Some Background

For the last 20 + years I have been a co-owner, now sole proprietor, of a mail order specialty plant business, Collectors Nursery, in Battle Ground, WA.  I have been in transition for the last couple of years, downsizing the nursery, and moving from 7 acres in SW Washington to a small urban lot in Salem, Oregon.  Even though it was difficult to leave my beautiful, established, 2 acre display garden of rare plants, the power of love was a strong pull, and I am now settled in with Marc, in his home in Salem, Oregon, 70 miles to the south.  I am truly, and somewhat surprisingly so to me, enjoying the urban life.
An empty palette - July 2011

Even though Marc has always gardened in the back yard with veggie beds and flower borders, the front yard was somewhat neglected.  So with a nursery full of plants available to me, mostly shade perennials, I set my sights on filling it up with my favorites.  

So, to the garden - two years ago, our small front yard, about  50’ wide  x  25’ deep, split in half by the walkway to the house, consisted of not-too-well maintained patches of grass and some old overgrown shrubs up against the house.     
Leaves ! I need more leaves ! 
September 2011

The craftsman style home was built in 1926 and I’m sure these shrubs were planted soon after. There were a few border perennials, a couple of big holly trees and a rose bush in the corner.  I saw it as an empty palette. My intention was to create a beautiful, billowy, productive, ornamental/edible garden for our use, but also to add something to the neighborhood, for all to enjoy. 
April 2012

There was about a 6 month process of ridding the yard of grass, and preparing the soil. We are fortunate to have a basically well drained, clay loam soil, with no rocks, but it needed some amending.  I did not want to till, so I covered the existing lawn with layers of newspapers, leaves, other compostables , more leaves, more compostables, (more on this sheet mulching method in an upcoming blog post) eventually sculpting out pathways and garden beds and slightly raised borders along the sidewalk.

April 2012
Marc built the 4 raised vegetable beds on the south side of the walk, we filled them with a soil mix bought from a local nursery, and then laid down water permeable nursery groundcloth on the pathways around them. 

Cutting the Holly monster  
It didn't take too long to deal with the most problematic holly along the north border - a messy, stickery, water sucking, deep shade casting monster.  (Can you tell I’m not a fan of holly trees?) We left the 10’ trunk in place as a support for annual vines, and as a sort of sculptural statement in the winter. But hollies are tenacious things and it continues to sprout branches along the base and all up and down the trunk. They are easy to remove, but I’m sure I will be fighting it for many years to come.  Oh, well. 
April 2012

So, with the soil well on its way to becoming the nutrient rich, loose, healthy stuff I was working towards, I started to plant. Today we have a grass free, flower filled garden on the north side of the sidewalk. There are also some young Japanese maples and shrubs planted on this side that will change the nature of the garden as they grow, giving a better environment for the unusual shade loving perennials that I specialized in at the nursery.  The raised beds to the south are mostly full of vegetables, but edged with flowers. 
June 2012
June, 2012

Herbs, peppers, and various flowers fill the little berms along the walkway.  Few spots have been left unplanted.  It is an ongoing process of course, and I expect that every year will bring changes, successes, failures, and new ideas.  But that’s what gardening is.   

June, 2013

As a bonus, I have met so many people that I would never have met otherwise, who have watched the transition all along the way.  There have been so many positive and appreciative comments from passersby. There are a lot of walkers in our neighborhood, and many of them have told me that they choose to walk this block just to see what is happening in the garden.
It always makes me smile to hear this. I still have hopes to inspire the neighbors to do something similar.  I still have visions of a corner-to-corner block-long garden.  I can also see that it is unlikely to happen, as no one has yet taken up the challenge, but change takes time.  And a gardener is by definition, always looking to the future. 

As for the nursery, I am still selling and shipping plants by mail on a very limited scale, and selling at local plant sales.  The plant collection is spread out from Battle Ground to holding areas at the homes of various very gracious friends in the Salem area.  I am still trying to figure out how to proceed with the nursery from here.  

So that is a quick update on where we are today.  Thanks for taking the time to read about it.  I hope you enjoy reading about my gardening adventures through this blog, and I hope that we can communicate ideas and learn from each other.  

Kale and lettuce happily coexisting
 with zinnias and petunias

Happy gardening !



  1. Hey Lady, I am so glad I found this because I need to talk to you about the "Voo-Doo Lily" and ask if it's normal for it to have babies EVERYWHERE. They are gorgeous and I am potting them up but need to know what I am doing. I am happy that life is good but miss having you here. Hugs - Terrie Kaufman

    1. Hi Terrie ! How nice to hear from you. Yes it is normal for the tubers (or corms - I wasn't able to find definitive information on what this is really called - most sources call it a tuber) to get bigger each year and set lots of offsets that get separated from the mother tuber and can find their way underground away from the parent plant. And they will set a big fat seed cluster at ground level if they are old enough, and they have the potential to seed around. So yes, it is normal. I hope it is not too much of a problem for you. How big did it get for you, and is it in sun or shade? I really like it. I have a small garden space now, but it is one of the plants I chose to give space to. And how is your beautiful garden doing ? I remember it being spectacular.

    2. Yipee, I found the answer and now I know those babies are in fact Voo-Doo's. Love them, love the snakeskin and the idea that someday they will bloom. I am potting them up for the new house if this ever sells. When you come to town give a shout and we can all get together and gossip about those who are not with us. Have a great week!

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  3. Please come back, Diana! I am new in Salem, and am rejoicing in my first huge vegetable garden in many years. Finding your blog has been a delight... only, now I need to know how to plan for next year and what to expect from this climate. Hope the summer is treating you well, and looking forward to your next post.

  4. Hello! I also moved from a large garden/rural life to Beaverton, and have to say am enjoying it tremendously! Your wonderful journey above is motivating me to continue my blog again - have been so busy with the little yard here the last 3 years that I haven't documented. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  5. Hi, Diana. Janet here. I just read your blog and enjoyed it immensely. And such a beautiful story taking place in your yard. I will drive by to see it soon. Re: Battle Ground: We met some wonderful people on our recent trip; Carolyn and Bob Tecklenberg who live in Battle Ground. Maybe you know them? I will ask them if they know you.