Garden Photo of the Day

The garden Nina left behind

Some of my favorite California plants: purple hopseed, spicy jatropha, peacock iris, and redbud 'Forest Pansy'.  . Photo/Illustration: All photos courtesy of Nina Eadie

We’ve enjoyed Nina Eadie’s garden in Montana for the past three days, but today we’re exploring the garden she left behind to move to Montana.

The start of a little grove of thuja ‘Green Giant’ on the right, with coreopsis, lavender, ruby grass, and breynia in front. Mexican feather grass, ‘Blaze’ rose, and ‘Orange King’ daylily in back.  

She says, “These are photos of the garden we left behind in California. When we moved into that house the front and back yard were typical 1960s perimeter plantings and a “lawn” of weeds with a little Bermuda grass peeking through. I spent the first year hand-digging weeds until we actually had a pretty decent lawn, which we then shaped and reduced to a manageable size to water by hand, since we didn’t have automatic sprinklers.

Younger birch grove looking toward the back patio after the daffodils were done with ruby grass and autumn fern on the left. These flagstones were moved many times to make just the right meander to the path! 

“I LOVED that little yard, and I’ve been trying since we moved here to Montana to create the same feeling I had there. It’s funny how a small yard can have a greater sense of intimacy than a larger space . . . at least until the trees get big!

Bud made this little secret garden in the back corner of the yard under the shade of an aleppo pine (P. halipensis). The “piney” looking trees in the background are she-oaks (Causarina stricta), a fast-growing Australian native that looks like wonderful long-needled shaggy pines. 

“I’m sad to say that the people who bought our house ended up removing pretty much everything in the yard in order to put in a pool and have a place to store their motor home. I’m glad I have the pictures though to look at on a cold, snowy Montana day!”

The retaining wall created a little elevation in our very flat yard, enough to hide the secret garden behind the glower carpet rose and Japanese black pine. Way in the back on the left the night-blooming jasmine arch is in full bloom.   

Nina, both of your gardens are beautiful and FRIENDLY. When I was in your garden in Montana, I just wanted to sit and relax and stay awhile. Your California garden looks just as welcoming and comfortable. Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing everything with us, it’s been fun! Keep us updated on the Montana garden this year–I know there’s so much more to see. **more info in the captions**

This little stretch of split-rail fence was an attempt to round out our very square yard. The path ended at the back fence, where I put a full-length mirror with a faux gate in front of it. I’d seen this trick in a magazine, and it really worked! More than one visitor asked, “Where does that gate lead?” 

It’s almost SPRING, people! I know you’re going through your photos from last year, planning what you’ll do differently this year. Send some of those photos in to me! [email protected]

The Santa Barbara daisy on the “hill” was a wonderful groundcover that spread but wasn’t invasive and bloomed non-stop all summer.  
Strawberries also made a great groundcover in a number of spots in the yard. They were a favorite treat for our dogs! 
The potted bartender’s lime was transplanted from the front yard, where it got WAY too big, way too fast. Repotted and aggressively pruned, it produced tons of tasty, tangy little limes. 
Caryopteris is one of the few things we grew in our California yard that does equally well here in Montana, although it doesn’t get this big. 

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  1. perenniallycrazy 03/06/2014

    You have absolutely outdone yourselves in the last 4 days Nina and Bud! My heart sank when i read that the new owners madeover the yard, but all's well that ends well. Looking forward to more evoluntionary photos of your Montana garden...pretty please Michelle.

  2. user-1020932 03/06/2014

    what a great week with Nina both in Montana and California. i would think moving from CA to zone 4 would be like starting from scratch and not only with an unplanted garden,,,,,,,,,learning all those new plants and what will perform. at least it would be for me. enjoyed it all, Nina, hats off to both you and Bud

  3. greengenes 03/06/2014

    Well what a morning it is! Totally awesome way to start the day! I must say that you two, Bud and Nina, really have a talent for design. The flow and choice in plants are wonderful to see. If I lived in California I would go nuts. There are so many different things you can grow! I think that the she oaks, causarina stricta, is just out of this world! Sure wish I could grow them here is Washington state. And I can smell the jasmine! How nice! To have a lime tree on my patio! Oh my! Mohito time! The Mexican feather grass is on of my favorite grasses and they grow great here. Oh its all so beautiful to see. Thanks so much for sharing with us and iam glad you have pictures of your California garden that is no more. Have a wonderful gardening season ahead to all of you!

