Iâ€™ve done it! Â I have taken the big leap and arrived at our new home in Dixon MT, a small town in easy reach of Missoula on the Clark Fork River, one of “Americaâ€™s 10 Best River Towns” in western Montana. Getting here was an adventure, not being used to driving on snowy roads; carrying and pushing my piano and our belongings through the snow into the new home was another challenge.
The snow has melted away, and out of my window I see the barren trees along the Flathead River.Â Iâ€™m enjoying the play of sun and shadows on the hills across the water and the snow-capped peaks of the Mission Mountains in the distance. I hope that the mild weather will hold as long as possible and I can begin getting a feel for our new property and the lay of our hilly terrain.
What brought me here is my family, but also the beauty of Montanaâ€™s open plains, valleys, and the emerald green waters of the Clark Fork River that merges with the Flathead River a few miles away. There are so many creeks, rivers, and lakes here that it would take me another lifetime to see them all. Add to this the excitement over discovering a new plant palette and the desire to master the challenges of gardening in the Rockies.
I look forward to designing gardens that survive the winters here and the many other challenges of deer/pocket gophers/squirrels, extreme heat, difficult soils and limited rainfall. One question in particular is on my mind when I look at gardens:Â What are the design secrets to designing a garden that holds its visual interest even under several inches of snow?
In Missoula, I’ve noticed a distinct appreciation for durable, naturalistic plantings in private gardens and public and commercial landscapes. The design at my local grocery store, in particular, caught my eye by its use of boulders, comfortable stepping stones, long-flowering hardy perennials, shrubs, small trees and ornamental grasses. The whole has a very relaxed and naturalistic feeling, and from Lori Parr, its designer, I learned that her goal was a sustainable plant composition that uses beautiful, low maintenance xeriscape plants of the Mountain West that give the whole a distinct Rocky Mountain feel. (Lori goes by the name of “Lavender Lori” because she now grows hardy Lavenders and makes various products with its oils.)
As Iâ€™m looking around to see what other local designers are doing, I talked to Will Grant of Grant Landscape & Design of Missoula. His use, too, of indigenous plants, his stated preference of water-conserving plants and his way of incorporating local stone and rocks in pleasing ways impressed me. Both Loriâ€™s and Willâ€™s supportive and easy sharing of their experiences enforced what I learned in Southern California: Gardeners everywhere love their work so much that they are willing to share secrets and experience and always support those who want to knowâ€¦
Gardening and Sustainable Design
So I invite you to follow my next blog posts. Iâ€™ll share what I have learned about gardening and sustainable design in Western Montana. Iâ€™m really excited to see which tricks are employed to keep a landscape interesting even under several inches of snow! I will share with you what I learn here.
For my new gardening friends in Montana although working now in a different environment, my â€œeyeballâ€ is still good and I bring my design passion and experience that brought me awards in Southern California. I look forward to working with you and to helping you articulate your ideas, to interpreting and transforming them into reality.Â And to make you feel what this client of mine wrote: â€œEvery day I am thrilled to open the front gate and walk through the first garden you designed. Sometimes it is late afternoon and the light is glorious in the garden.â€
Thank you so much for your continued reading of my posts From Montana. I appreciate this support and hope youâ€™ll follow me on this new adventure.
I wish you the very best for the new year and a festive holiday season.