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Residential garden grows into peaceful oasis

Step into the back yard of Eric and Ytmar Crandall's home and your blood pressure immediately drops a few points.

The New Richmond residential lot, over the course of just 11 years, has been transformed into a beautiful resting place for visitors and the home's owners to leave their worries behind.

Flowers bloom in every corner of the yard, and comfortable seating areas dominate the fenced property.

"We spend a lot of time in the afternoons and evenings back here," Ytmar said.

Lots of people drive by the Crandall's home to enjoy the beautifully decorated porch, planted containers and hanging baskets.

"We get people stopping by all the time," Eric said.

The whole yard and garden started innocently enough when the couple purchased their home at 421 W. Second St.

"We loved the house," Ytmar said. "It had character."

But the lawn was rough in spots due to large pine trees near the home, and there weren't any plantings to spice up the property.

Eric had a plan, however, to slowly develop gardens and yard decorations that would rival those of his grandmother, who for years impressed neighbors in Minneapolis with her plantings.

The first major addition to the yard was giant Hostas that were given to the Crandalls by their brother's neighbor.

Ever since then, the Crandalls have steadily added flowers, plants and decorations to their yard and home. Now the yard includes a variety of plants, including cone flowers, Black-eyed Susans, Japanese Irises, lilies, Bleeding Heart, hydrangeas, spiraeas, daisies, ferns, peonies, Forget-Me-Nots and more.

"It's better than I ever thought it would be," Eric admitted while looking across the yard. "We do it, in part, because we love our community. We want our house and neighborhood to look nice."

Ytmar, a native of Puerto Rico, said the gardens also help to remind her of home, where gardens are in full bloom year round.

Planning each year's garden helps her get through the winter blues of January and February. All the work pays off when flowers start to bloom in the spring, she said.

It's a small miracle that the gardening project has gone so well, Ytmar noted.

"I'm the kind of person who kills plants," she said with a laugh.

But some much-needed advice from a professional, Claudette Christensen, who worked for a local landscaping business for many years, helped the couple decide how to plant and care for their flowers and plants.

"I come from Puerto Rico where everything grows," Ytmar said. "Here you have seasons and I didn't know what to do. I needed help. She's my yard consultant, and we've become good friends."

Once a year, Christensen stops by to put mulch down in the Crandall's gardens. She also offers a few tips on what flowers to plant and what things to avoid.

"Claudette has guided us wonderfully," Ytmar said. "A lot of it is just trial and error, too."

The Crandalls tackle their gardening efforts as inexpensively as possible. They buy certain plants at the end of the season, taking advantage of reduced prices. They also buy items like lawn furniture, grills and other decorations when they are on clearance.

"My husband drives a good bargain," Ytmar laughs. "And when I see something inexpensive, even if it's not gardening season, I'll buy it and store it until I can use it."

The Crandalls do splurge on a couple of things each year, such as hanging baskets and fertilizer treatments. But otherwise, their goal is to keep costs down while still creating a beautiful setting.

If done the right way, Eric said, creating beautiful gardens and yards isn't difficult and it can be affordable.

"A lot of people could do the same thing, if they put their minds to it," he said. "We're not master gardeners here. We just do the best we can, and you don't need thousands of dollars to accomplish that."

The Crandalls said they are a good gardening team, which helps during the course of the gardening season. Eric likes to weed, while Ytmar like to plan out the overall layout of the yard.

"I'm the muscle," Eric explained. "She's the design."

"It's the perfect combination," Ytmar said. "We work well together."

When winter weather approaches, the Crandalls transfer many of their plants to pots and move them inside to save them for next spring.

They also begin to plan for the next growing season.

As they look to the future, the Crandalls hope to eventually install an irrigation system, when money permits. They would also like to install a rain barrel system to collect rain water for their gardening tasks.