Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guest Star Day: retirement and fish.

Hello, all. I took an unexpected break due to a week that was beyond crummy, but I'm ready to dig in again. The following was originally published in May of 2006, and was (if I remember correctly) the first time someone called ME to ask if I'd interview them. Good for the ego, that.

The front yard is a modest display of the tree-and-grass sort. A few steps along the side of the house lead to a breathtaking sight. The focal point is a multilevel pond, from there the eye travels to plantings of hosta, dianthus, columbine, and more.

When Charles and Sue Gillette had their home built in 1969, they started from scratch. “Our first project was moving dirt!” said Charles with a laugh. “We started while the house was still being built, sodding the front and planting the back.” The sod was eventually replaced by fescue. “Sue became the mowing expert. She even gave a speech on the subject during a class at Neosho County (a local community college).” Sue is also partial to her irises, having brought a number of them from the old house to the new yard. “We lost some to disease,” she recalls, “Probably because the new varieties aren’t as hardy.”

The largest project has been the pond, which has seen some changes over the years. It got started “quite by accident” says Charles. “Noting the irrigation system, our landscaper suggested a pond. We talked, and we lost. Or won, I’m not sure which!” Expansion came after an ice storm felled an enormous Bradford Pear. The tree crashed into the pond, damaging the liner, which had to be replaced. The current pond incarnation sports a bridge, designed and built by Charles, and gets an annual professional cleaning. Sue adds, “The pond gets changed with every cleaning. We’ve added a cave for the fish and shelves for the plants. The fish love the cave. When it’s cold, they’re all in there together.”

After the pond came the deck. Where once stood a simple patio and cover now stands what almost counts as a spare room. The roof provides shade and shelter, but there are no walls to obstruct the view. Goldfinches, purple martins, sapsuckers and bluebirds are just a few of the birds that literally flock to the feeders in this yard. There are birdhouses, wind chimes, perennials and annuals. “My favorite part is sitting out here,” says Sue, “watching the fish, the birds.” Charles agrees. “Even in the rain, it’s fun.”

Mr. and Mrs. Gillette have some advice for aspiring gardeners. From Sue: “You have to be willing to work at it. It can’t be something you just put out and ignore.” Charles expands on this. “Make a decision regarding what you want your yard to be before you start. There are lots of books available to give you advice.” He adds with a smile, “And put up martin houses! Feed your yard and feed your birds.”


  1. Sounds absolutely beautiful and so-o-o peaceful. But I did note the advice from Mrs. Gillette: “You have to be willing to work at it. It can’t be something you just put out and ignore.”

  2. The one "drawback" to real life -- very few things are of the set it and forget it type. Ah, well. What we work for is often most worthwhile. :)


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