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In the Garden: Teachers bring artistic flair to South Hill garden

John and Pat Hagney have turned their deep South Hill lot into an oasis of color and tranquility. (Susan Mulvihill/For The Spokesman-Review)
John and Pat Hagney have turned their deep South Hill lot into an oasis of color and tranquility. (Susan Mulvihill/For The Spokesman-Review)

When two artistic gardeners collaborate, the result is a lovely landscape that is a feast for the eyes. Such is the case with John and Pat Hagney’s garden.

John Hagney teaches art history and European history at Lewis & Clark High School, and Pat is newly retired after a lengthy career as an art teacher for District 81.

In 1994, they bought their South Hill home, partly because it had a nice rose garden. It didn’t take them long to discover the yard had even more potential.

“We thought the lot was much smaller because there was a fence across the midway point of the backyard,” Pat Hagney explained. “Then we found out the lot was twice as deep and began to think about its potential.”

They started formulating a plan and removed a large walnut tree that had been damaged during the 1996 ice storm. That opened up additional space in the garden and increased the amount of light.

“Pat has done a good job of creating this garden because she’s an artist and has a good sense of color,” John Hagney said. “We’ve also been positively impacted by neighbors who take a lot of pride in their gardens.”

The Hagneys recently welcomed me to their garden. My first views were of cheerful yellow marigolds – started from seed by John – which line the curving front walkway, and lush plantings of hydrangeas, hostas and coral bells at the edge of the lawn.

The back porch steps hold pots that beckoned me to stop and savor the colorful combinations of annual flowers and herbs. They were planted with geraniums, coleus, stunning new petunia cultivars and basil. The Hagneys have found container plants flourish when they sow seeds directly in the pots rather than transplanting seedlings.

Pat’s favorite perennial is the daylily; most were purchased from catalogs and her color choices are absolutely stunning. She loves how easy it is to divide them in the fall to make more plants. They are accompanied by beautiful roses.

I enjoyed studying their lush perennial beds, filled with plants primarily from the Friends of Manito plant sales. Their selections include hostas, astilbes, geraniums, peonies, phlox, daylilies, pulmonarias, ferns and goatsbeard. The occasional ceramic pot of petunias accented each bed.

John’s domain is the vegetable garden. He grows heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, Romanesco, broccoli, cauliflower (orange Cheddar and white cultivars), potatoes, Musica pole beans, butternut squash and herbs. The plants receive sunlight from early morning to early afternoon, which is sufficient for them to thrive.

They use a small greenhouse to start plants from seed. One of John’s specialties is the Frances Hoffman’s Choice shrub marigolds, which can grow up to 6 feet in height.

Of particular interest to John is the concept of eco-psychology, which centers around the psychological benefits of connecting with the natural world.

“This year, we didn’t get into our gardens until March due to our long winter and, by that time, I was depressed,” he said. “I like the tranquility of the garden. In the morning, I’m often stressed about something, but after a few hours in the garden, I bet my blood pressure is much lower.”

While the Hagneys both enjoy being out in the garden, their careers have enabled them to create such a special space.

“As teachers, we’ve had summers off from school,” John Hagney said. “If that hadn’t been the case, we wouldn’t have gotten the yard to this point.”

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at Watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow a Garden” video on

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