GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Kathy Kimbrough's green thumb has continually pointed the way, creating numerous life-altering opportunities for the 53-year-old Redlands resident. An avid interest in gardening has shaped Kimbrough's relationships, her commitments to the community, and her career. And this local entrepreneur, who's lived in the Grand Valley since 1998, says she loves every minute of it.
"I love what I do," Kimbrough said. "I have a good life here. I wouldn't change a thing."
Kimbrough owns her own garden-consulting firm, Garden Scentsations, and she's also a master gardener working with the Colorado State University Extension since 2001.
"I've always been a gardener," she added. "I learned from my mom, Betty Glaser."
Becoming a master gardener had everything to do with Kimbrough's move to Grand Junction from Texas with her husband, Joe. Before they moved to Colorado, gardening was simply a pleasurable hobby for Kimbrough.
"I wanted to learn how to garden (in Grand Junction)," she said. "It's a very different climate from other places I've lived."
So, she took classes. And then classes turned into work with the CSU Extension, a hub for research-based knowledge for Colorado's agricultural community. In Kimbrough's case, she makes house calls for landscape and garden problems through the CSU program.
From her involvement with the extension, Kimbrough said she then saw a need for one-on-one garden consulting and coaching for folks with languishing landscapes. So, in 2006, Garden Scentsations was born and Kimbrough's been busy ever since; she makes house calls, looks at problem areas, and helps other people become better gardeners through expert advice and hands-on design.
Kimbrough said she provides the types of gardening lessons often passed down from grandmothers to children and grandchildren. After a consultation, she may give tips on pruning and make suggestions on which plant species to use; she'll take people shopping and show them how to look at a tree's trunk, shape and roots; and she helps her clients make the best purchases for their yards.
Through garden coaching, Kimbrough also said she can do more than make quick fixes. Long-term plans for outdoor-living spaces or yards needing complete overhauls can be developed for homeowners in phases.
One landscape tip for folks on a budget: Kimbrough suggests that trees be planted first, since they take the longest to grow. Then fill in the yard with other plants and bushes as time and funds allow.
Kimbrough also likes to recommend a variety of plants to her clients. Favorites include lavender, sedum and agastache; plus, she enjoys using trees like crab apples and hawthorns.
One thing's for sure - enthusiasm for gardening and plants has made a happy second career for Kimbrough.
"I worked in real estate and mortgages for most of my professional life," she said, adding that being a garden coach is the perfect fit for her interests. "I enjoy getting dirty, being in the sunshine, and I like to teach."
Plus, it keeps her busy - even in January, she still has consulting jobs. And she's been able to use her real estate knowledge to launch a "curb appeal makeover" initiative.
"Instead of doing price reductions, spruce up the house (and yard) instead," Kimbrough explained. "It saves money and the house spends less time on the market."
When Kimbrough isn't making house calls, she's the president of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, a group "dedicated to establishing and promoting the newly emerging lavender industry" in the state.
Although Kimbrough has always planted lavender in her personal garden, it hasn't always been a popular cash crop in the Grand Valley, she said. Even so, she thought it could be a dream come true for local farmers. Lavender thrives in the Grand Valley's climate, and it can be used in essential oils, handcrafted products and even food.
With that thought in mind, Kimbrough attended her first national lavender conference in 2008. Upon her return, she made it her mission to educate local farms about lavender and its uses in hopes that the scented crop would catch on.
Now, Kimbrough is happy to say she's seen a boom in lavender being grown locally and there's even an annual lavender festival now held in Palisade.
"We have approximately 50 lavender farms on the Western Slope," she added. "I'm so happy to have helped promote the industry and bring it to life locally."
Lavender is also used liberally as part of Kimbrough's garden consulting.
"Fragrant plants are used in all aspects of my business," she said, noting that she also makes potpourri and wreaths as gift items for sale locally.
When Kimbrough isn't working as a garden consultant, acting as president of the local lavender association, making ornamental gifts or working in her own garden, she likes to spend time with her family and friends.
Joe, Kimbrough's husband of 28 years, is a "wonderful photographer," she said. And together they love to travel throughout the Western Slope - including the Grand Valley, Ouray, Telluride and elsewhere - taking photos as they go. They also enjoy "Jeeping" in Moab and visiting family throughout the country.
The Kimbroughs' 4 1/2-year-old yellow Lab - known to friends and family as the "unsinkable" Molly Brown - accompanies them on all their adventures.
"She's our baby," Kimbrough said.
For more information about Garden Scentsations, visit http://gardenscentsations.blogspot.com.