Driving up the flank of Roxy Ann through wild acres, Marie and Ryhan McDermott's Medford home begins at a lush, green lawn. Beaming like a lighthouse, a sunlit white gazebo guides you up the driveway. Fountains and planting beds gracefully decorate the solid gray home, built by the McDermotts eight years ago. Taming the surrounding landscape, took quite a bit longer.
The two and a half acres of gardens and lawn surrounding the home are Marie's domain. She does everything but the lawn care, spotlessly maintained by Northern Pacific Landscaping. Owners Ron and Carl Cordes also provide advice to this self-taught gardener. "I couldn't do it without them. They are the highlight of my week," she says.
Marie McDermott's garden success is all the more amazing because the McDermott's 40 acres is adjacent to the City of Medford's Prescott Park on Roxy Ann, and the garden gets "hundreds of visits" from wildlife: coyote, bats, owl, bobcat and lynx are just a few of the visitors. Of course, deer, moles and turkeys, do regular damage.
Deer in this area navigate by scent, says Marie. She speculates that's why scent-based repellents, like Liquid Fence, seem to work so well in this area. Of course, she also uses traditionally deer-proof plants. "Fountain grass is so interesting, and the deer don't eat it, so I can put that around the yard."
Of course, deer are one of nature's most adaptable species, she explained. Though her flowers had been left alone in other years, this year the animals devoured her pink petunias and the coral bell blooms. But purple petunias, zinnias, verbena, Russian sage and lavender keep the garden colorful. When a party is planned and the flowers aren't cooperating, or the deer have eaten too many of the petals, she's been known to add silk flowers to the garden plants. "You have to be creative in the country," she says.
Marie was the first gardener in her family, but you'd never know it by the graceful plantings around the home. She's learned a lot since her first vegetable gardens, planted when her children were small. Ryhan is not a gardener, but he's an excellent listener who surprises Marie with favorite plants, like the weeping cherry she found outside one Mother's Day. "He makes sure I get the plants I talk about," Marie says. "My favorite present is dirt or bark." It's no small gift. It takes a dump truck full of bark to mulch the plantings around the home and pool house.
The natural look of the irregularly shaped pool is enhanced by stone work along the far side. Above the rocks, a mounded evergreen and perennial garden is planted. For groundcover, Marie has planted strawberries to delight visiting children. "I try to make it fun and usable." A spa slightly below the garden shares water supply with the pool. The water and landscaping is surrounded by an iron fence, which does double-duty by keeping out children and visiting deer. Marie spends much of the time outside, including evening "browsing" hours.
A steep slope behind the pool house is planted with prostrate rosemary. It leads into a bed of juniper where an arbor of silver lace vine (Polygonum auberti) stands between the house and where a greenhouse is planned. "I'm always cutting plants for other people and giving friendship plants," she says. She accepts them, as well. One favorite Japanese maple was rescued from a friend's garden makeover. It's planted near the swimming pool and thriving.
"I want a yard that people can stroll around and look at." To add to that enjoyable experience, she's got aromatic thyme planted between stepping stones and as edging in nearby patios and beds. Another groundcover is a vivid purple verbena. "I try to stay with pink and purple, but I love every color of flower."
This year's favorite plant is a rich purple dahlia. "I planted the bulbs and I am always surprised by what I get."
The lawn slopes down as it extends away from the house. At the edge of the landscaped area and overlooking the natural oak and pine groves on their acreage, she's planted a red, a white and a blue lilac, which bloom in early summer. On a nearby arbor, honeysuckle and clematis are planted. The bases of the vines are devoid of foliage, "pruned" by the deer, Marie explains. "They keep the bottom all nicely manicured for me."
The white gazebo overlooks the valley and the Siskiyou Mountains to the west. Angels guard the flowerbeds, a motif inspired by the sense of guidance she had during the building of her home, which was completed after her father's death. Angels commemorate his memory and indicate her gratitude for all that goes well in her life.
A small herb garden just outside the house is full, but well used. Herbs are an important ingredient in cooking and for giving: tarragon dressing, lavender jelly and ground herbs are staples for Christmas gifts.
"The older I get, the more interested I get in organic gardening," she says. All the compost and nutrients used in the garden are organic. Her latest interest is in companion planting — next year she plans to plant pots of peppermint with her strawberries to see if yield improves.
Change is an element of her gardening. There's always another plant, especially with Ryhan's listening skills. Next year's flowers will depend on the appetite of the deer, and next winter's treatment of her more tender plants and bulbs. "Sometimes you just have to wait," she says.