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Gardening: July garden showcases the color purple

Sat., Aug. 9, 2014

Connie Osier shares a moment in her award-winning garden with Zamboni her tuxedo cat. (PAT MUNTS)
Connie Osier shares a moment in her award-winning garden with Zamboni her tuxedo cat. (PAT MUNTS)

Connie Osier’s favorite color is purple. How do I know? It was pretty obvious when I drove up to her South Hill home for this interview for the July Garden of the Month sponsored by the Inland Empire Gardeners.

Her front yard was a sight for sore, heat-stressed eyes. Velvety purple petunias, pink and white Stargazer lilies and light purple zinnias lined the walk to the dark blue front door. The lilies’ fragrance added to the sensual treat. A magnificent purple-leaved laceleaf Japanese maple draped over a wall at the foot of the sidewalk. Container plantings of mixed purple annuals and chartreuse sweet potato vine adorned the front step and border beds. Below a small sitting area by the front door are large Endless Summer hydrangeas that rounded out the color theme. More on them later.

Osier and her family have lived in their 1939 house for 25 years. “We basically had to demo the yard in the beginning and start from scratch,” she said. Osier helped the process along by taking landscape design classes at Spokane Community College which helped sharpen her skills for creating an exciting series of spaces starting with her entrance garden through to her backyard full of fruit trees, vegetables and chickens.

The space along the east side of the house is planted with aspen, alpine firs and wildflowers that combine to make you feel as if you are walking along a North Idaho trail. This garden was created after a major water line break meant everything including a large pine had to go. “The pine was rotten and hanging over the neighbor’s irreplaceable tile roof,” she said.

In the backyard, several large pines shade an edible landscape of apricot and peach trees, a square-foot garden filled with tomatoes, beans and other vegetables and berry bushes. The borders were filled with a mix of flowers and shrubs while pots of mixed purple and blue annuals grace the deck. Most of the flower beds and vegetable garden were fenced off from a very industrious flock of chickens. “They are fun to have around and give us really good eggs,” she said.

Osier’s Endless Summer hydrangeas are the best looking blue-flowering hydrangeas I have ever seen in Spokane. The Endless Summer series of hydrangeas came on the market several years ago in response to people asking for blue-flowering (Hydrangea macrophylla) that could tolerate cold winters. The original blue hydrangeas bloomed on wood that grew the previous summer. Unfortunately while the plant can tolerate our cold winters, the buds at the ends of the branches couldn’t and more often than not were killed. The Endless Summer plants bloom on wood that grows during the current year and thus aren’t subject to freezing. Osier’s plants aren’t a bright blue though. They are blooming in shades of purple, pink and white in response to our area’s alkaline soil and water.

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

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