Name: Diane O'Connell, retired cashier now a "yard controller," living in Oregon.
Garden specs: 120 feet wide and 150 feet deep.
When did you start gardening My mother always had flowers all over the place. When we moved into our first home and had a young family, I planted zinnia seeds in an array of colors along my garage. Over time, we added a patio and put in railroad ties for a planter that I filled with flowers. We moved to another home where I had plenty of color, and then to a condo where I took care of several flower beds in the common areas as well as plots for many of our elderly neighbors. But I missed working in a yard of my own so we moved back to a house on the same street we had lived on before, built by the same builder.
What do you grow? Perennials, annuals, shrubs, bushes, and flowers in pots. Roses used to be my favorite, but with the black spot and Japanese beetles, they're getting too challenging. I discovered shrub roses and Knock Out roses, which need very little care and just keep giving and giving. I have a spice bush; in the spring when it blooms with white flowers that have a hint of pink, it smells sweet and spicy, better than any lilac bush you'll ever smell. I also have a small vegetable garden behind a work shed.
What do you get out of it? As one of my friends tells me, "It is my valium." It keeps me stress free. I love creating, being busy, and being outside, especially in the spring and early summer when things come to life and smell and look their best. And when I finish one project I go on to the next.
Hours spent gardening: About 10 to 15 hours a week but it varies. Just cutting back my shasta daisies can take all afternoon. This fall, I'll be putting leaves on all the beds.
Annual expense: $100-$150 on annuals.
Challenges: Keeping out weeds and keeping my plants trimmed. And coming up with ways to make small changes.
I'm proud of the way I have created "rooms" in my back yard. I have about four. I have a Chinese theme around my pergola with a oriental-styled water fountain. And I have a lot of garden art, such as a bowling ball I covered with tile grout and stained-glass pieces; it's set on a gazing-ball stand. I have a lot of bird houses. An impatiens-filled bird cage hangs from a red maple and a newborn's crib is full of petunias. I look for things at garage sales. I have a couple of metal tricycles and an old wooden wheelbarrow filled with flowers.
I have a small, plastic waterfall/pond and I painted each block with an outdoor craft paint to make it look like stone. To make small picket fences, I reassemble old pieces of fencing. A guy we knew was getting rid of a dog-eared privacy fence, so I traded him a case of beer for it. We cut it down and put it around a special tree, a tricolor beech.
Most used tool: Shovel and an old-fashioned hoe.
Word to the wise: Be careful about going too big. Sometimes I think I created a monster, especially in the spring. But it's a monster I love.