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Roadside, flea market finds elevate garden

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Shannon Smit and son Noah, 7, spend some quality time in the kids’ jungle gym in the back yard dominated by an old cypress tree.


POSTED September 5, 2013 1:11 a.m.

The keyword, when it comes to the Smit family garden, is repurposing.

For Bryan and Shannon Smit, repurposing is just another word for recycling. The phrase, though, that Shannon likes to use is “flea market junk gardening.”

She laughed as she added, “It’s the budget-friendly way to do stuff. When you have a very limited budget, that’s the way to do it.”

This is the garden theme that the young couple is sharing with guests who will be visiting their garden on Saturday. Their home, which was built in 1919 by Bryan’s grandfather – Clarence Smit in whose honor the Ripon Historical Museum was named – will be one of the seven homes featured in the September Stroll Home & Garden Tour sponsored each year by the Ripon Garden Club.

Some of the points of interest in the Smits’ Palm Avenue cozy garden include a lot of “roadside finds.”

A vintage dresser that is now doing double duty as plant holder was found in a dumpster. An arched door that is now a backdrop for chrysanthemums and other flowering plants in the back yard was found on the side the road. A plant box adorning its front was bought at a garage sale for a buck.

A vintage container that looks like an old milk can was from someone who was about to throw it away.

“The bottom was missing, that’s why they didn’t want it. I said, I don’t care. I want it,” laughed Shannon, admittedly the one with the green thumb in the family. Her husband – they were high school sweethearts at Ripon High – is mainly the handyman.

She still was able to use the bottomless container as a planter. All she had to do was tilt it on its side.

“My husband does a lot of the building,” including the fences and raised vegetable gardens, she said.

 “I come up with the ideas and he put it together. He’s my manpower. And we love to go junking together.” Her husband works for The Wine Group in  Ripon.

A discarded old door has been cleaned and scrubbed and has found a new purpose to its existence as a gate to the back-yard garden. The low fence that divides the Smit’s property to that of family friends Bill and Annie Betschart is made of wood panels that were, at one time, discarded pallets. The Betschart garden also will be one of the gardens featured in the tour on Saturday.

“We have a lot more planned but this is our quick fix (for the garden tour),” Shannon explained.

The couple has been working on their garden project since they moved out of their Ripon condo into the house nearly three years ago.

“It’s a lot of work,” Shannon said. It was the garden tour that “kicked up, pushed us up into high gear,” she said about their landscaping project.

While she has some artistic background which she put into good use in their garden project – she studied interior design at Modesto Junior College and worked as a wedding planner before her two children were born – Shannon gives lot of gardening credit to her father, Randy Barnum, who is a professional landscaper.

“He’s really good in helping place plants where they grow and thrive. He’s good with colors and textures,” she said.

Explaining why she and her husband decided to have a “repurposed” garden them, Shannon said, “Because we have a 100-year-old home, you go with the age and style of the home.”

As to the secret of her gardening success, she said, “Just look outside the box. Just because it’s a gate, you have to use as a gate.”

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