Twenty years ago Cleo and Anne Aragon purchased two blackberry infested acres on Hassett Street in Brookings.
Cleo and Anne Aragon sit on a bench in their Brookings yard. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice
Twenty years later, using donated plants, a shovel, a wheelbarrow and his own two hands, he has created a wonderland. Walking through Cleo’s garden is like entering a fantasy forest.
At first glance Cleo’s garden looks wild and overgrown. Then the eye is drawn to the carefully chosen groupings of flowers and trees, and to the four stone-lined, creek-fed ponds and waterfalls that cascade down one side of the property.
The front of the property, much of which is wetlands, has been stripped of the choking blackberries. Oregon native wetlands plants thrive, inviting deer, birds and other native fauna to visit.
Even Cleo’s fence looks natural. Cleo spent years weaving a wild, elegant fence of cut tree branches. The fence looks more like it grew there than was built.
Rare trees and plants surround hand-dug swales, which collect water in the winter for water-loving trees; fish swim in the pond.
Cleo points out his favorites. Each has a story, from free Douglas fir trees given out by Evergreen Bank to plants grown from cuttings received from other gardeners.
Happily he pointed out one plant he thought was killed by last winter’s hard freeze, but had new shoots coming up.
“I think it’s the only one in town that survived,” he said.
There is no such thing as a finished garden, Cleo said. The garden is in constant flux as he discovers new trees and plants, changes layouts and clears away what doesn’t work to make way for new ideas.
His wife Anne has other things to occupy her time.
“Cleo does the work, I just enjoy it,” Anne said.
More photos of Cleo's garden
Ferns, foxglove and trees create a wild look in Cleo's garden. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice
A hand-dug swale provides water for trees, including this Japanese maple. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice
Pink and white flowers provide bright spots of color. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice
Pink flowers provide color in the garden. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice