Wednesday, September 26, 2012

20 Years Ago Today (Before & After)

It seems incredible but 20 years ago today (Sept. 26, 1992), we moved into our house.

This is what the front looked like then - as you can see, not much landscaping.


At the time, we were living in a tiny apartment located two houses behind this one. This house had been on the market for quite a long time and I never dreamed that it would one day belong to us. Michael and his business partner, Cindy, were looking for a place for their own salon at the time, and they made an appointment to see this house. After looking at it, Michael came home and told me that he would rather live in it. It didn't take much to persuade me but at the time, but I figured it would never happen.



See the police car in the distance? It is sitting at the apartment right next to ours. Before our offer was accepted, we would walk up to the house and explore. We found a way to get inside! I would sit on the back steps that looked out over enclosed hedge inside the circular driveway and dream about the future garden. At the time, we only had a tiny garden behind our apartment. This photo was taken shortly after we moved in, after I had trimmed the hedges and removed all the weeds and debris that was choking the circle.
The side yard or as we like to call it, "the lower 40". The 3/4 acre property covers 2 city lots so there was plenty of room to garden (well, at least I thought so at the time!). The yard was huge and was all grass. It took hours to mow.
Another view of the lower 40. The trees that were there were all fruit trees and they were in poor condition.
The beginnings of the garden. The stones in the half-moon circle wall were found on the property. They had been used as pavers in the driveway circle and had become buried. We first used them to make a stone wall along the back of the property but later decided to make this wall. The pergola was our first major outdoor project. The whole garden plan was designed around this structure.
A first priority for the front was to create some privacy. This area was totally open to the neighbors and the street. We started the fence at the end of January in 1995. It was actually snowing the day we began and so cold. We obviously had more energy and determination than we do today!
The fence completed!
And here is the front of the house today. We finally got our privacy!
I could not find a good shot of the circular garden in the driveway circle but it is filled with hydrangeas and four sawtooth oak trees. I initially did not want to add trees to the circle garden because I wanted to keep the formality. However, the hot Western sun blasting the back of the house changed my mind. This photo was taken from the roof and overlooks an arbor over the back door that is covered with the climbing rose "Cecille Brunner".
And the lower 40 looks quite different today.
There is lots of shade now but a few years after we started gardening, we had lots of flowers and perennials. I believe this photo was taken somewhere around 1997.


We also went all out at Christmas and had a big party every year. We stopped doing that a few years ago and sold our decorations. Too much work!
Before serious work on the garden began, we worked on the inside of the house. It was in good condition but everything had to be scraped and repainted. The wallpapers were deteriorating and needed to be replaced. Michael confessed that he broke down in tears one night when I was away at library school wondering what on earth he had gotten us into. We both hope we never have to scrape woodwork again!


The living room before - Michael wanted it to be purple and I didn't ask any questions.

The first dab goes on!

Razz supervises us. The color was nice (I think it was called "eggplant") but after a few years we started to think that it was too dark so we put a lighter shade on. It was too light and we settled on the color that it is now (slightly lighter than the original).

The worst room in the house was the kitchen which had those old metal cabinets from the 1950s. We knew this was beyond our capabilities and hired a professional to come in, gut the kitchen and start over. An old-fashioned pantry was to the right as well as a butler's pantry. This was taken out and the room was enlarged. I do miss the pantry!

The new cabinets and island installed

Finally, it was finished! The room in the background was originally a back porch. We had it enclosed and turned it into a breakfast nook.


This was the small back porch that we enclosed.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Surprise bloom

This bromeliad always takes me by surprise when it blooms. It is like a surprise lily - it just magically appears one day. I caught a glimpse of pink this morning on the patio and there it was.

I've had this plant for years. I keep it in the house during the winter and put it outside in the spring. I always water it inside the leaves. That's all I do and I'm familiar with the rules of growing one. 

I'll post another photo when the flower opens. It is quite dramatic.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy