Deborah Donovan-Navarro
Deborah Donovan-Navarro
  • Hometalker
  • Puyallup, WA

How We Are Turning a Foreclosure Yard Into Gardens of Beauty

$3000
40 Months
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5/1/2015 Update coming soon!
When I returned from England in 2007, I couldn't find a home in the Puget Sound area that I could afford, since I also had to buy a car, all new appliances (because of the different voltage in electrical current) and a half of a houseful of furniture. So, I bought a home in Des Moines Iowa and lived there until March of 2011 when I closed on a bank foreclosed home here in Puyallup. It had been empty for at least a year and not well cared for previously. The bank had slapped some paint on the interior, repaired a little of the wooden fencing, installed new carpet and called it macaroni. Here is what the garden looked like. I'll share some more illustrations of “before” with detailed pictures of various areas of the still-evolving garden. As you can see the house was yellow with red brick, with stone and gravel walks and
steps.
The shrubs which were here were very overgrown and the maples on the street which frame the steps (if you can call them that) from street to house level had been badly pruned. The maples were overgrown as well and had lots of dead wood. The Yakushimanum Rhododendrons had all grown out of scale to the terraces and were hanging over the rock wall. The two Dappled Willow, on either side of the gravel walkway, were too damaged to be saved, although I tried my hardest to do that for a year. The roof was covered with moss and the gutters were filled to capacity with fir needles and leaves.
The back yard was so bad that I usually kept the drapes closed, so that I didn't have to look at it. There are two copse of Douglas Firs and Western Cedar trees and everything behind them was overgrown with English Ivy and weeds. On the side of the house away from the driveway, there were two fences with 4'-8' separating them (don't ask me why). Between the fences it was a mass of weeds. On that same side which slopes up to the parking level, someone had put mulch over sod and the mulch had decomposed. Removing that root filled dry sod was a horrendous job. The photos following the “before picture” will tell you much about the rest of the story.
"Before"
"Before"
The first order of business was to create one safe set of stairs - the ones leading from the house level to the driveway. Next came the tree pruning and the attempt to save not only the dappled willows and a very old Hebe hedge. Both of those were ultimately yanked out. Here are some spring and autumn photos of the maples and azaleas on the top level and terraces, plus a before picture of one of the two “blobs”, which are now very beautiful red and green Acer Palmatums. Hubby and I initially had a difference of opinion about whether grass should go up top, but he prevailed and I'm so happy he did! The grass frames the plantings beautifully.
Our first autumn colors here.
Our first autumn colors here.
With the grass on the top level, the spring colors shine forth.
how we are turning a foreclosure yard into gardens of beauty, curb appeal, flowers, gardening, landscape, outdoor living
This Acer Palmatum was formerly just one big blob before I pruned it. Lots of dead wood underneath this on and its green sibling behind the bright red azalea standard in the distance.
The Lawn Wizard performed magic.
The Lawn Wizard performed magic.
Our first iteration of the small shade patio had a rocker/glider. It now boasts a bistro set.
Green Acer Palmatum and friends
Green Acer Palmatum and friends
The grey green leaves at the left of the photo belong to the Yakushimanum Rhododendrons, which I pruned way back last year just after they had bloomed. We had limited bloom this spring, but they should be right back on schedule next spring.
From the steps through the trees
From the steps through the trees
You can see the limited bloom on the Rhodies this year, following pruning.
The shade garden
The shade garden
Those astilbes on the left have very tall white blossoms. The pavers used on the shade patio were repurposed from lining the old gravel paths when concrete sidewalks went in.
Musical azaleas
Musical azaleas
The first time all of these azaleas bloomed I was surprised and unhappy that they didn't match. It took two more tries to get it right. The existing red azaleas (Johanna) were matched and cut back so that they match the new ones in size. I am so relieved to finally have it right. It takes a lot of muscle to move azaleas over and over! The oriental lilies have been moved back closer to the wall, the fern on the right of the green, unknown shrub has been moved out and you can't see the gorgeous hardy fuchsia, Christmas Elf (which is just out of view on the right). There is a beautiful Berberis Orange Rocket hidden behind those lily stalks. It can be seen well now.
how we are turning a foreclosure yard into gardens of beauty, curb appeal, flowers, gardening, landscape, outdoor living
I can't get enough of the azaleas and maples!
Perennial border next to rock wall
Perennial border next to rock wall
This bed is coming together beautifully. I still have a few things I want to move, but I tend to rearrange my garden like most people do their living rooms!
Both beds were created from scratch
Both beds were created from scratch
how we are turning a foreclosure yard into gardens of beauty, curb appeal, flowers, gardening, landscape, outdoor living
It's a work in progress, so the cement mixer isn't ever far. We have one more concrete curb to lay on the street level and all along the driveway. Eventually the driveway won't be gravel.
Shade bed and patio
Shade bed and patio
Are you impressed by how I photoshopped the hose off of the sidewalk? LOL!
Dave's priorities
Dave's priorities
The putting green, bunker and chipping area went in almost immediately. There was a strange rock bordered island bed where the green is now. This was the beginning of this growing season. Now all of that wind fall has been cut up and stacked and all of those weeds in the back have been removed. Hubby has been digging trenches and installing the irrigation system in back. The small tree inside the ring is a Cercis "Forest Pansy" which we bought for our anniversary last year. In the distance is where I've started a new bed just this summer. A close-up is below.
My brand new hot color bed - in progress.
My brand new hot color bed - in progress.
You can see where that chain link fence bends back toward the wood fence. We have so many rocks to dispose of we have chained off that area - about 6'X15' to deposit all of the rocks. Clematis is going in either this fall or next spring to camouflage the fence and hide all of the discarded rocks.
I had no idea what to put as the cost, because this hasn't been a simple case of landscaping. There's also the concrete, some fencing, materials for a carport, sod, etc. I wish I had been allowed more pictures because this shows only a small fraction of what we have accomplished. It is, however, still a work in progress.

