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Cottage garden is best of May

Jeanne and George Mackay, and their dog Oscar, in their Cottage-style garden in Spokane Valley. Special to  (PAT MUNTS Special to / The Spokesman-Review)
Jeanne and George Mackay, and their dog Oscar, in their Cottage-style garden in Spokane Valley. Special to (PAT MUNTS Special to / The Spokesman-Review)

Some gardens are showplaces of a gardener’s passion and prowess at growing great plants. Others are eclectic collections of this and that the gardener claims merely followed them home from the nursery.

Still others are a mix of both wrapped up in the gardeners’ personalities and love for each other. Such is the garden of Jeanne and George Mackay of Spokane Valley. Their English cottage-style garden is a wonderful rambling collage of plants bright with late spring color. Their efforts earned them the May Garden of the Month title.

When Jeanne moved to the house 17 years ago, the garden was lawn, a few bushes and lots of pine trees. She quickly changed that by moving more than 400 plants from her old house and filling her new yard. When Jeanne first met George, he told her he didn’t do gardening and wasn’t really interested in taking up her passion. That didn’t last long though. Four years later he has become the chief weeder and eagerly looks for new blooms as they come out.

Their front garden isn’t hard to miss from the street. Perennials spill off the curb in abundance and have stopped more than their share of cars driving by. Pale pink dianthus, several kinds of hardy geraniums and tall blue false indigo offer a cool contrast to the bright orange poppies. The poppies in turn set off red leafed barberries.

Their backyard is a perfect place to spend a warm day. Under the shade of the pines, more perennials thrive with wild abandon. The Mackays have scattered comfortable chairs around the garden that invite you to sit in the cool shade. Birds are flitting about taking advantage of water left from the sprinklers. On the patio, Jeanne’s extensive houseplant collection is basking in the summer sun. Two new raised beds have been planted with vegetables that will be harvested later in the summer.

Ever wondered what it really takes to be a Garden of the Month or on one of the local garden tours? Winning gardens don’t need to be expensive, huge or filled with rare plants that the gardener knows all the botanical names of. The Mackays are proof of that. A winning garden can be very small or even just a part of a larger garden. It can have ordinary plants used in creative ways. It can be in any neighborhood. What a winning garden needs is heart and the willingness of the gardener to share it with others.

If you have a garden you’d like to share, enter the Garden of the Month contest for July and August this year. Applications can be picked up at Northwest Seed and Pet or from The Inland Empire Gardeners Web site,

Deadlines for entries are the 15th of each month. If this isn’t the year for you, the contest runs from May to August each year so plan for next year. Who knows, entering the Garden of the Month contest may find you on a future garden tour.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who can be reached at