Sunday, July 08, 2007

Being of sufficient opinion and cheek, it seems perfectly meet and right that we comment on the Coeur d'Alene Garden Tour of today, July 8, 2007. We haven't been to the tour since the garden club boated everybody across the lake to The Hag's, where His People got 40 roses from Tower Perennials on the Palouse Highway, put 'em in the ground and pronounced it a rose garden. Boys and Girls, we have been to gardens of the world (read that: 'Stourhead') and they ain't in Casco Bay. Not that we don't think the Coeur d'Alene Garden Club is well intentioned; we do. We just don't trundle out on a 90 degree July afternoon to see another spoiled millionaires' wife's latest indulgence. Read that: it takes a lot more to build a garden than "help" and "bushes". So off we go today to Coeur d'Alene because we see they are featuring some gardens in our old neib, that being the Central School neighborhood.

First stop: 901 Bancroft Avenue. Our old friend Debby lived down on Bancroft, which strictly speaking was on the other side of the tracks. It has always been a working class neighborhood, featuring well built little houses on tidy lots. Many of these homes fell into ruin as Coeur d'Alene followed the national trend of flight to the suburbs, in North Idaho it's the subdivisions, and only in the last several years are people buying these wonderful houses and painting and repairing and getting storm windows back on them. It is a fabulous neighborhood. We would live there in a second as it's an easy walk to Tubbs Hills, Sanders Beach, downtown Coeur d'Alene and yum! the new Coeur d'Alene Public Library. So this garden that wraps around the house that sits on the corner is quite divine, thank you very much. It is a proud garden featuring fruit and vegetables, flowers and grasses, trees and shrubs; thoughtfully laid out and with all small gardens, an expert, ingenuous use of the space. You enter the garden through a lane bordered with tall green grass that has been bunched for a lovely, artistic effect and you involuntarily owoooow! delicious! as you scrunch your shoulders; not of course, in your out loud voice. This garden is chock full of small, luscious artistic effects that launch you right into bliss. And you continue on your way, sighing contentedly. So you walk straight into the raised vegetable garden planted with the precise perennials and annuals that will attract the beneficial insects that will in fact, protect the vegetables as they bloom, set and mature. Fabulous. They know what they are doing here. There are raspberries along the back fence and espaliered pears on the other back fence. You turn the corner and go up the other side of the house and pass lovely vines, roses, little arbors and smashing uses of a variety of hues of green. They have got green everywhere, of many, many shades and it's a plaid that might exist elsewhere only in The Land of Oz if it even exists elsewhere. This garden has it all: a tri-color beech, shrub clematis, an exquisite English rose and a deft, sure touch that's unmistakably green. We love this garden. We give it FIVE SPADES.

Next: 822 Garden Avenue. This place, sits on the corner, is up the street from our teacher, Mrs. Driessen, who God rest her soul, read us 'Charlotte's Web' on those hot first days of the third grade. She could do no wrong thereafter and was arguably our favorite. So we are at this darling white house on her block that features the quintessential shady front porch that flies the American flag. This ladies and gentlemen, is our childhood. We take a shady path on the side of the house to her back garden where we break into full sun patio. We are immediately frustrated because we want to be at a party here and we want all these people to be our oldest Coeur d'Alene neighbors and pals. They aren't. We don't know who the hell these people are but this garden is still simply scrumptious it is sooo inviting. The Head Gardener here has built privacy screens with flowers boxes built in that feature inviting and happy annuals and she also sports architectural pieces with pots and garden memorabilia and accessories. She has an old 9th Street street sign that hangs on her fence; our eyes narrowed and squinted when we saw this. We would commit a felony to have the same old sign from our street, just 3 blocks up. It would read, of course, Pennsylvania Avenue. And that we would make a brazen pitch such as this with our birthday mere days away is disconnected completely to this whole conversation. Completely. Okay, back to the garden: as fabulous as her patio with that incredible old table that could seat 20 easily was, it was the alley that sealed it for us. We had alleys in Coeur d'Alene, in the Garden District, and there was all sort of activity and negotiation that went on in those alleys involving every member of the family. God, we'd give anything for an alley at Bellemaison. She has hers planted with variety of perennials and vegetables, sunflowers! and she composts here, too. The exposure is perfect. This is a killer use of the ground. We give this garden FOUR SPADES.

