August 22, 2013 in Washington Voices

Metal sculptures make garden pop

Pat Munts
Courtesy of Pat Munts photo

Karol Startzel stands with Rakey Nelson, one of her welded art sculptures. Strartzel’s garden is a wonderful collection of perennials, shrubs and trees that represent her work at SCC.
(Full-size photo)

Every garden I visit has a story not only of the plants and the design but also of the gardener behind the creation. July’s Garden of the Month winner is no exception.

Karol Startzel began creating her rocky hilltop garden nine years ago in the hills south of University High School. It wasn’t easy. They had to first carve a space out of the rock for the house. She then had to carve the garden out of the same stubborn granite and thin clay-ey soil.

“I have learned to use the resources around me to create the garden,” Startzel said.

Once she rearranged the rocks – and added a few more – she hauled in good soil to make beds and began filling them with horticultural treasures.

Startzel is in a perfect position to do that. Her day job is running the Greenery Flower Shop at Spokane Community College. The shop is the outlet for the flower arrangements and plants designed and grown by the students in the horticulture and greenhouse program. As such, Startzel has access to a lot of unusual landscape plants.

The main part of Startzel’s garden wraps around the lower level of the house. A space under the deck overhang is perfect for tropical plants. A pine needle path leads you around the edge of a bed that Startzel has filled with a wide range of perennials, shrubs and small conifers collected through her work at SCC.

“There are over 110 different trees in this garden,” Startzel said. Another path leads you down the rocks to her squash patch where the vines can run as far as they want. On the north side of the garden the Startzels built a comfortable sitting space under an arbor, with a fire pit surrounded by a colorful collection of potted plants. Behind the sitting area is Startzel’s Bruise Garden; all the plants in it either have black foliage or blue flowers.

“Gardening is therapy for me,” Startzel said. “So I have fun with it.”

Startzel is not only a good horticulturist; she is also a talented welded metal artist. She uses found metal like radiator shells, old and broken tools and odds and ends to make garden sculptures with names like Rakey Nelson, a tall bird with a tail made of an old hay rake. Edward Scissorhead has an old pair of garden shears as a head. Suzie Hammertoes is a chicken with feet made from old claw hammer heads. On the patio are large silver pine cones with leaves made of old spoons. You never know what metal critter you are going to find around the next turn.

Chickens, a rabbit and a couple of beehives round out the garden.

“We don’t harvest the honey, we just want to do our part to make sure there are enough bees in the world,” Startzel said.

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

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