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In the Garden: Jacobus makes most of landscape

Sun., Aug. 14, 2011

Rose Jacobus and George the cat enjoy a sunny day in her garden. (Susan Mulvihill)
Rose Jacobus and George the cat enjoy a sunny day in her garden. (Susan Mulvihill)

My featured gardener for August is Rose Jacobus. And with her first name, is it any wonder she excels at gardening?

She and her husband LeRoy live on 10 acres in southwest Spokane County. Of those 10 acres, one acre is landscaped. Jacobus is the main gardener although she reveals that “the lawn is LeRoy’s baby.”

A Master Gardener and retired nurse, she has been gardening for more than 60 years.

“When I was a youngster, we always had a huge garden,” Jacobus explains. “My responsibility was to ride the horse while my dad used the cultivator. I was in 4-H and my area was gardening.”

While strolling through her garden on a recent summer day, I enjoyed exploring the many attractive plantings.

She has a “moon garden” which is in the shape of a crescent moon and planted with white-flowering plants: petunias, alyssum, cosmos, foxgloves, roses, hydrangeas, candytufts, Shasta daisies, geraniums, lilies, nicotiana, hollyhocks, daylilies and marigolds.

Moon gardens get their name because they are planted with white flowers that stand out in the moonlight.

Jacobus’ knot garden includes quadrants of blue lobelias, geraniums, miniature willows and groundcover roses, with a center of creeping thyme.

Peonies are a favorite, and she admits to having more than 90 of them.

“I have bought most of them from the mail-order company Gilbert H. Wild and Son (,” she says. “They sell them for $7 to $10 each, which is a good buy.”

Jacobus particularly excels at plant propagation, both from cuttings and seeds. In addition to doing most of the rose propagation for Northland Rosarium, it’s an enjoyable and economical way to expand her flower beds.

“I don’t think people realize the potential of what you can grow from seed,” she says. “I have started roses, geraniums, clematis and all sorts of annuals and perennials from seed for my garden and to share with friends.”

She has started willow trees from the willow twigs found in floral bouquets and isn’t afraid to ask neighbors for cuttings while they’re pruning.

She and LeRoy grow a large vegetable garden of potatoes, corn, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach, onions, squash, pumpkins, beets, beans and cucumbers.

“Everything is grown organically,” she explains. “I don’t use any sprays. Each year, we get a truckload of leaves from our church academy, which decompose over the fall and winter.

“Because alfalfa has been grown in the fields here for a long time, there are nematodes in the soil that give off nitrogen for the plants to take up. I really don’t have to fertilize them. The ground is nice and fluffy because we keep adding compost to the soil.”

They also have a small orchard of fruit trees and grow raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries.

The berries and fruit trees are surrounded by a tall deer fence, although Jacobus says the deer don’t bother her plants very much since there are fields of alfalfa nearby to graze on.

Pocket gophers are an ongoing problem, however. This year, she is experimenting with a new product to protect her ornamentals called Repellex. It contains a pepper extract called capsaicin and is mixed into the soil to repel gophers, moles, deer, rabbits, dogs and cats.

For all of her vast experience, it’s the simple aspects of gardening that Jacobus takes the most pleasure in.

“It gives me a lot of freedom and it’s a great stress-reliever,” she says. “To see the beauty that develops as I work gives me peace.

“And what a wonderful way to spend my golden years,” she adds with a grin.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at

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