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Four-seasons palette frames hotel landscape

Gardener Kate Beall keeps Golden Key in bloom year-round
By: Gloria Young,Home & Garden
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Auburn resident Kate Beall has a job that allows her to stop and smell the roses every day. For four years she has tended the gardens — including about 60 rose bushes — at the Best Western Golden Key on Lincoln Way. Beall has been gardening since childhood. “I’ve loved plants my entire life,” she said recently. “I love to watch things grow.” After earning a degree in botany from UC Berkeley, she worked for the El Dorado National Forest and later became a California State Parks ranger. Prior to taking on the job at Best Western, she spent 10 years specializing in Japanese maples at Lake’s Nursery in Newcastle. But at Golden Key, it’s all her show. “(When I first took the job) there was a lot of work to do,” she said. “The two front gardens were a mess. It was hard to tell the weeds from the plants. I would say it took a full year to get it all filled in and get it how I wanted it.” Beall began by doing an inventory of what was already planted. That’s when she discovered the extent of the roses. “Some of the roses are at least 30 years old, if not 35,” she said. “There are miniatures and climbing roses in all the different planters in front of the rooms, in addition to the formal rose garden and other roses throughout the property.” There are also plenty of climbers. “There’s lots of star jasmine and purple trumpet vine, and blood red and yellow trumpet vine,” Beall said. Hotel co-owners Susan and Bob Cole were more than happy to leave the gardening to the expert, but they had one request. “They want something blooming all the time,” Beall said. That requirement is an integral part of her creations. For spring, it’s gladiolus and other bulbs. “We have lots of daffodils, tulips and hyacinth,” she said. “They’re all over, but there are quite a few in the front.” For summer, she put in Spanish and English lavender, black-eyed Susan and “lots of daylilies of every color.” For fall, she added zephyr lily and rain lily. Winter color comes from lantana’s red berries and Chinese French flower with red leaves. “In one bed, I’ll have spring, summer and fall blooms and winter colors,” Beall said. “It is just all incorporated. If you look at any given bed at any time of the year, it will be blooming. Or I’ll have colorful foliage.” And there are roses every month except for January, and plenty of evergreen plants, too. For the planters, Beall created three levels of color. “I put tall things on the top, medium in the middle and lower in the lower level, then groundcover,” she said. “That’s to show off every plant I have in there.” She purchases most of the plants locally and chooses her purchases for the climate. “I try to get plants that take Zone 7 — that’s hot, dry summer and cold, wet winter,” she explained. ”All of the plants in the front (of the hotel) can take full hot sun and then be able to take the freeze, too. As a certified California nursery professional, you have to learn all the basic shrubs and plants used by nurseries. That was in my background already.” But Beall spends the most time on the roses. “I am constantly, every day, deadheading them,” she said. “I just make my way around the hotel and so that at least once a week, I’m deadheading every single rosebush in there.” Her six-hour workday starts at 6 a.m., so she frequently encounters guests. “People compliment (the gardens) all the time,” she said. “But even if I just get one compliment, it makes my day. I’m so grateful that people love it. It’s definitely a very rewarding job because people really appreciate it.” The Best Western Golden Key was opened in October 1963 by Rhodes Grimshaw. His daughter Mignon Rothrock is now the owner with her daughter and son-in-law, Bob Cole. Cole said the family is very happy with Beall’s work. “We get comments from guests all the time,” he said. “They know us as the flower hotel or motel. We get guests who compliment Kate Beall. They also compliment the people at the font desk with how beautiful the property looks. Most (hotel) properties don’t have the luxury that we have of the large lawn with the garden areas. They’re usually hardscape.” One of his favorite things in the gardens is a relatively small broad tree with reddish orange flowers — a very unusual tree, he said. “At the base of it, there’s an awful lot of flowers that are chosen for their color effect. It is to welcome the guests to our property,” he said. When not gardening Beall is a Girl Scout leader and a coordinator for the Placer Nature Center’s butterfly/hummingbird garden.