Garden Photo of the Day

Lila’s Garden Makeover

New growing spaces for a forever home

garden path leading to small patio

Today we’re visiting with Lila Johnson (whose garden we’ve visited before: The Flowers of August).

My garden has been featured in the GPOD previously, but after much thought and several bids later, my husband and I moved forward with a landscape makeover in early April 2021.

At our ages, 78 and 77, we had a good heart-to-heart talk and decided we were in our forever home. It’s a rambler in a nice neighborhood with great neighbors, and we love our garden, which is decent-sized for our community of Mill Creek, Washington.

The starting point was to pull up the old lawn and work from there. Although we both love the look of a green lawn, we knew we wanted less of it and maybe another patio where we could sit in the morning sun with a cup of coffee or seek shade in the early evening with a glass of wine.

I enjoy the look of dry streambeds, and we already had a lot of rocks around the perimeter of our garden, which also has about three sun exposure areas (shade, sun, and part shade/sun). I also wanted electrical outlets installed, as landscape lighting will be added next: the low-voltage kit kind that we can do. A gravel path and wood arbor were added along with a Pennsylvania bluestone patio. The star is a Japanese coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’, Zones 5–9) behind the patio, and I had my husband haul out an uplight from Christmas and the tree looks amazing at night!

The landscape crew transplanted things from around our garden and added many new plants too. We’ve never really liked our small front yard, which faces awkwardly on the street, so on a whim and after chatting with the landscaper, we added a dry streambed out front too. And we’ve gotten many compliments. I finally like our front yard.

We’re happy, although we’ve probably created more work for ourselves, as many more planting areas were added and my husband likes the bark/mulch raked and looking tidy. This first year is a “wait and see” year before we move or add plantings.

garden before landscapingHere is one of the “before” views. While it already looks good, there is lots of space to add more plants and hardscaping.

garden makeover in progressSometimes things have to get worse before they get better! The coral bark maple is sitting in its pot, waiting to go into the ground.

garden path leading to wooden arborAnd here is an “after” photo, showing the new gravel path, arbor, and lots of places for new plants!

dry stream bed in front yard surrounded by pink flowersThe new dry streambed in the front garden looks pretty great!

close up of patio with small maple in backThe coral bark maple is lit up to show off its beauty.

pink and orange coneflowersA bumblebee enjoys the new garden, especially the flowers of this hybrid coneflower (Echinacea hybrid, Zones 5–9).

two container plants with brightly colored flowersContainer plantings dress up the new hardscaping.

garden path leading to small patioThe new landscape includes a new patio to sit on and enjoy the space.


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View Comments


  1. gardendevas 08/13/2021

    How lovely!

  2. blondie3 08/13/2021

    I love that you went ahead, instead of settling
    at your age! We should Love our space..the gravel path is perfect, I love a path through a garden, where will it lead? And the new patio space is perfect. Well done!

  3. nicki_s 08/13/2021

    What a wonderful (and ambitious) makeover! I love the dry streambeds.

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/13/2021

    Absolutely lovely!

  5. Maggieat11 08/13/2021

    Congratulations! Time and money well spent! 😁🍃

  6. User avater
    simplesue 08/13/2021

    I'm so glad you mentioned your ages, and that you two accomplished all this!
    It's such a nice enjoyable place to sit and enjoy nature now!
    I love a make-over garden post!
    That little Coral Bark Maple really is the star of the garden, it's beautiful and then at night with under lighting an evening focal point!

  7. btucker9675 08/13/2021

    Fabulous job - you will be happy for many, many years with your beautiful gardens. Love the arbor/gravel path combination and your dry stream beds are such a good addition. My husband and I are 10 years behind you in age and I love hearing that gardeners never stop! We know that eventually we will need help, but in the meantime are hauling, digging, etc. I sincerely believe gardening keeps us healthy. Happy Friday to all!

  8. User avater
    bdowen 08/13/2021

    Inspiring! At 77, I'm also still planting and redesigning and hoping to keep gardening forever. Love your patio and the inviting chairs.

  9. hannahcox 08/26/2023

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