Ahhhh!!! I cannot wait to share this with y’all! I’ve been dreaming and planning this project for so, so long! To prepare I’ve been out in the garden as much as possible for months weeding and weeding and weeding some more. It’s been exhausting, but so exciting to see the fruits of my labor come to life.
My front yard when I moved in was… well… crazy. There were lots of plans, but many were overgrown and had been neglected for a while. The first few years I’ve lived here at Berrybrier, my priority has been the interior — making the house liveable and comfortable. That was crucial! You can’t go long without a working bathroom afterall. Now, a few years in, the dust has cleared. It’s coming up on my third year of living at Berrybrier and my 4th summer. This year is all about the garden. It’s time to get the mess under control and extend the living space outside. In Portland where it rains so much of the year and grey skies extend through May, I find myself wanting to be outside for every second of sunshine. That means I need to make the outdoor space a comfortable place to enjoy my time.
Now the backyard is a whole adventure to untangle over the course of several years, but the front yard? The front yard is doable. The front yard needs some structure and love, but it could be a wonderful place to spend time and its gardens could set the tone for the whole house. So for this season’s One Room Challenge, I’ve settled on the front yard as my room! I’ll be carving out space for a veggie garden and a seating area within the existing footprint too.
This is my inspiration board! You can see there are bits that are more wild with plants of varying heights and dashes of color. Then there will be other areas that are more structured. Throughout the garden I’m planning to add architectural moments like stone pathways, landscape lighting, and natural branch trellises. I’ll be placing a bench near the veggie garden for a spot to sit and eat those tomatoes fresh from the vine! Finally, I’ll be completely transforming the front porch by switching the orientation of the stairs! I’ll be extending them out from the front facade of the house so they face the street and sidewalk instead of my driveway. This means a new front path to the door too!
It’s a lot easier to understand what’s going on in my space when you see it in plan too. So I drew this up for you! This is the current set up. The driveway is along the left side of the house and you have to walk up it to get to the stairs for the front entry. I loathe this for a few reasons. My house was built in 1909, so this can’t have been the original access. One of my pet peeves is when houses don’t have front paths. And lastly, my driveway concrete isn’t in good shape. I worry that someone could walk up and trip on a crack or the uneven pavement and get hurt. Last summer I put in a fence around the backyard which created a neat little end point for the front garden (I owe you a whole post on the fence when I get around to finally staining it this summer!).
So what’s happening in the next 8 weeks? Get ready, because it’s going to be a transformation! I am seriously so excited for this space to finally come to life! The driveway isn’t changing, but look at those new wide stairs facing the street! After much debate between concrete or wooden steps, I’ve settled on wood, because I think I will be more likely to knock them out in a weekend this way. I’m hoping to find a petite chair for the porch and a small side table. I can envision sitting there or on the steps and chatting with neighbors, cocktails in hand, on summer evenings. A new path will lead down from the steps to the sidewalk (since there is a bit of a grade change here, where the path meets the sidewalk I’ll be adding a couple of stone steps too.
The whole garden will be split horizontally by a pathway leading from the driveway to the vegetable garden. From there the path will split, one fork leading to the gate into the side yard and the other to a path that winds through the vegetable garden and ends with a bench under my lilac tree. There will also be a small path directly in front of the house which leads to a rain barrel or two which will catch the water from the downspout and store it for use in the garden.
The garden will be lush, raw, a little chaotic and full of plants of varying heights and colors in front of the house. It will be a true cottage garden with things blooming at different times of year. Then there will be a few trellised rows of raspberry plants and a blueberry hedge (the house is named Berrybrier afterall!) The vegetable garden will be planted in ground with the path winding through it. There will be evergreen and annual edible plants intermingled throughout the garden. Where the existing stairs are currently, I’m planning to build a small potting shed in the future which will have double locking doors and a shed roof. But that won’t likely happen until the fall.
Now that you know the plan, we have to take a look at the history of the front yard! I can’t not show you the front of the house from when I bought it in the summer of 2017. The garden was crazy! The 2′ wide parking strip was incredibly overgrown with with bamboo, a palm tree, banana plants, a giant oddly shaped forsythia, and an absolutely ginormous hydrangea that was eating away at a tall grass. All of it was far too large for the small parking strip and blocked a lot of the garden and obscured a large part of the house too.
Here’s a closer view of that corner. Irises in front of a chain link fence and overgrown rosh bushes competing for space with a lilac bush, weeds and random flowers scattered throughout the rest of the space.
The front porch was nearly taken over by the large black walnut tree that sits in the parking strip and desperately needed to be trimmed back that fall. The plants in front of the house were random and mostly perennials that died off completely in winter.
This is a picture I took when I toured the house the very first time. I’m tromping through the weeds in the front garden behind my realtor. You can see there are special moments in the garden, but they’re scattered and untamed.
On the righthand side of the house the lilac tree was nearly hidden by a cacophony of climbing roses that were planted right beneath it. The roses used the lilac as a trellis and it was confusing to look at! There were also a couple of hidden garden structures: an arch and a post. I’m not sure what the original use for either was!
Looking towards my neighbor’s house from here you can see more plants and a small low fence. Buried in there was a raised bed! You can see the chain link fence that divides our properties as well.
Here’s another shot of the climbing roses! Can you spot the lily at the bottom of the frame?
The first summer I lived here (2017), my cousins Mary and Ted came out each day to help tackle the chaos of the garden and removed all the weeds and cut back the plants. I planted clover in the fall. A friend took this picture of me admiring my clover in March 2018. You can see the chain link fence here and the walnut tree beyond it.
In early summer of 2018 (mid-painting debacle), I posted the chain link fence on craigslist as free if you dug it up. Miraculously someone came by and did all that hardwork for me! I can’t really change the chainlink fence bordering my neighbors’ yards, but this felt like a huge improvement! with the fence gone I felt like the garden was so much larger and the iris border at the front of the yard made a whole lot less sense.
By the end of the summer of 2018, the house had finally been painted this happy coral color! The irises looked rough at the end of the season, but I’d begun planting random things in the yard, hoping to fill in some of the empty space. Since there is a not a hose bib at the front of the house, I dragged a heavy hose from the backyard and ended up just leaving it in the front for the summer (not classy, but it was sooo heavy and frustrating to move!)
I happily planted a few tomatoes that year though and enjoyed the small harvest. This front right corner of the yard is the sunniest spot on my property! The backyard is mostly all shade due to large trees, so this sunny front corner is the best space for a vegetable garden. I want the garden to be integrated into the front landscape so there’s a natural transition between the spaces.
This picture below is why I want to transplant the irises around the front garden. They are beautiful in spring with their spear foliage and later when they bloom, but by the end of the season, they’ve lost their interest. I want to remove the border of irises to make a landscape with more year round interest, with plenty of these irises mixed in!
Okay, this last picture is from the garden in the late winter 2019. You can see how dominate the walnut tree in the parking strip is! The garden looks green, but pretty barren without all the perennials, right? I want to fix that with more evergreen plantings! It will take a while for things to grow in, but that’s just one more exciting thing to watch for in the future.
Okay, now that you’ve seen the space in as it’s evolved over the past few years are you ready for this challenge?! I cannot wait to see it come to life! I am looking forward to harvesting a ton of veggies and planting more evergreens and entering my house from the actual sidewalk. I’m going to be adding landscape lighting so I can actually see the pathways in the evenings. It’s literally going to be lit!
Thanks for following along! I miss you guys! If you have a cottage garden or any garden really and have some tips about good plant combinations or the best easy fast growing evergreens for the Pacific Northwest, let me know!
Don’t forget to check out the other One Room Challenge Participants here!