Leslie Lloyd likes walking on level ground.
That can be hard to do when you build a house on a steep hillside.
“I didn’t want to feel like a mountain goat, walking around the area outside my house,” Lloyd says. “I wanted substantial level areas adjacent to the house so when I go outside to drink a cup of coffee, walk the dog or bring groceries in, I don’t feel like I’m climbing too much.”
In 2013, when she and her husband, Wally, built their home off Brender Canyon Road in rural Cashmere, they met the challenge with three things: flat circular concrete patio areas on the north and south sides of the house, mounded planting beds just off the patios and around most of the house, and lots and lots of rocks.
She hired Graham Murray, owner of Northern Stone Craft, as her rock-placement expert.
“I told him I wanted big-ass rocks,” she says.
She got what she ordered, with one rock weighing 7 tons.
Most are smaller, but still substantial. They are also placed with great care.
“There’s this whole zen thing about how the rocks relate to each other,” Lloyd says. “There is a lot of artistry in the rocks. They are just as important as plants, in terms of design.”
Lloyd’s vision for her property came from working with her builder, her architect and taking in the vistas on Tumwater Canyon, Icicle Creek and at Whistler in British Columbia.
It didn’t hurt that she has expertise in land development. Lloyd earned a bachelor’s degree in urban planning from the University of Washington. She has worked as a city planner for the City of Seattle, then was in real estate development, was president of the Bellevue Downtown Association and then, for 18 months, was executive director of Icicle Creek Center for the Arts in Leavenworth. She also worked for 501 Consultants before retiring in 2016.
Wally is also retired, having owned a marketing, communications and graphic design business in Bellevue for 28 years.
Before that, the couple had spent years looking for property to build their dream home.
The Wenatchee Valley called their name.
“We saw more good sites in one day than we’d seen in 10 years of looking in three other states,” she says.
In 2010, they found 22 acres of land off Willems Road. Thirteen acres were in cherries, which turned out to be too small to be sustainable. After a couple of years, they pulled the trees out and now grow hay.
On a lower hill, Lloyd tends a big flower garden, which she harvests and sells to local florists and to people holding special events such as weddings.
“This is my part-time retirement gig,” she says.
The couple’s business, which includes hay sales, is called Pioneer Canyon Farm.
She grows more than 100 varieties of flowers. Among them are alliums, zinnias, snapdragons, roses, peonies, celosia, stock, lisianthus, ranunculus, ageratum, baby’s breath, amaranth, lace flower, bronze fennel, coneflowers, rudbeckia, dianthus, crocosmia, scabiosa, dusty miller and dahlias.
The dahlias, she says, are her favorites.
“They’re cheerful and productive. They go until the frost and they just seem to get better and better throughout the season.”
Lloyd, a Master Gardener, also grows food, including six kinds of tomatoes, five kinds of basil, seven kinds of peppers and two kinds of cantaloupe, along with cabbage, kale, lettuce, broccoli, eggplant and herbs.
Lloyd also places pots, big and small, throughout her patios and garden spaces.
“I love pots,” she says. “They punctuate your open spaces. I use them to provide a pop of color that complements what else is going on.”
The area around the two-story, 2,580-square-foot house, which Lloyd describes as a modern mountain farmhouse, is laid out in concentric circles.
The couple also set out a 35-foot buffer around the house so it is as firewise as possible.
Key to their layout and planting success, she says, is having a spouse who is as outdoorsy and farm-oriented as she is.
“He is the happiest man on the planet,” she says. “He always wanted to be in the country.”
Lloyd says she and Wally have lots more projects to go, but the work will be a joy.
“I think I always felt best when I could have my hands in the dirt,” she says. “I’ve learned that, unlike people, plants do what they’re supposed to do. And they never talk back or get in a huff. If you take care of them, they just grow and produce lots of good things.”