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Larry Sagers
A sunken garden becomes a focal point in Denise and Clinton Boyer's yard.

Landscaping your home or remodeling a landscape is often a formidable and overwhelming task. Fixing soils, installing irrigation systems, creating hardscapes and adding fences all take time and money.

Then deciding what to plant and where to plant it is a daunting task for even experienced gardeners.

Twelve years ago, Denise Boyer and her husband, Clinton, undertook the design and installation of their landscape, which will be featured on this year's Hidden Garden Benefit. The tour features 10 gardens from Provo to Springville, and all proceeds will go the Heart Center of Excellence at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

While creating their garden wasn't an easy task, the Boyers' creation is a stunning and successful design that works well for their family and allows them to indulge their interests and hobbies.

Blending past experiences and plant familiarity was the first step. Clinton is a born-and-raised Springville farm boy, while Denise grew up enjoying her mother's and grandmother's gardens in Downey, Calif. Each had favorite plants, but Denise learned that the camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons she enjoyed in California do not thrive here.

Although she misses those plants, she enjoys the seasons in Utah. "I love the break of the winter here in Utah. I think that is one reason why gardeners here are so enthusiastic and they are so anxious to get back to work in the spring," she said.

Boyer agreed to share her experience of how to create a stunning landscape based on what they learned while installing theirs.

"Landscaping is a process. We are still landscaping our yard. Clinton is pretty creative. He recently added a water feature for our daughter's wedding, and he is adding more items, including a "Hobbit Hole" to further improve our landscape. I would always add a water feature now that we have had one.

"If you are doing it all yourself, take one section at a time. If you try everything all at once it can be overwhelming," Denise said. "We started with the bowl of our sunken garden. We knew that we wanted a walkout basement because we knew that's where the children would migrate."

The sunken garden was an interesting construction project. Using his father's tractor, Clinton excavated and moved various rocks and other materials into place and then finalized their positions using a large crowbar. When they would roll the rocks into place, it seemed they never quite went where they wanted them, so it took some effort to move them around.

Plants were another issue. "We don't move plants as much as we used to," Denise said, "but poor Clinton has moved trees and shrubs and other plants all over the yard."

Her advice: "Pick the plants you love and that you really enjoy. Plant some stuff that gives you a challenge. If something does not do well or you don't like it, then move it. If it is not OK, try again. Your yard is not ever really done, and so you can take care of problems when they arise."

Her list of plants is what further enhances her successful landscape design. "I like plants with variegated leaves. These include the variegated red twig dogwood and an interesting variegated wegelia," she said.

Other plants with variegated foliage include her hostas and other shade-loving flowers. These add a different color to the plantings and offer something unusual to draw the eye to specific locations in the garden.

Another favorite are her flowering vines. "I have clematis all over the yard, including some less-common types that you might not see in other areas. I also love the contorted filbert in the front yard and the many other plants that fill in the flower beds.

"The perennial geranium, or cranesbill, is another very successful plant for me. Corydalis grows everywhere and fills in even under the stairs," she said. "I also love roses and think they grow much better here than they did in California because they do not get so many diseases.

"You have a limited amount of space and you need to find things you really love. If you find something that does not work, take it out and replace it with something that works well," she said.

Since everything in your landscape is never successful, I asked here for ideas that didn't work.

"Don't plant perennial sweet peas!" she exclaimed. "It should have a warning label on it. It goes everywhere, and I find it years later. I also would not plant quaking aspens because they spring up everywhere in all the flower beds.

"I also wish I had taken the USU master gardener classes before I attempted my landscape. It would have helped me a lot with soil and other problems and helped me learn more about plants that grow well here."

If you go

What: 2008 Hidden Garden Benefit

Where: 10 gardens from Provo to Springville

When: Today, noon-8 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

How much: $13 in advance; $16 at the door

Phone: 801-357-7600

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