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Weeping Tree Farms

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Dianne Mays photo by Marylyn Cork Dianne Mays photo by Marylyn Cork

Sagle lady's dream turns into a destination of beauty for travelers

“One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.”

This quotation from Dorothy Gurney pretty much sums up the philosophy of most gardeners, I suspect. Certainly myself. While I labor long and arduously at my own attempts to beautify my surroundings, I don’t have the artistic eye for flower gardens—or the financial resources—of my longtime friend, Dianna May. Nevertheless, I keep at it because I truly love flowers. And sometimes I even sneak off to Dianna’s Weeping Tree Garden just off Dufort Road, Sagle, for the inspiration and that wonderful “all’s right with the world” feeling that people like me can find only in gardens and nature.

I’m not sure Diane (as her friends call her) ever gets to enjoy her masterpiece in the same way others do, as she’s so busy taking care of a total of about two acres of landscaped property surrounding her lovely home. She’s planted flowers, trees, and ornamental grasses just about everywhere there’s soil in which to grow them. That includes, along with the her fenced garden, her yard, borders around her husband’s shop, and a strip of land running alongside a long driveway.

She says, though, pointing to a bench inside the fenced enclosure, “I do (take time to enjoy it), when I’m on my breaks from working out here.”

She claims to have about $200,000 invested in her landscaping if one considers the cost of the two wells and the piping that deliver water to all those thirsty growing things. She sells cut flowers all summer long at Sandpoint’s Farmer’s Market, but adds, just a bit indignantly, “To the IRS it’s a “hobby garden,” so I can’t deduct any of the expense.”

Dianna’s Weeping Tree Garden is located on what was once a 360-acre hay and strawberry farm just off the Dufort Road near Sagle, about 16 miles from Sandpoint. On the little plot of land she and her husband have retained after selling off the rest over the years, Diane estimates she has at least one thousand different families of perennials growing under and around shrubbery and trees. Not all of the trees, many of which bloom, are weeping varieties, and many are quite rare.

Unusual varieties include a contorted white pine; bristlecone pine; yellow-tipped and Montgomery blue spruce; silver-tipped weeping spruce; Eastern weeping white pine; and a weeping Japanese pine, among others. A rare larch tree died from some unknown reason this past winter. She left it in place, and “I’m now trying to train clematis to grow up around it,” she said. A Zebra pine, with long green needles striped with a yellow line down the middle, also died. “Gophers ate off its roots,” Diane said. “It’s a challenge to garden in this climate and with all the wildlife.”

She also has what she calls “fancy” lilacs, such as a Russian double that “starts out lilac and turns white,” and a Sensation that blooms purple with a white edge. She calls it “the prettiest.”

There are bulbs by the thousands: among them daffodils, narcissus, long rows of fragrant hyacinths, lilies, etc., and some 50 different gladioli corms. “I always need more glads for my dahlia bouquets” (which she sells,) she explained. This summer Diane has planted the strip of land along the driveway with 150 hills of 200 different kinds of dahlias in 100-foot rows.

She used an inheritance from her father, the late John deMattos of Oroville, Calif., to establish Dianna’s Weeping Tree Garden in 1992, hiring a professional to construct waterfalls, three Koi ponds and a fountain that are “all joined together by a ‘river’.”

The water feature operates year-round with the fish surviving North Idaho winters by “hiding underneath the big waterfall,” she said.

The system has a biological filter, a skimmer and four pumps. One pump delivers 4,000 gallons of water per hour throughout the whole pond system, and sends water to a filter box behind the big waterfall. A 2,500-gallon auxiliary pump fills out the large waterfall and circulates the water. The middle waterfall has a 2,500-gallon per hour pump operating it, and a 900-gallon per hour pump runs the fountain.

This summer a new drip irrigation system delivers water to her trees and plants. She says she’s not adding any more of either except for the glads and dahlias that are her big sellers. Knowing her well, I’m not sure I believe her.

Her explanation for so much time and labor devoted purely to cultivating beauty? “My husband is a workaholic so I’ve become one, too,” she said, “And I like to garden.”

Although her father’s bequest initially funded Dianna’s Weeping Tree Garden, she says her love of flowers was passed on to her by her mother. Knowing that her parents were Portuguese by ethnicity and lived in a prime agricultural region in California, I asked her if her father was a truck gardener. She replied, laughing, “Actually, he was a Portuguese plumber.” She said he earned his living doing hydroelectric work in big tunnels.

Diane doesn’t confine her love of flowers just to growing them either. She’s currently learning Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, is studying to be a flower show judge, and always exhibits and works in the flower department at the Bonner County Fair. She’s also a member of the Bayview Garden Club.

Her husband, Carl, mows the lawn for her, she said, but is otherwise involved more or less on the periphery of Diane’s passion for growing things. He is the owner of May’s Honda Sales on Highway 95 at Sagle. The two of them celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in June and have lived in Bonner County since 1964.

Although the cost of gasoline has curtailed driving for most of us, Dianna’s Weeping Tree Garden is one of the sights close to home that locals can afford to visit this summer without its costing a fortune. She gives tours and welcomes the public, “but people need to call ahead,” she said.

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Marylyn Cork

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