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You Can Grow It: Turning your backyard into something magical

Jim Duthie gives us some inspiration by showing us a Boise artist's garden.

BOISE, Idaho — Do you have some ideas for transforming your backyard garden into something really special, but not sure how to go about it? Then here’s something that might help inspire you to get started.

Garden master Jim Duthie takes us on a visit with a Boise couple who had big ideas for transforming their yard, and with some patience and hard work, the results are amazing.

Relaxing in their newly finished backyard gazebo, Fred Choate and Debbie King are taking a little break from renovating their Boise home, both inside and out. And with lots of imagination, vision and hard work, they’ve turned their yard into a collection of beautiful places to wander through and enjoy.

“The problem is, once I have an idea, it’s too late. I mean, as soon as it’s an idea, it has to be done,” Fred said.

For Fred, a well-known Idaho landscape artist, ideas for his backyard tend to expand into visions and obsessions.

“If he’s on a painting out in the studio, that he’s really obsessed with, then he’s on that. If he’s out here in the yard doing something design-wise, planting things, designing things, he’s on that. And you can’t tear him away,” Debbie said.

Looking for a little inspiration on how you can improve your garden? Take a look at what Fred and Debbie have done with theirs.

Part of their backyard has been turned into a fantasy land. You never know who, or what, might be watching you.

There’s even a fairy cottage built into the trunk of a tree. But while it looks magical, it didn’t appear overnight.

An old giant silver maple tree began to die, and it had to be removed.

“I had them leave a 9-foot stump, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. I wanted something there. I thought I might carve it into a Buddha or, you know, just something,” Fred said.

And then one day they dropped in at a local garden center, where Fred happened to notice a little fairy cottage on display.

“And I just said, ‘Get me outta here. I’m ready to go.’ And that’s how the fairy cottage happened,” Fred said.

Now, it’s their granddaughter’s favorite part of the yard.

“She wanted me to hollow it out so she could play inside of it, but that’s a bridge too far,” he said.

Many backyard features were created using debris left over from the house renovation, including stepping stone pathways made from recycled chunks of concrete and asphalt.

As well as this whimsical bus stop, made from leftover materials, including an old concrete window well.

Step through this side gate guarded by two oriental lions, and you’ll pass through a secret garden of sorts. Even the wild residents like to hang out here.

In front of the house, they’ve built a beautifully landscaped berm, covered with a varied assortment of plants and rock features, including scented lavender and blooming succulents, making for an attractive display from the street. But how do you begin to create something like this?

“Just starting. I do, like when I’m doing the berms and the rock work and stuff, I just start with one spot, and then it kind of grows and it grows and… the more I do, the further I can see.”

Recently finished projects include this pleasant oriental garden, complete with an outdoor kitchen.

And this pagoda-style gazebo, which makes for a pleasant place to relax, even if it’s just a brief rest stop between projects.

“Everything’s in the process. To me it’s, people go, like, do you ever sit down and enjoy this? Well, you know, I enjoy doing it. I’m more the doer than a wait around and sit…. I have to be doing, and it’s the process of it,” Fred said.

And while she’s happy with the results, Debbie wasn’t always so sure about the process.

“No, absolutely not. The mess we lived with for several years was… I never thought we would finally come to this,” she said.

“Yeah, this is way beyond anything we thought we would do. We just keep having ideas. The place… there’s just so much beauty here, and everything we do kind of inspires something else, another idea.”

And with a lot of inspiration, and a little perspiration, you can create the garden of your dreams, too.

If you’re not sure how to get started with your garden ideas, consult with a local landscape designer. For a small fee, they’ll help you develop a plan and budget to suit your needs. Also, local garden centers can provide helpful advice, as well as the plants and materials you’ll need to complete your projects.

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