A Community Gone Green!

Start your tour by entering a welcoming mixed-use space. Part community garden, part individual small garden spaces, the area has 11 patio homes, many owned by avid gardeners.

Originally conceived and designed by the builder a decade ago, each house has a small private garden space. These little plots foster each owner’s planting expression while a running border of boxwoods provides visual continuity throughout the community.

One of the residents in this pocket community is Nancy Day. Long-time Boise residents may remember that Nancy owned a business called The Cottage Gardener. With her talent and expertise at the ready, Nancy worked with the developer as well as each homeowner to create a cohesive and beautiful environment – a departure from the usual developer plantings!

Over the years, the community garden area has changed and is now an “edimental” potager garden, overseen by Claire and Nancy. Edimental is a word conceived by Norwegian horticulturalist, Stephen Barstow about 10 years ago. The term combines the word edible with ornamental, thus an edimental garden is one where ornamentals, edibles, trees and scrubs coexist and are planted together. This approach creates visual beauty, ecological balance and a bountiful food source for all of the Plaza’s residents.

A river birch provides a focal point in the center of the courtyard berm plantings, with a surrounding footpath leading to some of the patio homes. Three potted topiary evergreens link convergence points. In the Potager, garden seating shaded by colorful sunbrellas surrounds a table top firepit providing respite from busy days.

During your springtime visit your visual and olfactory senses may be enveloped by wisteria, a large rosemary bush, fragrant peonies in an array of colors, creeping phlox, candytuft, pansies, numerous clematis and possibly a few early rose blooms. Later in the season, perennials will fill with color, vegetables of all kinds will be producing fruit and the two newly installed garden arches will be bursting with runner beans and other climbing edibles.


A Fire-Wise Green Thumb

“Gardening was something I grew up with. I was exposed to my mother’s gardening efforts that included flowers, herbs and vegetables,” Isabelle Genovese told me. As a young adult, she wasn’t sure what field to pursue but the horticulture program at CWI, spoke to her, so she enrolled and completed her Associate’s degree in 2017. Two years later, her home, purchased in 2019, provided her and her husband with a real test garden.

With a shady backyard facing north and a very sunny front yard, Isabelle’s inspiration was a fire-wise garden. Fire-wise gardens are composed of low growing plants that are somewhat xeric. They naturally contain lots of moisture during the fire season and have no volatile oils within them. Additionally, fire-wise landscaping uses zones of plant density and height to decrease flammability. Isabelle drew up her own plan and she and her husband got to work! They pulled up all the grass, put in an irrigation system and clarified their vision: modern meets natural.

When you enter the front garden area, you will be immediately captivated by the espaliered fence. It is made up of four fruit trees: two apples, a nectarine and a pluot. This natural fence provides visual interest from the street, while keeping the front garden a secret. And in that front garden you’ll find raised beds that Isabelle and her husband use to raise lots of edibles. Additionally in the front, your eyes greet blue flax, penstemon, sage, yarrow, and the hardy Lewisia surrounding the sand gray gravel paths. Did you know that it was Meriweather Lewis who “discovered” this plant? Thus, the name, Lewisia.

Going to the back, the grand Catalpa tree takes center stage along with several wandering pathways. There you’ll see serviceberry, coral bells, clover yarrow, English daisies, fescue and Epimediums, also called Barrenwort. Isabelle says the biggest challenges they faced while doing their gardens were making the shady backyard look lush and full while being patient.

Be sure to check out the hardy orange tree before you leave. According to Isabelle, the fruits are pithy, but the peel is great for zest!


Starting Over and Doin’ It Right!

Therese Gerard and her husband have lived in their Collister neighborhood home for 36 years! Like many of us, work, family, raising children and other priorities were the focus of their lives, until they became empty-nesters. And then it was time to create the garden space that reflected their vision and their new lifestyle.

When they began in 2020, the yard was mostly lawn and trees, so there was a lot of work to do! The Gerards hired Kecia Carlson (Madeline George Nursery & Design) to design their landscape. Kecia’s husband, David (Think Green) did the hardscape and got things set up. Afterward, Therese and her husband did the mulching, drip irrigation and planting. It was hard work! Diane at Draggin’ Wing High Desert Nursery provided recommendations for xeric plants, natives and pollinators.

The theme for these gardens was ‘be environmentally friendly’. For the Gerard’s that meant, a small lawn area, planting xerics and natives throughout and moving the veggie beds closer to the kitchen while supporting local wildlife.

As you stroll along, you’ll see dwarf quinze, crabapples and a Chilopsis in the front. This is Therese’s showcase plant. Known for its pink-purple blooms, twisted trunk and wide spreading canopy, this ornamental, also called a Desert Willow, is actually related to the Catalpa. A rich array of golden current bushes, chokecherry, coneflowers, buckwheat and a Japanese lilac tree, along with fern bushes and other perennials populate the back. There’s something blooming all the time.