Across the alley: yep, that's right. 823 Wallace Avenue. The garden club chose back door neighbors for the tour,something we don't think we have ever seen. It was terrific to trip across the alley into the neighbor's back garden, the path flanked by tall sunflowers. These people built this garden with and for their kids. They speak of the sandboxes and big wheels going and the little vegetable gardens coming as the kids grew up. Pottery fashioned by every member of the family abounds in this garden. These people and their values are transparent and form a charming garden experience: they make a wonderful vegetable garden that runs parallel to the alley. Again, that hot, full sun exposure will set and ripen that fruit by August with no problems at all. They make a delightful dining area where barrels full of multi-colored lettuces form the boundary for the next garden room where they display family artwork and sculptures. We were mentally car-jacked when we spotted plastic lemons on a plastic lemon tree tucked back into a corner off a pair of french doors. Whaaaaat? Even though these people are organic, we deduct a whole spade for the plastic and give them only THREE SPADES. What the heck are they thinking? We were damned distraught when we got back to the car and headed up to midtown.

930 5th Street. This, of course, is the Dingle house. We stood next to the current owner as she chatted with another tourer. She has not lived in the house long and and was saying that when she inherited the garden, there were sooo many shades of green, this is true, that it's her intent to put some color in the garden. Her greens are all shade greens and don't give off the green sparks like the garden on Bancroft. She said further that mostly she just wants to honor the garden and keep it in good form for the next owner. Utterly lovely woman. She really does have a sense of color as she put this whiskey barrel full of annuals on this stump. The barrel and the stump were the same color and texture. The garden features magnificent, old deciduous trees and it was a wonderful, cool haven on a hot July day. We give it and the owner FOUR SPADES.

12582 Strahorn, Hayden. Dear, dear, dear,dear. This was the northernmost leg of the tour and was your quintessential gauche garden experience. Had the gate, the lake, the lawn, the waterfalls and the bronzes. Had every silly touch of a wanna be/poser a garden could have. The head gardener here has probably moved 1,000,000 yards of soil onto this place. But let's start at the beginning: they hand you a separate program at the beginning of this tour that pedigrees both owners and the house. Do I care about these people's careers? Hardly. Not only that the program does not use the botanical name for the prodigious list of shrubs and trees they have planted, which is a taxonomy foul with no forgiveness. To be fair, maybe the labels at Home Depot don't give you the species and genus. The house is an utter yawn, a nouveau riche yawn. Dear god, they claim it's reminiscent of the houses in Southern France and Northern Spain. Clearly, as pedigreed as these owners are, they have not actually been to Southern France or Northern Spain. They do not attribute their art, they say it's unknown and although they refer to the artist who built Grandma's Tea House, they just don't give credit by name. And actually, that's the whole deal with this garden: the back patting and self congratulatory good ones! of this bizarre horticultural outpost are deafening and to hear them tell it, these gardeners were, are and will be real garden in the area for all time. I don't think so. We give them ONE SPADE. They use llama manure and oddly, given their pedigree, can't spell it. These people have much more money than sense. Or taste.

2484 East Woodstone Drive, Hayden. This is a lovely home in a posh development. The Head Gardener here uses a plethora of pink geraniums to create a terrific curbside vignette. She uses lots and lots of petunias in front of flowering shrubs in all her beds. In fact, here's the program for this garden, in total. April: prune the shrubs. May: plant and fertilize the petunias. October: pull the annuals out and toss. This is not a garden, but well maintained grounds. The Head Gardener on Woodstone has put in yet another water feature, apparently there's code in North Idaho that says that you absolutely must have a water feature on your property or your children will be mocked and scorned and will never amount to a thing. To be fair, this water feature is quite lovely but good god! she had plastic lotus! Enough said. This gardener/groundsman has such an eye for color, why doesn't she really do something with these grounds? I give her TWO SPADES. She needs to mix it up and get dirty.

1256 Bogue Court. This was another sub-division garden but this Head Gardener dropped in some dazzling touches. First, we must chide her for keeping the flower beds parallel to the lines of the property. She is so creative; why is she doing this? She employs a great mix of perennials and annuals in her beds and plantings, along with flowering shrubs and a few trees. Bravo on the imagination. And her water feature has a big nasty red orb! God, what the neighbors must think of this rebel! She also sneaked into our heart and laid down roots with her scarlet runner beans climbing along the fence; we just didn't see that coming. But it was the home stretch that made her a man among equals, those equals down in the Garden District that is, again blind siding us with some dazzling garden magic. We turned the corner to exit the garden and found this:

This is the space she carved out for the children in her life and it completely rocks. Best kid area of the day. We give this garden THREE SPADES. This garden is only three years old; we are expecting great things from this Head Gardener in the coming years.

We love the irony of the finest garden of the day being the smallest garden and costing the least to build. We love the surprises that can lay in the subdivisions. (note: don't count the suburbs out.) We love the renaissance in the old neighborhood and gratefully (okay, tearfully) thank the new neighbors. You rock, too. We're out now. It's cooled down enough to barbecue here. Another gorgeous North Idaho day, in the books.

The 'Kan, EWA


Tivish said...

