Rosie’s Garden

Within a half-hour of first walking this property with my realtor, I had a sense that the overgrown yard and the menagerie of tangled plants was a special place for me to cultivate. It was late fall and garden beds were weeded over and somewhat bare of mature plants in a “cared-for” way.


By the following May I had spruced up the house itself. Throughout winter and spring I started weeding and thinning around the yard, forming ideas based on what was in front of me. Rosie had planted all the “bones” of the yard and it was clear that for her last fifty years much had been designed and planted with her purpose; hence Rosie’s Garden. As a preservationist, I ask, “Why get rid of the healthy and start over?” I recognized that with love and pruning, water and food this yard would start swinging around to find its past happy place again.


Then June hit. “What are those green leafy stalks climbing up from the gardens?”, I asked myself. By July, colorful flowers started blooming, and between my 30-yr old Sunset Garden Book and the Internet searches, I learned “Dahlia”. Oh my! A new plant to me, and they’re all over the place. I knew of the Sequoia Park bulb gardens and soon recognized that this plateau area of Eureka is a climate zone of its own; bulbs are happy here.


I chose to design a new street side of the yard that mimicked the established, historic, opposite forest-side of the property. I relied on expertise from Ryan at Singing Trees Nursery who shared knowledgeable design work and complimentary plants. It was soon clear to me that with the deer, fawns, bucks, fox and black bear that owned the yard, and the raccoons and skunks that rutted the lawn at night (never noticed before that they rut like pigs with their snouts), that all frequented the yard from the forest watershed section of property that the surviving plants were here because the animals didn’t eat them. Wow, what a concept to drive garden design; go with what works!

I chose new plants that over the years have woven the yard into a balanced quilt of sympathetic nature. Rhododendrons, hydrangea, currents, and fuchsia are some of the revolving blooms that cycle through the seasons. I’ve transplanted some from here to there, divided tubers and split bulb groups. Redwood stumps host plants and tell story of the past forest. I believe in the adage “work smarter, not harder”. What began with two hose bibs for the entire property quickly changed to nine, along with my installing multiple watering zones (to free me of being held to a hose when my day-job demanded me). Also, complimenting night-lights expanded the daylight happiness into a nighttime wonderland. Root watering with timed emitters, and mulching keeps weeds down. Fun hardscape and art add functional whimsy to the planting zones.

Bulbs and perennials that return over and over (like the dahlias and gladiolus) have been in-filled over the 15 years so that now the yard starts blooming in January and goes until after Thanksgiving when the giant tree Dahlia (D.Imperialis) shows off it’s soft violet petals contrasted by bright yellow-orange center closing off the year. “Elsie Frye” rhodys and mock orange (Philadelphus) throw gardenia-like fragrance into the air during the early seasons. The variety of color is almost visually exhausting this time of year. Butterflies, bees, birds and varieties of food groups of insects, grubs, and critters are constantly happy. Even neighboring kitty cats are entertaining to watch as they attempt their failed, clumsy stealth to grab a bird that flits around the yard in peace.

As with recycling historic homes and building materials that drives one passion, in gardening I believe that when soil and plants are living organically, all the critters and bugs are content to keep coming back. Oops, a tiny spotted fawn just bounce around the yard hunting for Mom. It’s a happy garden that feeds all of us differently. What keeps growing here is not on the forest-animals’ menu, and, what gets eaten is like “gifting the animals for leaving the rest”. It’s a recognized balance that I find works well. The beauty gives us calming peace and a smile.

Enjoy your tour of a simple, and historic garden.