Grow your garden room by room
Published March 17, 2023, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle
By Barb Gorges
Last summer, Lois and Dan Prickett invited her fellow Master Gardeners over to tour their garden, which was 25 years in the making. I volunteered to stay out front to welcome visitors while they chatted with people in the backyard.
Much of the small front yard was devoted to a berm with a wonderful show of native flowers for pollinators. But when I finally got around to the back…oh my gosh!
Yes, it is bigger than the average backyard for the central part of Cheyenne, but it was the multiple horizons that made me want to follow the flagstone path to the points of interest in the distance.
Now, in bleak late winter, while sitting at their table, Dan explained to me the “room” concept he and Lois have implemented. He saw a TV show about it years ago.
Instead of one lawn area with shrubs and flower borders around it, the yard has been subtly divided into rooms. But each area is not square or entirely walled in – it just has enough trees, shrubs and tall flowers marking its boundaries to keep you from seeing everything all at once.
Each section offers a peek to pique your interest. And yes, there is still some lawn.
Some of the highlights include fountain and pond in the far corner, gazebo, garden shed/greenhouse, dead tree, patio, and flagstone paths and retaining walls.
Dan was trying to remember how many tons of flagstone they ordered. Many pallets were delivered. But now plants curl around the edges and they look like they’ve been there forever.
However, this spring, some of those flagstones will have to be pried up. Lois and Dan will be installing drip irrigation and sprinklers with timers because they want to travel, and no family members are available to water.
Previously, Dan had a system for getting each area watered about twice a week by moving a sprinkler around. Lois got him a timer so he would have a reminder for moving the hose and wouldn’t accidentally leave the water on all night.
A shirttail relation, recently trained in designing residential irrigation systems, will be helping the Pricketts plan the placement of the lines and the size of the emitters. But there will undoubtably be rocks in the way needing to be moved temporarily.
Lois told me she wishes she’d taken the Master Gardener training 25 years ago, when they first started working on the backyard, instead of waiting until retirement. They might have planned a little better and saved themselves some extra work.
The other advantage to the training is understanding where to plant which plant. Back where she grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, “You stick stuff in the ground and it grows,” said Lois. But here, she lamented, “Things lay down and die.”
Master Gardeners trained her to analyze information to choose the best plants for her location to improve her rate of success and save money.
At this point in her life, Lois is looking for more perennials – food, as well as flowers, like her iris bed and butterfly garden, so she won’t have so much to plant each year. She and Dan already have fruit trees and shrubs, grapes and rhubarb. The new asparagus patch is coming along. Next on the list, horseradish.
A long time ago Lois discovered the efficiency of tulips reblooming year after year and said she has planted them heavily in the backyard. There are so many that every May she was always able to cut a big bouquet for her office for National Nurses Week and you couldn’t tell any were missing. However, a few years ago, voles got in and ate quite a few bulbs, and she’s been replanting each year since.
By chatting with Lois and Dan the last day of February, I thought I might get some tips on their early garden preparations, like seed starting. But Lois said she’s just getting into that. She usually relies on the Master Gardener plant sale for tomato and pepper plants. This year, it is May 6, out at the Archer Events Center. Next year, their garden shed/greenhouse should be ready for some seed starting.
March is a good time to start some greens in a cold frame, or tomatoes under LED grow lights. I have lots of information from local gardeners at my website https://cheyennegardengossip.wordpress.com/, or in my book, “Cheyenne Garden Gossip,” available at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens and other local gift shops or online.
Just remember, Cheyenne’s average last day of frost is around May 25, but you should be ready to protect your tender plants from frosty nights as late as the first week in June.