Finding Land: Three Years Later

I know I promised more England posts, but before I get into travel mode, I must include my annual before and after post! Three years have come and gone since we first viewed this property, put in an offer, and then had the offer accepted. To celebrate the anniversary, let's take a look at some photos - from the initial viewing in 2015 and then each year thereafter. I thought it would be fun to see the original photo along with one taken at the exact spot every year (to the best of my ability matching up photos). This would be the fourth such post in this series. Many shots look quite the same, but over time I think this experiment will really show the growth rate of the garden. Hopefully.

Here's an opening shot of the main garden from the 14th of October, 2018.

Let us now go back in time to see what it once was:
The first photo from that hot, September day in 2015. I recall wanting to remove the deer fence surrounding the raised beds even then. And please, paint that porch. Ideas were percolating like crazy.

Here it is in 2016, many of my wishes fulfilled. No more pink deck (but had a little more work to do yet on it such as the metal cables going across it horizontally for a safety barrier) and no more deer fence around the veggie patch. The plants in the foreground had been added early fall 2016 so will take a while to settle in. This is where many asters and grasses have been planted or moved from other parts of the garden. The idea is that it will be a transitional meadow-kind of garden, while the more formal plantings are closer to the house.

Here, the extent of my craziness can be fully appreciated. Much less dirt, many more plants. On the lower left you can see a corner of the "Himalayas," a couple of berms created when the gravel trench path was dug out. Oh, my nutty ideas never cease.

Here it is October 2018 from the same vantage point. The Melianthus major takes over and blocks the view. Plants do that. They grow. The spot I am standing on to take this shot is the Himalayan mounds added in spring of 2017.

Then, 2015, a sunny day with a dried-up bank of a few crocosmias, asters, azaleas and Alchemilla mollis, my arch nemesis. The soil could not be dug into as it was rock hard.

Here it is in 2016 on a drizzly afternoon. The soil is much richer having a lot of compost and gravel added. I can easily dig into it now and have done just that . . . many, many times. The bed has been completely redesigned and 95% of the plants have been moved or removed. Many more added.

This photo taken October 2017. While the soil will need ongoing compost, it is okay. Not great, but okay. Plants have filled out a little, not a lot, but remember I don't fertilize. Rather, I believe in improving the soil to feed the plants. I guess I need to work on improving the soil this fall. Same crummy weedy "lawn," though. I have another crazy idea. I'd like to make a gravel path along the edge of this garden to eliminate the weedy "lawn" a little more. What say you, Facilities Manager? Can we do it?

October 2018, no crazy path yet. Eventually. I have a feeling that this fall and winter will be the seasons of edging and tidying up paths. Much of the crocosmia is gone having taken bunches out last fall. It was only meant as a filler, and after this year's dismal performance, I am considering taking it all out. Some of the shrubs such as the two Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans' and in between them Itea 'Henry's Garnet' have filled in. Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy', the purple flowered plant on the left has grown significantly from its tiny start last year.

The "forest" on the northern edge of the property.

Here it is fall 2016, with a bad photo, my apologies. What's new here is the fence on the left and therefore the removal of many of these trees, especially farther east. There is Facilities Manager's log pile in the middle of the trees and you can just make out the green chicken cube/coop on the right.

Here it is in 2017. I admit, I took a photo of the wrong two trees, but it's close enough. We've been adding plants along the northern edge here and there, mostly shrubs.

October 2018 with more plants filling in. This northern border of the property is one of the last areas to work on. I have added many plants this year, evergreen shrubs for shade, groundcovers and ferns, mostly. My fall and winter projects will focus on this area where I am defining paths through the trees, weeding and encouraging moss to grow. I am hoping for a naturalistic Oregon forest feel with much Oxalis oregana, sword ferns - Polystichum munitum and Gaultheria shallon, salal.

The driveway as it was in November 2015 You can see the hot-pink garden shed in the background.

October 2016 - what's different is the hazelnut on the left is gone (except for the stump), there is a massive debris pile on the right which is also long gone, and also although out of frame, just to the right, a large maple tree has been removed. The shed, barely visible in the distance, is now Casa Azul blue.

October 2017 and not a lot had changed, but the pile on the right is gone. It looks like this time last year the maples had lost a lot of their leaves. It still feels like late summer this time around.

October 2018. Wood chips from one of two large loads delivered by Chip Drop are helping to keep weeds down in areas where shrubs are slowly filling in.

This is actually a lovely scene from November 2015. The grass was starting to green up from all of the fall rains.

Early October 2016 - wow, so much is different. The bed on the right was created by sheet mulching (which I did in January, you can revisit that post here) and now holds a field of Carex comans 'Frosty Curls' and four large Miscanthus sinensis 'Cabaret' grasses. The gravel path is of course new (and will be expanded) and this is also the top edge of the fire pit area below in the center of the white plastic chairs. The labyrinth garden can just be seen to the left where the labyrinth once was. The whole thing is connected so it doesn't feel like three separate areas any longer.

