Garden Photo of the Day

Before and After in Oregon

Remaking a boring yard into a gorgeous garden

Today’s photos are from Larry Rodgers.

We moved into a contractor’s house in the Willamette Valley in Oregon a decade ago that had been landscaped with a mishmash of leftover shrubs and trees from other projects.

A poorly assembled rock wall did nothing in Oregon’s rainy climate to keep water from draining toward the house, which had led to major moisture problems in the crawl space and a backyard that was a muddy bog six months out of the year.

Needing to address drainage and wanting a major garden makeover we could do ourselves, we reached out to a local garden contractor to design and build what turned out to be a beautiful stone wall over a French drain that routed the water around the house.

The contractor’s crew cleared the yard, except for one lonely Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, Zones 6–9) languishing in a corner, which was transplanted in front of the new wall. They improved the soil, planted several ornamental cherry trees and different Japanese maples, laid sod, and created a stone path to provide a perfect starting point for a backyard-sized garden.

We hired a local designer to provide a backdrop of foundation plants, with instructions to “make the ugly fence disappear.” She gave us a plan that allowed us to go to work assembling a range of eclectic garden rooms.

With these as foundations, we spent six years filling in the rooms with fruit trees and bushes, small shrubs, perennials, and vegetables, with annuals on the deck in pots and boxes to add color.

Bottle Rocket ligulariaOur east-facing backyard offers a shady exposure for plants such as this ‘Bottle Rocket’ ligularia. (Ligularia ‘Bottle Rocket’, Zones 4–9).

Shady areas also feature hostas, with over 50 different varieties at last count.

Prior to arriving in the Willamette Valley, we lived for 20 years on the Kansas prairie. With searing heat, wind, unruly insects, and challenging winters, home gardening there is about raising tough, battle-tested plants like yarrows, sages, and echinacheas, which all thrive with little water and less care. Having not quite adjusted to living in a near-perfect garden climate, we continue to overplant and trim back less vigorously than we should, leading our garden rooms to occasionally grow out of control. But what could be a better gardening challenge than adapting to plants that grow too well?


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View Comments


  1. mgol1068 07/02/2020

    Just fabulous! Congratulations. It's great to see the transformation over time, and I am sure it reminds you of many days spent in the garden to get it to the current state. Enjoy.

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thanks! Gardening's the best reminder I know of that what we do today may not pay off until months or years down the road.

  2. nwphillygardener 07/02/2020

    That's a really fun Before/After presentation. And hopefully the drainage problem is history. Quite often, the requirements to solve such problems can create what turns out to be the inspiration for a project. So glad you're able to play with a bigger box of crayons in your new home.

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thanks. You can tell from one of the photos that concrete-like clay soil lies just below the surface, so keeping 7-8 months a year of steady rain at bay is a challenge.

  3. sagebird52 07/02/2020

    Awesome transformation, its gorgeous!

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thank you!

  4. Sunshine111 07/02/2020

    I was so pleased to see the before and after. What a remarkable transformation. You should be so proud. It is quite impressive!😊

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thanks. The "before" now seems to be from a different yard.

  5. User avater
    user-7007816 07/02/2020

    Wow! What an amazing transformation. Beautiful.

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thank you!

  6. Cenepk10 07/02/2020

    Goodness Gracious!!!! You’ve got yourself a little slice of heaven there. Smart move bringing in the big guns to set you up for success. Beautiful beautiful garden. Glad I got to see it. Must admit- when I read the title - I was thinking- do I really want to see this and have my nose rubbed in the fact that they have perfect climate ? Then you mentioned your last garden - which helped ! Lol !

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      If everyone in Oregon gardened in the midwest first, they'd appreciate the difference between a garden with the goal of "keeping plants alive" and one designed to "keep a 2-3 foot shrub from topping out at eight feet."

  7. User avater
    simplesue 07/02/2020

    You have imagination and vision- not everyone can turn a boring space into an interesting garden paradise. People who have imagination take it for granted and assume everyone has it but not everyone does!
    I love what you've done!
    Such a different feeling I get from looking at the before and then looking at the after photos!
    Great job!

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thanks so much. I'll admit that having always lived in older homes surrounded by interesting spaces, moving into a place with an empty, neglected rectangle seemed pretty daunting, but it turned out to have the upside of being a blank palate.

  8. KarlaRoady 07/02/2020

    From Oregon's Umpqua Valley, just over the hill south of the Willamette Valley, great job. I love before and afters. And yes, the need to prune probably never stops anywhere, but here in Western Oregon, oh boy. My compost pile gets to towering height.

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thanks. The Umpqua Valley: one of the best kept secrets in the country for top shelf wine--Albariños, Timpranillos and Syrahs. What a great place!

  9. User avater
    treasuresmom 07/02/2020

    Oh my, what a very lovely transformation!

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thank you for commenting!

  10. DallasPlantLover 07/02/2020

    Amazing transformation! Congratulations on your vision, execution and outcome. I'm inspired!

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      Thank you!

  11. Maggieat11 07/02/2020

    Interesting to see your before and after photos! Great projects, great results. Thx for sharing!

    1. user-7713956 07/02/2020

      "Projects"--that's indeed the right word. Thank you.

  12. Patchworkgardener 07/02/2020

    Everything looks beautiful. What a big did a great job. Kudos!

  13. btucker9675 07/02/2020

    Fabulous transformation! We are also working to transform the "builder landscaping" at our house. They used some nice plants, but put them all in lines like little soldiers... I've been moving things around for a few years and the front border finally looks like a garden. Yours is a real inspiration!

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