Master Gardeners: Beautifying the World, One Yard at a Time, Part 2

For years, every time I called my dad, he’d say, “Dave and I weeded this . . .” and “Dave and I built that . . .” and “Dave and I transplanted this . . .”

Who is this Dave? I wondered. My siblings and I only knew him by name, the mysterious, elusive fellow Master Gardener. Was he a good guy for Dad to be hanging out with so much? Was he a good influence? After all, it sounded like Dad’s time was dominated by Dave-related activities.

I met Dave for the first time on July 7, 2018 but I’d figured out long before then that the Don-Dave duo is a force to be reckoned with. A good force. A positive and beautifying force as they tackle gardening projects together around town.

And, from what I can gather, Dave hones in on these projects with the practical Nike philosophy of “Just do it!”

See one of their arboretum projects in my last post that features my dad, Don DeNooyer.

With degrees in history and nearly three decades as a computer programmer, Dave turned to gardening as a retirement vocation, building on what he was able to pursue only part-time in his working years. An acre and a half to work in provides all the yard he needs to keep busy with his gardening pursuits, though he still spends around a hundred hours a year volunteering at the local arboretum.

*All photos in this post are courtesy of Dave DG.*

Dave DG, seated on the raised bed planter that he and Dad built at Leila Arboretum (2014), with the paver walk they put in last fall (2017).

What do you love to create?

I don’t think about creating;
I look for things that need improvement.
I look for bare places that need plants.
I look for planted places that need enlargement
or need more plants or different plants or fewer plants.
I try to make the green world greener and more diverse.

I try to improve the soil. I try to enhance habitats for birds and amphibians and insects. I guess I just enjoy gardening.

Where do you get your ideas?

I enjoy visiting gardens, both private and public. I enjoy seeing what other gardeners do on small scales and large. The area garden tour, which I video-record for our local community television, is always a summer highlight, as are annual visits to two excellent Michigan public gardens—Dow Garden in Midland and Meijer Garden in Grand Rapids.

I enjoy reading books about gardening, especially Japanese gardens, as well as watching some good PBS garden programs. Volunteer work at our local Leila Arboretum has provided an opportunity to get to know different plants and designs. All of this has, I think, contributed to acquiring a framework or structure, often vague and amorphous or undefined, but still capable of helping shape what I do in the garden.

Although this framework or knowledge base may help guide what I do, I think the site is the prime determinant and influence. The shape of the land, the type of soil, moisture levels, exposure, structures, and existing plants from trees to ground cover all influence the design process.

But somehow it seems that digging in the soil, exposing fresh earth and releasing its rich, heavy fragrance provides the ultimate catalyst for the alchemy that is gardening.

How do you create? Say something about your creative process.

I never think about creating. I try to identify what needs to be done and the best way I’m capable of doing it. Often sketchy ideas get fleshed out as work proceeds and fortuitous accidents occur or previously unseen opportunities emerge.

I think there’s a saying that thought is the enemy of action.
It’s better to put one plant in the ground than think about planting a hundred.
And if that plant turns out to be in the wrong spot,
it can usually be moved later.

I know gardeners who buy plants in the spring which spend the whole growing season in their pots with the gardener unable to decide where to put them. I want to tell them to just plant it. If it’s the wrong spot, move it later. But staying in the pot is never right.

The pond and patio in our fern garden.
The brick patio and gazebo I installed near the house four or five years ago.
A planting under a crab apple tree.

How do you bring creativity into your daily life?

I like to do things. In summer it’s working in the yard, taking walks, riding my bike, backpacking.  In winter it’s tending aquariums or setting up new ones, reading, working in my wood shop, cross country skiing, shoveling snow. I don’t watch much television, apart from a couple gardening and woodworking programs.

Hostas are one of my favorite plants.
I may have never met a hosta I didn’t like.

I developed these hosta beds in the last decade utilizing the shade from the oaks I planted about twenty five years earlier.

Any tips for others who want to garden?

Be patient. Plants take time to establish and grow.
A garden needs time to mature.
If you are planting trees, be especially patient.
It may do very little for two or three years.

My niece had an oak tree planted in her yard which she envisioned as a climbing tree for her growing family. After two years, the tree, while still alive and apparently healthy, had gained little height. She asked me if the tree should be replaced. I told her to be patient. Transplanting is traumatic. This oak was already over ten feet tall and the larger they are, the more of a setback transplanting causes.

A couple years later she thanked me for encouraging patience. The tree had taken hold, filled in, and begun to put on significant growth. Patience had paid off.

Lemon lilies and iris frame a gazing ball.

So . . . do you have any inspirations or plans for future gardening endeavors?

I welcome your comments below!

Ever musing,


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7 thoughts on “Master Gardeners: Beautifying the World, One Yard at a Time, Part 2

  1. What a great blog! I have such fond memories of the Leila Arboretum such as jogging through there for PE class and sledding in the winters. Do you remember Dead Man’s Hill? I’ll have to make a trip over there to experience this beautiful work!

    1. Brad, I have great memories of sledding at the Arboretum! I didn’t mention it on the blog because now, looking back, I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to sled there! A guy from our church took a bunch of us kids there every year. I have no idea what Dead Man’s Hill is, but if it’s the one in front of the Kingman Museum, I’ve been on it . . . if I’m remembering correctly.

  2. Yes, I think Dave is a great compatriot for your dad! Definitely a dynamic duo.
    I wonder if I could adopt either man to stand over me and prod me to “just do [something]”
    Thanks for introducing us to Dave and Don!

    1. Yes, it is the one facing the museum. We called it Dead Man’s Hill because we would fly through the air as we sledded over the street at the end of the first hill onto the next, not knowing if we would wipe out or not! Such fun memories!

  3. So many good quotes here!

    I love this line: “Be patient. Plants take time to establish and grow. A garden needs time to mature. If you are planting trees, be especially patient. It may do very little for two or three years.”
    The same can be true for people and the work God gives them to do. I remember when we planted daffodils in my front yard, so little happened for several years, and I kept reminding myself, “First they sleep, then they creep, then they leap!”
    Within the same time frame, I got discouraged with how little I felt God was using me in a particular area of my life. I wanted to grow and bloom. And it was like I heard His voice: “First you sleep, then you creep,…”
    Dave’s wise words of patience are a great reminder to the Lord’s words to me.

    And, “thought is the enemy of action. It’s better to put one plant in the ground than think about planting a hundred.”
    Yes, I have thought my way out of acting more than once, I’m sad to say.

    Then, “I look for things that need improvement…for bare places that need plants….for planted places that need enlargement…try to make the green world greener and more diverse.”
    Am I doing that in the world? Again, not necessarily in literal gardening, but with the work God has given me to do? It’s easy to look at the world and complain about the “drabness.” But to get up and do something to bring out beauty is so much more rewarding.

    Thank you, Dave, for the wonderful insights. And thank you, Laura, for sharing him with us.

    1. Yes, a lot of garden and life lessons packed into this! My favorite is, “Thought is the enemy of action. It’s better to put one plant in the ground than think about planting a hundred.” Such a great piece of advice when we have a million ideas floating around in our heads and can’t decide where to start. As Dave says (along with Nike), “Just do it!”

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