Summit Right Brain: From Breckenridge ski bum rental to Peak 7 prize
IF YOU GO
What: Summit County Garden Club Annual Tour
When: Saturday, July 23; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. You must check in by 10:45 a.m. to take the tour
Where: Summit County Community and Senior Center, 0083 Nancy’s Place, Frisco
Cost: Tickets purchased in advance $10, $15 if purchased on tour day
Tickets: Purchase tickets online at SummitCountyGardenClub.org
More information: SummitCountyGardenClub.org
If Kathie Kralik’s Breckenridge home could talk, it would have plenty of stories to tell. Originally built in 1971 by the Dayton family — longtime locals and owners of the Breckenridge and Frisco Nordic centers — the home was purchased by a couple from Aspen who used it solely as an investment property. Kralik thinks the owners only saw their house once in the 20 years they had it, although they saw plenty of complaints from neighbors about the tenants.
Located up a dirt road on Peak 7, the house was a revolving door of ski bums throughout the years, sometimes even housing up to 20 renters at a time, according to a friend of Kralik’s and former occupant.
After moving to Summit County from Toledo, Ohio, in 1988, Kralik moved into the home in 1990, and by then, it had already seen a myriad of young skiers and partiers and had become a “fixer upper.” She felt compelled to give the home a little sprucing both inside and out, and the owners encouraged her by giving her breaks on rent in exchange for the work she was doing.
In 1993, the owners of the property decided they wanted to retire and sell and asked Kralik to put in a bid for the home she had poured her heart and soul into for the last three years. After purchasing the home, she continued with her remodels and the gardening project she had started in the front yard.
In a 1980 Honda Civic wagon, Kralik and her parents, who would visit in the summers from Toledo, would dig up seedling trees from empty lots down the road to start revegetating the neglected yard full of noxious weeds. She removed 600 lodgepole pines on the property to create defensible space and make room for what eventually evolved into an extensive garden that spans throughout her entire front yard.
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“When we put the garage in was when it really took off,” Kralik said.
That was in 2002, and the builder told Kralik he was going to charge her to haul away excess dirt.
“He said, ‘I can see you like flowers, why don’t you build a berm?’” she said. “It all kind of fell into place, and one thing evolved into another.”
Each summer she continued to work on the space, and this year added a new water feature off the berm. The garden contains wildflower seeds, annuals, perennials, aspens, blue spruce and dogwood bushes. This year, the garden will be featured for the second time on the 26th annual Summit County Garden Tour.
“People that knew this house back when it was a rental can’t get over the transformation,” she said.
One of Kralik’s biggest motivations for keeping the expansive garden alive each year is not only her love of the work, but also the fact that her mother, Jane, who lives in the home with her now, loves the beauty of the flowers.
“My mother was the one that got me into landscaping and gardening growing up,” she said. “She’s 86, and she’s lived here for six and a half years. … I think that’s my motivation now, she just so enjoys it. She lives on the first level and every window she looks out, she has a beautiful view.”
Summit Daily News: Have you always been into gardening?
Kathie Kralik: Yes. I started gardening back when I was a kid, about 8 years old. I got it from my grandparents. My grandfather taught me how to cut hedges and cut the lawn, so that’s kind of how it started.
SDN: What made you want to begin work on the home even though you were just renting originally?
KK: That stuff has always been in me. God planted that seed and it was a passion of mine. I feel blessed that I’m able to follow my passions. That’s what motivated me. I always had that drive.
SDN: So how many hours would you say you spend in the garden?
KK: Oh, how about years? So 26 years. It’s what I love to do. I save my vacation time so I can work in the summer in my garden. I run 4-H programs, so it kind of overlaps, which is so nice. Working for the CSU Extension program I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve done that since ’97. … I started learning a lot about things like soil, it’s different here than from Toledo. And what you can grow here. I was trying to grow the typical city stuff. Well, it doesn’t grow here. So I tried a lot of that I knew from Toledo and learned a lot from trial and error.
SDN: What would say is the most difficult aspect of gardening in the High Country?
KK: The short growing season — I was starting to plant and I still had snow out in the back.
SDN: Is there any advice you’d give to gardeners of things you’ve learned over the years?
KK: Don’t give up. You’ve got to enjoy it, and it’s not the end product, it’s the process. You’ve got to enjoy just being outside. It’s instant gratification, but also at the same time you have to have patience to grow.
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