12 Months Later

A tapestry of colors and textures - August 2012

Is it really only that long?

I suspect like many gardeners I'm better at writing a To Do list than celebrating the Ta Da moments. I'm so busy worrying about the deer munching on the end of an elderberry branch (and yes they do eat elderberries), that I forget to look around and take in the big picture. Fact is we've come a long way.

Who says deer don't eat elderberries - mine even eat RICIN!!

The real beginning was three years ago; October 30th 2009 to be exact, when we moved to this modest one storey house sitting on 5 flat acres. I could write a book on the various adventures we've had as we've renovated the house. Dead mice in the walls, frogs croaking under the house, termite eaten woodwork and a vole who suddenly appeared in the bathroom with me, arriving by way of the heating vent in the floor. Eek!

August 2011 - weeds were gone and the cabin moved but that was about it





But this is a garden blog. You've heard me say before that the best feature in the landscape was a huge dead tree. That's because the house was being swallowed by Bishop's weed, as was the front garden . There was a nice long border to one side of the property but it was only 3' deep before dissolving into cottonwoods, reed canary grass and an interesting blend of beer cans and chunks of concrete.

Besides that the land was a seasonally mosquito ridden swamp. I even tried spraying most of the 5 acres with garlic the first summer …, let’s just say that wasn't my most shining moment. Still plenty of mosquitoes, no witches and my son threatening to leave home since I'd thoughtfully sprayed around his window. Oops

So how and where was I going to create my dream gardens?

Island border

Around the dead tree. Except that the land around it was a less than attractive tapestry of blackberries and weeds. It was also a swamp from November through the end of June.

I've told part of this story before. You can read how we addressed the drainage, moved the cabin and built the arbor by following the links. 12 months ago we had just unloaded 100 yards of topsoil and planted our first tree.

Here it is today.

August 2012. The cabin is now nestled into the (young) landscape


Paths are laid, a bench installed, boulders moved (with great difficulty) from behind the barn, and layers of wonderful color.

A simple wooden bench will soon be shaded by the golden locust tree and backed by 'Karl Foerster' grasses. If the deer leave the elderberry alone that will also be part of the backdrop.






Some things thriving, others not so much as we discovered a few spots around the perimeter became catchment areas for winter rains.





And there's still a lot of bare soil – not the Karen style! However we have included plenty  of four season interest and used drought tolerant, (relatively) deer resistant plants.

Warm sunset shades predominate. This golden conifer shines like a beacon all year



I've also had great fun playing with color combinations.

Vibrant orange Crocosmia around the paperbark maple accents the trees rich mahogany peeling bark yet doesn't obscure it in winter











Front garden

August 2011 - the front dust bowl...

12 months ago this was barren. Every single tree, shrub, perennial and bulb had been removed. Those which were riddled with Bishop’s weed were disposed of. Others were washed to bare roots then quarantined in a corner of the vegetable garden until I was sure they were clean. We had installed a new path and patio at this point but sat sipping our wine surrounded by….nothing.

August 2012. Today it is a medley of soft, airy textures


Now it's a tranquil space. Soothing shades of blue, white and silver predominate. The air is fragrant with daphne, lavender and thyme. Sounds of bees mingle with those of  hummingbirds and small birds splashing in the fountain.


The white bark of the birch tree is emphasized by the haze of white flowers



The dancing white flowers of 'whirling butterflies' (Gaura sp.) sway gently in the slightest breeze forming fleeting partnerships with silver wormwood (Artemesia) and periwinkle blue 'Rozanne' geranium.

Not that it's perfect. Some lavender plants died. Voles ate some plants and cut worms others.

I thought I'd be 'safe' with sedums - obviously not!


Then there are the sedums which have either been eaten by very tall rabbits or our deer – large hoof prints would suggest the latter.

Still despite those little hiccups and a few remaining bare patches  we are finally proud to share the progress with friends. It looks like a well-loved home nestled into a thoughtfully designed landscape. There’s more to do but that’s OK. For now we can at least say…Ta Da!


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  1. Alyson on August 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Absolutely beautiful, my friend!

    • Karen Chapman on August 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      Aah, thank you Alyson! You know that YOU were the one who helped me believe it was possible. Heidi from Dragonfly told me HOW it was possible. Without you two we'd still be spraying garlic on the mosquitoes.

  2. Kathy Juracek on August 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    My goodness you're amazing! It just beautiful!!

  3. Christine on August 20, 2012 at 12:51 am

    What a beautiful garden you have created! Stunning!

  4. Karen Chapman on August 20, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Thank you Kathy and Christine. I'm so happy to finally be able to enjoy the creative process after a couple of years of 'undoing' and correcting.

  5. Foxglove Lane on August 21, 2012 at 10:07 am

    It's gorgeous, I want one too!!! Congratulations, no wonder it feels so good:~)

    • Karen Chapman on August 23, 2012 at 7:21 am

      Thank you!

  6. Jennifer on August 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Karen, You have done an impressive amount of work in a relatively short space of time. That opening shot is really beautiful. I love the mix of colors and textures. The colors in the front garden are completely different and every bit as nice. I am sure the bench will be a favourite destination when the trees fill in and offer some shade.

    • Karen Chapman on August 23, 2012 at 7:24 am

      Jennifer, that's my favorite photo too. It captures the overall vision I had for the space well and from this angle you can't see all the bare patches!

      The property is big enough that it's possible to create areas with different flavors without it being a nasty mess. The colors of the front garden are an extension of those in the interior while the island border is what might be considered more my usual style!

  7. Jean/Jean's Garden on August 25, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Wow! It's looking beautiful. I'm so impressed by how much you've accomplished in 12 short months. (My garden projects move at a snail's pace by comparison.) It is important to take time to enjoy those Ta-Da moments.

    • Karen Chapman on August 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      I seem to go from hare to tortoise and back again Jean! that's the way of gardening though isn't it?

  8. Stacy on August 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Karen, you've accomplished SOOOO MUCH! Wow. Even more amazing is how much you and your husband accomplished that doesn't show — all the drainage and "infrastructure" work. I love the warm, late-summer/autumn colors around the cabin! That rich multiplicity of layers looks so beautiful in the PNW.

    • Karen Chapman on August 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Thank you Stacy – also for recognizing/remembering the months of yukky stuff that isn't visible except by its absence! I'm really enjoying the colors too.

  9. debsgarden on August 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Karen, you have made wonderful progress! I love how your home nestles into its setting of lovely gardens. What a delight is the approach through the front garden. You know I love the blue! I also admire your commitment to rid the space of the bishops weed. That was a lot of work, but the results are more than worth it. I have been thinking lately of what would be necessary to rid my woodland of the English ivy that is consuming it, a daunting task that would be expensive and time intensive. I would be content to leave it if I could contain it, but that has proved impossible.