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She blazes trails through floral bounty.

Lilies, roses, and perennials provide nonstop summer color in this Eugene, Oregon, garden

I DON'T BELIEVE YOU should walk past flowers--you should walk through them." This, says Elizabeth Lair, is the guiding principle behind the garden she created in her backyard in Eugene, Oregon.

First, she enclosed the area with a 6-foot-high cedar fence, leaving a 5- by 20-foot space at the rear for composting (see plan on page 64). Then Lair built a toolshed at the northeast corner of the garden, where it wouldn't shade the rest of the plot. A big arbor was constructed in the garden's southwest corner to diffuse the harsh sunlight of summer afternoons. Lair added a tiny deck on the south side of the property. Then she laid out the paths of pea gravel that wind around planting islands.


Each of the island beds is home to a cornucopia of plants suited to the amount of light that spot gets. The mix of plants for each bed was selected to provide continuous summer bloom.

Perhaps most interesting, Lair ignores the advice of designers who say island beds should have low growers around the edges, intermediate plants behind, and tall growers in the center. "I'll put tall growers right at the edge of the path. It adds to that feeling of walking through the plants."

In the delphinium island, the big, bold blue flower spikes stand tall in June. After their blooms fade, the delphiniums are cut back and fertilized, and the next set of spikes rises to provide a second show in August. In July and August, phlox come into flower. Throughout the summer, Asiatic hybrid and Oriental lilies pop up. And in pockets all across the island, plants like meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum), Cimicifuga racemosa, and C. simplex fill in with white foamy flowers on long stems.

In the bed intersected by the dry creek, roses line the path, and tall-growing impatiens (I. glandulifera) bolt up in summer, having self-sown from the previous year's crop. These 5-foot-tall annuals form a leafy screen for astilbe, epimedium, ferns, hostas, and other shade plants behind.

Lair loves hybrid tea roses and chooses those with big, richly colored blossoms and strong fragrance. "They never look sticklike," she explains, "because I plant bushy perennials like gypsophila next to them that grow into and through the canes and hide them." Among her favorite hybrid teas are 'Fragrant Cloud', 'Mister Lincoln', and 'Just Joey'. For shrub roses, she likes David Austin's English roses--'Abraham Darby', 'Constance Spry', and 'Fair Bianca' merit a spot where their long-blooming flowers and handsome foliage show to best advantage.

At the end of the dry creek, there's a small pond. A Japanese maple and a Japanese snowdrop tree (Styrax japonicus) canopy the pond to shelter a mix of moisture-loving plants including Acorus gramineus with its fanlike leaves, purple-stemmed taro (Colocasia esculenta), more astilbe, assorted ferns, digitalis, hostas, and even sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).

Vines scramble along the fence and over two arbors. Clematis, honeysuckle, and climbing roses flower throughout the growing season.


Lair composts everything, and adds well-rotted dairy-cow manure bought by the truckload. As soon as a plant has finished its cycle, she cuts it back and liberally piles compost around the crown and anywhere soil shows. In March, lilies get a couple of big handfuls of cottonseed meal and a sprinkling of bone meal. Lair waters on all dry days (local water ordinance permitting) with a hose and watering wand at the base of plants (overhead watering encourages mildew).

On her daily rounds in the garden, she is never without pruners in hand. The minute a bloom fades, it's snipped off.

Plants that have grown too big are dug up and divided between late October and late February. Extra plants are moved to bare spots in the garden or given to friends or charitable plant sales.
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Title Annotation:horticulturist Elizabeth Lair
Author:Lorton, Steven R.
Date:Aug 1, 1994
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