My husband and I have been living in this 1970’s ranch house since 1994. The backyard had an old good-neighbor fence that was falling apart, a small concrete patio that only extended beneath the roof line and a large lawn area that allowed only for only a three-foot wide planting bed next to the house and the south property line. The few fruit trees it contained were unhealthy and growing sideways toward the sun. Most of the plants we had were rhododendrons, juniper, and declining photinia hedge. You get the picture! Growing up in Brazil, all those plants were unfamiliar to me, plus I never had taken care of a garden before. As a child, I enjoyed exploring my grandparent’s large tropical garden, then we all moved to high-rise apartments. Houses and gardens were not part of our lives anymore. We were left with only indoor house plants, a rare visit to a busy park in the city or an occasional vacation to the country side.
The minute I moved into our Portland house, I discovered that I loved spending time in the garden. Then, I discovered the local nurseries. I was bitten by the plant bug! In need for a career change, I naturally fell into landscape design.
In the early 2000s, we replaced the old fence and built a retaining wall to improve the grade at the westside property. A few years later I developed a conceptual plan for a new patio area and sitting wall to replace the old patio. I chose Lyna Waggoner, from the former J&L Masonry to build it for us. I had met her as a fellow student at Portland Community College.
A few years later, my husband and I had to replace the windows of our house so I suggested replacing the window at my studio with a sliding door to improve the overall access from the backyard to the house. Once the sliding door was installed, I went to work on a conceptual layout for the remaining backyard. I needed a way to actually get down to the garden using the new door. We also wanted a vegetable garden and my husband wanted a fig tree. Years earlier, I had seen a steel trellis at a show that I fell in love with it. Because I could not afford it at the time, I kept the artist’s business card and purchased the same trellis five years later on a country road between Portland and Seattle. Persistence!
During this time I had also been collecting plants at plant sales and local nurseries. What to do with them? Where to put them? The conceptual plan took several attempts to be finalized. It evolved throughout the process. I discovered that it is not easy to design your own garden. Lyna Waggoner came back to build the new landing and steps at the sliding door. Then a few years later, Andrew Babiracki from Terra Prima, built the remaining hardscape elements, which included some welding on the site. Afterwards, my husband and I went to work. We brought some good soil and incorporated into our new beds, so I finally could start playing with the plants I had collected throughout the years. A garden is never done — it just keeps evolving.