Bonjour! You took me on quite a tour this a.m. By Waddell's and Holmes' homes...literally on the other side of the tracks down Mullan Avenue. Then, a block east of Raymond's and a block south of Elder's/Sanderson's and a couple blocks north of Shaver's. Didn't our beloved Mrs. Driessen live in the first house west of the corner of 9th and to a beauty salon? I think often of her and the profound influence she was on those of us fortunate enough to be in the southwest lower corner of Central School. And thanks for smacking the snouts of the parvenus on Strahorn! Had a nice visit with Leslie Ann at Tim's retirement about walking through time! Keep that love flowing through your pen (keyboard?), dear friend.

Julie said...

It sounded like a great day! That tri-colored beech. No wonder you want one. They are the most gorgeous tree. Mine is still quite small at only 5 years old.

toadman said...

I wonder why our garden isn't on the Spokane Garden Club tour? Must be the weeds, and the fact that we have an attack cat...

Anonymous said...

It seems smallish and sheepish to leave anything but novelish praise for this piece but I'm stunned into gardenish silence and can only peep and squawk in barely audible tones.


/out of her chair, loudly applauding
Bravo! Bravo!


JBelle said...

Tivish, I smacked those snouts. :) It was a great day in Coeur d'Alene yesterday. I am going to go back and take pictures of everybody's house!

Julie, It was a GREAT day. What tree did you just buy? I thought it was a tri-color beech?

Toad, it's that damned cat. No one wants to be the one to tell you.

Wendo: you my friend. I could commit an ax murder and you would jump up shreiking, She had a bad day! She had a bad day! Thank you for being my friend.

InlandEmpireGirl said...

I read about the garden tour and always thought I would want to go. My mom went a few years ago and enjoyed the day. I love that you got to be in your old neighborhood and remember the neighbors that lived there. Silver Valley Girl inherited a tri-color beech in the house she moved into last spring and I love it. I had never seen one. I don't know where I would put it, but I'd like to have one. lol

Julie said...

jbelle, I found the tri-colored beech while we were building the house and bought it then. The tree I just bought is a variety of White Ash, known as an Autumn Purple Ash because of it's fall color. My tree guy was out yesterday to prune and inspect my trees and he thought it was a beautiful ash. That beech tree, however, he doesn't want to touch. He thinks it's a most beautiful tree the way it is.

I wanted all my large shade trees to be native trees or hybrids of native trees. All of them are except for the Norway Maple and the Chinese Elm.

mamaJD said...

JBelle - It seems odd to me that The Strahorn folks would be a part of the Garden Club. Alderwood Landscaping did a fantastic job for them. Their gardening staff does an excellent job maintaining the grounds. Isn't this a bit like having Hagadone put his home into the Garden Club? Maybe I misundertand the Garden Club membership requirements. I thought I had to be the one that tended my garden? Does this mean if I hire someone (Are you available?) I can enter into the tour too?

JBelle said...

GG: I went through my garden on Saturday and picked out a place and tied survey tape onto an enormous Oregon grape that we have lovingly tended for years; it's history. I'm getting a tri-color beech! And, Julie recommends an Autumn Purple Ash so I gotta have that, too. But I need to check with UI species nursery to see how badly I am screwing up my terra.

Julie, I want my trees and shrubs to be native, too. I confess to oversights and sentimental longings and attachments for things that were in my mother's and grandmother's garden. They didn't care from Adam about species! But my next garden will be wholly species. No really.

MamaJ. You get it. There are two kinds of people who go to the garden tours. The kind that want to go to The Hag's and to Villa Rolphe (we're assured this name is both French and Spanish!) and the kind that garden and want to see what other gardeners are doing. I went back down to Bancroft to get a few more shots of that incredible garden and heard these women whining to each other, this is such a high maintenance garden. They loved Strahorn because it's over the top and loved the Forest Woods house and grounds because they were easy to manage. It's places like that that sell tickets. But neither of those places are gardens; as I noted, they are well-maintained grounds. But in her defense, the Forest Woods woman planted consistent with her house, which is darling. And I don't scoff or call her place unpleasant; it's just not a garden...

You don't have to tend your garden to show it; you own it, you show it. But these folks fool not the real gardeners, who know where they got their plants, who planted them and what the owners are really about. Villa Rolphe was so incredibly pretentious I was a little bit fascinated I was in Kootenai County!

So yeah, hire somebody. :) Get your garden on the tour. I promise to be kind.

mamaJD said...

Huh - I had dinner with a Rolphe recently and I don't recall french or spanish as the origin. I like their house though. I even like the children's playhouse as it was showcased in the Inland Northwest Homes type magazine a while back. Their "garden" seems to show a lot of skin lately. Floosies.