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Garden Photo of the Day

Tia’s garden in Washington

A landscape designer suggested this house color as a backdrop to a garden. The hot red/orange trim is my signature. I used it throughout with flowers, glass art, and a big pot not shown in these pics.

Today's photos are from Tia Scarce, who says, "These photos are from my Kirkland, Washington, garden. It was eight years in the making. My goal was to create a garden that can withstand our annual dry period without any supplemental water. Pesticide-free, only the lawn got an occasional hit with organic fertilizer. I mulched every three years or so with a rich compost. We recently sold it, opting instead for a smaller, sunnier, easier to maintain property." Oh, Tia, I don't think I could have given this house or garden up! But I can't wait to see what you do with your NEW property… ***Tia sent in so many great shot's that we'll be spending tomorrow in her garden, too! Today leaned more toward the hardscape, while tomorrow will feature some of her stunning plant combos. Stay tuned!***

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Hey all! I and a bunch of the other FG editors will be at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show again this year, and I'm scheduled to give another GPOD talk! (A few of you will be getting emails in the next two weeks as I put together the slideshow…) A number of people have emailed to say that they'll be at the show, and that they'd love to meet up with a bunch of fellow GPODers!

The RSVPs so far:

Nurserynotnordstrom (Glendy Curdy)
GrannyMay (May Kald) – tentative
CrannyCC (Catherine Campbell)
Tia Scarce
Greengenes (Jeanne Cronce)
Sheila Schultz


So…who else is going to be there?? Let us all know in the comments, and we can start planning an outing! Perhaps after-dinner drinks one night at the bar at the Sheraton?  I'll repeat this announcement for the next week or so, at least, and keep a running list of who's coming….enticement for even more people to come. Oh, and when you comment to say you'll be there, give us your real name so that I can plan name tags that include both that and your screen name…

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And as always, SEND ME PICS OF YOUR GARDEN, OR A GARDEN YOU'VE VISITED! Email me at GPOD@taunton.com. Thanks! –Michelle

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–BEFORE– The side yard looked like this before I got started. We were still cleaning up after the big windstorm of 2006.

–AFTER– The taller plants in the bed above are Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’, Acer ‘Shishigashira’, Panicum ‘Shenandoah’, and Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’.

My husband and I installed the gravel path and stepping stones as a replacement for a narrow, heaved up concrete sidewalk. I quickly gave up trying to keep it debris-free. The tall conifers won that battle.

A peek into the backyard. None of what you see here was there when we moved in in 2006 except, of course, the borrowed view from across the fence.

I included this shot of our backyard path to the shed because it shows a very satisfying DIY project (albeit in need of maintenance here). After taking out a small basketball court we used the concrete chunks to make this connection to shed from the back of the house. After some time I removed that ground cover (leptinella?) between the pieces because it was running rampant in the lawn.
Too many thing to name!
The garden was a certified wildlife habitat via the National Wildlife Federation.

View Comments


  1. Nurserynotnordstroms 12/20/2014

    Michelle was right Tia,after all of your hard work I don't know how you were able to sell. I am looking forward to the next set of photos.

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Deciding to sell was an interesting process. The garden had just gotten to the point where I thought it would be interesting to visitors, and so I opened it to two garden tours in the summer of 2013. It was almost like a signpost that said "All right. What's next?" Thanks for your comment.

  2. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 12/22/2014

    Wow, when it comes to before and after, your pictures just knocked my socks off...that is one dramatic transformation. I appreciate how you have introduced graceful curves to your paths and planting beds. Everything looks so lush and healthy...did you end up doing a fair amount of soil amending or were you blessed with ground that was just begging to be planted in? Looking forward to seeing more tomorrow.

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Thank you so much. I thought hard about whether to maintain the strong rectangular geometry of the midcentury house, fence, and deck, but in the end the curves made the most sense for this type of garden. The soil was amazing. I always said you could dig a hole with a soup spoon there. I top-dressed two or three times with a compost made of chicken manure and sawdust primarily, and for bare spots occasionally used one made by the company that takes our yard waste and food scraps. That was it. I'm lazy.

