Story last updated at 8:22 PM on Wednesday, August 2, 2006

The art of gardening

By Toni Jabas
Special to the Homer News

Brenda Adams loves her job. Fresh air, dirt and beauty. Three years ago the current garden club president, and Homer resident since 1991, decided to start a garden business.

  Photo provided
Garden club president Brenda Adams puts her artistic gardening know-how to work, creating low-maintenance corners of beauty others can enjoy.  
At first, Adams said she was hesitant to start the business. Her friends told her she wouldn’t have time for her own six gardens. But then other people kept telling her there was a need for someone who could provide garden consultation. And designing gardens is something Adams has always enjoyed.

“I finally decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did,” she said.

Adams helps her clients create gardens that will be a source of pleasure to them.

“It’s a fun kind of business, because everyone’s excited when you’re doing a garden,” she said.

Gardens by Design is about what the client wants, and what will work for them.

“I try to do whatever part of the project my client wants me to do,” she said. “The main thing is that a garden should be a place of joy.”

And Gari Sisk’s two-year-old garden of perennials is just that. Sisk, who lives in Anchorage and spends summer weekends in Homer, said Rita Jo Shoultz at Fritz Creek Gardens recommended Adams to help her design her garden.

Sisk said she needed a garden that would require little maintenance and water.

“My main focus is to come down here and relax, and Brenda has made that absolutely possible,” she said. “I maybe spend one full day — eight hours — a season weeding.”

Sisk said that Adams made a list with 27 points on it, telling what to do and how to do it. She also went to Fritz Creek Gardens to help select the plants.

“She approaches things logically, very systematically,” said Sisk. “I think she’s a tremendous resource for the gardening community in Homer. I’ve definitely told friends that they should avail themselves to her services.”

Planning a garden sometimes just needs a fresh set of eyes, or some knowledge about what plants will grow where, how big they will grow, how much weeding will need to be done and when the different flowers will bloom. And that’s where Adams comes in.

  Photo by Toni Jabas
Gari Sisk's garden is designed to need little maintenance and has a variety of small theme gardens that include a rock garden and beach garden. The garden now is 2 years old and Sisk said she spends about eight hours a season weeding the garden.  
“It’s been very rewarding,” she said, while taking a break from a garden project on the Spit, a bucket of tools and flats of plants surrounding her. “It’s a very uplifting kind of thing, to build a garden.”

Adams uses a palette of nearly 1,000 plants when designing gardens, which she describes as 3-D art. “I like the gardens to reflect my clients’ ideal of beauty,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed every one that I’ve done.”

Each summer the number of gardens Adams works on increases. This summer there were about 20.

One of her more challenging garden designs was limited to three colors — red, orange and yellow. In multiple flower beds. With very little maintenance.

“To be restricted to a palette of three colors was very interesting from a design point of view,” she said. “It really pushed me to come up with new combinations.”

But the challenge was worth it.

“I’m thrilled with how it came out,” she said.

This winter, in between designing gardens, Adams said she plans to work on a book about gardening in Alaska. Not a stuffy, educational book, but one that will be fun, light reading.

Gardens By Design offers gift certificates and services on an hourly basis. For more information visit or call 235-1900.