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