Finding Land: Five Years Later

Hey, hey! It's before and after time! Four years have come and gone since we viewed this property, put in an offer and then had the offer accepted. To celebrate the anniversary, let's 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 year I was a little "off" in my alignment. Oh well). Many shots look quite the same, but over time I think this experiment will really illustrate the growth rate of the garden. Hopefully. Also, in the future, I may show only every other year to cut down on blog post length. This one's a doozy!

Here's an opening shot of the main garden on the 12th of October, 2019.

Let us now go back in time to see what it once was:
The first photo from that hot, September day in 2015; the first day we set eyes on the property. I recall wanting to remove the deer fence surrounding the raised beds even then. And, please, paint that porch. Ideas percolated 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 would 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 on which I am standing is atop the Himalayan mounds added in spring of 2017.

October 2019. Almost the exact same spot this year. I lost a cardoon that would have been on the left where the bare soil is. The path on the left side is new as are the tripods in the meadow-y area.

Then, in 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 in 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.

October 2019. Here the edge of the bed, having been cleaned up these past 12 months looks much neater. The Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans' in the foreground has grown considerably this year. Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy' that showed up beautifully in the last pic did not, sadly, come back this year. There are two other 'Phyllis Fancy' in the garden that are fine, just the one didn't come back.

The "forest" on the northern edge of the property, 2015.

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 on which to work. I have added many plants this year, evergreen shrubs for shade, ground-covers 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.

October 2019. I had trouble with the alignment of this photo because FM has cut down the tree on the left. You can just see the stump in the corner. It was spindly and dying at the top having been planted too close to the other fir trees. This opens it up a little and lets in more air and dappled sun. Also, these beds are in the first phase of edging. The bench has lived in a few different spots, this fall it lives here.

The driveway as it was in November 2015 Note 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.

Another wood chip application this fall (2019) means less weeds in spring and better soil health by using organic material that will decompose and add nutrients. Soil health = garden health. The large maples are just starting to turn yellow.

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 with 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.

October 2019. Slightly farther back from the last shot but close. The grasses are all filled in now as has the Japanese maple in the center.

 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 moving 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.

October 2019. FM cleaned up some of those dead branches up top. Otherwise, not a lot of change, which is fine for an old oak tree. The beehive is barely visible behind the tree. The orchard trees to the right have grown a lot this year.

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. It makes for a better view.

October 2019. Most notably the grass on the left has been edged helping to define garden beds. Also the Ceanothus g. 'Point Reyes' under the oak on the left has filled in nicely this year.

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.

October 2019. Not much change from last year, other than the Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' at the base of the deck have filled in. The Olearia lineata 'Dartonii' was thinned out a little this year to let more sun come through to the plants behind it.

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.

October 2019. The Spiraea betulifolia have filled in, the wooded area beyond received a new layer of wood chips and other shrubs in the background continue to grow.

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.

Hey . . . how 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 2019. Look at that! The Chamaecyparis laswoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro' has put on a few more inches. I love the solid dark silhouette against the blowsy guara and asters. In the distance fall color is in full swing.

October 2015: Poor soil, rock hard, with struggling plants that will begin finding more appropriate locations throughout the garden.

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 2019. This bed, the berm bed as it's known, looks much better to me since it's been edged. That has been a major focus for me this year - edging beds. I don't really know the proper way to do it, so I just do what comes naturally and it seems to work although it's a hell of a lot of hard work.

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?

October 2019. The maples are really filling out. Edging, paths and a bit of rearranging make this reflect my vision much more. Little by little, year by year, it all pays off in the end.

There you have it, five 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, 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. What a great retrospective. You and FM have put in an incredible amount of work in such a short period of time but great to see the changes and everything thriving. It really shows how you have put your heart and soul into the garden. Here's to at least another 30 years!

    1. Thank you luv2garden, yes, here's to another 30 years for all of us! Cheers :)

  2. Your garden just keeps getting better and better, Tamara. I love all the variety and color you've introduced over the course of the years. The historical retrospective is great. I wish I'd been as good at capturing my own garden adventure in its infancy.

    1. Thank you, Kris. Color, variety, biodiversity, that's the name of the game. I only thought to document this garden from the beginning because my last two major gardens I did not and I regretted it.

  3. It's such a pleasure to see the before and after pics of the garden that you've created, Tamara. It's so beautiful already and getting better with each passing year. Also, I'm super impressed by your energy!

    1. Thank you, Pam! Getting better all the time....oh, and the energy is all used up for this year I think!

  4. Your garden is evolving beautifully. It is not little by little is more like a lot by little. I can see all the work that you and FM do here. You have taken this jewlery box with diamonds in the rough and are turning it into a treasure chest full of diamonds. I too like edged beds but as you say it is truly hard work to do this. I thoroughly enjoy reading about your experiences.

    1. Hee hee..."a lot by a little" - that made us smile. Thanks, Lisa. Such a lovely metaphor with the diamonds, so kind of you.

      I"m glad you enjoy reading about our experiences, sometimes I wonder who would want to know about all of this, but then a comment like yours comes along and I know it's good to share in this online gardening community of wonderful gardeners. Cheers to you!


Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments! I love hearing them, I will approve comments as soon as I can. Yay!

Popular Posts