  4. PAdesigner 03/06/2014

    It has been a treat to see both your gardens. Your California garden has a lot of complexity, but has a cohesiveness too. Well done. So many plants I never heard of. It is a shame that the new owners changed it so much. Our gardens are ephemeral in so many ways. You're doing great things in Montana with that dry stream bed.

  5. rlsw 03/06/2014

    This garden is beautiful. The design and plant choices are amazing. I am stunned and bewildered that anyone could rip it out. At least you have your photos and memories.

  6. wGardens 03/06/2014

    Nina and Bud, thank you for sharing your gardens with us this week. Truely a work of art in both design and plant selection. That she-oak sure got my attention, especially! You certainly created a wonderful space in California.... but Montana is even more special!

  7. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/06/2014

    Yes,it had to be very difficult to leave your CA paradise but thank heavens, Nina and Bud, you had a great second act in you to express. In fact, with the dramatically opposite planting zones you dealt with, it is like you wrote your masterpieces in two different languages but each translate into great beauty.
    In the top picture on the right, what is the plant (a vine? a tree?) with the dangling orange blossoms in the foreground? They are certainly vibrant.

  8. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 03/06/2014

    After the past three days, it's no surprise that this is (was) a great garden. Absolutely crazy for those she-pines. Very cool.

  9. bee1nine 03/06/2014

    Nina, Yes,.. Why would it not surprise me as well, that your
    CA garden wouldn't be just as BEAUTIFUL!
    Have so enjoyed these 4 days to have you and Bud (Michelle,too) to share and capture all this most stunning work and beauty. THANK-YOU!!

  10. tractor1 03/06/2014

    Nina, your California garden is a work of art with much attention to detail, so it's no mystery why your Montana garden so much alike even with all its differences. You do good work.

    I also made the mistake of returning to former properties, only to see my gardening in neglect and ruin.... the couple who bought my last house had four young kids and two dogs, use your imagination.

  11. quinquek 03/06/2014

    Thank you so much for sharing your gardens. They are both lovely, and, again, the designs and feel of both speak of intimacy and peace. I can imagine walking in them, able to take the sort of deep breath of absolute contentment! Sorry about the new owners. We had 2 old hollies that a new owner lollypopped. Quite a feat as they were about 20 feet high. Oh well!

  12. WAgardener48 03/06/2014

    Some people want a labor intensive garden that is more about the plants than the people that live in the garden. But you have managed to create an excellent balance of hardscape and landscape. It was a beautiful creation that feels welcoming to anyone who would be lucky enough to enter it. So glad you had the forethought to save it in pictures so you could share it with all of us.

  13. GrannyMay 03/06/2014

    How lovely both your gardens are, Nina and Bud! Each perfectly suited to its space, you created beauty out of the available land and made the most of its climate. And yes, designed to be used and enjoyed, not just to be looked on from a distance.... though the views are beautiful too! Thank you for sharing! I look forward to more photos in the future.

  14. sheila_schultz 03/06/2014

    Nina, you and Bud are master artists when it comes to creating beauty around you. You have handled the zone challenges with such vision. Thank you for letting us have a peak into the wonders of your world.

  15. wildthyme 03/06/2014

    First of all a big thank you to Michelle for encouraging me to send in all these photos! It's been a fun week seeing our garden through other gardeners' eyes.
    Meander1, the red-orange blossoms are on the pomegranate tree (you can sort of see it in the back corner by the umbrella in the third photo on the right). It was just a neglected tangle of branches trapped between the fence and some scrap wood when we moved in and "liberated" it. It responded amazingly to some care and pruning. I highly recommend it as a small ornamental tree to anyone who lives in its hardiness zone. It bloomed for months and months, followed by a huge crop of fruit before coloring up with bright yellow leaves in the fall and then one of the first plants to leaf out in the spring; real 4 season interest.
    Tractor1, we only recently learned about the yard's fate from one of our former neighbors .. . I too had earlier learned not to go back and look at former homes, and for the same reason!

  16. appaloosa 03/06/2014

    Remind me again why you left this beautiful yard in California with such unusual plants? I love both the gardens and they are so different.

