A good garden always has heart and a good story or two behind it. They can be world-famous estates designed by landscape architects or simple backyards with great stories. But they all have the heart of the gardener in them somewhere.
Such is the case for Nancy Sonduck’s garden. She has lived and gardened in her Shadle-area home for 45 years under one simple gardening principle: Plant what you like, purge what you don’t and have fun doing it. “I look for plants I like and then just find a place for them. I don’t even look at the name,” Sonduck said. With a philosophy like that, her garden was an easy pick for the September Garden of the Month from the Inland Empire Gardeners.
When Sonduck started her garden, the backyard sloped steeply into the alley, which didn’t lend itself to much easy gardening. With the help of her sons and friends, they built a wall to level the yard and added some privacy with a fence. An arborvitae hedge was added between a neighboring house.
She filled beds with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and an assortment of annual vegetables. Japanese maples, hibiscus, wisteria, dogwood, clematis, weeping cherry and cushion asters found their way into the garden. Many of the vegetables were planted in the front yard for people to take.
“I’ve never had any theft,” Sonduck said. “People ask, and I like to share.”
Seeing that my visit was the day before the big freeze last week, I even went home with the last of the watermelons and eggplant.
Sonduck refers to her weeping cherry as the Hobby Lobby tree. It seems several years ago the tree had a lot of dead branches. After being pruned it was going to take several years for it to recover and fill back in. Sonduck’s solution to the ugly tree was to buy a bunch of colorful silk flowers at Hobby Lobby and wire them into the tree. The color covered the somewhat naked tree and turned heads with passersby. Sonduck had one lady stop and look at the tree for quite a while then come to the door to tell Sonduck that if the flowers had all been the same color, she would have thought it was real.
In her backyard is a 1,300-pound cast concrete turtle settled into a gravel garden. She had seen it numerous times as she drove by Ruby Street Antiques. Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore and stopped in to buy it. Unfortunately, the owner had just sold it. But he was willing to order her one if she could wait – and made her a really good offer. She threw in $100 to get it moved into place and then surrounded it with several smaller turtles.
The turtle has come to have another meaning, too. In 2017, Sonduck suffered some health issues and now uses a walker.
“Slow and steady describes my gardening now. I have to rely on my son and friends to keep it up, but I keep at it.”
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