At first, Ann Brueggemann dismissed the idea that her expansive Coeur d'Alene garden had been influenced by living abroad with her husband Dennis.
But then she pointed out the artichoke, which the couple saw used for decoration in Brazil. She admitted planting espalier trees like the ones in Paris. The language teacher has even installed a brick patio in the alley with a small fountain fixture, inspired by "Umbria, not Tuscany," Italy, she said.
"(It brings back) a few memories," said Ann, whose garden-hugged home will be featured in the Coeur d'Alene Garden Club's Garden Tour this weekend. "It's just things we saw there that we liked."
The Brueggemanns can share plenty of experiences after so many years back and forth between Kootenai County and other countries, due to Dennis' work with Special Olympics International.
Ann recalled heading to France for nine months and then staying eight years.
"The Iron Curtain had just come down, so all these countries were getting into the international organization," Ann recalled.
But for the past few years, Ann has remained home, immersing herself in their garden at 1724 East Coeur d'Alene Avenue.
While Dennis continues his work in Panama, Ann sends him updates via smartphone.
"I just call and say, 'Hey, guess what I just did,'" she said with a chuckle on Friday.
"It's scary coming back," teased Dennis, in town that day. "I never know what to expect, what new has been added."
Ann hasn't wasted her efforts over the past three years.
The front yard, previously all grass, is thick with perennials and traced with a wood chip trail.
The backyard boasts a new deck circling out of the house, roses popping out of heart-shaped beds. Honeysuckle reaches up trellises and chairs cozy up beside a gurgling fountain.
A portion of yard has been carved out for a stepped garden, which greets the basement window.
A cinder-block raised bed sits outside the garage, and folks have stopped their cars to admire the weathered fence by the house, where Ann has replaced several boards with lattices.
"We don't have a big house or a big yard, but she's transformed it into something fabulous, something soothing," Dennis said.
Ann likes to garden until dark, she said, when the weather allows. She couldn't estimate how much has been spent on sprucing up the previously empty yard.
"It's an investment. We don't have TV, we don't do extravagant things. We pour ourselves and our hearts into this," she said. "I go to the movies maybe once a year."
It's simply something she loves to do, she added.
"It's addictive," she confessed. "You get started, and you can't stop."
Bonnie Warwick with the Coeur d'Alene Garden Club said the Brueggemanns' vision could give great ideas to folks who attend the tour.
"Their ingenuity and ideas are so worthy of showing," Warwick said.
The 15th annual self-guided tour is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday.
The tour will feature five impressive gardens across the county, including the Rosenbergers' property at 4789 East Lancaster Road in Hayden Lake; Stacey Bishop's home at 201 East 6th Avenue in Post Falls; the Hoffmans' property at 12259 West Span Way in Post Falls; and the home of Jim Walsh and Kathy Kelley at 12519 Emerald Drive in Hayden Lake.
Tickets are $15 in advance, and $17 at the door of any of the homes on the event day. Tickets can be procured at local garden centers, including Vanhoff's Garden Center in Coeur d'Alene, Aspen Nursery in Post Falls, Huckleberry Nursery in Hayden and Westwood Gardens in Rathdrum.
For more information, call Warwick at 818-1401.
Warwick reminded that all profits will benefit local charities.
"We do it because we love gardening, and it's our gift to the community," she said.