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Outdoor Spaces: A welcoming garden in Snyder

Summertime means party time for Michael and Sandy Starks of Snyder. With a 12-by-22-foot patio and additional garden space to spread out, outside gatherings come easy – day or night.

“We love entertaining in the summer,” said Sandy, the longtime director of interpretive programming at Forest Lawn who retired last year.

“We can seat 40 people or more,” added Michael, owner of Star Senior Relocation Services and Star Estate Liquidators & Appraisers.

The main feature on the flagstone patio is the canopy-covered pergola – a Walmart find that cost about $200 – illuminated by flower-shaped string lights and a chandelier with battery-operated candles. A dining table seats six, but two additional E-Z UP canopies set with tables and chairs were still up one recent afternoon from a party the previous weekend.

The Starkses have a collection of tablecloths, dinnerware and glasses, including hand-painted wine goblets, they use for outdoor entertaining. Centerpieces include a small bouquet of pink peonies mixed with asparagus spears and gerbera daisies stuck in the empty bottles of a Sanpellegrino Limonata six pack.

Two of their tips for tablecloths: Buy fabric you like by the yard and hem it. And don’t be afraid to mix and match - French stripes (think dish towels) on one table; a floral print on another.

The hosta garden. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Among the other highlights:

• The couple keeps beverages cold in an antique wash tub.

•  The Starkses give gifts to each other for the garden. She gave him a fog machine for his birthday to enhance the effects of the laser lights in the garden. For Mother’s Day, he gave her an elevated cedar planter from the Gardener’ Supply Co. for growing herbs.

“I use it every single day,” she said. Scissors hang on the side so she doesn’t have to search for a pair when she wants a bunch of basil.

• Decorative items and wall planters adorn the exterior of the house and garage. A collection of antique majolica plates is displayed near the patio.

• A large covered pot in the corner of the patio is a type of Chinese jar used to preserve eggs (often called 100-year or century eggs), a Chinese delicacy. They use it for display.

• Cast-iron Victorian-era garden furniture is placed beyond the dining area of the patio for additional seating. Michael’s father gave it to him for his 50th birthday.

• Whimsy is found here – from the 5-foot-tall red iron dragon named Duncan to the antique glove form that appears as a human hand poking up from a bed of hostas. It’s still marked “Size 10.”

The hosta garden began with a small pot of hostas given to them by Edna M. Lindemann, the original director of what was then called the Burchfield Art Center (now the Burchfield Penney Art Center). The three-leaf hosta came from a country home where hostas displayed at the Pan-American Exhibition in 1901 were later relocated. They were called “Pan American lilies,” named for their white flowers, Michael Starks said.

This outside space has evolved since he installed the flagstone patio himself more than 20 years ago – a project he still recalls as being “a lot more work than I thought it would be.”

But well worth it. From spring through fall, it’s the place to be.

* See last week's Outdoor Spaces feature:

Outside spaces: This backyard rocks

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