September 27, 2012 in Washington Voices

Gardening: Well-planned oasis has something for everyone

Pat Munts

Craig and LeAnn Whiting sit below their waterfall with their Burmese Mountain dog, Corso. The Inland Empire Gardeners selected the Whitings’ garden as September Garden of the Month.
(Full-size photo)

One thing I love about visiting local gardens is that each one is so different, it’s always a pleasant surprise to find out what’s behind the gate. Such was the case when I visited Craig and LeAnn Whiting’s garden off Hatch Road overlooking the Latah Valley.

The yard is the Inland Empire Gardeners’ September Garden of the Month.

I was greeted with a front yard full of roses taking advantage of the cooler weather to put on their last show for the season. Several large glazed pots added more color to the garden. It had all the hallmarks of an English garden. So what was I going to see in the backyard?

The backyard was anything but an English garden. Rather, it was more like a forested, damp ravine on the coast. The heat of the day was replaced with cool air and water splashing over rocks.

When the Whitings bought the house in 2001, they had two dogs who thought the garden was their personal race track. Rather than alter the dogs’ paths, they paved them with flagstones. The paths wind through the garden, eventually crossing the ravine on an arched stone bridge built by their son to access a patio.

“He then proposed to his girlfriend on it,” said LeAnn Whiting. “We thought he was building it for us to make it easier to get to the hammock patio.”

Their grandchildren’s Boy Scout troops now use the bridge for crossover ceremonies when the Cubs move up to Boy Scouts.

They enhanced the forested feel of the garden by building rough stone walls on the bank and then planting a number of conifers and shade tolerant plants. At one end of the bridge is a large fire pit surrounded by stone seats built into the wall, perfect for their grandchildren to roast marshmallows. Beyond the fire pit, the path leads to a waterfall that spills down the bank cooling the air and adding a little sound to the garden.

At the end of the path, you break out of the forest into an open meadow area filled with lavender and wildflowers. The meadow looks down into the Latah Valley and to the west. A gazebo provides a place to sit and watch the sunsets.

Back toward the house is a hedge of rugosa roses, peonies and hydrangeas, including a blooming blue hydrangea, a rarity in Spokane. Hostas fill many of the shady beds. “They are one of Craig’s favorite plants,” LeAnn Whiting said.

The Whitings have made their garden a haven for their family. Last year they replaced a patch of grass near the back door with a patio and a large play set for the kids to create all kinds of adventures. Out in the meadow area they have a large vegetable garden that provides them with lots of fresh produce and the joy of growing it.

“Craig is a farm boy,” LeAnn Whiting said. “Getting out in the dirt is a way of life for him, and it keeps the kids busy.”

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for more than 35 years. She can be reached at

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