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Larry A. Sagers
April Clark tends to the plants in her back yard. She prefers perennials, trees and shrubs to annuals.

KAYSVILLE — I am always looking for interesting gardening stories. Sometimes I meet the garden first, and sometimes I meet the gardener first.

For this week's subject, I met the garden first.

Several years ago, I noticed a strikingly well-landscaped home in Kaysville. As I am sometimes accustomed to doing, I took a photograph of the garden and placed it in my collection. Later, I incorporated the photo into a landscape-design presentation. You can probably guess the rest of the story.

While teaching a master gardener course in Davis County, I showed the photo, and a voice from the back of the room exclaimed, "That's my house." Since then, I've returned to that Kaysville garden, tended by Randy and April Clark, several times.

April, who hails from Minnesota, and Randy, who grew up in northern Utah, bought their Kaysville home after living for a time in Michigan.

"We picked out our lot because it had a beautiful view of the mountains and we liked the fact that it borders the Utah Botanical Center," April said.

"We knew we wanted trees, and we wanted to have a landscape that didn't take a lot of time," she said, adding her husband doesn't like to spend all his time mowing the lawn. So they downsized from three acres in Michigan to a fifth of an acre here.

"Our concept of gardening is that we only wanted to plant our plants once," April said. "We wanted plants that would establish well and not need constant replacement. We did not want to spend a lot of money planting annuals."

So, April said they planted baby perennials, baby trees and baby shrubs. "Neighbors would come by at first and would ask when we were going to put in the rest of our plants.

"Our philosophy was that if we spent $20 on a good, well-placed tree, it would grow back the next year and get better and prettier. If we spent $20 on annuals they would not be coming back."

Their philosophy has worked well as this garden has matured. The front landscape is always showy in any season and sets off the attractive home. I asked April to share some of her favorite plants that make the landscape so colorful and stunning in the late fall.

One of her favorite perennials is Phystostegia, Vivid, a beautiful late-blooming plant that doesn't get too tall and tip over as other plants are prone to do. It is also not invasive. "We have it edging our neighbor's lawn, but it does not invade it," April said.

Her favorite grass is the Karl Forester feather reed grass, which adds an attractive vertical dimension to the front landscape. "I would have a real hard time taking those out. They are beautiful for 11 months out of the year," she said.

"It starts out growing around Easter and it goes from a purple tint in the summer to a beautiful gold now and is drop-dead gorgeous in the winter. If we get a heavy snow that knocks it down, then it pops back up as soon as the snow drops off." They also have Miscanthus and Penisetum grasses that are beautiful in the fall.

Her trees are equally well-chosen. "The Zelkova is one of our favorites," April said. "It is graceful yet tough. When we first were planting our landscape, they were hard to find, but now they are available in most nurseries. We also have hackberries that are tough and fast growing, and the Heritage Birch that is tougher and better than other birches but still has very interesting leaves and bark."

Her list of plants goes on, but the expertise of this full-season garden is best summed up in her own description: "When my son was dating, we would pick bouquets for his girlfriends. We would pick them year-round because there was always something in bloom."

Take a look at your fall landscape. It might be time to add some of these ideas to make yours more interesting each season of the year.

Larry A. Sagers is the horticulture specialist, Utah State University Extension at Thanksgiving Point.