Garden Photo of the Day

Maxine’s Dramatic Before and After in Washington

Today’s photos are from Maxine Mitchell, who says, “I’ve been enjoying the pictures of people’s gardens and thought I’d submit some of mine. We live in Edmonds, Washington, which is about a half hour north of Seattle, overlooking Puget Sound. We’ve lived here for four years and I’ve been able to transform our small, urban backyard from a very plain one to one that is jam-packed with as many perennials as I can possibly fit. My passion is gardening and I hope it shows. These are some before and after pictures.  The latest pictures were taken last summer, but they show you how much things can change in less than four years.” WOW, Maxine! We need LOTS more photos for a couple of followup posts. Your garden looks super! That window with the photos and mirrors is so cute! Amazing transformation from an obvious plant lover. Thanks! ….and send more photos….

SEND ME PICS OF YOUR GARDEN, OR A GARDEN YOU’VE VISITED! Email me at [email protected]. Thanks! –Michelle

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  1. Nurserynotnordstroms 12/04/2014

    Well gardening is addicting,looks like you are like the rest of us,can't get enough plants. Big changes and well done. Did you leave another garden behind when you moved?are you a new gardener?we live in the same state and it's a wonderful place to garden and we are very fortunate. Do you have a favorite Nursery?and last question do you collect anything special or are you like most,see it,buy it ,plant it. You should join the NPA and visit some of the amazing gardens in our local areas. And BTW your plants look so Healthy!!!!

    1. maxinemitchell 12/05/2014

      Yes, when we moved from Vancouver, WA to Edmonds in 2010, I brought many plants that I had divided with me as I couldn't part with them! I became a Master Gardener five years ago, but have been gardening for over 30 years! I am a member of the NPA and love visiting other's gardens. Also, I love going to local plant sales, sponsored by horticultural organizations, such as NPA. My favorite nurseries are Sky's, Swansons and Molbak's up here, but I love the independents! I'm a "collector", so no, nothing special, just whatever will work in the space..."right plant, right place", as MG's say!

      1. Nurserynotnordstroms 12/05/2014

        Or let's plant it here and see how it does(I always have to do things my way) it can always be moved.I love the small nurserys especially the older crusty ones ,the ones with moss growing on the wooden display tables and you may have to walk through mud (Christensons in Mount Vernon)but I do get some amazing plants from Swansons.

  2. perenniallycrazy 12/05/2014

    Hubba hubba Maxine! Looks like you've been bitten hard by the gardening bug. It definitely shows, and you are in very good company to continually feed your addiction. You have some amazing plant choices and combinations there. Yes, I'm with Nurserynotnordstrom, please let us know where you source your healthy plants and your design ideas. Look forward to seeing more updates of your garden and your gardening talents.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 12/05/2014

    Hi, Maxine, this might sound corny but I actually felt a tickle of excitement on your behalf as I moved from your before to after pictures. Your hard work is making such a noticeable and awesome difference . Your clumps of Japanese Forest grass are just amazing...they look like giant waves of stupendous color and texture. In that same picture where the Japanese Forest grass is so lush, is that a variegated aucuba japonica up against the wall with the window? Whatever it is, it works so well with all its other companions. Sincerest congrats on how wonderful everything looks.

    1. maxinemitchell 12/05/2014

      Thanks! Yes, I have two variegated 'Picturata" aucuba plants, one that was just a stick at one time, but came back. They're indestructible, actually, and love the deep shade.

  4. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/05/2014

    On today's episode of "The Jammed-Packed Garden", we visit Maxine's amazing back yard. Look for her new book, "Gardening with a Shoehorn: Really I can quit anytime I want, I just don't want to." Ok, so I'm just making stuff up-my kind of garden. Please do send more photos. Looks awesome!

    1. maxinemitchell 12/05/2014

      Ha! That's a very apt title for my garden. I'm always looking for a open space, but if a plant doesn't do well, it's outtta here!

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/05/2014

        I've gotten to the point of being perversely happy when something up and dies; more room for something new! Happy gardening!

