Completing vision took years of labor, countless dollars

James Spoerl looked at the scruffy, barren hillside in his backyard and a vision came to him - terraces rising the slope, rounded stairs meandering up, a gazebo perched at the top.

Making that vision a reality took him and his better half, Donna, 10 years. It needed 4,469 landscaping blocks, 1,211 bags of concrete and 39 stairs. It took a lot of sweat, lots of thought and more than a pinch of determination.

" I'm not going to give up in the middle of anything ... but it was a long time," says James, who started the job in 1995. "It was 10 years of difficult labor. I seemed like an Egyptian haulin' those blocks."

Those hours of carrying 80-pound blocks up the hill to construct retaining walls and jackhammering through sandstone finally paid off.

Instead of a barren hillside, they have a backyard haven. Nine terraced levels rise up the hill with garden beds that hold their raspberry spot, rows of petunias, lilies, irises, roses, peonies, a cornucopia of vegetables and herbs, and a water fountain.

The walls and steps are softened by curves, and the pathways are broken up by halfmoons of growing plants.

" All we do now is sit here and view our garden grow," James says.

In the morning they grab breakfast and stroll up the 39 actions they made of put concrete, to end up at the gazebo they made of wood and con- crete pillars.

" This is the top of our world," James states as he sits in the gazebo. "This is where we live when we're off work."

There's no view from their back patio area, but from the gazebo, they see over the tops of their neighbors' homes, past their northeastern Colorado Springs development, to a big, uninterrupted view of the mountains that extends from Cheyenne Mountain to the Air Force Academy.

As if breakfast with the mountains weren't reward enough, the Spoerls' backyard has also won a prize from Backyard Living publication. For taking on the hill and winning, they caught the "Extreme Gardening" classification in the publication's Landscape Challenge Contest.

The Spoerls' backyard will be included in the September/October issue of Backyard Living, which strikes newsstands Aug. 29. why not try these out

" We're proud of (our garden), but for someone else to state This is lovely' felt truly great," Donna says.

" What really caught our attention about the Spoerls' backyard improvement was its large size," states Backyard Living Managing Editor Rachael Liska. "It only takes one seek to know this isn't really your average balcony garden. It really embodies the imaginative, can-do spirit of our readers."

The Spoerls are not contractors and have actually never ever tried a task like this before. With a little aid from good friends, they did all the work themselves, but the blocks alone cost countless dollars. Now that it's done, they state it was certainly worth the time and the cash.

" There were no plans, whatsoever, other than what's in my mind," James states. "It was a vision from God."


Tips from James and Donna Spoerl

When you build retaining walls, make the bottom row completely level, put plastic behind the blocks to hold the dirt, and position a pipe behind the plastic to bring away excess water. You do not want to begin over in a couple of years.

It's crucial to break up the hardscape, or else those walls and stairs will look like a fortress rather of a garden. James' only remorse is making the least expensive level of actions square. These actions soften the garden and make it more welcoming.

3. Conceal pipes and sprinkler heads. Spoerl mounted wood posts - drilled through the center to enable the water hoses - with sprinkler heads atop the posts. Not only does this hide the pipelines, the sprinklers achieve better coverage because they're higher.

Try to make your backyard landscaping produce different areas, allowing you different views and various state of minds. The Spoerls have the back patio area at ground level, a bench about halfway up, small hideouts on different levels and the gazebo at the top.

5. Amend the soil prior to you plant. Colorado soil won't produce much without assistance from loams and fertilizers, so don't forget this action or your garden will be doomed.

6. Embrace the hill. A hill is not a handicap however an opportunity for a terrific garden with a view.

The Spoerls' backyard has 9 terraced levels filled with raspberries, petunias, lilies, irises, roses, peonies, vegetables, herbs and a fountain.

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