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Tour lets visitors in on shade garden secrets

Sun., Aug. 4, 2013

Norma Norton’s South Hill garden features charming sitting areas and many beautifully planted containers. (Susan Mulvihill)
Norma Norton’s South Hill garden features charming sitting areas and many beautifully planted containers. (Susan Mulvihill)

Next Sunday, five gardens on Spokane’s South Hill will be open to the public for the first time as part of this year’s “Other Gardeners’ Edens” garden tour.

The tour will be presented by the Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane, which is 80 years old this year. What some might not know is that this nonprofit group was formed to promote the idea of naming Spokane “The Lilac City,” and later sponsored the first Lilac Parade back in 1938.

Visitors to Norma Norton’s garden, located at 729 E. 23rd Ave., will discover how she grows many sun-loving plants on a fairly shady lot.

Her 100-year-old home and the city lot it sits upon are surrounded by tall pine and maple trees. And yet, she is growing many annuals, perennials and vegetables that would ordinarily balk at these conditions. What’s her secret?

During the past 35 years, Norton has tracked the sun’s movement through her garden, used movable containers to grow veggies and annuals and has placed hanging baskets up high on the fence to treat the plants to the maximum amount of sun.

While her parents always had a vegetable garden while she was growing up, the shady conditions have kept her from growing a traditional vegetable garden. That’s why she switched to using containers.

“The reason I do pots is because of the lack of sun in my yard,” she said. “I learned just by experimenting, seeing what grows and what doesn’t.”

There are containers with dahlias, impatiens, lamium, sweet potato vine, coleus, lobelia, sweet alyssum, million bells, petunias, as well as tomatoes and eggplants. She also has taken advantage of the few odd spots in her landscape that get some sun to tuck in some vegetable plants.

The perennial beds overflow with hostas, peonies, Joe Pye weed, daylilies, purple clematis, ferns, phlox and lavender. There are also hydrangeas, spirea, ornamental kiwi vine, boxwood and a weeping Arizona cypress to add interest to the garden.

The combination of attractive sitting areas and fun garden art add a lot of charm to what has become a place of serenity for Norton.

“It’s the peace and quiet, the beautiful colors of the flowers and being outside that I enjoy,” she said. “I feel calm when I’m gardening or even when I’m out here just sitting.”

The following gardens are also a part of the tour:

• Gloria and Jim Waggoner/Paulsen House garden and Myrtle White Paulsen Meditation Garden, 245 E. 13th Ave.

• Jane and Sam Joseph, 1910 S. Upper Terrace Road.

• Breck and Elaine Breckenridge, 31 W. 37th Ave.

• Barbara and Will Murray, 1004 W. 23rd Ave.

Organizers of the tour also encourage attendees to visit the historic Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens, located adjacent to the Corbin Art Center at 507 W. Seventh Ave. It is free to the public and open each Sunday in August.

Proceeds from the tour will go to the Associated Garden Clubs’ grants program which has given more than $200,000 to the Spokane area for beautification and gardening projects in local parks, community gardens and other civic areas.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at her blog at for more gardening information, tips and events.

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