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Hood River garden tour June 29: Bees, Blossoms and Scarecrows

Come and see the gardens of seven Master Gardeners. They are vastly different from each other, yet they are similar because they abide by gardening if experimental, a thirst for beauty, love of food and a healthy environment.

An Unordinary Garden

Laurel and Bob De Tar, 2611 Eugene St., Hood River

(Refreshments will be available here.)

The De Tars’ home is a ranch-style house with an attached garage built in 1978, in a neighborhood of’ comparable homes. It has a small front yard and a large backyard, fenced all around.

Picture what the backyard looked like when Laurel and Bob moved in seven years ago: a wasteland of grass, barberry, photonic and Canada thistle. Today, it has been transformed into a thriving garden of vegetables and flowers and a designer’s dream of hardscape — paver block walkways and lovely large rocks spread around the garden.

When they retired from Idaho, Laurel joined Master Gardeners and Bob became “Bob the Builder.” In the backyard the “Dynamic Duo” has created eight beds, a small greenhouse, a deck with bowed steps, multiple circle designs of paver blocks, and meandering pathways through flowers, vegetables and a small green lawn. It also has a fully developed low-volume irrigation system that can be easily modified.

Peonies, peonies and more peonies dot every bed; there are 21 different ones from Lore Sampson of Rarity Gardens in Parkdale. The peonies are accompanied with drought-tolerant lavender, artemisia, yellow currant, santolina, heuchera and hostas. Paths wander through shallots, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, hot peppers, beans, peas and cucumbers.

Bob’s former life as a geologist is evident with many interesting rocks from central Idaho and other places; he says most of the small rocks are “leverite” — meaning “leave it right there.”

The front yard has heart stones, a cascading hearts redbud tree, coreopsis, yarrow, penstemon, asters, Autumn Joy sedum, crocosmia and artfully designed walking paths to the front door. Ideas abound for homeowners at this site.

Garden Tour Fact File

Central Gorge Master Gardeners Association tour

June 29, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: $10; Tickets available in Hood River at Waucoma Bookstore, Columbia Center for the Arts, Good News Gardening, Grow Organic and Hood River Extension Office; in The Dalles at Klindt’s Booksellers and Wasco County Extension Office; and in Bingen at Dickey Farms.

Restrooms are available at Jackson Park and Grow Organic Store, on the Heights

See list for Plant Clinic and Master Preservers locations.

Refreshments will be available at designated locations (see list).

A Classic Urban Reclaimed Garden

Dede and John Garcia, 225 Montello Ave., Hood River

Walking up to the Garcias’ rebuilt 1905 home, one is struck by the panoply of plant shapes, textures, hues of green and blue, tall and thin, short and wide with a stately old holly and a Japanese maple surrounding the small lawn. All together it makes a striking statement.

This is a tight garden; “Plants are so tight in here a weed doesn’t stand a chance to see sunlight,” says Dede. While the footprint of the 1905 house remains, the garden is a complete makeover by Dede, inspired by the 1911 children’s classic “The Secret Garden,” by Francis Hodgson Burnett. John, a semi-retired surgeon at Providence Hospital, quips, “We are a team of Master Gardeners; “Dede is the ‘master,’ I am the ‘gardener.’”

The garden extends between Montello and Prospect; there is a front garden, a passage to the back garden, a back garden and the way-back small vegetable garden. In all the gardens there are a few dominant plants — in their various forms. Twenty-four different kinds of hydrangeas (some as old as 40 years), hostas of all sizes and colors, lamium, red, chartreuse and rust heuchara. The small passage way includes several black lace elderberry, lilacs and other plants densely packed.

The private sitting back garden hosts lots of ornamentals, annuals and tomatoes in large colorful pots. The porcelain fish in the water features are left alone by the raccoons. The rest of the garden, like the front, is packed tightly with currents, black lace elderberry, Cape fuchsia, viburnum double file, climbing hydrangea, foxglove, magnolia and more.

The back of the house, on Prospect Street, includes some stately old white oaks as well as the fenced-in small vegetable garden.

This is a structured garden built on the principals of symmetry, several repetitions of a similar genus and densely packed. It is a bold and dramatic garden.

A Natural Experiment

Dennis Carlson, 3901 Barrett Drive, Hood River

(OSU Master Preservers will be here.)