Here it is pictured October 2017, paths completed and the carex triangle also complete. They will likely fill in and next year look more like the older carex in the background. Also interesting to see the Japanese maple in the center with the beginnings of fall color has put on a significant amount of growth.

October 2018 and the carex has filled in nicely on the right. The Miscanthus s. 'Cabaret', the large grasses on the right, have really filled out.

 One of two gorgeous Oregon white oaks on the property, this one in the wild east fields.

Here it is from October 2016. Not much has changed except its neighbor to the right, the large dead Acer macrophyllum has been chopped down by Facilities Manager. There are also many debris piles awaiting their fate, too.

Here it is pictured October 2017.  Its neighbors are apple and pear trees to the right (south). It has room to spread out a little more, although the scrub to the left of the tree will be primarily left alone, except for the blackberries and other invasive plants. We are leaving a large hedgerow for wildlife. In this photo, Facilities Manager is chainsawing a few of the large chunks out of the slash pile and relocating them in the hedgerow to decompose over time.

 October 2018, complete with bee hive in the background. It might be my imagination but it feels as if its filled in a little now that it has room to grow.

2015: Aaah, labyrinth, you were fun. But you were also 50' in diameter . . . that's valuable gardening space. The rock pile can just barely be seen on the right side.

2016: Even though a gloomy shot with dead grass in the foreground, I still prefer the sight of plants. The gravel path will be extended, as will the bed to the right. These are newly planted, so they have obviously not filled in. I am so excited to observe them do so over the next few decades. There are many evergreen shrubs, small trees both deciduous and evergreen and several perennials. Oh, and the rock pile is gone. Thanks, FM!

Here it is October 2017, the path complete. Plants are really filling in and the area on the right was extended this year. To the left, although out of shot, we planted several Ceanothus gloriosus under the other Oregon white oak. They are beginning to spread and will make a great evergreen ground cover/sub-shrub and fill in that empty area prone to weed infestation.

October 2018 with bright sunlight, a bit difficult to make out with dark shadows. Festuca rubra 'Patrick's Point' on the far right has filled in, as have many plants in the labyrinth, I notice. Another noticeable difference is that in the neighbor's property beyond, the plastic "greenhouse" structure is gone. She moved and gave us the materials before she left. It makes for a better view.

The plant prison probably January of 2016. Pink deck and all.

October 2016: This to me is the most telling and revealing about how I envision the whole garden. I started here first, the epicenter of the garden and it's starting fill in and give a sense of place. This brings me enormous joy.

2017: Not a lot of change here other than the yuccas are larger, the Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' at the base of the deck have rebounded from the winter's freezing damage, although one of the three Ceanothus that was replaced due to winter death is still quite small and cannot be seen in this shot. Also the Olearia lineata 'Dartonii' just behind the stump table has grown significantly. That's a great evergreen (silver) shrub, I now have three in the garden. Facilities Manager also added wire cable to the deck as a safety measure to keep little ones and drunk gardeners from falling through.

October 2018. Everything is just a little bit bigger. Note the end of the deck, the Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena' has reached nearly the top. To the right of that, the Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' that was a replacement for one that died is finally putting on decent growth and catching up with its neighbors to the right at the base of the deck.

Facing west 2015. This was in November with many pretty leaves all around.

October 2016: Here you can see our new fence and gate, a row of Spiraea betulifolia along the edge of the driveway, a giant debris pile to the left and the removal of the other dead Acer macrophyllum. Also in the forestry area on the other side of the driveway are many many shrubs. They won't be visible from this distance for a year or two.

October 2017: The Spiraea betulifolia have grown a little, the debris pile on the left is gone, but otherwise, the same. The shrubs on the other side of the driveway are just beginning to show up from this distance. Hooray!

October 2018 with glare shadows...apologies. The shrubs are filling in and in the distance on the other side of the driveway, the Viburnum opulus var. americanum, our native viburnum, is turning red. I have a lot of fall color going on in that area, I predict in two years it will fill in and be stunning.

2015: The berm garden with four or five azaleas along the edge and many other very unhappy plants.

October 2016: The azaleas have been liberated and the soil improved. Many happy plants.

October 2017: Slowly filling in. It looks like the Chamaecyparis laswoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro' tree has gained about a half an inch. D'OH! Also off in the distance, we don't see fall color on the redbuds - you can see the yellow foliage in last year's photo to the right of the top of the roof. about that. The Chamaecyparis laswoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro' has grown an inch or two! Success. Just more filling in, some editing and the red buds in the distance are a beautiful yellow this year.

October 2015: Same scenario here, but at least it's a sunny shot.

October 2016: Compost, gravel, plants, plants and more plants.

October 2017: OK, ignore the grassy weeds in front, but beyond that, it's getting there. These honestly aren't the best shots to show the real growth of the garden, but it's what we have to work with so I'm going with it.

