Passion. Patience. Adaptability. Gardening comes in many forms, but for these nine Valley gardeners those three principles are at the root of it all. As Idaho slowly awakens from its long winter slumber, area gardeners wait for the snow to disappear from Shafer Butte, signaling the unofficial start to the 2013 gardening season. In the meantime, these gardeners share their secrets to success.
And if these gardens look familiar, you aren't mistaken. They were featured in the 2013 Treasure Valley Gardens calendar published by the Idaho Statesman.
Diana and Charles Parenteau, Boise Bench
Diana Parenteau describes her garden as "a work in progress." They moved to Boise in 1992 and had a blank canvas of a backyard: Concrete sidewalks, concrete patios, unhealthy grass and two dying locust trees. Their first challenge was to tame their concrete jungle.
"We started getting serious about developing the yard 12 years ago when we had the concrete removed," Parenteau says.
Year after year since, they have made additional changes: removing sod, adding new plantings, incorporating hardscaping features and more. They hired contractors for heavier work like adding landscaping boulders, retaining walls and a water feature. The Parenteaus do the rest themselves, a little at a time. The big picture? Developing the yard into sections she refers to as "rooms."
Parenteau grew up watching her father in the garden, but even though he was an avid gardener she didn't pick up the interest until later in life.
"Now it is my recreation, exercise and therapy," she says.
Our garden must have: Color and texture. "We also strive for year-round interest; the goal is to have something blooming or 'making a spectacle' almost every week of the year. Conifers (blue, green, and yellow) are anchor plants for every season but especially important in the winter," Parenteau says.
My go-to source for inspiration is: "Everything!" she says with enthusiasm. Some of their favorites include local nurseries, local home and garden shows, friends' yards, magazines and davesgarden.com, a website that features gardening tutorials, advice, forums and resources.
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: Parenteau makes the most of her time by doing a little bit of everything. "Enjoy walking the pathways, pinching a deadhead, tossing a ball for the dogs, assessing water and fertilizer needs, listening to birds sing, talking to the plants, smelling flowers, scolding any weeds I might see and pulling them, watching insects, laughing at squirrels and feeding my soul," Parenteau says. Her self-described "workouts" are typically done in 30 to 60 minutes, and something she enjoys frequently.
"I can easily tidy a room in 30 to 60 minutes (water, weed, deadhead, trim), which improves manageability and gives me a feeling of accomplishment," Parenteau says.
Karen and Wayne Forrey, Southwest Boise
The Forreys moved into a brand-new home 12 years ago, and that gave them the chance to make the garden their own from the very beginning. The centerpiece is a fountain with heavy rocks that allow water to cascade down. Planters are filled with flowers and vegetables because it's an efficient use of space and also creates more interest, Forrey says. "If you punch in something with a different shape or texture, that's what draws your attention," she says.
Their former home was on a half-acre, and they moved to downsize. Because the new backyard was around 1,200 square feet, they set out to make the most of it. Over time Forrey has learned that a smaller yard doesn't have to limit a garden's potential. She takes advantage of vertical space for vegetables like cucumbers and squash (it's a method common in Japan where garden space is limited, she says). It's all about making the most of whatever space is available. Grapes and raspberries grow along the side of the yard, and she plants herbs among her flowers to help fight off insects.
Forrey grew up in Twin Falls and was part of a family that loved to garden (her grandmother had a front yard filled with roses), and her own interests have grown as an adult. She is an advanced master gardener, but many of her principles stem from common sense. Don't make it too labor-intensive or you won't enjoy it, for example. And remember that nothing has to be permanent.
"As a gardener, it's important to know that you can always tear something out and start over," she says.
My garden must have: Good soil. "Your garden can have anything, but without good soil it won't grow," she says. Forrey makes her own compost and adds that a good watering system is also key.
My go-to source for inspiration is: Books and magazines. Forrey still uses books that were handed down from her grandmother and mother, and one of her longtime favorites is the Sunset "Western Garden Book." "That was my bible when I started gardening," she says. While she appreciates websites dedicated to gardening, she finds more value in printed material because when she finds an idea she likes, she can take it with her to a nursery.
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: Take inventory. Forrey will deadhead flowers, cultivate soil or inspect for insects. "Sometimes I just stand back and look to see what I might need to add," she says.
