Gardener's Reward

Gardener's Reward

When they moved to the Rogue Valley two years ago, Carolyn Wolf and Mike Fowell were the lucky recipients of a fully planted ornamental garden "¦ or were they?

They were entranced by the expert landscaping of Cora Lee, whose Central Point home was on the market. "Expect to spend about an hour a day doing garden chores," says Lee.

"We fell for it, hook, line and sinker," Mike says, playfully.

From the big wicker seats on the front porch, it's easy to see the garden's seductive appeal. Circular planting beds provide the foreground for an expansive view of the valley, including both Table Rocks, Mount McLoughlin and even Mount Thielsen on a clear day. With grasses, perennials, unusual herbs, small evergreens and flowering shrubs, something is always happening. Add in the playful activity of goats and their llama companion, Cherie, and the appeal is absolute.

"We didn't eat inside for months," Carolyn says, laughing. "This is my favorite room."

With so many plants — cultivated on about an acre — there's always plenty to do. Although she doesn't work in the garden every day, Carolyn is outside between three and four hours some days. "You always have something to do," agree the couple. Within months of signing the mortgage papers, Carolyn and Mike had signed up to become Jackson County Master Gardeners. With this certification, each has found a garden niche: Carolyn grows things; Mike breaks them down.

He's the official garden composter and turns 6 yards of plant debris, everything from spent flowers to a sweet gum tree, into almost 3 yards of finely textured black gold. "One of the benefits of compost is that you create a healthy soil food web," explains Mike. "You still have to add nutrients."

Carolyn is in charge of managing the growth: trimming and deadheading, moving and removing plants and transforming it into a personal garden, rather than an inherited one. She's taken out ivy, replanted around the koi pond and planted a vegetable garden that rivals the ornamental areas in good looks.

She left the established ornamentals: roses, including the unusual "Belle's story" with pink, peony-like blooms, a standardized honeysuckle, lavender, Artemisia and Lee's Egyptian walking onions, which produce globular flowers that mature into sets on the plant. Another uncommon plant, the apple rose (Rosa pomifera), has small single flowers and is grown for its hips the size of cherry tomatoes.

"It was really nice to work around what's there," says Carolyn. "Then I just started trying new things."

This summer, greens, heirloom tomatoes, unique bean varieties and an array of peppers, "some too hot to eat, but they're pretty," fill the beds. The paths are a mix of gravel and wood chips, and some of the most charming of the vegetable area's constructions are the arbors and trellises. The garden is entered through one of a pair of wooden trellises, which support roses, as well. Employing metal cattle fencing, Mike and Carolyn created an ingenious tunnel trellis, a home for climbing plants, including a Hubbard squash. The tunnels are neat and simple to install, according to Mike. "It's a trick learned from the Master Gardeners," says Carolyn.

Part of the garden is installed over the site of the former chicken coop. "That soil is incredible. I could hardly dig for all the worms," she says.

Carolyn "has to have zinnias," and these are interplanted with the vegetables. A bush Delicata squash is "a real find; It doesn't take a ton of room." Epazote, another experimental herb, is added to cooking beans "so they don't have that anti-social quality," she explains.

Lemon balm, dill, feverfew, nasturtiums and even a lavender plant "just showed up." Carolyn lets most volunteers stay put. "The bees like them, and they are so good for the garden."

Even the borage volunteers, which can inundate a garden, have a purpose. Mike includes them in his compost. "They have a lot of nitrogen," he says.

Carolyn follows advice she found in a garden book. "You should always leave a little part of your garden wild," she recounts. "I like that." As do the beneficial insects, pollinators and hummingbirds.

Sitting on the comfortable porch, watching the midday sun fill the valley, a glass of ice water in hand — nothing is more appealing than this gardener's reward.

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