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Sowing Seeds Of Goodness: Utah Couple Uses Their Passions To Raise Money For Public Radio

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You may have heard or seen our announcement of an upcoming garden party and home tour to benefit UPR. Some of you have had questions about the location of the event, and why it is so special. Reporter Rhesa Ledbetter wondered as well, so she made a visit to meet the hosts of the party, Bruce Bugbee and his wife Diana West. 

“Secret Garden was my favorite book growing up. I always imagined having a beautiful garden at my house. When my dad planted a garden and it was just corn and tomatoes and cucumbers, I was so disappointed. I had imagined, you know, these tall hedged walls, gardens full of roses and pathways.”

Diana West finally got her fairy tale ending when she met Bruce Bugbee, a professor of plant physiology at Utah State University.

“When I met Bruce, I fell in love with his garden as much as with Bruce, I have to confess,” she said.

Diana and Bruce have been sharing their colorful, enchanting garden art and historic home with the community of Logan, Utah for years. They are now using it as a means to raise money for Utah Public Radio.

“We’re gonna have a catered dinner, sit outside, have live music from some of the USU faculty, tours of the house, and art exhibits,” said Bruce. “It’s like a big yard party to celebrate summer, celebrate gardens, and celebrate public radio.”

Bruce purchased his picturesque Gothic Revival style home in the early 1980s. Built in 1887 by Logan’s first Mayor, Alvin D. Crockett, the home, which features a steeply pitched roof and intricately designed eaves, was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“When I was just new in Logan, we weren’t married yet,” he said. “I was looking for a place and finally saw this one. Boy, it really needed a lot of work. There was plywood over broken windows and the plumbing leaked.”

The couple recalled that at one time the home was actually a frat house with dairy fraternity stickers decorating the walls.

“It was pretty trashed, which is why it didn’t sell,” Bruce said. “But, I could see the potential, so I bought it and started fixing it up.”

While restoring the 4000 square-foot mansion to its original glory, Bruce also turned part of the yard into a canvas for garden art.

Each year the garden boasts a theme that’s literally brought to life for the community. A favorite—complete with a yellow brick road—was based on the Wizard of Oz. Another design was in tribute to the Salt Lake City Olympic Games—imagine the symbolic five-interlocking rings sprouted from requisite blue, yellow, black, green, and red flowers.

The community has been enjoying Bruce’s garden for the past 35 years or so.

“I’ve only helped the last 5-6 years,” said Diana. “We laugh, because the first year I hadn’t worked my way up to planter—now I am a full-blown planter and designer.”

“The design wouldn’t be what it is without her,” said Bruce. “There’s the design, but then there’s the biological part where everything has to grow just right—precision watering, precision fertilizing. If it’s a design in a picture you can’t have some dead spots, and that’s a challenge for me to get it just right.”

This year’s garden honors the famous visionary Buckminster Fuller. You can’t help but be struck by the brightly colored flowers and ornamental plants surrounding an elaborate bamboo dome of open triangles.

“When I was growing up, I fell in love with his geodesic domes. This was a chance to do a tribute to him and have a large geodesic dome that you could go inside,” Bruce said. “And then, Diana had the great idea of putting solar-powered LED lights on it, so if you look closely you can see these tiny gold strands. Those are all LEDs that come on at night—it’s quite striking.”

Walking up the red-brick pathway into the dome, water flows down several levels of a fountain.

“The last few years we’ve had a water feature in the garden,” Bruce continued. “The center of a dome is kind of a special place. You’re inside the middle of this sphere, so that’s why we put the cascading fountain in the middle. It’s a destination—people can walk in there and look closely.”

And, as you have heard from our announcements on Utah Public Radio, you are invited to share in Bruce and Diana’s passions for gardening and the public radio by attending the Garden and Arts Gala at their home.

“You wish UPR was better funded through hard funding and annual funding, but it’s just not. The way they raise money is people supporting it. We were looking for ways to raise money and thought maybe we could do something here,” said Bruce. “We have great enjoyment listening to the shows like so many people do.”

Public radio runs in their blood, according to Diana.

“I’ve appreciated UPR since I was quite young,” she said. “I just hope people want to come and hope people understand that it’s a fundraiser and that they’re giving back to the community. What they’re really doing is contributing to the station to support the wonderful programs that they have.”

Join UPR for a tour Bruce and Diana’s home and garden during the Garden and Arts Benefit Gala on Saturday, August 5th. Ticket information can be found here