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Gardeners have been growing as a couple for nearly a decade

Sun., Sept. 11, 2011

Nancy and Patric Sazama stand amid Nancy’s colorful cottage garden. (Susan Mulvihill)
Nancy and Patric Sazama stand amid Nancy’s colorful cottage garden. (Susan Mulvihill)

It’s fun interviewing a couple of avid gardeners when they happen to be married to each other. Especially when both have very definite ideas about what should be planted in the garden and each has very distinct areas of the landscape that they call theirs.

This is the case with Nancy and Patric Sazama. She is co-owner of Vino! A Wine Shop and he is the regional project director for Impact Washington.

They have lived on five acres in southwest Spokane County for eight years. Nancy grows and tends the flower garden and blueberries, while Patric’s domain is the large vegetable garden and fruit trees.

“It’s kind of comical when you have two people who love to garden,” he says. “We’re often competing for hoses to water our areas and we like to control our parts of the garden.

“If I want to plant something out front, I have to get permission. But we also laugh about it.”

“I can suggest things for the vegetable garden,” Nancy adds, “but he’s the boss.”

She has a beautiful, cottage-style flower garden filled with delphiniums, peonies, black-eyed Susans, Asiatic lilies, phlox, coneflowers and daylilies.

Nancy’s excited about some of her latest acquisitions from Northland Rosarium: a dark-leaved Elderberry (Sambucus ‘Black Beauty’); a compact Ninebark (‘Little Devil’); Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’) with lacy chartreuse leaves; and a dwarf, variegated Forsythia called ‘Citrus Swizzle,’ all of which add structure to the flower beds.

She also has a PeeGee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Quick Fire’) that is hardy down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We always have flowers for the house,” Patric says. “When we have houseguests, Nancy makes beautiful flower arrangements for them to enjoy.”

Nancy employs a useful method that all of us forgetful gardeners can appreciate: “I have a binder that I save my plant tags in so I will remember the cultivar names and the date we planted them.”

Patric enjoys growing a large vegetable garden every year using organic methods.

“I have several large plots and rotate them every year,” he explains. “I put in cover crops, I do side-dressing with our compost and I occasionally use some fish emulsion. I use a granulated, organic fertilizer for the heavily-feeding vegetables.”

He grows an extensive array of vegetables including peas, onions, beets, carrots, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, pole beans, squash, tomatoes, corn, garlic and spinach.

Cover crops, which are sometimes called green manure crops, are plants like legumes and grasses that are grown to improve the fertility of the soil. They are usually planted in the fall and turned into the soil in early spring.

Patric grows vetch and red clover as cover crops.

“This is the most important thing I’ve learned. It takes some work but is well worth the effort,” he says.

In the orchard, he grows apples, cherries, plums, peaches and pears. He uses an organic product called “Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew” to control orchard pests as well as insects that are attracted to broccoli and cabbage. It contains spinosad, a soil-dwelling bacterium that is safe for humans but deadly to caterpillars and other insects.

Their biggest challenges are deer and pocket gophers, the windy conditions where they live and the short growing season.

But despite the challenges they face, as well as their occasional differences of opinion, it’s clear that Nancy and Patric find gardening particularly rewarding.

“I think it’s almost spiritual or meditative,” Nancy explains. “It keeps your hands busy while your mind is wandering.”

“It’s always different from year to year,” Patrick adds. “Sometimes there are disappointments but there’s always next year. That’s the great part about it.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at

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