Private park in Grants Pass

Private park in Grants Pass

You can't call what Sherry and Kelly Young built on their five acres near Grants Pass merely a garden: It is more like a private park.

Everywhere you look, there are fascinating contrasts in color and texture, unusual plants, burbling water features, trellises, arches and amusing ornaments to please the eye.

The Youngs moved to their property six years ago, a house surrounded on all sides by an old second-growth pine and fir forest. They spent the early years clearing brush and cutting and limbing enough of the huge trees to let some light into the understory.

They had a lot of plants in pots they had brought with them, and they slowly integrated the transplants into the landscape.

"We moved more plants than furniture," notes Sherry Young.

The back of the property is devoted to natives: swathes of shooting stars, camas and bracken fern. Rhododendrons were planted among the ferns in one area; another boasts a flush of white azaleas.

"The brackens stay green all summer," says Young. "We added 40 Chinese dogwoods. They have beautiful fall color: all reds and oranges."

The Youngs also planted a lot of Japanese maples, larches, redbuds, dawn redwoods and Nordman firs.

Miniature lavender magnolias were in full bloom on a recent visit, taking over for the butterfly magnolias that had just finished their show. A type of semidwarf, the miniature magnolias top out at 10 feet, and the full-size, deep-lavender blooms open to a paler lavender going to white inside.

"I wanted to create a mini forest within the bigger forest," says Young. "As the sun moves through the trees, it shines and highlights different spots."

The vegetable garden looks very similar to other naturalized areas, with occasional flowers mixed in with the edibles. Winding paths — some paved, some of quarter-minus gray shale or decomposed granite covered by pine needles — wander throughout the property. Growing areas are bordered by rock, piled driftwood or, in the case of the vegetables, poured concrete. All the paths have lighting for night walks.

"Some of this was planned, and some just happened," says Young. "The vegetable-garden area was already clear and flat and got a lot of sun, so we decided to use it for the garden."

Drainage ditches meander through the property, and the Youngs turned them into dry creek beds lined with old gold-mining tailings. In the rainy season, they become creeks. Several small bridges add visual interest.

Seating areas are scattered throughout, including places to repose near the 15 or so water features. A natural-looking, saltwater pool bordered by large boulders and a waterfall is the largest, serving as a spot for cool dips in summer. Other small ponds serve as breeding grounds for resident frogs.

Brice Campman of Brice Campman Rock Landscapes in Grants Pass built the large pool and other rock features. Unlike many pools built with rubber linings, the reinforced pool and slab base are of poured concrete for affixing the large, columnar basalt rocks for the waterfall.

"The salt-filtering system was Sherry's idea," says Campman. "It works really effectively and doesn't cost very much. The way I set the rocks on concrete there are no leaks or cracks. It will last forever."

Everywhere the eye settles, it finds something enchanting: a bed of frilly white tulips, another of lavender phlox, a crepe myrtle, tree peonies, a bed of green spurge, another of foxgloves and huckleberries. Metal fish swim down a dry creek and multicolored metal lizards climb a metal arch. Gazing globes add sparkle and shine. Many types of weeping trees contrast with the large, straight pine and fir trunks.

"As the garden matures and reseeds, it fills in and it becomes harder to find places to plant," says Young. "I was just going to work on beefing up the beds I have. I told myself I wasn't going to plant any annuals this year, but I lied," she laughs, pointing to pots of annuals scattered about.

Despite the constant work, the Youngs love their five acres of enchanting parkland.

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