After moving into the Oceanside house, I told myself that I would not be building a garden here. I was getting too old for the amount of manual labor that would be involved, the terrain was too steep, the salt air would make things difficult, the weather… I had so many excuses. It didn’t take long for me to change my view into: let me just see if I can find a way to traverse this space. Then to: I think I can build a series of steps here. Next came: this might me a good place to build a structure where we can gaze out at the sunset while drinking a glass of wine. Then thinking about a possible flow through the space, the various garden spaces that could be created and the ways in which I could stop the deer from eating all my plants. You get the picture.
My first steps were to start at the bottom of the yard. As I looked up at the house, there was a wall of native vegetation. The house stands 4 ½ stories tall at the back and it was maybe 30 feet vertically above where I am standing. Armed with a pair of loppers, I started to build a goat trail up the steep embankment, peering under the vegetation to try and locate the gentlest slope I could find. It required a series of zigzags in places. After two days, I was perhaps 20 feet from the base of the house, and had about 8 feet of elevation gain to make. Wherever I looked I saw a steep wall. Had I come this far to be denied a suitable path. No way! Perhaps I could not have a goat trail, but I could make steps. As I hacked away at the vegetation, I put in some makeshift steps that would allow me to continue without constantly slipping back down the slope. Eventually, I made it and at that point I knew that a garden was in the making!
The goat trail was less than 4 years old and less than half of the yard has been tamed. I am trying to leave some of the native vegetation as well as mixing in new plants. Some areas have been completely cleared while other are left a lot more rustic. I am also being careful of some of the slopes and do not want to take out the vegetation that is holding those in place. While I am build retaining walls in many places, I want to keep everything as stable as I can.
The next significant event for the garden was a tour of homes that was put on by the Master Gardeners of Tillamook. Many of those gardens were interesting and I picked up some tips, but one garden in particular set my mind on fire. It was another coastal garden and they were growing a number of plants that I had never seen before, such as Romnea – the fried egg plant. I started to wonder what other plants may be possible in this climate. That led me to look at the Proteaceae family. There were no nurseries in the area that had any, so it was up to me to grow them from seed – and so I started to get seeds from England, Australia and South Africa. It is going to be quite a few years before any of them are ready to be planted out in the yard and reach flowering maturity, but I now have 1 year old seedlings of several plants that I hope will define this garden as being unique and make others want to explore more of the incredible world of plants.
Well, without giving too much away, one area of the garden is now called Gondwana. It contains many wonderful plants that originate from the ancient super-continent of Gondwana and that includes the Proteas.
I love hearing from people and your garden adventures.