OASIS OF COLOR & RIVER ROCKS
by TERRY KRAMER
Ken Hinman and Steve Frizzell bought their 1930s vintage home five years ago, they inherited a backyard of neglected grass, diseased pine trees and an aphid infested viburnum. Today their bright, cozy garden, a few blocks away from downtown Eureka, is featured on the Humboldt Botanical Garden Foundation's 9th annual garden tour Sunday, Sept. 9.
A stone's throw from noisy, bustling 14th Street, the garden has been sculpted into a quiet, colorful oasis featuring raised beds bordered by smooth river rocks. A narrow path of grass winds around the beds filled with pink Cobbity daisies, blue and red verbena, snapdragons, nemesia, marigolds and osteopsermum. Blue lobelia, white alyssum, creeping thyme, white bacopa and baby tears spill from the stone borders. A collection of Asian garden statuary graces the garden. These islands of color also feature a mix of Japanese maples and an assortment of perennials and evergreen shrubs.
Because the backyard is a gentle sloping 50 feet down toward the back fence, drainage is poor, making raised beds a necessity. "We raised the beds because we have a waterflow in the winter time," explained Hinman. "Perennials, shrubs and trees last one year and then they die the next because there is too much water," he said.
Using a mixture of top soil, compost and potting soil, Hinman and Frizzell began building up beds, enclosing them with smooth stones they hauled from the Van Duzen River. "We started by potting plants in peat pots, placing them on top of the ground and then building the beds up around them," Hinman said.
It took several pickup truck loads of stones to line beds and borders. "It was fun getting the rocks. It's recreation. We just go down on the river bar and spend 45 minutes to an hour picking up the rocks. What's neat is you get to hand-select them so you know that when you go through your garden and lay them you know each and every rock has been individually hand picked. To me it gives much more meaning," Frizzell said.
One feature of the garden is a slate patio next to the house just off the back porch. This summer they replaced a 12 by 20 foot grassy area with what is called Three Rivers slate, stone mined from a lake bottom in Montana. Many of the stones reveal fossilized plant material, ancient shadows cast on the earthtone stone stained tan, brown, burn orange and beige. Chamomile and blue star creeper have been planted to fill in the cracks.
"We had planned the patio for awhile," Hinman said, "and then when this (the garden tour) came up we had an excuse to spend the money and install the project. I can come out here and sit and enjoy the garden now, instead of waiting for three or four years," he said.
Another addition to the garden is a fiberglass-covered lath house filled with tuberous begonias, their neon flowers as big as thunder clouds. On the opposite side of the yard is a south facing fence espaliered with apple trees. A redwood deck adjacent to the garage built for barbecues and entertaining also features voluptuous specimens of tuberous begonias.
The shallow front yard hosts an emerald green lawn and flower borders of red geraniums and blue lobelia. Yews shaved into swirls, like a frosty cone, flank the entry way to the home. The side yard along the driveway has a small rose garden mulched with cocoa bean hulls. "We have learned," said Frizzell, "that the hulls deter slugs and snails. And cats and dogs do not like it either."
While the garden has been a bit of work, especially this summer preparing for the tour, Hinman and Frizzell use it for outdoor entertaining and relaxation. On a sunny afternoon after work, they hang out on the slate patio that looks down upon the quiet garden. Soft Asian tones from a wind chime sift through the yard on the heels of a gentle breeze. "Getting bogged down with every day stress, you want to come home and be able to relax, come out in the garden and be in the middle of almost an oasis downtown. Here we can relax and envision things we want to do," said Frizzell.
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