      1. User avater
        meander1 (Michaele ) 12/23/2014

        Ha, music to my ears...a "lazy gardener" you go girl...so they say! I'm partial to curves in the garden... so good choice. I guess I'm influenced by the fact that we rarely willingly walk in straight lines and right angles if we can help it.

  3. user-7007327 12/22/2014

    Wonderful transformation. Love the privacy of your lush garden and the contrasting red shop.

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Thanks, that red still makes me happy. It rarely snows here, but the first time it did I thought the backyard looked like the North Pole.

  4. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/22/2014

    Such a great house and garden. The textures, plants and the containers are perfect! Love the orange trim on that great roof line.

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      You're very kind. I wanted to be a fly on the wall at the neighbors when that trim color went up. Previously the house was a pinkish-beige with brown trim.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/22/2014

        Without even seeing the before, I think your color choice for the house was a great transformation. Hopefully the new owners appreciate it. Looking forward to tomorrow's installment. When do we get to see the new 'digs'? :)

  5. greengenes 12/22/2014

    What an inspiring garden to wake up too! Thanks Tia for letting us see this. The landscape designer was quite right on the color choice of the home! I love it! Its amazing to see the before and after shots, there was a lot of work done! Iam so looking forward to tomorrows pictures! So since you have moved are you starting on another garden or gardens at your new home? That would be so fun!

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      And these were such nice posts to wake up to! My new garden is much smaller with no turf and some great stone work to play off of. I started making changes to it before I moved a stick of furniture in.

      1. greengenes 12/22/2014

        You are a true gardener!

        1. User avater
          meander1 (Michaele ) 12/23/2014

          Yea...no turf...sounds like fun!

  6. Jay_Sifford 12/22/2014

    Hi Tia. I find this interesting on several levels. I really tuned in to the paint colors since I'm writing a series on making your house feel at home in the landscape. The brown is indeed a perfect backdrop for the garden and really settles the house into the garden. I love the (looks like) Chinese red. It spreads the eye out to experience the garden but also kind of pushes the eye down toward ground level; otherwise the eye would be tempted to miss the garden by heading upward into those awesome tall trees. Great job! I'd have trouble selling too.
    Additionally, I enjoyed your plant selection and composition. I look forward to tomorrow's photos. Thanks for sharing!

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Jay, wow, thank you. It's good to see it through the eyes of someone new. Is this a series you are writing for Houzz? I'll look for it. The midcentury esthetic had a strong indoor/outdoor connection, as did this house on the side with the patio. The backyard was a secondary space for us, and connecting that shed to the back door really made a huge difference in the feel and the use of it.

      1. Jay_Sifford 12/22/2014

        Hi Tia. My pleasure. Yes, it's running currently. I've received some good feedback on it. Apparently much of this kind of thing is a foreign concept to most homeowners and, amazingly enough, to most landscape designers as well. Your designer did a great job advising you on this. Now we can't wait to see your new current space, home and garden.

        1. digginWA 12/22/2014

          Well, apart from the brown paint color, I was the designer. So thanks!

  7. NCYarden 12/22/2014

    Good Morning Tia.
    Thank you for providing the before and after. It's great to see what people have to work with and the transformation they create. The plant combinations are fantastic. How difficult it must be to surrender this home and garden. Did you by chance take any particular plants with you to kick off your new endeavor? Definitely looking forward to your new creation at some point. Have fun getting in your new dirt. Thanks for sharing.

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      I'm trying to get better about taking exact before and after shots. Sometimes I see something and think, "I need to prune that/move that/plant that," and before you know it, it's too late. Yes, I absolutely took plants with me. My husband had never heard of such a thing and couldn't believe it when I was loading the back of the car with them one night. It went something like "Honey, do you know how much this little ginkgo cost? Of course I'm taking it! And that peony, and that brunnera ..."

