We spent the first two-and-a-half years in this house designing the garden and stockpiling material. This is our original plan which is based on paths (in orange) from the house to the various features we intended to build. Thus we could create small gardens one at a time using the paths as the boundary lines. Except for the largest projects like the pond and the driveway, we did the work ourselves — which really means Mark did the construction and hard physical labor and I did the planting. We argued equally about design and control issues.
This is my drawing of the above plan where you can see the names we've given to each area. We named them so we had a way to talk about different areas without getting confused about what or where the other person meant. We continue to use those names for the most part. We still refer to the compost corner though the bins are long gone and it's all planted. We've just never come up with a new name that has stuck!
The front view of the house in 1994 on the day we had the inspection. The lot is one-half acre which is very big for an urban property and was a major factor in our decision to buy. You'll notice the lot goes right down to the street with no sidewalks. That means the city technically owns the first 16 feet of our lot should they ever decide to put in sidewalks. If the house had not been wood siding and able to be painted, that yellow color would have been a deal-breaker.
Summer 2011 after we replaced the bark on the front paths with gravel. The house has been painted twice — in the exact same color: Seal Beach Green. We've added a border the length of the driveway on the left and trees and shrubs along the slope on the right side.
October 2016, a year after we replaced our concrete driveway with pavers, added a boulder retaining wall and stone steps into the Moon Garden.
A closer look at the gravel path across the front of the garden out by the street. This area is mostly Geranium macrorrhizum ground cover and shrubs and trees and requires little maintenance.
The look of this area — aka The Wild Time Border — varies slightly by season with white daffodils in early spring, daylilies in mid-summer and Geraniums all the time.
We used Round-Up to mark out the front paths a long time before we began actual construction.
The pictures above and below clearly show the layout of the area known as the "Moon Garden" with the Yin/Yang Circle in its earliest days. Mark shot these standing on the roof of the house.
The Upper Moon Garden bed in very early Spring carpeted with fallen petals from an old crabapple tree that shades this area.
The new beds in summer 2015 that link the stone steps up from the front door to the Moon Garden
Coming around the curve of the Upper Moon Garden wall and approaching the West Gate garden. Note the obelisk which we brought with us from our former house and garden.
As we built the garden, we moved tools and materials from place to place. This is the West Gate area when it was the materials yard. Note the large stepping stones that took a Bobcat to be put into place as well as the stone grouping next to the fence.
A stone path with gravel edges is in place along with baby Epimediums and branches of an exsisting Burning Bush half on our side of the fence and half on our neighbor's side.
When Mark regraded this area as part of a project to help control rainwater runoff, I had to move all the plants which explains their small size.
The Epimediums all filled in. The rocks are Argillite, a highly compacted sedimentary rock, and not petrified wood despite its looks.
The view toward the street (before the regrading next to the house)
The Tea House is the focal point of this garden and so we've never decided if we want to add the gate that has given the area its name.
The opposite side of the house has a structure which gives this space its name: The East Gate. There's a sloped gravel path so we can get a wheel barrow into the back gardens and the gate panels open wide enough to get modest equipment through the area.
This space is on the side of the house with only a couple of high windows so you don't see this work yard from inside. Mark built the gate and set up this area in 2014. He recently told me to start looking for ideas for a permanent potting bench to replace the old door on sawhorses on the right of the image below. This is where we pile debris to take to the city drop off site where they will shred and compost garden waste. It's also where we store our ceramic pots for the winter and all the bags of pine needles I've been collecting from friends and neighbors to use to refresh the garden paths next spring.
Remember this picture that I posted not long ago showing how Mark had beautifully refreshed and redefined our dry stream? The bare area in the foreground is the spot where the black bags are piled above.
The Traffic Island garden came about when the city added these planting beds as a means of slowing down drivers. It's worked fairly well on our street and gave me a nice sunny space to play with.
It has been replanted and changed constantly over the years, most often because the plants out here grow too well and get so big they begin to obscure the sign as well as oncoming traffic. Most recently I changed the summer planting to perennials: Alliums, Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta and Geranium Rozanne. But Tulips have been a big success and have returned in this location because it is gritty and dry in the summer, just like the areas where they originated.