Contentments & Curiosities
A Wonderland of Petals, Paws and Hooves . . .
Photography: Kirsten Shultz
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Blossoms topple, one over the other, like bubbles from an overfilled bath, spilling forth in a joyous profusion of color and heady scent. In the midst of this riot of growth rises the steep gable roof of a charming red house. The scene evokes the spirit of a satisfying life, lived on a very human scale. Not grand, but certainly beautiful. Not big; but certainly, even luxuriously, big enough.
Gentle, heartwarming, and welcoming, Carol Thielen’s garden is—thankfully—not meticulously groomed. In its very exuberance is convincing evidence that life is good, that perhaps all could be right with the world. A place of happenstance and loosely organized chaos, a serendipitous blend of binge eccentricity and, perhaps, blissful gardening ignorance, this garden has few rules—only that it be a place of comfort and beauty, a respite.
If there are accidental gardeners, Carol Thielen and Kurt McAuley may be the luckiest among them. Locally known for their side-by-side Ketchum shops—Table for Twelve and Botanica, which showcase their refined yet whimsical design sense in floral arrangements, entertaining tableaux, antiques, and home accessories—Carol and Kurt have been fast friends for many years, and now pool their talents in Carol’s garden.
Late on a summer afternoon, a glass of wine here awakens latent fantasies of following Alice down the rabbit hole. This garden is snug, woven tightly around the house and billowing with roses, peonies, delphinium, clematis, gaillardia, hollyhocks, and whatever else has captivated these gardeners for the moment. No long, sweeping expanses of manicured beds here, no grand arias. And that is, perhaps, the root of its charm: this garden envelops its inhabitants like a cocoon, soon seducing them into a restful, contemplative state.
Now, this is life, I muse as I wander. One of Carol’s devoted dogs raises an amused brow in my direction, as if to say, “Well, of course, you silly human fool, life should be like this.” I recall Alice’s encounter with the caterpillar.
Steep, sinuous folds of hills, impossibly clear blue skies, the raucous banter of magpies, clip-clopping horse hooves crossing a wooden bridge, and the dusty scent of aspens . . . the compass points are clear. There is no doubt that this garden is located in the Wood River Valley—although the sheer abundance of plant life is somewhat disorienting. It can be challenging enough to coax life from the soil here, particularly for gardeners who profess to being “untrained”; but cajoling cascades of flowers in this alpine desert region must be somewhat connected to the realm of magic.
“Honestly, we just don’t know any better,” laughs Kurt.
They aren’t sentimental gardeners. “We love what we love,” Kurt says, “but we’re very fickle. If we totally love something, we plant as much of it as possible, stuffing it everywhere. If something isn’t working, we yank it out. Or, in the case of early vegetable planting, we just stop doing it!” >>>