Friday, September 18, 2009

Inside an Innovative Idaho Garden

Step onto this shady and serene back porch, and you might think you’d landed in Italy. Not Idaho.

A fountain bubbles in the background. ‘Niagara’ and ‘Suffolk’ red grapes hang from the pergula. Comfy chairs are scattered among green leafy plants, and the courtyard looks like it’s been there for generations.

That level of detail can be seen throughout this delightful suburban garden, which was designed and created by self-taught gardeners Kim and Victoria Williams of Boise, Idaho.

You may already know the Williams by their blog Our Life in Idaho. But what you might not know is that these two bloggers did all the work themselves in their quarter acre garden. Whether it was building various outdoor structures or collecting rocks to line the pond, the couple created a lovely garden with several themed areas.

Right off the Italian-inspired back porch is a small meditation garden with whimsical sculptures, grasses and sweet woodruff. A chair provides a quiet place to sit and drink a morning coffee.

In another area of the garden, a climbing 'White Dawn’ rose mingles with ‘Perle d’Azur’ clematis.

Birds of all types are welcome here. Cheerful shasta daises, Lychnis coronaria and 'Nicholas' daylilies add color and charm to a collection of birdhouses. In the background is a corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana).

The centerpiece of the garden is a large pond that meanders through the backyard. The pond is framed by an old tree stump, giant reed grass (Arundo donax), 'Black Lace' elderberry and calendula.

"The pond assembly only took a weekend," remembers Victoria. "Once we had collected all the rocks, the project went rather fast."

Colorful koi fish swim happily in the pond, surrounded by river rocks and a wooden deck built by the couple.

What looks like a pretty playhouse is actually a charming way to hide the pond's plumbing.

Thinking of building your own pond? The Williams offer these tips:

  • Make your pond bigger than you initially planned. It's hard to enlarge a pond later.
  • Attend several garden pond tours, so you can ask lots of questions.
  • Ask about filtration too. There are many options; you'll want one that works best for your size pond.

Every good garden needs a furry friend. Chelsea (pet dog extraordinare) Williams keeps watch in this yard.

From a shady porch in the back of the garden, the couple and their pup get a well-deserved rest.

If this garden hasn't impressed you enough, Victoria and Kim ripped out the turf in their front yard and planted a wildlife preserve that is only watered once a month during Idaho's hot summers. But that story will have to wait until another day.

Learn more about the Williams' experiences by visiting their blog at


  1. hello from a fellow MG from Florida. The gardens I've seen from your photos and the one's at ourlifeinidaho are great. I love the bit about 'ripped out the turf in their front yard'. We just passed a law that will make it easier for folks to do that here (!.aspx).

  2. It's true, their drought-tolerant, no-turf front yard is beautiful and sustainable. I'll have to feature it in a future issue.

    Thanks for stopping by and providing this helpful information. Teresa

  3. Thanks Beth. And the best part is they did most of the design and maintenance work themselves.

  4. I wish I could have a meditation garden like them. Thanks for the tips about building a pond. My garden is very small. Do you have any tips for small garden?

  5. You're welcome. Small gardens? Four tips: Consider containers. Don't forget about vertical gardens. Think about plants with multi-seasonal interest. And only plant those things you really like. Teresa