Thomas family recalls fond memories building backyard

Published 5:01 pm Monday, June 3, 2013

Tim and Diane Thomas (contributed)

Tim and Diane Thomas (contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Tim and Diane Thomas began carving out a plan for their yard in Riverwoods some seven years ago.

“It was a blank slate,” Diane recalls. After pricing out an initial project with a contractor, they decided to do it themselves.

Five years ago, they added a pool, then wanted a pergola with natural shade. Diane chose Clematis armandii, or evergreen clemantis, a rapid grower that is covered in sweetly fragrant single, white flowers in early spring.

Next came a firepit and a shady area with table for small children to enjoy.

“We aimed for a natural and mixed look, in the style of an English Garden.”

With a fabulous sunset view, the yard is now a low-maintenance yard, with established perennials abounding.

Diane said her method is “if it doesn’t live, I rip it up and plant something else.”

A surprise birthday party for Diane’s 50th precipitated a rush to finish the pool area by May that year; Diane unknowingly, hustling to lay the brick pavers.

The Thomas family have many fond memories of parties held here — annual luaus for their Kingwood Sunday school class; a block party in 2012 attended by 300.

They admit it is an emotional decision to part with this special home, which goes on the market next week. Their decision to downsize feels timely, Diane said, and “we will have something smaller and just as amazing when we get done with it. We know there is something in store for us.”

Tim, owner of Steel City Welding on Vanderbilt Road for some 36 years, began his craft at a young age.

“Around age 12, I was always nailing something to a tree. Someone said, ’why, you’re going to be an architect.’ Then girls came into my life — and hot rods. At 18, my mother asked me, ‘What are you going to do with your life?’ I took up welding to pacify her and to pacify me,” Tim said. “The Lord was throwing me breadcrumbs on the ground and he still is. My belief is that, no matter how much you have going on, it’s better to take time to help your neighbor!”


Laura Brookhart is a community columnist for the city of Helena and can be reached at