  8. VikkiVA 12/22/2014

    Lots of hard work Tia and I know you must be so happy with the results. You folks in the NW have such lush gardens. I am drawn to your hardscapes and love your "recycled" pathway to the shed. I love those orbs in the picture right after the shed picture. What are they made of? Vikki in VA

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Thank you. It is so easy to be a gardener here. I came from the midwest and know how good I have it, not having to deal with the extremes. The orbs came from the same place I got my big pots and are made of a clay that looks a lot like the inside of the pots, but the answer is I really don't know their story.

  9. GrannyMay 12/22/2014

    Lovely transformation, Tia! I'm curious what your favourite plants might be for coping with the annual dry period. Everything looks so lush and not at all thirsty.

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Really, most things were fine, but for woody plants I love the dwarf hemlocks, mahonia, Italian buckthorn, heptacodium, ninebark, vine maple, strawberry tree, some chamaecyparis cultivars ... and Viburnum tinus and various choisya for fluffy evergreen background stuff with flowers. For the lower layer, nothing beats what epimedium did for me in that yard. Also vancouveria, Euonymous 'Wolong Ghost', brunnera, heaths and heathers. Geranium macrorrhizum 'Variegatum' was extremely vigorous and easy to break off and replant elsewhere. All these things were bulletproof, save for an occasional crispy edge on the brunnera.

      1. GrannyMay 12/22/2014

        Thanks for your reply Tia. I'm always looking for things that work for others with the same conditions in order to add things to my "proven" list. I do have deer, however, so they shorten that list considerably, as do the rabbits. Though now reasonably successful in keeping the deer out, I've had to cage all my new heathers and lot of the grasses to save them from being bunny fodder. I'd much rather plant things that the animals won't touch than keep battling them.

        Now that I've looked up Euonymous 'Wolong Ghost', I'm definitely going to search for a source. It sounds like the perfect plant for some areas in my garden. Just hoping the rabbits don't like it.

        1. digginWA 12/27/2014

          I was thinking about your experience with rabbits eating the heather. I had regular visits from rabbits and they did nibble down my 'Winter Chocolate' heather. The heaths, though, were never touched.

          1. GrannyMay 12/27/2014

            Hi Tia, here we tend to lump all the Callunas and Ericas under the general name "heather" rather than distinguish between heaths and heathers so I had to refresh my memory as to what the difference is. I used to be able to grow both with no problems. It was when I needed to replace the old, large woody ones that discovered that the new generations of rabbits do eat the new tips of both. On mature heaths and heathers it doesn't matter as much, except you never see much bloom as they are kept cropped. New plants, however, just don't get a chance to grow at all.

          2. digginWA 12/27/2014

            Varmints! I manned a booth at the NWFGS one year for one of the horticulture organizations where a woman approached me, searching for advice on deer. My response was basically pull a list of deer-resistant plants off the internet and then get to work finding out what really works in YOUR garden. She didn't seem crazy about that advice, but it's true! I'll put in a plug for my favorite heath, shown in the photo above that is captioned "Too many things to name!" Erica cinerea 'Celebration' is there on the left, a bright chartreuse-y green with white summer flowers.

  10. GrannyMay 12/22/2014

    I was curious as to what it takes to have your garden become a certified wildlife habitat and whether a similar designation is offered in Canada, so looked it up. For any other Canadians who are interested, the website is http://cwf-fcf.org/en/do-something/challenges-projects/get-certified/

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Nice, thanks for posting that. It's great to see the map showing habitats from coast to coast.

    2. user-7007140 12/23/2014

      My garden also is a wildlife habitat. I live in Ohio. Love the raccoon picture but my oh my they are a destructive bunch!
      Deer and rabbits at least don't kill, except for precious trees and favorite plants, of course, and who can not love to live surrounded by wildlife - except for mice in the house,of course.

