In 1999, Dick and Ruth Kinler looked at a house on the shore of Woodland West Lake in Arlington. The neighborhood of 27 homes surrounds a body of water so small, it goes unnamed on most maps.
Built in the late ’60s, the house was only two miles from Redenta’s, the garden store the couple owned, and the commute would be so much easier, they thought, than from a home in Keller where they had lived for more than 20 years.
There were so many reasons to recommend the location. The house, though, was another matter.
Ruth had been to the lake once before to visit one of Redenta’s first clients, and she liked the idea of living near water — the views were great, there was a variety of wildlife and it seemed to fit with her organic gardening ethos. But the house was a disaster. It was a warren of dark, smoke-filled rooms with heavy draperies covering the few windows with a view.
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Ruth’s immediate response was, “No, absolutely no.” Dick, however, said, “Yes.’’
Round one went to Dick. They bought the house. They painted the interior, removed the carpet and put in hardwood floors and then thought about the changes they’d like to make, both inside and out. Years later, the home is idyllic, modestly-sized and beautiful, with lovely gardens on the lake’s shore.
It took some work to get it to its current state of grace. Fortunately, there is a landscape architect in the family — their daughter-in-law, Lorie, and they called in architect Joe Self of Firm817 to finesse the view.
Self tackled 1,350 square feet of space. He removed the wall between the kitchen and living room and knocked out the fireplace and a small window, replacing them with tall sliding-glass doors. He converted the small dining room into a pantry and created a dramatic foyer with views through the house and across the lawn to the lake. It took six months to replace the kitchen, smooth the edges and bring home the view, but this lovely room is now the center of their home life.
The Kinlers met in Canada at the University of Waterloo, northwest of Toronto. Dick was getting his doctoral degree in psychology, and Ruth was an undergraduate. They married, and he took a teaching job in Utah. Soon, he abandoned teaching for retail and joined up with Fort Worth-based Color Tile, and the family began moving across the U.S. as he climbed the corporate ladder. They lived in Tacoma, Wash., and Portland, Ore., before they were reeled into the home office for Dick to begin a training department.
The adjustment was brutal. (Dick recalls that while driving through West Texas on their way to Fort Worth, Ruth was watching the bleak scenery roll by with tears streaking her cheeks.) She admits it took her five years to acclimate to the harsh sunshine and intense heat. Now she loves the Southwest, but it wasn’t an instant rapport.
Personal struggles with gardening eventually led Ruth to her belated career. She had been a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. When her children left for college, she looked around for something to do.
“All I had ever done was garden,” she says, noting that Dick encouraged her to turn her hobby into a business.
Redenta’s was born in 1992. The name came from Ruth’s middle name, and an aunt, who was a nun in a convent in Siena, Italy. Ruth says Sister Redenta was quite pleased with the thought of Texas garden centers bearing her name until she saw a photograph with her name emblazoned on the side of a pickup truck. Then her enthusiasm cooled.
At the time they bought their Arlington home, there were five Redenta’s locations, and Dick had come along and joined his wife and one of their sons in the business. The organic gardening centers were early to the trend, although they didn’t begin as all-organic.
Within a few months of opening the Arlington and Colleyville locations, Ruth saw the future and donated all the chemical fertilizers and eradicators to charity auctions and positioned her business as one of the area’s first all-organic garden businesses. There are two Redenta’s now, one a few minutes from their house in Arlington and one on lower Skillman Street in Dallas.
Ruth is still an avid gardener and concentrates on what will do well in North Texas. She has an herb and vegetable garden, an experimental garden and a shade garden in front that is so successful it completely envelopes her house.
Her son, Michael, handles Redenta’s organic maintenance services, and he and Lorie designed Ruth’s gardens and large patio, then tiered the lawn. Lorie designed the roof structure, too, slanting it upward to avoid blocking the light that the tall sliding doors allow. That was installed last year, and now the airy patio is where Dick and Ruth spend their summer evenings.
Closest to the house is a perennial garden, a work-in-progress that is slowly being transformed into an herb and vegetable garden.
It is in Ruth’s DNA to grow the family’s food.
“My father was Italian and my mother was English,” she explains. “They met in England during World War II and moved to Canada at the end of the war. We always had this big vegetable garden; what we didn’t eat we canned and put in the root cellar — tomatoes, pickles, peaches. We would freeze corn and a side of beef or half a pig.”
Her perennial garden is more of a salad garden now, with herbs and tomatoes, asparagus and peppers. While she lost several things this past winter, nothing has been harder on her gardens than the local beavers. They took out a large stand of red Knock Out roses and appropriated a large crape myrtle.
Dick woke up one night at the sound of a crash, and, when he looked out the window, he saw the tree bumping its way down to the lake’s edge. Now most of the trees in the neighborhood are wrapped with chicken wire or bands of metal to deter the area’s industrious beavers.
The ducks are only a problem when the organic alfalfa fertilizer is spread on the beds. They like to eat it, so Dick is careful to water it in before the ducks have a banquet.
Over the years, Ruth has had to adapt her plantings. First, there were no trees; now the red oaks they planted when they first moved in shade the yard in the afternoon. A garden is a fluid thing, responding to the weather changes, and the shade or lack of it. It is never finished, and it is never at its best.
Just like all gardeners, Ruth wishes the magazine photographer had come to take photos later in the growing season.
It is always about to be more beautiful.