Steamboat Springs Six years ago, Linda Fisher-Faiola's yard was an acre of sun-baked sagebrush. She stood on her deck overlooking the impossible landscaping task ahead of her and started up the chain saw.
By the time her husband, Thom Faiola, came home from work, she had chopped down half the deck to make space for a rock garden.
It was a cathartic release for Linda Faiola who spent most of her life in the corporate world of Dallas, Texas. In 1996, she married a Steamboat Springs man and cashed out her investments in order to retire in here.
The garden that surrounds her house today, the garden that visitors will enjoy on Saturday during the High Country Garden Tour, represents a lifestyle shift from high-powered businesswoman to the woman she is now.
"It was hard to leave the corporate world," she said. "After that many years, it's all you know and your value is wrapped up in your title and how much money you make."
Now, Linda Faiola measures her success by the lupine that is finally blooming in her front yard.
Faiola started her gardening journey by enrolling in "High Country Gardening" at Colorado Mountain College. The class is offered every fall, she said.
The class taught her which plants would thrive in the short and difficult Colorado summer and how to plan for the duration and timing of flower blooms.
Faiola's garden starts with an explosion of color in the spring, which fades in early July. Like an orchestrated display of fireworks, a group of white flowers bloom.
This is the Faiola's first year on the garden tour.
"When I first moved to town, it was my goal to get on the garden tour and this was the year I wanted to do it," she said. "And here I am."
Faiola's landscaping technique is simple tenacity. Her southern-facing, sun-soaked yard is a patchwork of soil, from clay to sand.
She would buy several plants of the same variety and plant them in spots all over the yard. Most of them would die, she said, but some would thrive.
"So I would go out and buy 10 plants and put them in the spot where they did well," she said. "I killed a hundred plants for everyone that lived.
"The more times I failed, the more determined I would become. That's just my personality."
Faiola spends hours in her garden every day and that time has become something of a meditation and an emotional salve, she said.
"I came back to town a week ago after my father died, and I just went out into the garden and worked until I was ready to talk to people," she said.
As Faiola labors under her sun hat, carving her garden on the side of the mountain, Kevin Bennett works in a shaded garden in downtown Steamboat a thousand worlds away.
Only five blocks from busy Lincoln Avenue, the Bennetts have created a monastery environment. A high wooded fence and antique doors turn their yard into a courtyard. A series of decks flow around the house and down toward Soda Creek and an open field/campsite.
The 5 acres that the Bennetts share with their neighbors originally was zoned for multiple houses, but the property is now under covenance to prevent building and preserve a piece of secret open space in Old Town.
Kevin Bennett spends three to four hours a day in the garden, he said. "A lot of men think of gardening as a trowel experience, but anyone who spends the day gardening just got an enormous amount of exercise."
The Bennett's garden and grounds will be open Saturday with music provided by the Hyperion Quartet.