Joanne and Mike Lechner, Warm Springs Mesa
Make the most of it. That's the idea behind the garden of Joanne and Mike Lechner. Their home on the Warm Springs Mesa includes large, old trees that provide heavy shade in parts of the yard. A shade garden has become a serene space with pathways and contrasts of color, texture, shapes and sizes. But the sun still beats down on some areas. A xeriscape garden makes the best of its dry surroundings with a lovely slab stone path bordered with lavender and a raised box containing a massive rhubarb plant.
Joanne Lechner's gardening skills come from her father, who was considered the family gardener at their Los Angeles home. He would line one side of their long driveway with calla lilies and the other with dahlias.
"My introduction to gardening was deadheading those callas," she says.
Each year he would plant a 10-foot-long wall of sweet peas, and he would let his daughter cut as many as she wanted. That experience was an early lesson in the joy gardening can bring to others.
"The older women in the neighborhood all welcomed my frequent gift bouquets and corsages," Lechner says. "Sometimes I got homemade cookies."
Lechner now watches her granddaughter enjoy the garden the way she did as a young girl. Because of a change in elevation in their yard, a set of winding stairs leads to an upper garden. It's an ideal place to view the rest of the garden from a different perspective while sitting on the meditation bench. "It's a call to be still, listen to the birds and experience the sway of the plants nearby, tuning into one's own reflective inspirations," she says. "Looking down there is a patch of ground with a basket of small rocks that can be used to design or build. Our 8 1/2-year-old granddaughter prefers to create spirals."
She wonders if those playful spirals could eventually become a miniature labyrinth for whoever owns the home someday.
My garden must have: Time. Lechner insists on having enough time to spend in her garden because of how it makes her feel. "I need time in the garden because it refreshes my soul," she says. "Concerns of life seem to be left in the house as I venture out to discover what is new, changed or surprisingly present." When people visit their home (it was featured on the 2012 Boise Garden Tour), they often say the garden gives them a sense of peace, Lechner says. She considers it an outdoor chapel. "Whether I am planting, pruning, harvesting, resting I can find the spirit of life which draws me to reflect and pray," she says.
My go-to source for inspiration is: "Anything and everything," she says. She often turns to books to learn more, and in 2012 she read about how to integrate vegetables with flowers and shrubs. But at the end of the season they had nearly 40 spaghetti squash plants, so this year they plan to have more watermelon plants instead.
Inspiration also comes from color. Last year she decided to incorporate one color throughout the garden. She introduced a red patio umbrella and pops of red with blossoms and strawberries as well as on some pots and bamboo style arbors and even a few birdhouses. It was such a success she plans to do it again this year.
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: For Lechner, time is rarely an issue. "At age 72, I am usually blessed with unlimited time, so I do prioritize my work, not according to time, but need," she says. "I am thankful that I need the experience of our garden chapel."
Mike and De Zborowski, Boise Bench
Their combined interests seem like a natural fit for gardening: Mike Zborowski loves building, while De is a floral designer and has always loved flowers and plants. They have lived in their Bench home since 1973, and their first outdoor project was a gazebo with a built-in barbecue, followed by three small buildings on a deck they call the "Harbor." It has developed into a magical oasis over the years: A huge maple tree (planted in 1955) features a tree house (it was even equipped with electricity) and a large deck with a greenhouse and bar. And they host crab and lobster boils near the deck at their backyard "crab shack."
The backyard is filled with shade, and De Zborowski has adapted by seeking shade-loving plants. "I love potted plants and flowers. I have around 20 to 30 potted containers," she says.
Those potted plants need extra attention, and Zborowski has a solid system to manage them. "My best hint for container gardening is wash your clay pots, use systemic pesticide and a time-release fertilizer," she says.
She also believes in quality potting soil (don't use soil from your garden when potting plants). And she waters in the morning rather than at night.
She gets creative with resources to give her garden interest and personality: Window boxes have a waterfall effect (using ivy to cascade over the edge) and get added color with alyssum. Charm comes from old objects she repurposes around the garden, including old doors, bikes, garden tools, crates and benches.
"We love texture and contrast in decking, concrete, and brick, and lots of ivy," she says.
Mike focuses on adding lots of detail into his buildings for the garden (right down to moldings) and De's specialty is adding elements of color.
My garden must have: Dragon wing begonias. Her color of choice? Red.
My go-to source for inspiration: Greenhouses, garden magazines, Pinterest and more. "Our inspiration comes from traveling, visiting greenhouses and garden parties," she says. "Disney has always been an inspiration (because of) their grouping and nonstop performing flowers."