  17. annek 03/06/2014

    Hi Nina. Again, a beautiful set of photographs. I like the way you and Bud changed the elevations with hills and walls. Your secret garden is a charmer for it rock or concrete that covers the ground? (Or could it even be road base?). The balance of grass, plantings and hard surfaces is perfectly apportioned. It's so good to see what this master gardener's previous yard was like. Thanks for sharing

  18. wildthyme 03/06/2014

    Annek, the floor of the secret garden was called "decomposed granite," and we've not seen anything similar here in Montana. It was used a lot in California, in fact they made pitcher's mounds out of it. It went down almost like sand or very fine gravel, but it packed down as hard as cement. Bud dug the area down about 8" because our clay soil was very prone to expansion & contraction. Then we put down landscape cloth, and then the decomposed granite. We did edge it to keep it from traveling, partly with the small pieces of ledgestone left over from the wasll.

  19. tractor1 03/06/2014

    appaloosa: I don't know Nina's reason for relocating and wouldn't venture a guess, people relocate for infinite reasons... but a huge migration of southern Californians to the PNW began some 25 years ago (for clean air and elbow room), and it escalated for a good number of years, primarilly to northern Idaho and Northwestern Montana. I planned to retire there myself, even bought an 80 acre lot just north of Sandpoint in Bonner County on Selle Rd... that's the picture with cattle I sometimes display. But as the time approached I suppose I got cold feet, that area was very remote, shopping was sparse, there were few medical facilities nearby, I knew no one there and I realized that no one I knew would visit that distance. So as a compromise I decided on the northern Catskills and I'm glad that's what I chose, I'm very rural but close to civilization, I'm only an hour from Albany so I can buy anything and there are excellent medical facilities and I'm 2 1/2 hours to NYC so people I know visit and I can easily visit them. However my NY license plate is still IDAHO-99, that's when I had planned to retire and make the move. I first tried to buy 54 acres in Columbia Falls MT, on 9 Mile Lake (Govt. name Spoon Lake), that's the log cabin I sometimes display. That log Cabin was built by Teddy Roosevelt, I tried to buy it from his daughter, Patricia Manetsch... she was about 80 then and is gone now but in the end she wouldn't sell. I still have the hand penned letter she wrote telling me of her decision not to sell. I lived in SoCal from '64-'69, to be honest I didn't like living there but I was working for Lockheed Burbank and the money was good. When Lockheed and Boeing lost out to France on the SST project the bottom fell out of CA, no jobs and a giant exodus. I returned to NY and lived on Long Island until I retired. Long Island became way over populated, traffic was terrible, and it was just too noisy day and night. I too am interested in why Nina made that move.

  20. KarinCa 03/06/2014

    Beautiful garden and very inviting! I also have a question about the decomposed granite. I was thinking of putting it in my CA garden as well, but am worried about our cat as well as the neighbors using it as a potty. Has this been an issue or can you pack it down hard enough that it's not tempting for cats?

  21. greengenes 03/06/2014

    Hey tractor1...So u ditched the idea about moving to the big open sky, huh! Sounds like you had good reasons.. us too were wanting to move there to be away from the crowd but we found out how cold it gets in the winter and decided not to venture there. It sure is a wonderful country and the people are very nice. Its a nice place to visit, though... New York is a place we will go visit too. When my husband retires next year we will start exploring the country here and abroad. I don't know what I will do with the gardens and chickens but iam sure it will work out. No worries! Its so neat to read everyones comments. I feel like I kind of know some of you and it would be so neat to have some sort of a gathering some day. But till we do we shall go on and encourage eachother and be so blessed by our gardens! And thank you Michelle for all you do to put us all together. How rewarding it must be to do what you do! I would love to spend some time talking with you as well. I know we didn't have much time at the garden show here in Seattle but we touched bases. Happy gardening!

  22. tractor1 03/07/2014

    greengenes: Hi! I put a lot of thought into retirement, of course never knowing if it would happen, but one has to have hopes and dreams. Where I am in NY winters are cold too, was -3 this morning and never went above 26, down to 16 now. But I like winters, gives me a rest from all the outdoor warm weather chores, and as one gets older they can't do as much anyway... at this point I'm happy that I can mow, pull a few weeds from around my trees, and keep my vegetable garden going... I don't care that it's not a showplace so long as the veggies grow. And there are always unforseen events to make extra work; I have two fallen trees across my forest path to dispose of come spring. I also enjoy this group, and I try to share the details of my life. I don't know where you live as you didn't fill in any details about yourself. If you'd like to discuss retirement, etc. I'm sure Michelle can arrange for us to exchange email adresses. There are still times I think about living in the north west but the reality is I'll likely never return. Don't worry about the chickens, there's alway schicken soup! LOL

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