  5. NCYarden 12/05/2014

    What a magical transformation, Maxine. I admire your your enthusiasm, and what that turned your "small backyard" into. I can only imagine what could be done if you were granted even a little more space. It's so delightful to look at, and actually gives a sense of a larger space simply because of the endless depth you've created. Love the fullness; plus it's nice when the pants themselves begin to do the work of the mulch, particularly by preventing weeds. Again I'm gonna have to express some envy of all you PNWers - that Japanese forest grass is outstanding. I have 2 little "clumps" (I use this term extremely loosely, more like strands at this point) hoping to get even a third I what you are showing. I think my new site might be the trick as it showed a glimmer of hope this past season...stay tuned.
    Love what you have done. Thank you for sharing.

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 12/05/2014

      I don't have too many plant failures but...boohoo...Japanese Forest grass is right up there as one that self terminated fairly quickly...much to my disappointment. I see these lush and glorious clumps and just sigh with envy.

      1. NCYarden 12/05/2014

        Yeah I sure wish I could get the magic formula right for this plant. Fingers crossed, maybe this upcoming season may give me a surprise. If not, I think I will have to give up on this one. I sigh with you.

        1. Meelianthus 12/05/2014

          Just so that those of you wishing for Japanese Forest Grass success don't feel great envy, I thought I would add that here in the PNW it can become invasive once it grabs hold - and it is very difficult to dig out. That said, it is beautiful and sometimes takes a bit to become established so persevere, as all gardeners do - and also I have found the all Gold grass to be the most robust.

        2. User avater
          Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 12/08/2014

          Just jumping on the bandwagon with the Hakenochloa. For me in Zone 6 it just looked the same for several years and then took off like wildfire, sending runners out over and under barriers, between stepping stones and rocks. Seems to love being near rocks. The only place it won't grow for me is baking hot and dry spots. Good luck! You may be surprised.

    2. sheila_schultz 12/05/2014

      I finally gave up on Japanese Forest Grass... apparently our relationship wasn't meant to be.

    3. maxinemitchell 12/05/2014

      Thanks! I've seen Japanese forest grass in full sun and it doesn't look nearly as lush as when it's in the shade or partial shade. I'll have to divide mine in the spring as it loves it's northside location so much!

      1. NCYarden 12/05/2014

        Oh, you gotta divide yours,'re just gonna rub it in aren't you, Maxine? Hahaha. No, I think it's awesome to see you have such success with that plant. Soooooo jealous. It makes me feel like I can't garden properly for some reason. But it's good to hear others struggle with it too, so definitely not alone. Certainly enjoy it, and the rest of your awesome garden. Can't wait to see more in future - see what you are able to tuck in there.

    4. Nurserynotnordstroms 12/05/2014

      You could always put your Hakonechloa grass in a pot and move it around until you find it's "happy spot"it loves being in a pot too

  6. Jay_Sifford 12/05/2014

    Very nice, Maxine! I see that you and I share a similar philosophy in planting close. I tell people that if they want to see mulch, don't come here; instead, go to Home Depot. They have plenty of mulch there!

    1. NCYarden 12/05/2014

      Ha! So true, and I agree whole-heartedly. I have a buddy who consistently makes a passive-aggressive comment about what it must take to mulch my garden (he's a big grass lawn guy with a smattering of vacuous beds), and I remind him every time that it isn't really much because the full (and smart) plantings do most of that work for me, and I only add it every few years for a little added protection. Awesome comment, Jay.

  7. greengenes 12/05/2014

    Woo Hoo! For Maxine! Iam so happy for you to find your passion in gardening. These are beautiful pictures and it is so fun to look at the before and after. Yes, your gardens are full and it looks great. I noticed you got rid of the sumac. Good choice. We have some here and they seem to really spread and take over. Did you get rid of the dogwood? I have a feeling that there are more gardens you are working on and that there will be more pictures in the future! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. maxinemitchell 12/05/2014

      Thanks, Jeanne! Yes, the sumac was one of the first plants to go! Those underground runners are deadly! I kept the cornus kousa dogwood, but removed the magnolia as it would have taken over.

      1. greengenes 12/05/2014

        Also that one of those "king arailias? If so how has it grown for you? The picture looks great but has it been a slow grower? I almost purchased one just for some great foliage effect but I have never seen anyone personally who have grown this...if its that...thanks

  8. GrannyMay 12/05/2014

    Great job Maxine! You have very happy, healthy plants. "Jam-packed" obviously works well in your garden. I prefer that look too. I see the Japanese Maple and some other plants are in containers - that works so well to add accents where and when you want them. Can't wait to see more photos as your little slice of paradise matures further.

