House, garden can work together

I dug, planted, pruned and fertilized for five years, but it took a coat of house paint for me to be able to see my garden's beauty.

It's not that I didn't notice the blooms or ignored the progress made over the seasons. I studied my landscape's proportions carefully, and spent hours with garden books and in local nurseries. I have the broken fingernails and stack of receipts to prove my garden has required an investment.

Simply put, the color of my house hid my garden. Cloaked in a demanding shade of peachy-pink, the house had the attention even when you tried looking at the garden. The color evoked another decade, or even another region of the country, someplace much more tropical or, well, kooky than Medford.

The color of my house was awful, but the paint job itself left something to be desired. So I had painters knocking on my door, offering to give me unsolicited estimates. That's a call to action, but with a garden to plant and an interior that needed an equal amount of work, exterior painting was postponed.

I continued to think about — or avoid thinking about — painting, depending on my to-do list and the state of my finances. My vacillation lasted five years, exactly how long I've lived in my pink house. During my time of uncertainty I did the ground work that helped me make a good choice.

Picking the basic color was easy with the help of Will Doty, a sales rep at Miller Paint in Medford. Once Will knew I was a gardener, he had a one-word answer for my color question — "green."

A green house would blend in with the surroundings and make everything else in the garden pop, saith Will.

So I looked at color chips and magazines. I wanted a color that would "go with" my neighbors' homes. I drove around looking at green houses. I took pictures of a couple I really liked. I finally settled on "Green Tea Leaf," darker than sage green, but light enough to reflect some of the hot sun.

The next thing I did in advance was buy a quart of my color and paint a poster board. I hung it on each wall of the house and viewed it at different times of day to test my choice. That's recommended even for small projects like your living room, but oh so important when you are doing a large, expensive project like a big house.

Last month, waking in the middle of the night I knew this was the time and, gulp and deep breath, I was the one. Well, yes, I could and did hire help. I rented a power washer and prepped the house using TSP and bleach. That's safe enough for garden plants if they are well watered and if you wash the plant leaves off afterward. Because I didn't want a lot of paint spray — on my plants or polluting the air — I decided to spray only the eaves and roll the rest of the house. That was a good decision, but next time (oh, please no) I'd hand-paint the whole house. It uses less paint and the money goes to the workers. Oh yes, I think I'd hire someone to take my place, too.

Every time I drive up to my "new" house I get a swell of pride. Just as Will predicted, my garden has gained new prominence. In retrospect, I'm grateful for the midnight inspiration that convinced me that October 2008 was the right time to paint.

Goodbye unsolicited paint offers, hello garden. I can hardly wait to see how well the daffodils show up!

Althea Godfrey is gardening editor for HomeLife magazine. Reach her at

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