Bits 'n' Pieces: Gardens enhance apartment complex

Northeast Hazel Dell couple plant flowers, veggies

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photoThe fabulous flora delights Bob and Teri Clark's neighbors.

(/The Columbian)

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About the Clarks

Bob Clark’s favorite flowers

• Zinnias. “I start them from seed and they get 3 feet tall with many colors. Zinnias last longer as cut flowers than most flowers.”

• Dahlias from bulbs. They are big and beautiful and also make great cut flowers.

• Wildflower mixes. “You never know what’s in it. There is something new every day”

Teri Clark’s favorite flowers

• Black-eyed Susan. “They come back every year and bloom for a long time the latter part of the summer”

• Dragon wing begonia. “They are big and showy in hanging baskets”

• Helleborus (Lenten rose). “They grow in the shade, are green all year and bloom in January and February when there are no other flowers.”

Favorite tomatoes

• Roma: Best for making sauce.

• Brandywine: Huge fruits and very sweet.

• Black Prince: Excellent flavor.

• Sun Gold: Very sweet orange cherry.

• Jet Setter: Early, high yield.

Hidden behind tall fir trees in Northeast Hazel Dell is the Crystal Creek apartment complex. But what is interesting about this community is the flower gardens around one section created by Bob and Teri Clark.

When they moved in more than 10 years ago, Bob Clark planted wildflowers and tall zinnias from seed in a 10-by-6-foot island in the driveway. After requests from neighbors, Bob and Teri planted a second 10-by-10-foot island with additional flowers from a local nursery.

Teri Clark has developed a shade garden behind their unit. It contains tubs and baskets of overflowing begonias and other trailing flowers mixed with ferns and other flora in the ground.

Four years ago, Bob Clark began planting tomatoes and other vegetables in large 5- to 15-gallon nursery pots. They have 22 tomato plants with 18 different varieties including about 10 heirloom varieties. An A frame supports them.

"If you count all the different flowers in the wildflower mixes, we probably have over 100 different flowers," Bob Clark said of the gardens.

"The wildflower seeds are planted directly in the ground. You have to be patient with wildflowers because they do not all come up right away. We let them go to seed so they can resow their seeds for next year. We collect seeds from some of the prettiest ones to replant in other areas."

Any gardening tips?

"We use regular nursery potting soil in all of our containers. And we apply Peter's 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer every two weeks at the suggestion of Springtime Nursery," Bob Clark said

"I can hardly wait to get home from work and spend a couple of hours a day outside with my flowers," Bob said. Teri spends at least half that much time outside.

Teri Clark uses her Master Gardener training and the Internet to get information and solve problems.

Apartment dwellers appreciate the beauty.

"They plan their walks so they can come by and see the flowers," Bob Clark said.

They have helped many other residents develop flower plantings around their units. And they share their tomatoes and other produce with neighbors who stroll through the area.

A neighbor who will be moving out shortly brought this thank-you note: "It has been a pleasure to have you as neighbors. Thank you for sharing your bounty with us, and for all the beautiful flowers to look at and enjoy. We will miss you very much."

Those friendships bloom, just like the flowers.


Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.