Therese recommends to us that if money permits, use a landscape designer. An expert can fulfill your dreams and the beauty of your garden will last a lifetime!


Chickens and Goats, Flowers and Bees

A native Idahoan, Melissa was into greenery from the start and visits to family in Portland only anchored her passion for plants. Melissa moved to Boise in 2010 and said that the garden at her home was the perfect canvas. Mature plantings, flood irrigation and a fenced veggie garden established a great foundation. A lot of lawn area provided opportunities to put her own touch on the land. “It was a dream!”

And dream, she did. Melissa likes the English style garden. With a horticulture degree, she’d already worked in landscaping, at greenhouses and at a small organic farm. So, she tackled the ¾ acre property on her own.

Melissa began by observing the landscape, the movement of light, the flow of water, the behaviors of birds, wildlife and her young children. She tackled the space in sections and wasn’t afraid to change things as her life and lifestyle changed, especially in the backyard.

A xeric, drip-irrigated pollinator garden fills the front. Melissa prefers to use plants that will grow, spread and fill in, over time. This area has something blooming throughout the entire growing season, helping the pollinators thrive.

The back garden is magical. Your eyes will be pulled toward the little weathered wood cottage with the tree house on top. This building serves as Melissa’s flower studio, where she cultivates and dries flowers used for weddings and other events. Be ready to look at roses, peonies, and violas as you wander around.

In her greenhouse, which will be about ½ full in late spring, Melissa raises more than 2000 flowers, all started from seed! And then she transplants them into her garden area. It’s a lot of work and she does it every year!

The centerpiece is the fenced animal area, populated by chickens and goats. These animals create a compost tea that spreads throughout the backyard due to flood irrigation. No other fertilizers are needed.

Melissa’s advice to gardeners: Be patient. Observe your area carefully. Design a safe haven for animals, bugs, birds and butterflies. Create a pocket of nature.


Peaceful Serenity

Tom moved to this address seven years ago. Although some garden elements were in place, he started from scratch, eliminating almost all the grass, putting in walkways, a patio and garden beds.

Tom was lucky because he’d worked through his college years as a landscaper. He’s a strong proponent of natives and water wise gardening. Plant what ought to be here is his motto, so you’ll find lots of natives, along with blueberries and lots of herbs.

A spiritual oasis is Tom’s garden theme. Statuary and a welcoming bench provide a place to contemplate and rest. The walkways invite positive energy into the space. Chimes and a Japanese Maple add to the “Zen” feeling.

The showcase of the garden is the showy Sunburst locust. Pause and look around and your eyes will behold red penstemon, red twig dogwood, catmint, lavender, red yucca, Japanese rose, a golden chain tree and butterfly bushes.

With lots of previous experience, Tom designed his garden rooms himself. He loves a challenge and reminds other gardeners that not every space needs to be filled, go organic and native, keep it simple, enjoy the work and build a place of refuge for you, the butterflies, birds and bees.


Trees, The Glory of Trees

“Gardening is my creative outlet”, declares Cathy Camp. Her goal is to create “a look” and with her husband Duane doing the heavy stuff, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Kathy and Duane moved into their home 17 years ago from San Diego. There was an attractive garden in place, but it wasn’t Cathy’s style. So over the years, they’ve made changes while keeping the hardscape the same.

Cathy’s property is unique and different. In the front yard, there’s a rock garden on one side and flowerbeds and lawn on the other. The backyard is Cathy’s joy and project. She really loves greenery and trees are her thing. So while the flowers are off to one side, the main portion of the backyard is covered in dwarf conifers, Japanese maples and mini-maples, creating a woodland feel. Some of the plants are in pots. Others are rooted in the ground. This gives the space a simple, textured, manicured but natural style.

Cathy believes in starting small plants, nurturing them and watching them grow. She actually moved some of her little trees from CA to ID! The dwarfs that were only 3” tall are now 18” high. Some of the maples were only boot high when she planted them. And today, you’ll see them towering at over 15 feet!

Her garden area was never planned. Cathy just played with ideas as they arose. When a bunch of inappropriately placed trees had to be removed, Cathy used the stumps as stands for pots of succulents and other greenery.

Always changing the look and feel, this year Cathy, with Duane’s craftsmanship, will add an Asian wood and concrete vertical structure to the garden as a visual feature.


A Dream Fulfilled

Ann Burr and her late husband moved into their house in the 1980s. The land was horse pasture and farmland. They planted some trees and life happened. Years went by and in 2021 after Ann’s husband passed away, the vision of an oft talked about garden took root.

Diane, Ann’s daughter, suggested that her mother go to Farwest Nursery and chat with some professionals. A plan was drawn up and the first step was removing a lot of big, old trees. And then Ann met Justin Henry, owner of Pine Creek Landscape. With a degree in horticulture and lots of experience, Justin took the plan, talked further with Ann and went to work!