  9. GrannyCC 12/05/2014

    Amazing job Maxine. You definitely have the touch. Your plants are so full and healthy. I too like the look of things planted close together. Aren't we lucky with our climate in the Pacific Northwest. You have made a great transformation.

  10. sheila_schultz 12/05/2014

    Cram and Jam! Love your style Maxine ;) The added benefit is that it seriously cuts down on the weed population... and if some make it through, you can't see them, so who cares? Fun! More photos needed please.

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 12/05/2014

      Ha, Sheila, "cram and jam" ...don't let the hip hop music crowd steal that phrase and ruin it for gardening lingo. I love how perfect it sounded in your comment.

      1. sheila_schultz 12/05/2014

        Michaele... I am sooo laughing! Think any hip-hopper's check into GPOD???

    2. greengenes 12/05/2014

      Ah...ha! That's funny Sheila..."cram and Jam!". That's a keeper in my expression box!

      1. sheila_schultz 12/05/2014

        Jeanne... 'cram and jam ' was a phrase used by my fellow garden maintenance and container planting co-workers when I lived in IL. It has become my gardening and container gardening style. I just don't have the patience to wait for plants to grow into their own space, esp. in Denver. A friend told me once that if you place your plants too close for comfort, they will adjust. It's worked for me... most times ;)

        1. greengenes 12/05/2014

          Oh I so agree! I think it looks a lot better than spacing plants out like specimens and then with beauty bark all around. I love the jungle look I guess... Have fun gardening Sheila and a great winter!

  11. Cenepk10 12/05/2014

    Dang !!! Most impressive before and after shots EVAH Gorgeous, Maxine !!! Doing your part to beautify the Pacific Northwest !!!

  12. schatzi 12/05/2014

    Lush,full, healthy, beautiful! Welcome to the "club"! Love your combinations. Glad you kept the dogwood - it looks awesome.

  13. Meelianthus 12/05/2014

    Hello Maxine ~ Your gardens are really stunning. I too subscribe to the 'no dirt exposed' practice of gardening, exposed dirt is just space wasting ^_^ and I always fill it up. I really enjoyed your before and after pics. Your Acuba is beautiful and I too love the Ligularia.
    You have accomplished to much and thanks for sharing all.

  14. Meelianthus 12/05/2014

    oops ! suppose to read SO much, not too much. Sorry.

  15. Spring_y 12/05/2014

    Wow! You're a magician!

  16. lindanewber 12/05/2014

    Love what you've done. Looks amazing. I especially like the pictures in the window, looks like someone looking in from outside. You've really packed a lot of plants into every area. Would love to see more. Thanks for sharing

    1. maxinemitchell 12/07/2014

      Thanks, Linda. That's exactly the effect we were looking for! We used mirrors, mounted to the back of the frame and inserted blown-up photos of our grandchildren.

  17. user-7007140 12/05/2014

    Such a beautiful transformation, Maxine! Your pictures give me hope that starting somewhere new is the chance to turn dreams into reality. I have already turned sleepless nights into planning sessions. If we've become addicts we at least don't destroy this beautiful planet.
    Thank you for taking the time to inject us all with even more enthusiasm.

  18. robertnocum 12/06/2014

    Congratulations! Amazing mixure of plants. It's like magic!

  19. bsavage 12/06/2014

    Very, very beautiful! I see you have drip irrigation. I do too... it is the secret to keeping the garden (and in my case, hanging baskets as well) happy. Congrats on a gorgeous 'after'! I expect it will continue to evolve... looking forward to future photos!

  20. thevioletfern 12/06/2014

    Your passion most certainly shines through. Beautiful garden, beautiful space. I can feel your happiness!

  21. maxinemitchell 12/07/2014

    I think it was easier for me to start with a (somewhat) blank slate, rather than rip out whatever was there (although I did move several plants as they were definitely in the wrong places). The soil here is very sandy as we're so close to the water, so I had to bring in lots of bags of compost and soil amendments to enrich it. I also had to work around a lot of underground sewer lines, etc. Several pots are there because the utility plate is only inches below the surface, so I definitely had no choice!

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