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Carrie Sass: Renovate, Recycle and Renew the Spirit

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My Instagram and Pinterest feeds have been littered with gardening images, tips and hacks from kitchen gardens, succession planting, cut flower gardens and more. It turns out I am not alone in my escape to my backyard during quarantine. I started small with a couple of tomato and zucchini starts. As weeks passed during the stay-at-home orders, my backyard garden turned into a daily therapy session. I listened to podcasts to drown out the noise of my arguing children and would escape outside to avoid preparing yet another snack for my darling little garbage disposals. I built garden boxes with wood salvaged from my dad’s garden and turned anything I could find into a planter. 

My friend and colleague, Carrie Sass, also found solace in her backyard and images of her creative and beautiful garden projects made their way into my newsfeed. Her creative use of old windows, doors, bricks, lighting fixtures and other materials sparked my own creativity and when she agreed to let us photograph her beautiful space for the Home & Garden issue, I was beyond excited. 

Carrie and her husband, Tim, have been living in their Stockton home for 35 years. Their backyard renovations started three years ago. The couple threw themselves into finishing a few projects and began new adventures this spring, when Carrie found herself with more time on her hands. “This is our Shelter in a Peaceful Place project.  During the pandemic, the backyard gardens have filled me with peace and are a constant reminder of God’s beautiful creation. And waiting for those little seeds to sprout, well that’s a lesson in patience. Tim and I found that we can enjoy this hobby together,” Carrie expressed. As the owner and founder of SASS! Public Relations, Carrie was in unfamiliar territory, experiencing shortened days while digitally working from home.  “Within a couple of weeks, my days went from playing beat the clock to having extra time on my hands.” 

With her husband’s retirement three years prior, they had started the backyard renovation and took almost everything down to the dirt. They slowly began planting and filling in the negative space with colorful blooms selected by Carrie ever so delicately. “I never had a specific plan; I plant and purchase by color and exposure,” Carrie said, smiling. 

The eclectic upcycled pieces in her yard marry perfectly with her placement of color and blooms. My favorite piece in her yard is a white side table turned into mini greenhouse with old windows. The piece sits perfectly in the corner of her yard where an old gate is attached to the back fence line, providing the perfect trellis for a climbing flower. Everywhere I looked, there was a piece of history from Stockton or a gift from a friend strategically placed into the landscape. 

The vegetable garden in the side yard was a new piece of the project for Carrie and Tim this year. They cleared an area next to the house and planted different vegetables alongside a path of pavers. “The dahlias are also something new for me. I am enjoying the process of growing these beautiful blooms,” she shared. Small support structures and trellises littered the backyard where Carrie planted the tubers and completed her initial pruning. I remained awestruck as I continued to walk through the yard, the foxglove danced in the breeze and the hydrangeas were in full bloom in the shade garden. My garden tour from Carrie left me inspired and validated. I knew I wasn’t alone in my escape to the backyard.