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Wednesday, April 8, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Annual garden tour shows off the colors

Spokane is a gardening town filled with hidden gems. A garden tour is your invitation to explore them and be inspired. The first tour of the season, Spokane in Bloom, is Saturday. Put on by the Inland Empire Gardeners, the tour will feature five Spokane Valley gardens.

Get ready for an explosion of color when you visit Mike Di Biase and Chanel Fan’s garden, located at 17606 E. Ridge Court in Greenacres. Di Biase designed it in the cottage garden style.

“Cottage gardens have mass plantings with emphasis on mass blooming,” he said. “There’s no structure to it, but there’s a feeling of harmonious flow. Everything I do is for the color.”

It’s safe to say Di Biase has achieved that look. Six years ago, when he bought the house, the outlines for the beds were already there. Since then, he has filled those curving beds with every blooming plant imaginable – annuals, bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees – to provide season-long color.

An amazing collection of lupines, geums, poppies, irises, geraniums, painted daisies, honeysuckle, flax, peonies, roses and a pink-flowering, variegated weigela were in bloom during a recent visit.

Accomplishing all this has been a wild ride for Di Biase.

“For the past six summers, it’s been like running downhill where there’s no slowing down,” he said. “Time starts speeding by and soon it’s hard to do the planning, get plants ordered on time and get everything into the ground early enough.”

Having enough time is challenging for all gardeners, but as a pilot for FedEx, Di Biase is particularly time-crunched.

“The first thing I want to do after returning from a trip is work in the garden,” he said. “It’s my respite; it speaks to my soul.”

In the past, deer have prevented him from accomplishing his goals. Once he put up a deer fence, that frustrating problem was eliminated and he can plant with abandon.

In addition to the colorful planting s, Di Biase has added many lovely touches to the garden: obelisks, benches, sculptures and an attractive pergola adorned with hanging baskets of million bells.

“That’s what makes it a retreat or a sanctuary, rather than just a garden,” he said.

Attracting birds has been a top priority. Di Biase has been successful through the placement of feeders, birdhouses, fountains and a collection of trees and shrubs that produce edible berries – as well as a lot of color, of course.

“Sometimes I feel like the conductor of a symphony,” he said. “It’s all in the timing, and I want to get it just right!”

The following gardens are also on the tour:

Ellie Mae Holm, 3730 S. Sullivan Road, Spokane Valley: Located on her 1.5 acre property, Holm’s garden is in USDA hardiness zone 4, which makes gardening a challenge. Her favorite feature is the sunken garden, and visitors will enjoy seeing her special plants on the terrace where they get extra TLC.

Karen and George Whitehead, 17616 E. Linke Road, Greenacres: This garden was designed to be low maintenance and ideal for entertaining. It features deer-resistant plants, raised beds for vegetables and herbs, an automated watering system to save time and conserve water, and delightful focal points made with repurposed items.

Karen and Mike Parks, 2309 S. Morningside Heights, Greenacres: After relocating from Seattle, these gardeners had to learn what would grow in our climate. Their garden is filled with rhododendrons, roses, a variety of flowers for season-long bloom, garden art to spice things up and landscaping to attract pollinators and hummingbirds.

Mary Anne and Dennis Moore, 1407 S. Virginia Road, Spokane Valley: The Moores have taken their shady yard and transformed it into an Asian-inspired sanctuary, complete with a koi-filled pond, dry streambed, pergolas, rock gardens, and garden rooms with seating areas for quiet contemplation. Plantings include hostas, heucheras, ferns, ornamental grasses and specimen trees.

There will also be a bonus stop at Gibson’s Nursery, 1401 S. Pines Road, where tour-goers can enter to win a $100 gift card. Lunch will be available for purchase at the Di Biase garden.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at and follow her on Facebook at

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