Shade is always a challenge for gardeners, and it takes some creativity to build a colorful garden with only the sun that filters through the pine trees.
But that is exactly what Carol Holter and Larry Vail did in their Lake Spokane property near Nine Mile Falls. Their efforts won them the June Garden of the Month award from the Inland Empire Gardeners. Holter and Vail are both retired postmasters – Vail in Monroe, Washington, and Holter in Nine Mile Falls. Holter has lived in the house for 33 years.
Their gardens are nestled among dozens of at least 50-year-old pines. Their secret garden at the entrance to the property is planted with shade-tolerant plants like hosta, bright yellow creeping Jenny, white and blue hydrangea, clematis and a contorted filbert.
Using materials at hand from the ice age floods, they have lined the garden’s paths with cobbles for a nice rustic look. The garden is also home to plants collected from their mothers’ gardens. A grape vine scrambles up a trellis and farther into a tall pine. A blue hydrangea is budding out. Hydrangeas do well in this garden because of its proximity to the lake.
On the lake side of the house, 300 red and white impatiens frame beds filled with hostas in multiple shades of green and white. Each bed is anchored with several kinds of weeping evergreen and Japanese maples that are surrounded by more hydrangeas, spirea, daylilies and brunnera. They have planted petasites or butterbur. Butterbur stands 3 feet tall with nearly 2-foot diameter green leaves that create a bold presence along the garden border with a neighbor.
To further brighten the garden, Holter plants dozens of containers and hanging baskets filled with geraniums, coleus, petunias and impatiens. The hanging baskets are hung from hooks sculptured like pigs. “For 26 years we hosted an annual pig roast, and the hangers celebrate that,” said Holter. Many of their hanging baskets are overwintered in a sheltered garage. “A couple of these baskets are 2 and 3 years old,” said Vail.
They like the challenge of keeping them going. “It saves money,” Vail laughed.
On the lake side of one of the big beds is a cozy sitting area where Holter and Vail like to spend evenings watching activity on the lake and listening to the waves slap gently against the bulkhead.
“We see so many birds here including osprey and eagles,” said Holter.
It is common to see an osprey catch a fish and then watch an eagle challenge it for the food.
“We see nuthatches, swallows, sparrow, robins, hummingbirds and wood ducks,” she said. The wood ducks nest in large wooden nest boxes they mounted about 10 feet up the trees, she said. When the ducklings hatch, mama duck goes into lake, and calls the babies. Each ball of tawny yellow fluff then drops the 10 feet to the ground and joins its mother.
“They swim off and that’s the last we see of them until next spring,” said Holter.
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