LAFAYETTE — There’s one thing Kay and Jim Reed disagree on: who deserves the most credit for the attractiveness of their yard.
“My wife has a beautiful flower garden,” Jim said proudly, awarding her all the kudos. “She has a natural ability to put colors together.”
But Kay points first to the beauty her husband has added to their property.
“Did you see Jim’s trees?” she asked, referring to steel evergreens the retired engineer cut and shaped to decorate the front gate. “And the creek? I always wanted to live by a creek, so Jim made a creek. Jim is able to do everything.”
Kay, who’s retired from the SAIF Corp., said Jim does the bulk of the work on their property. He turns her ideas into reality “because he loves me,” she said.
Yes, he loves her, he said, but he can’t take credit for all the work. In fact, he said, “She works just as hard as I do.”
Both agree they are delighted by the results.
“We spend a lot of time enjoying it,” Kay said. “It’s very relaxing.”
Jim said he’s happy anywhere in the yard, as long as the woman he married on Christmas Day of 1958 is there with him. “Kay’s a great woman, an ideal wife,” he said.
The Reeds have a lovely front yard, filled with flowers, artistically placed boulders and, of course, Jim’s trees. But it’s the hidden sections behind the house they love best.
“This is our sanctuary,” Kay said of the large, terraced areas, burbling creek and vegetable garden.
None of this existed when the couple moved into their home in 1968. The land had been planted in orchard and field crops, and their sloping backyard still had a few of the original fruit trees.
Over the years, they’ve remodeled and expanded the small house, rebuilding some of it after a fire. They covered the walls with stucco and put on a 50-year roof. They pulled out trees and planted others. They recycled fire bricks discarded 30 years ago by the Newberg paper mill, into retaining walls and paths. And they terraced the slope and brought in rich soil to create several levels.
“We’ve been improving it every day,” Jim said.
Kay added, “Whenever we think of something new.”
Flowers and flowering bushes abound. Some are there strictly for their beauty; others bring back pleasant memories, such as the black tulips Kay grew for daughter Rohna Proctor’s wedding 20 years ago, and the apricot irises originally planted by Jim’s mother.
A huge bleeding heart plant drips with delicate white and pink blossoms. Petunias in blues and purples spill out of planters. Yellow tulips still show their heads here and there, although their short blooming season is almost over.
“You should have seen it two weeks ago,” Jim said. “The whole front looked like Easter eggs.”
There’s much more to look forward to. Fuchsias will be blooming soon in the shade. Wildflowers, volunteers left from last year, are popping up. A poppy section, filled with a rainbow of colors, is new. Peonies, marigolds, Gerbera daisies, bell flowers, verbena, candytuft and other blossoms add color, texture and interest.
“I enjoy watching things come to life,” Kay said.
She and Jim like to see vegetable plants produce a crop, as well. They start seeds in the greenhouse Jim built, then set the seedlings out in the 40-by-50 foot garden.
Tomato and cucumber starts are in the ground already, and they’ve harvested lettuce and spinach. Soon all the rows will be filled with pepper, broccoli, cabbage, corn, onions, kohlrabi, parsnips, carrots, beets, beans, potatoes, garlic and herbs. Grape vines are still bare, but the strawberry plants are covered with tiny white flowers that soon will be replaced by plump red berries.
They love eating the fresh vegetables, preserving them and sharing them with friends, neighbors and the local senior center. “We ask that we’ll be blessed with a good crop so we can give to others,” Kay said.
Kay loves garden sculptures, everything from piglets grazing on the grass to fish that swim along a dry creek bed to not-quite-lifesize deer and bears. “Almost everyone who sells garden statues knows us,” Jim joked.
A statue of a monk stands in a quiet corner. Three Victorian-style female statues watch over other areas.
Handprints pressed in concrete by grandkids Kaytie and Brandon decorate a walkway. Birdhouses attracted winged visitors.
A rooster — made from metal, not feathers — guards the vegetables. “I want chickens, but I just have a rooster,” Kay joked.
The yard contains several structures built by Jim, who once was a general contractor, including a gazebo, a sauna, a tool shed and a water tower.
The tower is functional.
Each year, the Reeds collect rainwater in barrels, then pump it up to the reservoir at the top of the tower. From there, it flows down to automatically irrigate their gardens, fill their pond and replenish their creek.
The Reeds used to make their own compost. They still save compostible material, but “now we take it to the recycling center, then buy it back,” Jim joked.
Compost helps, but Jim maintains that the real secret to their success is Kay. She has a green thumb, her husband said.
“She never has a plant die,” he said. “She can take it out in mid summer and plop it down and it will grow.”
Kay chalks it up to experience and being willing to try something different if one variety doesn’t thrive.
Long ago, she focused more on indoor plants than on the garden. “I loved my houseplants and I would not share them with anybody,” she said.
“Then we had the fire and I lost them. Now I always share my plants,” she said.
“If you don’t share something, you don’t have it long anyway. Life is about sharing.”
Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.