August 13, 2011 in Washington Voices

Friends create colorful landscape together

Pat Munts
 

It’s a friendship that started over a classic but dead Jaguar. Claudia Gendron and her husband had just driven it from Seattle to Spokane to deliver it to Julie Nesbitt and her husband on Five Mile Prairie. Within a block of the Nesbitts’ house, the car died. The husbands rebuilt the car and Julie and Claudia built a friendship and then a garden.

Nesbitt had a passion for a beautiful garden – and a very overgrown landscape – while Gendron, of Post Falls, had plant and landscape design knowledge and a willingness to share. Their combined efforts earned the July Garden of the Month award from the Inland Empire Gardeners.

When they started their collaboration, Nesbitt’s garden was an overgrown tangle of evergreens and shrubs that hid a gorgeous rock wall along the front of the house and nearly swallowed up the foundation at the back of the house. European birches and willows provided lots of filtered shade to three sides of the house but were in dire need of better watering and care.

To start, they ripped out the junipers in front and exposed the rock wall. Nesbitt wanted bright colorful flowers but the shade from the trees meant new plantings had to be shade-tolerant. Gendron designed a garden that used shade-tolerant plants with colorful leaves and interesting shapes to create the color Nesbitt wanted.

“It’s even better than a flower garden because it’s colorful all year,” said Nesbitt. They added a large concave basalt rock that serves as a bird bath, lots of birdhouses and some comfortable chairs to watch the action.

Along the side of the house, they planted a colorful collection of hostas under the trees. The bed is a trophy case of sorts where they proudly show off their bargain finds made by shopping at plant sales and rummaging through clearance racks all over town. Where there was a bit more sun they tucked drought-tolerant sedums into spaces in the wall and between large flat rocks in another rock garden.

They continued planting hostas, hydrangeas and vinca in the backyard under the birches. They made sure the trees got enough water, and as a result the trees are some of the best-looking birches I have seen in Spokane. Nesbitt brought home some peonies from her mother’s garden and filled an entire bed with them. They will bloom in a couple of years. Around the base of the trees, they piled on the compost to encourage a bed of lily-of-the-valley.

Gendron made sure that Nesbitt got her bright, colorful flower garden though. They hauled home some large plastic boxes and built a series of raised beds in a sunny spot along the street. The garden helped screen the open backyard from the street and provided passers-by something pretty to look at. Gendron’s eye for design brought order from chaos as they filled the boxes with a wild collection of annuals, perennials, herbs, tomatoes and a rose or two.

“I didn’t think you could get that much color in such a small space,” said Nesbitt.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by email at pat@inlandnwgardening. com.


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