"My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece." -- Claude Monet
Whether it's a rare lilac tree or a patch of juicy ripe strawberries, nine Top of Utah gardeners will share their own masterpieces during the Ogden Nature Center Summer Garden Tour.
Now in its fifth year, the Saturday, July 13, tour will highlight residential gardens in the Harrisville, North Ogden and Pleasant View area that were chosen for their wide-ranging variety, says Brandi Bosworth, public relations and special projects coordinator for the nature center.
"There's everything from a small well-groomed flower-bed garden, to xeriscaping, to the meditation garden -- that one's very unique as well," Bosworth says.
Some of the gardens are large and some are small; some are old-fashioned and others are more modern.
Today, four of the Top of Utah residents who are opening their garden gates to visitors for the tour share what they believe makes their outdoor sanctuaries special.
The sound of running water in her Pleasant View garden is delightful, but even better than that is working in the soil, says Stephanie Steiner.
"There's just something so satisfying about getting your hands dirty and tending to something ... to cultivate something and watch it grow," says Steiner, who, along with husband Scott, saw their garden plans come to fruition just last year.
In addition to two waterfalls installed in the front yard of their 7-acre property, the Steiner garden features bronze scuppers, or decorative spouts, which channel water from natural springs through a stone wall and into a creek.
"It's very stunning; it makes the yard feel more like a park than a backyard garden," Steiner says of the addition, designed by Laurie Van Zandt, a Huntsville landscape artist who organizes the annual Ogden Nature Center Garden Tour.
The veggie garden that produces strawberries for the Steiners' morning breakfast cereal is planted inside a "quaint" wooden chicken coop complex with 13 resident hens.
Favorite thing about the garden: Bartering chicken eggs -- about a dozen a day -- for items like fresh honey from the neighbor's bees is a lot of fun, Steiner says. "You get to know your neighbors, but then you also learn what their skills are and what they produce," she explains.
One surprise: Neighbor and noted landscape architect Leonard Grassli -- whose residence is also on the tour -- placed the Steiners' home on their hillside lot so both house and garden would have prime views of Ben Lomond Peak, Steiner says. And the construction work was done in such a way as to save a 100-year-old cherry tree growing on the property.
Newest addition: A pergola, installed just in time for the garden tour, sits just beyond the stone wall, where the tended garden gives way to natural meadows.
Best tip for new gardeners: "I think it's important to work with what you've got. ... Let the land dictate what you do with it rather than you dictating to the land what you want to do," Steiner says.
And, if you have a vision of something you'd like to have, she adds, follow through with it -- don't let a little bit of hard work stop you.
Want to see it? The Steiner garden is at 4527 N. 350 West, Pleasant View
The Rock Garden
Once a commercial nursery, The Rock Garden has returned to being a private garden for avid horticulturist Gayle Allen and wife Mary, who have lived in this home for more than 30 years.
"Fundamentally, I'm a plant collector, so I've just collected a huge variety of plants," Allen says, noting he has more than 1,000 types of perennials, more than 100 varieties of grasses, and hundreds of kinds of trees and shrubs.
"Some of them, they're probably the only ones (of their kind) growing in Utah," the Harrisville resident says, like the lilac trees he acquired from cuttings taken at the now-demolished Utah State University Botanical Garden in Farmington.
Another thing that distinguishes this garden from others is a "rather loose" design philosophy, says Allen, a fan of natural gardens over formal gardens. The way he sees it, the garden really doesn't belong to him at all, but to Mother Nature.
"My job is to keep the pathways open and the borders kind of tidy," he says. Should a plant reseed itself in a new spot, he says, "I let it go -- it's home and it's welcome to stay there."
Favorite spot in the garden: "The one that I'm sitting in," Allen says. Or any place he's recently been working, such as his woodland garden. Shaded by large white fir trees, it's a spot with an abundance of shade-loving greenery.
"I try to make it look like a natural hillside with a lot of native plants," he says.
One surprise: The "can vine," a collection of old Spam and soup cans hanging from one of Allen's shade houses. "They actually kind of sound like wind chimes," he says, and draw plenty of comments from visitors.
Newest addition: More pathways winding through the garden.
Best tip for new gardeners: "The secret to having a good garden is having good soil," Allen says, so be sure to work compost into the earth. The soil nourishes the plants, he says, and if it isn't high quality, it doesn't matter what you try to plant.
Want to see it? The Rock Garden is at the southwest corner of 400 North and Harrisville Road (U.S. 89), Harrisville
Ten minutes to mow the lawn?
That's part of the charm of this low-maintenance yard and garden, which don't require a lot of water, says owner Steve Barker, of North Ogden.