Neat and tidy it is not — but it is a wonderland of fecundity. Fruit trees, berries, evergreens, deciduous trees, chickens, ducks, dogs, homing pigeons, abundant vegetables, flowers, roses, rhododendrons, and an herb garden.

When Carlson retired from the Hood River County Forestry Department three years ago, he joined Master Gardeners, a successful information and social network. While he had already started on his experimental garden 25 years ago when he built his home, his garden experiments have now taken on a new twist, often collaborating with others such as Jeff Jerome of Grow Organic.

He has homing pigeons for training the dogs. When the pigeons are released during training, they will get home before he does and they can be used over and over again. He has ducks (within an electric fence) to propagate; it is an experiment on resiliency. These ducks have hatched out their own young.

This breakthrough in resiliency frees him from buying artificially incubated chicks. These ducklings have moms who hatched them out, keep them warm at night and show them how to live in the natural world.

He has varieties of apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach and filbert trees for eating and preserving, raspberries without support or pruning that produce abundantly, and with his old cottonwood trees he is starting an experiment on “Hugelkulture,” which uses rotted wood to make raised garden beds. It is similar to a lasagna bed excepting it uses rotting wood.

As you might expect, not all experiments are successful; he quickly learned Rockford, named for its stony loam, is not good for wine grapes.

What Dennis learns he passes on to others. He is involved in three community gardens: Master Gardeners at La Clinica, Raies (Roots) on Barker Road, and Klahre House Kitchen Garden at OHSU Experiment Station.

The Klahre House garden consisted of small 4x6-foot raised beds. When he asked a young woman what she wanted to grow, she responded, “butternut squash.” Of course, butternut squash requires more space than 4x6. Mentioning this to Steve Castagnoli, OSU Extension agent, did the trick. Now Klahre kitchen gardens have a large space for bigger beds. Butternut squash coming up this fall!

A Permaculture Garden: A Life-Long Plan

Ketrina and Jeff Jerome, 2661 Reed Road, Hood River

(Refreshments are available here.)

“In the permaculture garden everything is connected. The focus is on the relationship between elements and the way they are placed together. Food, animals, waste, flowers, insects and humans are all interconnected,” says Jeff Jerome. He and Ketrina are ambitious gardeners on 14 acres in a 1912 old dairy farm off Reed Road.

In 2010 they moved into their home and developed a plan for the overgrown, yet beautiful acreage, with a fantastic overlook of the Hood River. They are at the start of a life-long plan of creating a permaculture garden at their home and providing local sources of materials and education to the community at their store, Grow Organic, the little yellow building at 2035 12th St.

Their garden and store have a logical and practical relationship to one another. When the Jeromes began work on their garden they found many elements, such as organic soil amendments, difficult to get in Hood River. They soon learned others in Hood River had the same need: a local source for specialty and organic items.

In 2012 Grow Organic was born — a local source for organic gardening and do-it-yourself supplies. A year later, the connections between their garden and store are stronger than ever with a new greenhouse providing veggie starts for the store and a growing flock of ducks and geese providing fresh eggs for sale.

At their home, visitors will see a variety of “zones” which are interconnected: a greenhouse, insectaries, duck ponds, rabbit runs, raised vegetable beds, bee hives, a variety of fruit trees, berries, and a new perennial garden they call a “food forest.”

There is no “monoculture” here. The connections are planned: Rabbits produce manure, worms eat the manure, manure becomes worm castings, worm castings feed the plants, and plants in turn feed the animals as well as the humans. A largely self-sustaining landscape of food-producing livestock and perennials is the overarching goal and one that needs a guide connecting the elements together.

Jeff and Ketrina are the guides on a journey that may take a lifetime as they find and connect the pieces of their permaculture.

The Edible Garden

John and Shirley Ihle, 3675 Holly Drive, Hood River

(Scarecrow history and Master Gardeners displays here)

“A plant doesn’t have much of a chance in my garden if I can’t eat it,” says John Ihle. Looking at the front of the 14-year-old house, one can see the wonderful mimosa tree, the red bud tree, rhododendrons, roses and an ECO lawn. BUT, go around into the spacious backyard and you see enough produce to last through the year by harvesting, freezing, drying, canning and pickling.

Collards, peppers, tomatoes, squash, parsnips, turnips, carrots, Swiss chard, radishes and lettuce are among the vegetables they grow. Strawberries, gooseberries and raspberries are there as well as a new one called Sea Buckthorn.

