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Garden adds beauty to community

Colors brighten a lush lawn at Lisa and Ralph Papp-Richards' home at 2612 Timberlane Way, the Front Yard Garden of the Week. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

It's downright amazing what two determined, hard-working gardeners can accomplish in the span of three short years once they've made up their minds to garden.

When Lisa and Ralph Papp-Richards purchased their lot at 2612 Timberlane Way S.W. about six years ago, the land was covered with trees and wild plants. There wasn't even a house. Now this park-like setting is occupied by a new home, several raised garden beds, lush lawns nurtured by an automatic watering system, a circular drive and unique decorative containers with flowers.

Lisa and Ralph's front yard perennial gardens feature bright yellow heliopsis, purple liatris and several varieties of yarrow. Off to the side is a black cauldron - once belonging to Lisa's grandparents - full of trailing petunias. Not far away, a wheelbarrow from Ralph's father overflows with more colorful petunias.

Lisa, who operates a day-care facility, relies on her gardens for welcome therapy. When the busy workday is done, she finds relief, relaxation and beauty in her yard and gardens.

"When I come out here, I'm in my own world," she said. Although her favorite flowers - lilies of all kinds - are almost at the end of their dramatic display, there's living beauty tucked in everywhere. A late-blooming Oriental lily, Stargazer, dominates the southeast corner of the house. A huge-headed hydrangea greets folks near the front door; rugosa shrub roses are planted at every corner of the house; tiger lilies tower along the south side. There's evidence of hard work, careful planning and good nourishing soil everywhere. Neighbors, appreciative of the scenic view while passing by on daily walks, even leave her notes of gratitude for adding beauty to their community.

Lisa credits her family - especially her grandparents and an elderly California aunt - for her interest and passion for gardening.

"Grandpa always said 'Cow manure, more cow manure!' whenever he gave gardening advice," Lisa laughed. And the results of working in huge amounts of this animal compost brought from their family's Pine River farm are obvious in the lush growth.

"Weeds - especially along the north drive by the irises - and deer are the biggest gardening challenges," Lisa explained. But she has good success using a deer repellent called Liquid Fence. The deer wandering throughout this wooded neighborhood easily gobble up any plants missed by the spray.

While the backyard is home to several raised beds full of vegetables, onions and peppers peek out from around golden rudbeckias and sedums in front yard gardens. Their 10-year-old daughter, Faith, is to credit for sticking in these vegetable surprises here and there. Getting their children involved in gardening at an early age is important to this couple.

Lisa's next garden project will be a peony bed in the sunny front yard. Several potted peonies wait in anticipation of this fall planting. She also envisions some kind of a water feature, but as yet, she's unsure of the exact location or plan. What is a certainty is the continuation and expansion of gardening - flowers for Lisa and vegetables for Ralph. Our easy part is to drive by and enjoy the view. Timberlane Way is a short jaunt into the countryside, southwest of Bemidji. Take Fifth Street (Division Street) west of Bemidji for about a mile, turn south onto Jefferson, go another mile and turn right onto 15th Street Southwest. Timberlane Way is at the end of 15th. When you see the mailbox with the yellow hard-hat birdhouse, look across the street between the birch and oak trees and you'll know you've arrived!