 October 2018. Much of the crocosmia from the 2017 photo is gone and the area is slowly turning into what I want. I constantly edit this area by remove unruly seedlings and weeds while relocating some seedlings to other parts of the garden. This is still a challenging site with a steep slope, so water drains quickly, then a retaining wall at the bottom where it's flat, which retains too much water. The trick has been to get water to seep in from the top by sort of terracing plants so the water goes down instead of over the surface of the soil and not absorbing.

October 2015: Parting shot, much like the initial photo for this post.

Here it is October 2016 complete with volunteer pumpkin vine on the left.

October 2017. That Japanese maple has also really filled out. Funny thing, I have never watered either of them, they must just benefit from general care of the soil.

October 2018. Funny thing again, the Japanese maple, I did not prune but it looks as if some branches have been cut back. Hmm...mystery midnight pruning going on?

There you have it, four sets of before and after photos. As I am going with the initial photos I took in 2015, some of the angles and areas of gardens are not all that interesting, but I want to remain consistent. I wish I had included photos from what is now the veggie garden, for example, but it was really just a mass of blackberry bushes and other unruly nasties.

We still really love this place. The beauty of it, the serenity, the wildlife all fill our hearts with such joy. We get to watch things grow, critters come and go, the cycles of it all. It is a privilege to live here. We are two grateful, humble souls looking forward to the next 30 years on this land.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening! 


  1. So wonderful to see all this! Thank you for sharing. xo

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! It's fun to see a before and after.

  2. That pink deck... Love your improvements!

    1. That pink deck, indeed. And there was a purple-ish trim on the side door to the deck. Not quite my speed, although it was colorful to say the least!

  3. Simply, it doesn't look like the same place. Your and the FM's vision, tenacity and hard work are a paradise in the making. You so deserve to sit back, build a fire and enjoy your surroundings. It is so much fun to see those drab nothing befores and the splendid afters. Happy Fall.

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa. I thought about your comment all afternoon yesterday while working in the garden - "let's sit down and have a fire in that fire pit" I kept thinking. Maybe tomorrow will be break day. Happy fall to you too!!

  4. You've done a spectacular job developing the beauty of this garden. It takes a good gardener to see the potential in a space but it takes a great gardener (not to mention Facility Manager!) to realize it as you've done. I never had the foresight to take "before" photos when we acquired our house 7+ years ago but I recently found photos of the old garden on-line in a real estate listing (apparently what's posted on the internet never goes away) - they may not have been the angles I'd have chosen and replicating them was a pain but what they reveal is interesting nonetheless. I look forward to seeing how your garden continues to progress.

    1. Aw, thank you so much, Kris. I'm glad you have some record of your "before" garden with the real estate listing, I think of photos as a tool. Maybe you could incorporate them into a post someday?? Wink wink... :)

  5. Great move to extend the paving under the back roofed area across the rest of the back "courtyard" below the berm. It has a surprisingly big effect, not only uniting the area visually but making it feel bigger and more livable, less dominated by the slope beyond.

    Just one in a long list of happy improvements; it's only going to get better and better! Happy winter plotting...

    1. Thank you Nell! The winter plotting continues, I promise! :)

  6. Great photos. I love before and after garden posts and you have so many photos that really show how your property has change under your ownership.

    1. Thank you, Rebecca. Before and afters are fun, they are such a valuable tool at the end of the day - if just to show a gardener where all of her time has gone over the past few years and why her back is sore...ha ha...

      We wanted to create a garden for wildlife and for us and for it to connect with the landscape beyond, it's what we promised the former owner we wanted to do with this land and I am pleased that you think that has happened. Cheers.

  7. It is amazing to see everything you have been able to accomplish in just 3 years! Like you, I also do not fertilize and spend my time and effort trying to improve the soil, but it is very slow-going. I hope this means that one day my plants will be as happy as yours!

    1. The soil improving is the best thing any gardener can invest in. Our soil here is so rich with minerals as it's clay in most cases, so adding more to it only pollutes our waters. It's nice to know you are doing them same, your plants will thank you for it, surely :) Cheers

  8. I love a good before and after / then and now... and this is awesome! I must say what really struck me looking at these photos is now much more “of the land” your house feels. It’s grounded and belongs. All those windows look almost comical in the first set of photos, but make complete sense in the 2018 versions.

    1. Yay! I like your observation, Loree - I had never thought of that but you are right, those windows do look comical - like a bunch of pairs of eyes looking out. Now they kind of blend in, thankfully.

  9. Just saw Kathy's post on your extraordinary garden -- what fast but incredibly thoughtful work you've put in! A stunning accomplishment.

    1. *blush* Thank you, Denise! I am humbled, but really, it's Mother Nature at work.

  10. When seeing these before and after posts, I'm always in awe of the amount of work you've done in just three years and how much the garden has grown in that time. It's so beautiful and I hope it brings you great joy!

  11. Wow. Looks like a slice of heaven. I'd love to do the same thing.

  12. It's really incredible to see the growth and changes you've made over the past three years. Your vision is awe inspiring. I love that you're able to have this experience. It makes me so happy for you and FM!! xo

  13. Anonymous8:55 PM PDT

    I love to see the transformation and growth of your garden. So inspiring!


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