If you think the backyard landscape of Dave and Char Shroyer looks like it came from the pages of a magazine, you’d be right. But it’s probably several magazines, not just one.
“People see an idea in a magazine and think, nah, I couldn’t do that, but sure you can,” Dave Shroyer said. “Especially if it’s outside.”
That’s because an outside project doesn’t need to be perfect to look perfect. While an imperfect indoor project is immediately noticeable as deficient, outside sunshine and plants flatter everything, painting your efforts with charm.
But the other key, Dave says, besides being unafraid to follow your inspiration and just try things, is to have a wise partner in the venture.
“Charlene,” he says, “stops me if the idea is bad.”
“He comes up with a lot of good ideas, though,” his wife adds.
She said she enjoys the landscape because it’s good exercise, and it’s been entertaining developing their ideas together.
While the couple’s landscape is not large, it feels expansive once you are in the midst of it, and provides a sense of wonder as you wander through each bend opening on a new, almost secret room.
Among the features packed into the space are a gazebo, a water feature, a grape arbor, a shed, and even an alley with apple trees.
“We’ve made use of every inch of space,” Charlene Shroyer said.
In fact, underneath the upstairs porch is a secluded hot tub that looks out over the garden, a clever extension of the home into the outdoors
The fully furnished gazebo in the back, meanwhile, was a plan from a book 10 years ago. It was modified for North Dakota, however.
“In the original plan, it was all open,” Dave Shroyer recalled. “But that doesn’t work well here in North Dakota. In the winter it would fill up with snow. So we added the windows.”
The pond came next.
“That got us a lot of dirt,” Dave Shroyer recalled.
He started mounding it up, and the shape began to clarify, as well as where the water should travel to and from.
From there, it was simply a matter of putting pretty perennials around the water feature to frame it nicely.
“We’ve created some microclimates around here, too that let us grow a few zone four plants that others have had trouble with,” Dave Shroyer added.
There’s a tall thin evergreen, for example, that shouldn’t have survived last winter’s record cold temperatures, and a couple of mini spruces that should have died as well.
“The short guy is in the shade, which shelters it from the sun,” Dave Shroyer explained. “The tips of the one in front that gets more sunlight in winter burn a little bit, but it seems to come out of it every year.”
Charlene, meanwhile, tends a few of the potted tropicals indoors, in front of a sunny, south-facing window. By summer, they look rough and puny, but putting them out in the sun greens them up quickly.
Another favorite spot is the grape arbor, which arches over a bench in some shade with a clear view of beautiful hardy roses, clematis vines and other flowers.
The grapes aren’t just visually fun, but also functional.
“We got 70 pounds of fruit from that one year,” Charlene Shroyer said.