Gary Ekstrom hand-built his garden shed using redwood fencing and windows from the old Camp White in White City

Just right

Like Goldilocks, Gary and Debra Ekstrom had to try out a few living situations before they felt settled in Jacksonville: The Applegate farm was much too big; the Nunan Square property too small. Their home along Daisy Creek is, as Goldilocks might have said, "just right."

"It feels like you're out in the country, but you can walk downtown," says Debra. "There's more space for gardening and we both love that."

The property had been home to a huge blackberry patch, but they've transformed it with a mix of old-fashioned flowers, herbs and native plants. The front of the home is surrounded by herbs and other deer-resistant garden plants like Russian sage, thyme and yarrow. A few more appetizing plants — roses and Shasta daisies — are protected with monofilament and cages.

"The nursery people said that Jacksonville deer have adapted to eating most plants," says Gary ruefully.

They remedied that as best they could by deer-proofing the front garden with an attractive cedar fence Gary constructed. Then they carted all their threatened plants into the new area, like the lace-leaf red maple that now has a home in a half wine barrel. The tall cedar fencing is rimmed with roses.

This delightful spot is next to a year-round creek hidden in the underbrush. In keeping with this water theme, they've installed a koi pond and a recirculating waterfall shallow enough for birds to use for bathing. Feeders alongside the pond help attract their favorite birds, goldfinches.

Gary and Debra have a number of seating options, including a table on the patio next to the house. It has an excellent view of the back garden and the finches enjoying the 18-perch Niger thistle feeder.

Debra is the flower gardener and favors old-fashioned flowers planted in the English style. "I collect seeds and get a lot of my flowers going that way," she says.

Variety is the byword in this young garden. Flowers are mixed with the existing plants, or set into pots around the pond and in beds. Thanks to Gary's hard work building paths, stairs and raised beds, this garden has great bones, and the Ekstroms are slowly allowing it to develop. Many of the native plants were purchased at Plant Oregon in Talent, including dawn redwood and red twig dogwood. Gary recommends the parrotia and its amazing fall colors: red, yellow and gold hues.

Gary used moss rock around the pond and raised beds, which has integrated the garden into the sloped site. Small flagstones, purchased at a quarry outside Shady Cove for his paths, are neat and make the garden feel older than its years, always a good thing in gardens. There's no grass in this garden, which is carved into sections by the paths that generally curve toward unseen destinations tucked about the long property.

One sure destination is the large garden shed Gary built. Topped by a firehouse-themed weather vane, the front wall of the shed was constructed from recycled cedar fencing which had rimmed the property. An old door and windows from Morrow's in Medford complete the rustic look. A lattice overhang extends from the peaked roof. Pillars that support it are grown up with morning glory.

Inside, the shed has plenty of space for all the garden tools, plus Gary's miter and table saws. To support her potting hobby, Debra has an outdoor potting table, another of Gary's constructions.

Gary is the cook and therefore the vegetable gardener, says Debra. He's planted onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and a favorite — arugula. They also grow thornless blackberry, strawberries and a multivariety cherry tree. Along the creek, an existing fence supports a few grape vines. Gary grows the food in Rogue River bottom soil, which he has amended himself. He has many more plans for the garden and clearly has the skills to manifest his ideas.

The privacy and space to carry their hobbies will keep this couple in place for a spell.

"A favorite thing as a little girl was to get up before everyone else did and go into the garden to weed and plant," says Debra. "I still do it."

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