Here is the recipe for a beautiful garden: Take one 1800s historic home in Tooele and rebuild it from the inside out. Restore the carriage house and another outbuilding. Then add beautiful gardens all the way around. Add some raised beds for vegetable gardening, and for good measure, throw in a custom-made chicken coop with exotic occupants.
That is the creation that Jennilyn and Mark Hitesman have spent more than a decade in patient, painstaking design, construction, reconstruction and finally adding favorite plants to blend the home and the gardens.
I asked Jennilyn how she got interested in gardening and what held her fascination now. She thoughtfully answered that she had always liked plants and even when she lived in an apartment she grew plants. She then explains how their landscape design recipe evolved
"As a behavioral consultant working with disabled people, the gardens provide a way to relieve distress and relax."
She explains Mark's interest in another way. "He is a commercial plumber and wants to see things done right. Mark likes things to look nice. He is very particular about the buildings and about the lawns and I am the one who ended up doing the flower beds.
"We're both self-taught. We were also both the oldest in our family so we learned to do lots of things. Our first project was to add the fence to give us some privacy and a frame for the house. Our next project was the rock wall in the garden and the edging in the front."
She explained how she chose the plant materials for the front garden. "The front garden was mine. I picked all of my favorite plants that were for sun. I put in poppies and lavender.
"A couple of years ago I started filling in with zinnias and I just love them. They bloom almost all summer. They are blooming now and will go all the way until fall. I plant the mixtures so I get many different colors."
She has also added many different shrubs including potentilla, butterfly bush, roses, a contorted filbert and a beautiful Japanese maple. Added to that are many sedums, peonies and other perennials to round out the beautiful design. She also is waiting for her desert lilies to bloom in all their glory in the next week or so.
The recipe continued as they moved around the house and established more gardens. Although they are blessed with good soil, they had many other challenges.
"We had to remove some of the trees. The tree of heaven had sprouted up all over the backyard and one of them was even lifting the foundation of the carriage house. Some of the trees are probably as old as the house but problems had to be removed.
"The back garden is more shade and a shade garden is mostly hostas. We tried to find as many different kinds as we could have ... the blue ones and the variegated ones. We also have coleus in that garden, some shade impatiens and some lamium that is growing in the shade but also does well in part sun."
The patio garden is a more recent addition. There is also a fire pit to the side to do some outdoor cooking and for recreation.
Her plants soften the edge of the patio and provide a barrier on the other part of the garden. Daylilies in pots are getting ready to bloom. The Karl Forester feather reed grass is producing attractive seed heads on very columnar stocks. Asiatic lilies are blooming, and creeping Jenny and other groundcovers complete the planting.
Jennilyn explains the vegetable garden. "The raised beds keep it nice and tidy and the soil is usually very nice. It was an old farm. The vegetables are everything we can put in salsa; tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and we have even tried onions this year.
"We love basil and oregano. We have chives in a pot and we have planted lettuce in pots for decorations and for fresh eating. We also plant lemon cucumbers as they are one of my husband's favorites. We love them for snacking or to put in salads."
To further share their recipe for landscape design, they are opening their garden for the 14th Annual Tooele Valley Spring Garden Tour. They look forward to welcoming you to their garden.
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The 14th Annual Tooele Valley Spring Garden Tour: It is Saturday, June 23, and will be held in 12 locations in Stockton, Tooele, Erda, Stansbury and Grantsville. The tour is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is $7 per person.
Red Butte Garden classes:
Natural Area Hike: June 19, 7-8:30 p.m. See what's blooming in the natural area of the garden. Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes.
Floral Walk & Rose Garden Tour: June 21, 7-8 p.m.. Enjoy an intimate look at what's blooming in the Floral Walk and Rose Garden. Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes.
Larry A. Sagers is a horticulture specialist for the Utah State University Extension Service at Thanksgiving Point.