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Larry A. Sagers
The Wicked Witch of the East's legs stick up among the flowers.

A magical garden has a bit of whimsy, a bit of mystery and excellent plants that create a delightful addition to the neighborhood.

Anne Albaugh's Avenues creation fits that description.

A successful businesswoman, Albaugh has lived in many areas but selected her home for her latest project.

"I garden because I cannot not garden," she said. "I would rather be outside in the garden than anywhere else."

Albaugh's garden is one of 11 featured this weekend during the fourth annual People Helping People Garden Tour. Proceeds of the event go to the People Helping People Successful Employment Program, a six-month training course that helps women achieve their full potential in the workplace.

Albaugh said she gardened as a little girl with her grandmother in Cokeville, Wyo. "I learned if it would grow there, it would grow anywhere," she said.

That experience helped her perform the magical transformation around her current house, which she bought in December 2006.

"At that time it (the garden) was nothing but renter's grass. It was pretty trashy, but I knew it could become something different," she said.

Her first project — building the pond — might seem a little out of order, because it is usually done after many other projects are finished. But this project was driven by necessity.

"I started building a pond first because I had fish in a pond at my other home. I had to travel out there every day to feed them, so I had to have a place for them. I have my pet koi and goldfish in the pond. You have to have the goldfish because they eat the mosquito larvae and the koi do not," she said.

"The pond holds about 5,000 gallons and is nearly 4 feet deep. It is a great place for my fish and also many different plants. I have water hyacinth, iris, cattails, dwarf bamboo and flowering arrowhead. I also have several water lilies but need more to help control the algae."

Along with the pond, her fence was a priority. While she needed this project, she could not be content with an ordinary fence.

"Everything in my garden revolves around art. I designed the fence, and my contractor made it. I am in the construction business and I love steel. I love rebar. I made it this way because I wanted a fence that never needed to be painted, never needed to be repaired and never needed to be replaced," she explained.

After the pond and the fence, she became serious about gardening by planting nine trees and many perennials. It was not enough to just plant them — they had to add to her artistic design.

"I do not like boredom. Boredom is my enemy. I try to have interesting pots, and I have the witch," she said with a grin.

True enough, in one of the beds one can find the Wicked Witch of the East's striped legs — and ruby slippers — sticking out from among the penstemons, lilies, hostas and creeping jenny.

While it might seem that an artistic garden might be difficult to use, that is not the case for this one. The garden is immensely practical and serves Albaugh and her friends well in a variety of ways.

"The parking strip is a community garden with eight neighbors who are doing vine crop vegetables this season," she said. "That gives us a chance to grow pumpkins, melons, cucumbers pole beans and other crops on rebar tepees."

Her backyard garden includes a small but productive individual vegetable garden with corn, beets, tomatoes and peppers.

She refers to the rest of her backyard as "the north living room." As an extension of her interior space, it reflects her love of color, plants and artistic containers. Her delightful stairway is a kaleidoscope of ground-cover plants that fill sloped areas leading to her garden seating.

Her outdoor living areas are done for practicality. "The north living room" is cool and shaded from the hot south sun and provides protection in the summer. Here Albaugh is secluded from neighbors and the busy city sounds.

The front patio is a much warmer place that is only comfortable on summer evenings, providing a place to sit with neighbors. In the winter, the south side of the home and the reflected heat from the pond make it comfortable, even during the winter.

What more could she want from her garden?

Her response is spoken like a true gardener: "I want an arbor in the front to provide a little more shade and reduce the heat. I want more stuff growing. I want trees and hedges in the parking strip gardens. I just buy plants and buy plants and plant and plant."


If you go ...

What: People Helping People Garden Tour

Where: 11 houses in the Avenues

When: Saturday, 9-a.m.-4 p.m.

How much: $10

Web: www.phputah.org

Phone: 801-583-5300

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