SOUTHWICK – When Suze and Bob Desnoyers moved back to the east coast after living in California for three decades, she made him a deal – if they moved, Suze could retire.
Bob agreed and Suze took the opportunity to spend the past four years cultivating her garden at their Southwick home. Their garden will be featured on the Grandmother’s Garden annual Garden Tour June 29-30.
The couple lives on the hidden gem called Whitewood Lake, a small pond behind South Loomis Street. The serene setting is picturesque now, but when the couple moved in, Suze took the plain but well-maintained yard and began getting her hands dirty. Literally.
“There was nothing here before,” Suze says as she pointed to what is now a tiered rock garden filled with all the colors of the rainbow.
“And this was covered in poison ivy,” she says about another area of the yard where she overlooks the water from a wooden bench hidden by a twig archway she created.
Suze has been a gardener much of her adult life, but she wasn’t raised digging in the dirt.
“It’s funny that my parents weren’t gardeners, but I am and so are all my siblings,” says the Connecticut native.
She and Bob – who hails from Greenfield – met on the east coast and married 26 years ago. They bought their first house together in California and that’s when Suze’s green thumb kicked-in.
“I guess I’m self-taught,” she says. “I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out in nurseries.”
While Suze can appreciate all kinds of gardens, her style is what she calls “country gardening.”
“I just really love color,” Suze says. “My favorites are cone flowers, peonies, hydrangea and iris.”
The Desnoyers’ garden has plenty of all of those varieties sprinkled throughout the yard. Suze continuously expands her gardens and said she works in “quadrants.” Her latest expansion is to the far corner of the front yard where she placed a tall birdhouse in front of a row of hedges.
A covered outdoor patio off the back of the house features a stone floor, comfy seating and the perfect view of the lake and garden. A boathouse is another great spot for viewing the garden from a cozy outdoor couch. A small beach is home to the couple’s kayaks when not in use and is another great spot to sit and watch the water or the flowers grow.
Suze says she has a few garden accessories, such as windchimes and garden stakes, that she has picked up in her travels. She doesn’t overthink her space, especially when something catches her eye.
“I see something for the garden and if I like it, I get a vision of where to put it,” she says.
Bob isn’t much of a gardener, but he is handy.
“He built me this raised garden for herbs and vegetables, and he mows and weed wacks and helps with the heavy lifting,” says Suze.
For Suze, gardening is her place of zen.
“I love being part of nature,” she says. “I’ll be out here for eight hours with no music, no distractions – it’s relaxing. And I love seeing the results when everything is in bloom.”
The Desnoyers’ garden is just one of the stops along the Grandmother’s Garden Tour in Westfield and Southwick to benefit the preservation, maintenance and continued improvements of the historic Grandmother’s Garden at Chauncey Allen Park.
The Garden Tour is Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30. Tickets are $20 the day of the tour, which starts at Grandmother’s Garden on Smith Avenue. The tour is rain or shine.