The 180-degree view from Sandi and Gary Whittle's back deck has all the delights of living on the valley's upper elevations — Mt. Ashland and the Siskiyous in the distance, and at night, the city lights of Medford. The delights of the deck, which runs nearly the full length of the house, are equally inviting. A sunken hot tub offers great views of the city from the vantage point on Roxy Ann. Adjacent to it, a propane fire pit, surrounded by comfortable chairs allow the Whittles a different way to enjoy morning coffee, even in cool weather. The far corner holds a seating area and small table. The evening promises sunsets, and then there is the garden. . .
Sandi's pond garden competes agreeably with the valley view. Sited so it fronts the view, the broad pond is back-planted with a hillock of photinia, blue spruce, and a weeping atlas cedar, hiding neighboring homes from sight. The combination of evergreens, sheeting waterfall and a school of koi with personality, creates a pond every bit as interesting as the long view.
Although the backyard is level, the Whittle home is built on a slope. Gardening on a hillside can be difficult. During the dry season, water will run off a hill, leaving plant roots dry. In order to be more successful follow these tips:
Sandi Whittle chose drought-resistant kinnik-kinnik, and prostrate rosemary for her hillside. These evergreen plants will give year-round beauty and blooms in late winter and spring. Kinnik-kinnik bears attractive blue-gray berries, which are best eaten by wildlife.
Make sure the hill is watered deeply, so roots can go deep and hold on to the hill. Plant them into the hillside by digging a small well dug into the side of the hill. Leave a small indentation, so water can collect and water the roots. Make sure to water regularly and deeply the first year. Mulch the planting area.
A long-time pond gardener, Sandi wades in to take care of her garden. The koi are happy to have her, none more so than Gilligan, one of the 13 original fish, chosen and given names by family members. Gilligan comes when called and seems to enjoy being petted — as do the gold fish, which can be picked up. It's one of the pleasures reserved for pond owners.
Sandi does most of the garden work herself, though she's happy to have planting holes dug for her. She runs every morning and cools down by gardening. A passionate gardener, she fenced her hillside acre completely to keep Roxy Ann's abundant deer out. "They used to wade into the pond and eat the water lilies," she reports. "Now I can have anything I want in the garden."
And she does like variety. "I see something beautiful at the nurseries and I buy it," then finds a place to "tuck it in." The resident rabbit does not disturb her tomato plants and herbs are grown in the small greenhouse. The geraniums she's overwintered are already blooming, even on a cold May morning, getting ready for summer display. The greenhouse is heated and on the drip system, which makes travel easier.
This spring's heavy weather is brightened by Sandi's late spring flowers. The ceanothus is laden with blooms and bumblebees. Tulips flank the path to the greenhouse, where a pink dogwood, laden with flowers, stands at the entry. A sun-tolerant rhododendron basks in the planting bed between the deck and the pond. Lavender creeping phlox and candy tuft light up the planting beds that border the pool. Columbine blooms in corners around the yard and the roses are yet to come.
At the front of the house, a handsome brick pillar stands as sentinel at the entryway. The walkway to the door is bordered with boxwood and in the ell of the home, a pink camellia is exuberantly blooming. The planting area is anchored by a double fountain, plantings and river rocks. On the opposite side of the walk, a Korean dogwood blooms in front of a large window.
The drive up to the house is equally spectacular, especially when the flowering plums are in bloom. The trees make a rich contrast with the mugho pines beneath them. The slopes above the home are planted with kinnik-kinnik and prostrate rosemary. Artistically designed birdhouses on poles create intermittent focal points. Sandi has collected a variety of birdhouses and one, placed near the ceanothus and under a red maple, has become the year-round residence of a house finch. The Whittles enjoy the bird's antics from the family room window.
Just like that birdhouse, tucked under the arms of a tree, Sandi's created an expansive garden with a cozy feel. She nestles plants and angel figurines with equal care. "I'm a passionate gardener," she says. It's no exaggeration and the attention shows.