"It's xeriscape, but it's not the far end of xeriscape. It's not cactus and thorny brush and rocks and so forth," he says.
The Barkers' garden is brand-new, planted just this spring after the new house was completed in February. The yard includes a small traditional lawn, but also areas of Idaho rye grass, springing up now, and fine-bladed wild grass, which will most likely never be mowed.
Some of the areas of grass are also sporting "a lot of native weeds" as well, Barker quips, but that's to be expected for a garden in its infancy.
"Next summer will be the best; the plants will all be grown and will look much better," he says.
Favorite spot: Every window in the house and spot in the garden has a view of the valley or the mountains, so Barker says, "There isn't a place in the garden I consider my favorite. I really enjoy it all the way around."
One surprise: The yard is a free-flowing design with plenty of curves, so it doesn't seem like a space that could accommodate a garden, Barker says. "(Visitors) might be surprised to find in the backyard there are actually some fruit trees and a (vegetable) garden," he says.
Best tip for new gardeners: Most folks just choose whatever plants are offered at nurseries, but searching out native plants is well worth the effort, Barker says.
"There's nothing that bothers them because they're already adapted and suited for our climate," he explains. Plus, he adds, "They do flower -- you get a lot of flowers."
Want to see it? The Barker garden is blooming at 3241 N. Garner Circle, North Ogden
Walking around the garden in the morning, with his dog at his side, offers Craig Butters a chance to unwind.
"For me, it's that moment in time when I can catch my breath and not be worrying about business," says Butters, owner of an excavation company and tire center.
The most unusual thing about his garden and yard is the liberal use of natural stone quarried from the homesite, Butters says, including benches and a rock tunnel. One massive wall is crafted of stones that were just dropped in place, "as if they fell," Butters says, rather than set in a tidy stack like bricks.
"And the sheer size of these rocks -- some of them are as big as cars," the Pleasant View resident says.
Favorite spot: Butters says he likes his natural gas fire pit, which overlooks the valley but is set in a private rock alcove. "It's the panoramic views; I can see all the way to the North Ogden Divide and to Willard Bay from there," he says.
One surprise: Parts of his lot are still 100 percent natural vegetation, Butters says, so even sagebrush has been worked into the flower beds.
Best tip for new gardeners: Advance planning pays off, Butters says. One example is using underground conduits (sleeves or tubes) to easily run water or electrical lines throughout the yard. The system is not only convenient, but allows for easy repairs, he says.
Want to see it? The Butters garden may be viewed at 179 W. 4100 North, Pleasant View
THE REST OF THE TOUR
Five additional gardens -- and one organic tomato farm -- are also featured on the Ogden Nature Center's 2013 Garden Tour.
Artwork, live music or food samples will be offered at each of the locations.
The homes may be visited in any order. Admission is $20; tickets may be purchased in advance at the nature center, 966 W. 12th St., Ogden, or at any home during the Saturday, July 13, tour.
Proceeds from the event support the nature preserve and its educational programs. Here's what else garden-lovers will see:
* The Japngie garden, 138 W. 2050 North, Harrisville
A stone labyrinth is one of the unique features of this small neighborhood garden. The labyrinth is a circular walking path that leads to a meditation pergola covered in vines. Inside the pergola, which faces east for a view of the Wasatch Mountains, is a running-water feature and some spiritual statuary.
* The Chamberlin garden, 106 W. 4100 North, Pleasant View
This Pleasant View garden has a park-like feel and was designed 12 years ago for its owners by their daughter, then a student in landscape architecture at Utah State University and now director of The Utah House in Kaysville. Notable features are a dry creek created along the fence line and unusual plants such as pin oaks.
* The Grassli garden, 4206 N. 125 West, Pleasant View
Well-known landscape architect Leonard Grassli, whose firm designed Ogden's Weber State University campus and Lehi's Thanksgiving Point, shows off his own garden featuring pergolas covered with roses and grapes, mature trees, brick patios and naturalized plant areas.
* The Weiskopf garden, 4506 Cottonwood, Pleasant View
Perennials are popular in this garden, along with a myriad of shade plants and a front lawn that's mostly planted in oregano. The owners favor organic gardening methods and do not use any weed killers or pesticides.
* The Beeson garden, 1311 E. 2600 North, North Ogden
Highlights of this old-fashioned garden include a koi pond, a waterfall, a gazebo and such traditional plants as delphiniums, irises, geraniums, peonies and bleeding hearts.
* Canine Companions for Independence Organic Farm, 111 E. Pleasant View Drive
Heirloom tomatoes are grown here, along with peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and squash. The produce is sold to area restaurants, and the proceeds benefit Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to persons with disabilities.