Aster Garden Design Center offers variety of plants, landscaping options

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Stepping into Aster Garden Design is a bit like stepping into a secret garden – and that’s how it was designed, said owner Karen Oleson.

It took Karen and her husband and co-owner Paul Oleson four years to prepare the business that opened last year.

“The building existed, but [the rest] was a weed bed, “said Paul.

Since then, the space has blossomed both literally and figuratively. In all directions a diverse cover with trees, grasses, flowers, bushes and vegetables can be seen.

These plants are accentuated by artfully reused materials in the gates, walls, and greenhouse – from leftover bypass materials turned into garden walls to rolled up grapevines and blooming flowers made from recycled metal.

“We just wanted [it to be] like you’re going to another world, ”said Karen.

Paul and Karen are lifelong gardeners. In 2007, Karen decided to go back to school and has a Masters in Landscape Architecture.

“Mostly,” she said, “we design people’s landscapes. Not just gardens, [or] Vegetable gardens, but you know, hardscaping, terraces, fire pits, pergola, everything you can imagine outside. “

Since the center offers both gardening and design services, many customers come with sketches of what they want to do with their garden but are unsure how to achieve it.

“They come in with their little sketches and they say, ‘I have the things I want, but I just have to find out what they are now,'” she said.

Karen can step in here, she said. Customers can show where they would like something in bloom, a tree, or a fire pit, and based on the conditions, can recommend plants and decor that suit those goals and the customer’s space constraints.

The company’s philosophy introduces utility as well as beauty, she said. The center itself collects rainwater, which helps them and reduces the impact on public facilities.

“The first is security and then circulation, you know how to get around in it. And then there is the form and the function and the beauty, ”said Karen.

Karen’s landscape architecture business is a big part of what moved the couple to start their own business, she said. Many plants that are harder to find are now carried in the center.

“I’ve driven all over from Spokane, to Bonners Ferry, to Seattle,” she said. “I’m just trying to find the plants for the designs. And now we are simply ordering to have them here for all of our customers. “

Some of these hard-to-find plants are dogwood, Japanese maple, xeric plants, and many more, in addition to numerous native plants. They also try to only sell crops that can survive Idaho’s harsh winters, Karen said.

In addition to the native plant options, the center sells garden decor and furniture by local artists.

“This is important to us,” said Paul. “We try to source all of our materials locally, and if not locally, then from the northwest.”

Although the center isn’t big, they try to keep at least a few staff and offer competitive pricing for larger local projects as well, he said.

Starting the center during a pandemic meant business was a little slower than usual, Karen said, but that also gave them a chance to learn.

Many people started doing more gardening and landscaping in the past year during the pandemic as they spent more time at home, she said.

“They’ve been home so many times and look at their garden and say, ‘We have to do something about it,'” said Karen.

Aster Garden Design is located at 924 Superior Street in Sandpoint.

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