  11. Cenepk10 12/22/2014

    Fabulous Makes me jealous

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Thank you. That's nice to hear.

  12. GrannyCC 12/22/2014

    Congratulations on your lovely lush garden. I love all the pathways and the pops of colour you see throughout the beds. If it is a certified wildlife habitat do you have to let the DEER in!!

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Thank goodness deer are one thing we did not have in this busy neighborhood. They stayed safe in the park down the street. I did have a couple of runaway dachshunds looking in the kitchen door one day. Thanks for your comment.

  13. thevioletfern 12/22/2014

    Oh, and now just a memory ... but I bet you are taking the best parts with you and reinventing them in your new sunny location. A beautiful garden - that is what you've given the world. Such high honor. Thank you for sharing it with us (and those rascally raccoons).

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      I can't thank you all enough for these comments. Gardeners are the best.

    2. Sheila_Schultz 12/23/2014

      Kathy, your words mean a lot. Not only to Tia but to the rest of us that garden.
      Our passion for gardening is what we do without thinking about anything else other than digging in the next plant. You have given me a delightful holiday gift. Thank you my GPOD friend.

  14. Sheila_Schultz 12/22/2014

    What a perfect recommendation for the house color as a backdrop for your lovely gardens and containers. I also really enjoyed seeing how you took the orange/red trim color and used it throughout your gardens. You painted a beautiful picture, Tia. I'm eager for tomorrow's photos!

    1. digginWA 12/22/2014

      Thank you. Imagine how excited I was when this happened:

      1. GrannyMay 12/22/2014


      2. user-7007140 12/23/2014


      3. Sheila_Schultz 12/23/2014


      4. greengenes 12/23/2014

        It matches your trim on the house!!! Awsome! Its beautiful...

  15. Meelianthus 12/22/2014

    I will be there Michelle ! Looking forward to your talk ^_^
    Linda Skyler, Bainbridge Island

    1. Sheila_Schultz 12/23/2014


  16. user-7007140 12/23/2014

    Lots of fun tonight - great before and after pics, a beautiful garden and LOTS of wonderful comments to read from GPoders. Such a treat. However, I am seething with envy that so many of my favorite GPODers are off to the PNW show and I won't get to meet any of you!
    Tia, your design for house and garden really works beautifully and I think that marrying them is just great, for what happens is that one achieves a feeling of harmony with pops of excitement. Great lesson for us. Thank you.

    1. digginWA 12/24/2014

      I'm late in thanking you, but of course I do! I wish you could come to the show--it marks he start of the season for us here.

      1. user-7007140 12/25/2014

        Thank you, Tia. Incidentally, Coleton Fishacre is a spectacular garden and house in Devon, England. The property was purchased in the thirties by the D'Oyle Carte family ( of Gilbert &Sullivan opera fame) who spotted the site when sailing with friends along the south west coast. The young couple built the house with the wife designing the amazing gardens that wend their way down from the house which itself sits in a secluded area, to the very cliff edge. It is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever visited. Now run by the National Trust, it is open to the public and an absolute must-see for anyone visiting England, for it was designed with vision and love. The house contains original Arts and Crafts elements and includes a salon with a grand piano which may be played if you are good enough to do so. A friend of mine played regularly. Can you imagine the musical house parties which took place there?
        Your Coleton Fishacre plant whizzed me across the ocean!
        I am originally from England and my husband was born and raised in Devon, so if you want any first hand information on taking a trip, I would be delighted to help. You, with your artistry and knowledge could not fail to love it.

        1. digginWA 12/26/2014

          Thanks for the information. Garden touring is on my bucket list, and your description has landed Coleton Fishacre in my saved links. I will absolutely rely on your kind offer to assist when the time comes to plan an adventure.

          1. user-7007140 12/28/2014

            I will look forward to that.

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