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: Water, deadhead or fertilize. Because Zborowski is often limited for time, she has learned to make the most of it.
When it comes to gardening, Sally Thomas is all about color.
Thomas has lived in her home for 20 years and has redone the yard three times. Her main focus? Hundreds of colorful flowers ranging from bulbs to perennials and annuals. There are also tomatoes, zucchini, radishes and herbs. And she enjoys a koi pond and turtles. In the winter, when the koi and the turtles are dormant, her yard remains vibrant because of the colorful artificial flowers she "plants." As she develops her garden in the spring, Thomas continues to use artificial flowers to fill in bare areas. She had artificial turf installed in 2012 to reduce maintenance and continue the theme of year-round color.
As a nature lover and outdoor enthusiast, Thomas views her garden as a sanctuary. "I think it's a place where you can feel closer to God," she says.
Thomas grew up in Southern California, where she developed her interest in gardening. She remembers helping her grandmother work in her garden in her home in Hollywood as a child. She credits gardening for her youthful energy.
"I am 74 years old and I could easily pass for someone in my 60s," Thomas says. "I feel like I have the energy of a 55-year-old, and I really believe it's from gardening. I can't stop. I'm a high-energy person."
My garden must have: Trees. Although Thomas admits she loves bursts of color, she also loves the way trees make her yard look lush and alive, even in the winter months.
My go-to source for inspiration is: Magazines and the Butchart Gardens in Canada. The famous gardens, which are loaded with colorful flowers, were once part of a favorite vacation. She continues to draw upon its breathtaking images as a source of inspiration.
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: Weeding comes first. Thomas believes in the importance of basic maintenance and turns to weeding as the first and most critical step in keeping her garden gorgeous.
Tony Montes, Southwest Boise
When Tony Montes purchased his home in 2008, it was a plain Jane with grass and one tree.
Since then he has brought it to life by adding paths, waterfalls, ponds, numerous trees and flowers, and other elements like rocks, a bridge, an arbor, fountains, benches and a fire-pit. And he continues to add new features.
"I enjoy flowers and try to plant them so that I have a succession of color from early spring through fall," Montes says. "It is truly a labor of love for me."
Montes, who is in his 50s, has been interested in landscaping and gardening since his 20s. He is a self-described nature lover and he strives to demonstrate that passion in his garden. "I constantly observe how rocks become arranged by nature and how rocks enhance the beauty of plants when they share the same canvas," he says. "I try to mimic nature in my own landscapes and seem to have a knack for placing rocks so that they become interesting and not just a rock."
My garden must have: For Montes, it is a difficult choice between water and rocks. "I love both and always try to have them in my landscapes," he says. "I love the soothing sound of water and love the way it captures light. Rocks are necessary to define boundaries as well as create backdrops, focal points, and even create sounds when you add water."
My go-to source for inspiration is: Nature. "In my garden I always want rocks and plants to look as though they might have occurred that way naturally," he says.
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: Get rid of those weeds. "This is not much fun but very necessary if you want your garden to look healthy and to give your rocks and plants the ability to stand out," Montes says.
Brent Stewart, North Boise
"Whimsy" is the first word Brent Stewart thinks of when he describes his garden. It's an eclectic mix of found or repurposed objects (like the toilet that now serves as a planter), chickens, flowers and serenity. However, usually Stewart lacks the time to enjoy the serenity he works so hard to create for others.
"If I had the time I'd like to just sit back and enjoy it," he says. "That would be the ultimate."
Stewart admits his own enjoyment (and serenity) comes while working in the garden. It's a collaboration with friend Robyn Yraguen that began years ago after Yraguen purchased a greenhouse from Costco. Stewart had more space than she did, so he offered to put the structure on his property. Now they work together - along with Robyn's daughter Katie - to keep the garden thriving.
The garden is also in the same space as the family business: Stewart's Gem Shop. Stewart grew up in the business and is still deeply involved. But when he isn't working, he is tending to his garden. His love of gardening is an extension of the joy he feels as a result of eight years of sobriety (he is a former methamphetamine addict). "My life went from dark and dull to one filled with color and beauty," he says.
My garden must have: Good soil. Stewart goes to great lengths to have quality soil in his garden. He recently drove to Payette to purchase high-quality compost and also hauled in three yards of topsoil to prepare the garden for the 2013 planting season.