Diane describes the garden as a group of interconnected rooms, each with its own flavor. Started in late spring of 2022, Justin built the terraces. Lots of stonework and walkways create a natural flow. Even passersby get a treat because the fence is designed for garden views and allows Ann to talk with neighbors.

Ann has a morning sitting area where she can enjoy the fresh air while sipping her coffee. Meandering walkways and a year-round bubbler where birds and wildlife drink and bathe add to the ambiance. Tulips, daffodils along with a diverse array of heirlooms from Ann’s childhood fill the spaces with glorious color. Comfy furniture gives Ann and her visitors several places to sit, chat and observe. There’s even a shady area for alfresco evening meals! Ann’s most favorite plants are the red and white hibiscus. They’re showstoppers!

For Ann, an octogenarian, the garden is her friend. Diane serves as the CWO (chief weeding officer).


Biodiversity and an Annual Challenge

When Katie Battazzo moved into her home in 2016, she had two young children and they needed a backyard. The front yard however, was a space screaming for a creative touch. With this and a desire to reach out to her community, Katie knew this sunny, dry motley looking lawn had to go!

Today, Katie who runs Frontyard Fresh, a garden coaching business, has transformed this space to a welcoming area full of biodiversity. Eight raised beds, a sitting area, drought tolerant natives and many rocks for texture fill the space in potager fashion.

Not settling for a common look, Katie got her dad to help her with building the boxes and pergola. Then they added some flourish, like the arches and panel trellises. A patio area holds pots of flowers that bloom throughout the seasons.

Looking around you’ll see 100’s of tulips, pansies, cold weather crops like broccoli, beets, chard, a robust array of garlic, lots of lettuce and peas. Later in the year, salvia, coreopsis, Jupiter spear, alyssum, sweet pea and a wide variety of herbs and veggies will be abundant.

Every year, Katie takes up a new gardening challenge. Last year was a hyacinth bean plant. This year, who knows? Katie says that every year is an adventure and green thumbs can kill many plants, but we learn from our efforts. This builds both momentum and passion for all the upcoming seasons. It makes you a better grower!


The Wonders of Food

Amy Hutchinson has been on her piece of Treasure Valley property for almost 25 years. When she arrived the land (1 acre) that runs along the Oregon Trail, was horse pasture.

Amy’s theme was food and still is food. Growing, harvesting and preserving all kinds of food for her family (and the community) was her objective but there was a lot of work to do! Today, you’ll find berries, herbs, all kinds of vegetables and fruit trees. With such a big space, Amy has also created a lawn area and a space for natives.

The centerpiece of the space is the giant wood oven built by Amy’s husband. At one time, this behemoth could bake 36 loaves of bread at once! Today, Amy, her family and friends still enjoy freshly baked bread, wood fired pizzas and an occasional roasted turkey.

Amy is the co-founder of the Boise Urban Garden School. Ever creative, Amy designed a small woodland garden around her big spruce tree. She has a broader palette than most, incorporating North American natives like laurel and rhododendron. It reminds her of Maine, where she went to school.

Unlike many others, she’s overjoyed by her garden in winter. So many textures abound and in milder winters, like this one, she has Lenten rose that bloom. In the spring, you’ll see a myriad of bulbs. Apple and cherry trees will be leafing out and Oregon grapes blooming. Amy assures us there’ll be plenty of early season bees.

Amy says her garden is always evolving. She’s continually rearranging because creating a captivating, balanced design is her aim. Always starting with a big picture perspective, she freely uses colors and textures. Her advice? Begin by observing your space and live with it for a while. When you start, start with a grand scheme and pace yourself.


A Harmonious Experiment with Nature

Six years ago, Wendy and Jeremy bought a place that spoke to them. “The front yard was wild”, Wendy tells me. “As soon as I saw it, I had to have it!” Today, the front yard is still filled with natives, pollinator plants and drought tolerant species. Newer additions include a fountain, a bistro table and specific plants that broaden the blooming season, so the pollinators are truly supported. There are even plants that bloom at night!

The backyard is completely different! Wendy is the co-founder of the Boise Urban Garden School, so it should come as no surprise that her garden is truly unique. Composed like a quilt, Jeremy and Wendy have created a space that encourages relaxation and meditation. Big trees provide a lot of shade. A lovely creek and a stocked Koi pond are visual centerpieces. A myriad of birds and animals visit often, including a local Great Blue Heron.

Walk around and if you’re keenly observant, you’ll spy a mushroom garden, an area for herbs, fountains, a special space for wicked plants (yes, those that are deadly, poisonous, and controversial), a hidden gargoyle and numerous Celtic sacred trees.

To help the local fauna even more, Jeremy put in a wildlife meadow last year. While on your tour, look for blooming Helleborus, buttercups, heather, prairie smoke, flax, lavender, phlox, comfrey, violets and motherwort. Look up and you’ll see apple, magnolia and hawthorn trees in blossom.

Jeremy and Wendy want to honor nature. They remind us: It’s a reciprocal relationship. If you align with nature, it will treat you to many wondrous gifts.