“We overplant so we can share with others,” says Shirley, including the food bank and friends at Hood River Valley Christian Church where John was the pastor. Seventeen different fruits and 16 different vegetables are in raised beds, in-ground beds and growing vertically to save ground space. “Whatever I can, I grow UP, not out,” so cucumbers and tomatoes are tied up to a trellis as are grapes. It is a veritable demonstration garden for vegetable growers.

John is thrifty in his approach to gardening by starting his own plants such as flowers, tomatoes and peppers and by growing some vegetables that need protection from bugs under cheap, long-lasting sheer curtains from thrift stores instead of more expensive Reemay that Hood River winds wear out in a year or two. “I compete with myself to see how much I can produce at how low a cost.”

You will also see bees; a regular hive and a top bar hive outside as well as an “observation” hive in the house. It is seen through glass and vented to the outside. John teaches beginning beekeeping and gardening classes for Community Ed. His advice to urban beekeepers is “Keep the hive out of sight and share the honey with the neighbors.”

John says a good gardener is one who gives continuous attention to the garden. “When I see a weed, I pull it right then, before it goes to seed,” he said as I watched him pull a weed.

Majestic Trees

Alan and Bette Lou Yenne, 4631 Portland Way, Hood River

(Plant clinic station here)

A unique front hedge of maple and majestic 20-year-old blue spruce trees greet visitors to the Yennes’ home. Alan has planted many trees on the property since 1979 when a few peach trees were taken out and left a weedy lawn. He planted trees to landscape his or other’s homes. Most of the trees have come from the Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District; birch, vine maple, Douglas fir, grand fir, noble fir, giant sequoia, western larch. He has rows of trees that he will sell or plant in his yard.

Alan said, “I like to garden. I like the physical exercise; it is something to do constantly.” Alan’s yen for gardening is evident in the front and back yards. The front garden beds are filled with rhododendron, different kinds of hydrangea, dogwood, flowering cherry, skimmia, roses, azaleas, pieris Japanoca, lilacs and hibiscus. A dwarf Alberta spruce is next to the porch.

Alan and Betty Lou are both active in Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and the Hood River FISH food bank where they devote an abundance of vegetables: carrots, onions, peas, potatoes, squash and beans. The new food bank garden is behind Our Redeemer Lutheran church.

In the backyard there are trees, flowers and vegetable beds surrounded by neighbors’ orchards. Huge cedar trees are near the strawberry bed and raspberries. Alan’s healthy rhubarb, asparagus, an unusual ground cherry, and winter squash are in the back vegetable bed. His uniquely built cold frame is useful for starting seedlings early. His beds are covered with crimson clover as a green cover crop which he mows in the fall and turns it over in the spring.

Behind the Berm

Ann and Dave Bronson, 678 Larch Court, Hood River

“Gardening is one of our life’s satisfactions,” said Ann Bronson, and Dave added, “It’s a creative challenge for us; always evolving.” They are accomplished gardeners and settled in Hood River 10 years ago. Ann joined Master Gardeners within the year.

Their 10-year-old home was built on a small city lot and they have put their gardening skills to work again. Except for a large oak tree on the corner, it was an empty lot facing Post Canyon Drive. They could see and hear cars, close neighbors were visible, water draining from higher empty fields to the south could potentially overflow the lot, and summer west winds blew incessantly.

In 10 years they have taken care of these problems with ingenuity. Now their space is secluded from neighbors with trees, tall grasses and shrubs. They are protected from the road with a berm, abundantly planted, cascading down to their patio and bordering a created pond. As a preventative in case of unwanted water, a bioswale runs alongside the house from a catch basin. To protect against wind, they have two large Tartarian honeysuckle plants and a double-sided wooden screen. Their small eco lawn is a mix of grass, clover and chamomile.

Most of their 100 or so plants surrounding the house are native, and a plant list will be available. The berm is most impressive; it was created with large boulders and many, many truckloads of soil planted in profusion and designed for multi-seasonal blooming. The pond is creatively natural with driftwood arranged just right to keep herons away from the goldfish (who watch for Dave to feed them).

Family plays an important part in the landscape design. Silene, a wonderful border plant by the pond, came from France with a cousin; an Alaskan fern from Dave’s grandmother has followed them to all their homes; and the patio has large stainless sculptures of the well-known sculptor Lee Kelly, their brother-in-law, and an enamel panel by Dave’s late sister, artist Bonnie Bronson. And last, but not least, are antique rail line nails by the pond found by their “train nut” grandson.

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