My go-to source for inspiration is: Nature. "I find beauty everywhere, but being around rocks and nature all the time ... that gives me inspiration."
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: Water is the first priority. Stewart waters twice a day in warmer months. "If you miss one water, it really shows," he says.
Kathy and Robert Yoshida, Southeast Boise
Know yourself. It's the basic truth behind the garden of Kathy and Robert Yoshida. While they admit to enjoying time outdoors, the Yoshidas also know they don't want to be burdened with hours of maintenance. And Kathy Yoshida isn't a big fan of grass or flowers. Several years ago they turned to the expert advice of landscape architect Kecia Carlson, owner of Madeline George Garden Design, to develop a better plan for their outdoor living space. Carlson put together a plan based on their interests and how they planned to use that space, and today they have a garden worthy of admiration (it has been featured on the annual Boise Garden Tour). It includes lush bamboo, a water feature and a tea house where the couple can enjoy warm evenings with a glass of wine.
Yoshida knows that patience isn't her strength. But Carlson has persuaded her to choose smaller plants that will grow into her space rather than purchasing fully developed plants that satisfy her immediately. The bamboo plants that now threaten to tower above their fence and tea house were just a couple of feet high when they were introduced into the yard in 2006. Bamboo grows fast and can easily spread. Carlson knew that mature plants would be too unruly within a few years, even if it wasn't evident to Yoshida. "She sees the bigger picture," Yoshida says.
My garden must have: Water. The water feature in the Yoshidas' yard is a source of tranquility as well as a favorite hardscaping element. "It really does drown out a lot of noise," she says. "It gets rid the outside noise and just helps you relax."
My go-to source for inspiration is: Kecia Carlson. Yoshida turns to Carlson for advice and loves to visit Carlson's nursery to take in the beauty and get new ideas (Madeline George Garden Design Nursery is located at 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway). Carlson also provides a much-needed reality check when Yoshida feels the urge to make an impulsive decision about her garden. "The easy thing is to jump in there. I want the quick fix," she says. "Her solution is more green, more thoughtful and usually less expensive. It's a fix that is common sense."
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: Yoshida goes for the clean sweep: raking. "It's like if you're having company, you vacuum," she says. Running the rake through the yard helps clean up debris and gives it a clean, neat look. When the Yoshidas' daughter, Kelly, got married in their garden in September 2011, a windstorm swept through the Valley the night before the ceremony. Yoshida had about one hour to clean up debris from the storm, so she grabbed a rake and when she was done, it was good as new.
Roger Goicoechea, Boise Bench
Trial and error, hard work and a good measure of resourcefulness are the cornerstones of Roger Goicoechea's garden. His parents were farmers, and that agricultural background help shape Goicoechea's work ethic as an adult. Flowers and vegetables live together in harmony in his garden because of advice his mother passed along.
"My mom used to say, 'If you want those flowers to be watered, you'd better plant vegetables beside them,' " he says.
And that's life in Goicoechea's garden. Flowerbeds are filled with colorful blooms, rows of carrots and eggplant. He believes in being practical: If something doesn't work, he moves on to the next idea. He shares plants with neighbors not only because he's a good neighbor, but also for self-preservation: If one of his plants dies, he knows he can turn to a neighbor to get a start and have that plant again. That practical approach also applies to working in the garden. He does some of his best work on Sunday mornings, when many neighbors are away at church, gone for a weekend of camping or out brunching. It's quiet in the neighborhood and an ideal time to focus on yard work without any distractions.
My garden must have: Tilling. Goicoechea believes in the "production" behind a quality garden. And that starts with well-tilled soil. "There has to be something behind it or there's just nothing there," he says.
My go-to source for inspiration is: "Everywhere," he says. Goicoechea draws inspiration from his neighbors, area garden centers, nature and elsewhere. His eyes are always open for the next great idea.
If I only have 30 to 60 minutes to work in my garden: "Grab a hoe," he says. That farming background makes Goicoechea a hard worker, and his goal is to keep his garden weed-free with regular maintenance.
His father's advice still rings true: "He used to say 'Make it look like somebody lives here,' " Goicoechea says.
GET A 2013 GARDENS CALENDAR
It's not too late to get a 2013 Treasure Valley Gardens calendar. Buy one for half price ($2.50) at 1200 N. Curtis Road in Boise. More information at www.idahostatesman.com/promotions. And be on the lookout for information about how to enter your garden in our 2014 calendar contest.