.”

A tricolor beech marks the corner lot with its light rosy crown.

Japanese maples shade the front of the house and create privacy – until they drop their leaves.

“People come up and look at the water feature, and then they can look right in the window,” said Liz Kocherhans. “It’s amazing how much privacy you lose when the leaves drop.”

She said she loves the red fall colors of the maples, and she’s got a soft spot for annuals.

“I save up for them every month,” Liz Kocherhans said. “It’s like a Christmas budget. I just use it for flowers.”

The Kocherhanses are home day care providers, so they share their backyard retreat with a flock of young children. The garden has a playground with several swings.

“The vegetable garden used to be where the swing sets are now,” Liz Kocherhans said.

A rolling lawn is the perfect tumbling ground for children – under old, tall trees, in between the curved flowerbeds.

Perennials fill most of the beds, including hostas of many sizes, ferns, a few roses and some Oregon grape.

“Now that spreads,” said Liz Kocherhans, “I’m not sure how much of that we’ll keep around.”

Over the years, as the garden has matured, many plants have been moved or pulled out and given away.

Entering through the side gate, the yard has almost a park-like feel because of the many trees, yet the landscape is airy and open.

“I love sitting on the deck and looking down here on the dappled light,” Liz Kocherhans said.

The younger Gib Kocherhans continues to work on the yard, adding rocks, moving plants and creating new flowerbeds – so wouldn’t it be more accurate to say it’s his yard?

Liz Kocherhans laughs. “A lot of the work is his, that’s for sure. But the upkeep and maintenance is ours. And it’s a ton of work, once you get started on edging or mowing or what it is – it’s a pretty big lot.”

Yard work, however, is her therapy, she said.

“It gives you a chance to put down what ever you are doing, and just go out here,” said Liz Kocherhans. “It’s so calming.”

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