Before he retired, Rod Davidson was Marketing Director for Metra, The Billings Gazette, and Pizza Hut, but more important was an event that took place on a February morning in 1981. On that day Rod and I were sitting in a coffee shop on 24th Street and he turned over the placemat and sketched the logo for a business that would be named MasterLube. Thirty-four years later his work continues to serve us unchanged.

But his contribution to Conversations is not about marketing or graphic arts. Rather I have asked him to tell us about landscaping their new home. After years landscaping his home in the Emerald Hills, he and his wife downsized and built a new home in Billings, and he faced a new landscaping challenge. His planting bucket list included  roses, tulips, daisies, hydrangeas, gladiolas, allium, iris and lilies and one Black Robe Flowering Locust. I think you will find his story interesting and entertaining.

– Bill Simmons

I came to gardening and working with my favorite plants from my father. In fact, when he was very ill, I was inspired to build a 3 tier terrace, with over 120 lineal feet of planting space and accomplished it with him in mind. That project took over 100 sacks of compost and 40 treated timbers to finalize. Unlike living in the city, where we live now, there were no boundaries for our home in Emerald Hills.  When we started there, we had five acres, lots of Ponderosa Pine and a three-acre pasture filled with sage brush.

It became my challenge to improve the land, removing the sage and scattering grass seed to improve it.   We had lived in two different homes in Billings before our move to the country.  One allowed me garden space and the other had an exotic Iris bed that was the envy of the neighborhood.  Everything I experimented with was to build a foundation for gardens, flowers and entice birds to our home.  I planted Russian Olive trees in the first days of our move to the hills which gave area birds protection and winter feed. I groomed the trees to 45 foot and photographed everything in them from wild turkeys to blue grouse.

Everything was an experiment.  Would the roses winter in this harsh environment? Could I afford to plant annuals for spring color? Would bulb flowers restart after wintering in sand in the garage? Most efforts were unsuccessful until I learned how to grow many of my favorites in containers, i.e., cattle watering tanks, etc.  The concentrated compost and rain water proved miraculous.

The new  house in Josephine Crossing is completely landscaped.  I supplemented the landscapers’ meager plant selection with Iris, Peonies, Lilacs, Roses, 450 Tulips, ornamental grass and Allium.  I am presently experimenting with Naked Ladies, lilies that that send up a stalk and leaves but no flowers until fall. The sod around the house is trying to send roots into clay so there is not much nutrient for it. I fertilized every week in summer just to help it along. You must remember this is a little farmhouse on a very tiny lot. With the last bulb planting in early November, my planting efforts are complete and I eagerly await April to see if we have any new miracles!

Here is why I do this:  It is a spiritual journey where the cycle of planting, growing, harvesting and renewal are my passion, my hobby and my sanity check.  I have other interests, but spend most of my time on my gardening .My grandmother on my dad’s side, lived to 103 and on her 102 birthday, we talked about her flowers.

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