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Have a question about this project?

6 questions
  • MUZIKL96
    on Apr 17, 2016

    What plants did you put in your shade garden?

    • Deborah Donovan-Navarro
      on Apr 22, 2016

      MUZIKL96 , It's still a work in progress, but thus far, astilbe, Japanese Forest Grass, several hostas, Dan Hinkley's discovery, Purple Passion Hydrangea, White Delight Hydrangea, Aralia Spiderweb, Aralia Sun King, a few Hellebores, variegated Lily of the Valley, lots of Heuchera and Heucherella, Saxifrage, Epimedium, Cicimifuga Black Negligee and several ferns. I hope to do an update to this blog by this fall, provided we get the back deck and "boardwalk" torn out and replaced with covered patio and sidewalk.

    • Bco5340287
      on May 21, 2017

      You've done a beautiful job and I too would like to see a full of the front !!!!
  • Mary Miller
    on Apr 25, 2016

    Nice job Deborah. Question.... I have a Acer Palmatum also and trim it back every year. I've also been told by many that they don't like to be low to the ground did you ever hear of this? I don't do anything to mine except trim it, any other little secrets you can share with me for this beauty? ty

    • Deborah Donovan-Navarro
      on May 15, 2016

      @MaryMiller Both of mine are high limbed, making the overall height of them about 4'. That said, I suspect that they were trained that way at the nursery. I prefer them cut back, so that they look more like a "big Bonsai" than a blob. If they get too full, you'll probably notice that there are crossing branches. That and just being too full make some of the growth underneath die. There was a lot of dead growth when I pruned them back from "blobs". I had to get underneath to see what direction the main limbs were going in order to know what I was doing. In the updated pictures below, you'll see how trim I keep the red one.

    • Pat Cohen
      on May 23, 2017

      We keep both of ours trimmed, 1 red and the other green. They need to be pruned every Spring..we had a bad storm in Oct and as they hadn't lost their leaves yet lost a lot of branches. Now always kept up and light
  • Kathy McGovern
    on Apr 8, 2017

    Do you have a blog where we could see the rest of the yard? It is beautiful!
  • Tigerpshaw
    on May 13, 2017

    Where is the equivalent "After" shot - of the house, you know.
  • Madison Stephens
    on Jul 24, 2017

    What does the whole yard look like instead of what you did for each flower bed?
  • Marie Neal
    on Aug 18, 2017

    Why didn't you do a full front photo so we could see after?pull

Join the conversation

2 of 290 comments
  • Susan Heidbrink Beller
    on Aug 31, 2017

    I just wonder when you found time to eat.Fantastic garden.



  • SueBeeOC
    on Sep 1, 2017

    Your property's transformation is a feast for the eyes and imagination! I would love to see what you've done with your home's interior!
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