Monday, October 16, 2006


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (10/4/06)

Skye Sieber knew what she wanted when she landscaped her yard. She wanted beauty, specifically a beautiful yard. She also wanted a yard with authenticity, one that was a fit for Flagstaff and faithful to the Colorado Plateau. For her efforts she received an honorable mention in Flagstaff’s recent Xeriscape Contest. As a daughter of the Mountain West she was already aware of the scarcity of water. However, she liked lush beauty which meant she wanted an abundance of foliage and flowers which needed little water. She discovered that the best way to create such a yard was to go native.

One of the first things she did was sign up for the Master Gardener Course so that she could find out how to create a lovely yard in Flagstaff. She listened to the people at the Arboretum and several of the commercial nurseries. Skye soaks up information.

As an environmental planner for the Forest Service in Flagstaff and active in the community, she is a woman with little time to spare for her garden. She wanted a lush, low maintenance, drought-tolerant, authentically Southwestern yard. She created one, not ex nihilo, but by evolution out of dirt, rocks, ground glass, flagstone, plants, and grass. As with most gardeners in Flagstaff, she began with the tohu wabohu (Genesis 1:2) of a developer’s detritus.

She didn’t set out with a completed design in her head. Hers was not a graph paper, T-square, and triangle design. However, she knew what she wanted. The design gradually unfolded in her mind’s eye as she began working in her yard, taking horticultural courses, and bending the ears of knowledgeable people. She terraced her front yard because she had a pile of dirt left over from putting in an additionally driveway. Using the volcanic rock she and her husband Todd gathered with a Forest Service permit from A-1 Mountain, she built a three-tiered series of terraces dominated by a humming bird mint (Agastache) complete with bees and hummers.

Her front yard is rife with color and texture, both in the plants and rocks. A “hell strip” between the driveway and walkway is planted with a colorful variety of Artemisia, cat mint (Nepeta cataria), and a few native plants.

Authenticity of design means as few straight lines as possible. Nature does not believe in straight lines, and neither does Skye. As with most houses, hers and Todd’s is a series of right angles and rectangles, but her yard strolls as though she were mimicking nature. The terraces in the front yard are curved and asymmetrical. The plantings in the rectangular hell-strip don’t march lock-step but appear random.

The backyard was designed with people in mind as well as beauty. A path winds amongst various plantings, passing, as it goes, an arbor, a small meadow, a couple of chairs, some penstemon and natives, and onto a bench. In the back of the yard in ascending raised beds are tomatoes, vegetables, and herbs.

Of course, a part of authenticity in Southwest gardening is collecting rainwater and composting. Tucked unobtrusively here and there are water barrels and bins. Behind the house are two handmade wooden frames topped with bent plastic pipe. When covered, they portend fresh greens during the winter months.

Without spending vast sums of money, but jamming her head with information, and using lots of imagination Skye evolved a design and brought it to fruition. She created a yard which is not only faithful to the Southwest, but which also as a thing of beauty is a haven for the human spirit.
Copyright (c) Dana Prom Smith 2006

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