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Garden oasis

A Washington couple transformed a yard made of clay and gravel into a garden oasis one step at a time.
  • Pondside bliss

    From their pondside seats, Carol and Les Wear watch koi rise to the water's surface and butterflies flutter around nectar-filled blooms. Sweetly scented thyme, oregano, and roses perfume the air. Birds dart into folk art birdhouses tucked among the billowing shrubs.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • The front yard is full - now what?

    The Wears' peaceful oasis in Marysville, Washington started out as a flat, rectangular, grass-covered yard bordered by large trees. When Carol's small front garden outgrew its space, the 100x120-foot backyard was the logical place in which to expand. "I can't stand to throw things away," Carol says. "Plants are like my children." Her mission became making a new garden for her growing koi and burgeoning plant collection.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Putting the plan on paper

    Carol was initially overwhelmed by the size of the project. To make the plan more manageable, she broke it into smaller steps. She started by making a list of what she wanted built in the garden, and then drew a rough map showing the size and location of the pond, greenhouse, aviary, arbor, and concrete paths.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Oranization is the key

    "People said it was too much work," Carol recalls, "but once you get it organized, it's not."

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Soil surprises

    When Carol and Les started digging into the new garden space, they discovered a challenging mix of hard packed gravel, clay, and poor soil. The couple dug out the entire area then mixed the excavated soil and amendments together. With the soil improved, they set the structures in the garden and laid the concrete path that linked the pond to the greenhouse.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Where to plant what?

    The backyard's main elements were now in place, but the amount of space to be planted seemed overwhelming. Carol divided the large spaces into more manageable areas, separated by fences, trellises, and narrow paths of gravel, bark, and homemade concrete stepping-stones. <br>Carol was now ready to plant, but "in the beginning, I had no clear plan where I would plant what!" she says. She organized the spaces by giving each section a different character: tucking a shade garden under the mature trees, planting roses around an arbor, and putting moisture-loving perennials by the pond. <br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Mixing it up

    She planned a mixture of perennials and evergreen plants in each section for year-round interest and mixed fruits, vegetables, and even houseplants into her garden's palette. "I love mixing houseplants, such as spider plants, Epiphyllum, grape ivy, and scented geraniums, with annuals in my hanging baskets planters."

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Leveraging vegetables

    Fast-growing annual vegetables served several roles in Carol’s new garden, too. "During the first year I planted large squash plants and other vegetables in with my flowers and shrubs to make it look more filled out," she says. "Onions look great when they bloom, and red cabbage really stands out among the daisies."

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • And then came the weeds

    As Carol began to fill in the landscape with plants, weeds soon became a problem. "Some nights I had nightmares of weeds actually munching on my small plantings," she says.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Weed prevention

    She solved the weedy issue by spreading bark mulch under shrubs and adding a topdressing of compost to other areas. Groundcover plants such as varieties of herbal thymes, including caraway, lemon wooly, and mother of thyme, also helped with weed control.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Not just for plants!

    Carol complements her plantings with garden accents--collecting them has turned into a hobby that she can pursue even when she's away from her garden and traveling across the country.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Birds welcome!

    "Whenever my husband and I are on a trip," she says, "I look for birdhouses and garden art: a driftwood birdhouse from a trip down the Oregon coast, a redwood creation from northern California, or maybe a homemade tin-and-wood bird home from some small-town garage sale."

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
  • Unique garden art

    Many of Carol's garden gates are made from bed frames purchased at swap meets or garage sales. Some of her trellises are crafted from long pieces of driftwood or other dried wood that she and Les have found along the way. "I love garden art!" Carol says. It adds another layer of beauty, and it provides one more tool the Wears can use to continue building a backyard oasis--one step at a time.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 27, 2012
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