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In the Garden: For North Idaho gardeners featured on annual tour, garden inspiration comes from above

Ernest and Ellen Grabbe ppose for a photograph in their garden in Post Falls on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Ernest and Ellen Grabbe ppose for a photograph in their garden in Post Falls on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Garden-lovers, take note: the highly anticipated Coeur d’Alene Garden Tour is set for July 14 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

It will feature five outstanding private gardens, with two in Post Falls and three in Coeur d’Alene. This year’s theme is “plant happiness.”

Ellen and Ernest Grabbe have done a fine job of selecting pleasing plant combinations to create their lovely garden in Post Falls. They are a hardworking team who have gotten the job done in a surprisingly short amount of time.

“We bought our house in 2016,” Ellen Grabbe said. “Some medical issues sidelined us for a couple of years so we’ve only worked on the landscape for about a year and a half.”

When the Grabbes moved in, the landscaping consisted of about 60 shrubs – most of which they removed since they weren’t thriving – and some large conifers. Ellen admits she didn’t have a plan for 5-acre property, instead relying on “ideas that have popped into my head.”

They soon planted peonies, a wisteria vine, hydrangeas and perennials that were growing beautifully during a recent visit.

“I’ve never gardened before but I have green fingers,” Ellen Grabbe said. “I really don’t know what I’m doing and I certainly wasn’t expecting everything to grow so big so fast.”

The soil is their biggest challenge because it is essentially solid rock. The solution? Create raised planting beds with landscape blocks and fill them with a combination of topsoil and compost. She particularly appreciates the raised beds since she doesn’t have to bend to tend the flowers.

A shady area of the garden is filled with hostas, bleeding hearts and peonies. There is a beautiful purple clematis vine climbing over a trellis. Foxgloves, daylilies, bachelor’s buttons, evening primroses, Oriental poppies, hollyhocks, coneflowers and Shasta daisies dot the garden with bright splashes of color. An attractive koi pond, complete with a splashing waterfall, provides a focal point.

Ernest Grabbe has been invaluable by helping dig planting holes, building birdhouses, designing the pond, and adding structures such as gates and gazebos.

“We do work together but I crack the whip,” Ellen Grabbe said jokingly. “I tell him, ‘if it’s still daylight, you don’t get to quit.’ But I have to admit he always knows when I could use some help.”

Ernest Grabbe uses his drone to photograph their landscape from an aerial perspective. His wife pencils her landscape ideas on the photos and they go from there.

One of the projects in progress is a large garden shed that every visitor will envy. It will be used for starting plants from seed and for overwintering tender plants.

There are many sitting areas located throughout the garden, all of which Ellen Grabbe visits on a daily basis. She carries a sketchbook to draw out ideas.

“I think visitors will especially enjoy these sitting areas because they can contemplate each section of the garden and delight in the peacefulness of it,” she said.

Here are the locations of all of the tour gardens:

Ellen and Ernest Grabbe, 2161 N. Reiswig Road, Post Falls

Stacey and Tim Mann, 201 E. Sixth Ave., Post Falls

Dani and Zach Betts, 854 Government Way, Coeur d’Alene

Becky Collet, 2708 N. Sixth St., Coeur d’Alene

Stephanie and Bill Harper, 1153 Brooklyn Ave., Coeur d’Alene

There will be an “artisan/vendor alley” set up at the Grabbe garden and musicians at each of the gardens. Proceeds from the tour will benefit local charities and North Idaho College scholarships.

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 at

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