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 !|
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.
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.
|Cutting the Holly monster|
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.
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.
Happy gardening !
|Kale and lettuce happily coexisting|
with zinnias and petunias
Happy gardening !