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When creating new landscape, keep long-term plan in mind

Master Gardener Jennifer Tiegs stands in a shady area of the new landscape she has been designing at her Millwood home.
Master Gardener Jennifer Tiegs stands in a shady area of the new landscape she has been designing at her Millwood home.

When I profile local gardeners, I usually write about their lush, established plantings and interesting plant collections.

That isn’t the case today.

Jennifer Tiegs was willing to share the thought processes she’s gone through in designing her new garden.

A WSU/Spokane County Master Gardener since 2010, Tiegs purchased a 1930s home in Millwood last August. Sitting on a little over one-quarter of an acre, the lot had been neglected for years.

“I bought the house because of the large deck and outdoor space,” Tiegs said. “I started tackling the outside projects in early fall. Since everything was so overgrown, it wasn’t hard to figure out what needed to be done.”

First, she set to work eliminating the rampant vinca vine, setting up a composting system and removing some of the lawn to create a perennial bed.

Tiegs hired a certified arborist to address problem trees on the lot. Two old apricot trees, heavily shaded by a maple, needed to be removed. A maple crowding a mountain ash had to come out, too. The arborist will return in the fall to do more clean-up and remove more maples.

Over the winter, she developed a three- to five-year design plan – “planning, plotting and developing a rough idea of what I wanted to accomplish in my garden and how I was going to do that,” she said.

She made rough and measured drawings, searched online plant databases and asked herself whether she wanted a “mishmash of plants” or some type of theme. She consulted the reliable Sunset “Western Garden Book” as well as the Spokane County Master Gardener publication “Landscape Plants for the Inland Northwest.” If a plant caught her fancy, she did a Web search to determine if it would be a good fit.

“I also knew I needed to put in foundation plants first so I’d have a base to start from and see how they filled up the space. Some of my choices include ninebark Diablo, several varieties of spirea, a variegated Japanese maple, snowberry bushes and red-twig dogwood,” she said.

Many of her selections are geared toward attracting birds.

This spring, she built a 4-by-8-foot raised bed that she’s growing tomatoes and peppers in. She’s also been buying plants for a new perennial bed and figuring out her water consumption since she lives in an irrigation district.

“My main focus is to make sure the plants I’ve invested in get enough water so they can become established this year,” she said. “I almost feel like a babysitter because of caring for and nurturing the plants.”

She suggests that people wanting to plan a new landscape or renovate an old one first think about how they’ll use the space:

“Sit down with pencil and paper and sketch it out three or four times. Then sketch some more. When you’re ready to put everything in the ground, be flexible.

“And always keep an eye toward the following year. I understand all of my plantings won’t be done at once, and that it’s not going to look good in two years, and that’s OK.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at


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