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Kathy Allen’s rock garden

I hope it’s raining as you read this.

Lately, I’m casting a doubtful eye over my half acre of thirsty shrubs and flowers. We have enjoyed a stretch of fine, sunny rays, and I love my trees and roomy yard, but years like these make me wish I had a more drought-tolerant landscape. I feel that way when the temperamental irrigation ditch isn’t brim full with flowing water. Using city water and dragging hoses over bed and berm is expensive and time-consuming. Yet, I cannot fail my lush greenery, nor can I replant the entire space.

My cousin Linda sent me a tip about a gal in Central Point who knows how to garden for our semi-arid south. She is a rock garden maven. Kathy Allen is her name, and many garden gladiators are familiar with her skills in a drought-tolerant paradise.

Though I’ve previously confessed here that young plants cower and shake when I walk near them, I figured Kathy’s garden worth a visit as long as I didn’t doom anything by buying it. My friend Lynn was game to tag along, so off we went.

Kathy opens her garden and nursery, at 2850 Taylor Road, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. I seized an opportunity to meet this woman whose passion and talent for growing and propagating plants are antithetical to my own. I admire people who can grow things and like being around them.

One piece of advice, don’t try using your GPS to find her. You will land amid a farm next door where they’re planting hemp, and they may put you to work. Find Taylor Road, then use your own Daniel Boone navigational sense to discover the address from there. You’ll turn down a long, gravel driveway until you arrive at Allen’s Acres — my name for it, not theirs.

Graduating from Grants Pass High School in ‘61, Kathy and her husband moved to their present location in ’87 and began planting things right away. It took her about five years to complete. She’s completely self-taught, which is amazing considering the sheer number and diversity of thriving plants.

You won’t find her on Facebook or Twitter, nor is there a website, but Kathy sells a lot of plants and offers a wide variety. Her nursery stock is neatly arranged. Large color photos above each specimen shows what the infants should look like as adults.

“I grow most of my plants from seed,” she said. “I get the seed from different places. I get some from a guy in Colorado and there’s some in Czechoslovakia and Turkey, but I’m only doing a third of what I used to.” She’s earned an avid following. “It’s surprising how fast they go. I was just trying to fill in the plants.”

Lynn and I wandered the soft trails covered in woolly thyme and bounded on all sides with colorful flowers and whimsical sculptures. There are 40 boxes on the property to house swallows that dip and swoop, gobbling bugs. Lizards skitter over rocks and gravel, doing push-ups to show off.

I asked Kathy if deer were an issue. “We don’t see too many. My husband runs and barks at them when they come. I think I’ve done it a time or two.”

We laughed while trying to picture it. “We’ve seen a lot of wildlife out here. We’ve seen a couple of bald eagles. We’ve had a bear.” She and her husband keep a life list of visiting critters.

I mentioned their close proximity to a hill, thinking bear and other ramblers might descend occasionally, and asked if it had a name.

“Oh, I don’t know. There’s a mountain over there? My nose is always on the ground.” A soft-spoken person by nature, Kathy’s understated humor surfaces like bullfrogs in a pond, if one listens.

Enjoy a spring stroll and pick up a few of Kathy’s jewels for your own spaces. There’s always room for a couple more.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.