My first blog and honestly I wasn’t ready for it and I wouldn’t have been , if it wasn’t driven by a time constrained purpose – to inspire and motivate those of you who are planning for garden makeover within budget, by sharing tips and experiences from my garden transformation! Spring is round the corner and the best suited time for starting your garden project (big or small) – So I didn’t want to miss this boat on influencing & encouraging others on following their garden dream! By the way, I am not a gardening expert, all tips in this blog is based on my personal experience over years.
When we moved to our new house in summer of 2014, just like any new construction, we got a blank slate of 55 X 48 ft backyard. It was a big huge space with just 3 trees. Our options were:
- Hire a professional landscaping company to get a magazine style garden done without any sweat! Of course, we would have gotten sweats due to the fortune it would have costed us!
- Do end to end work of getting the garden magazine-ready ourselves, and save almost 70% of the cost by sweating a lot.
- This is the option we went with – which is mix of above! I did all the selections, research, delivery, nursery trips, planting of bulbs, smaller plants and shrubs and hired gardeners to plant just the big trees and privacy screen installations.
Alrite, so let’s talk about what we did & how we executed to turn our big empty land into a tranquil space.
Since I had to do most of the work myself, I applied my project management philosophy to list down the requirements, prioritize them, set timelines and budgets before starting this ‘Garden Project’. This was critical so I don’t get derailed or overspend.
Wish-list (in order of importance) –
- Tropical Garden in Northwest climate
- Attract variety of birds (Hummingbird/Chickadees etc…of course because of my husband’s strong liking for Hummingbird, it was on the top list)
- Privacy screening without compromising on tropical and modern look of the space.
- Seasonal flower beds along with Rose flower galore for my personal bouquet needs and to save on weekly fresh flower purchases.
- Spring/Summer Flowering Trees
- Fruit trees
- Vegetable Bed
- Kids Swing
- Concrete pavement space – to add to the modern look in the garden
Budget – The budget that we had allocated to get going was around $6000 (for top 6 items above). I am sharing this with you to give an idea of how much you could expect to spend if you are going with similar option (self and gardeners) and size of backyard.
Timelines – We wanted to get our garden ready in time for summer (started in March) – this meant just under 2 months. We had to get moving on various parts of the garden in parallel – for example, selecting the big trees while planning the flower beds.
Listing my wish-list, budget and timelines, really helped me keep my focus else I surely would have overspent and may not have been able to get key items ready in time.
Garden Sanctuary – How I did it!
Tropics Dream –
Palm Love – First, I researched on the type of trees and plants that can grow and survive in the northwest (Planting zone 8) region, and have tropical look and feel. After a lot of research I found a type of windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei ) that could survive in Pacific North West and a quality nursery to procure those palms from. We planted 6 palms in a row to get a modern tropical look- it’s the landmark area of our garden! Our neighbors and friends who saw our garden transformation mentioned – “can’t believe we are not in a tropical city”! This exactly was my vision and it makes me giddy with excitement when I see this quite difficult dream of having a tropical garden/sanctuary in a northwest region become a reality! Tell me if these pics below doesn’t confirm that!
Tip: Palm trees could be the most expensive item in your tree list – depending on the size of tree and most of the nurseries only give 3 months warranty for palms – which is not long enough to test their tolerance for winter weather. It is very important that you get your palms from a trusted nursery which are known for selling quality products.
I went Bananas! To me, in order to get the real tropical look, Bird of Paradise or a Banana tree is a must. Bird of Paradise was out of question (they really need Tropical climate to survive outdoors), and I remembered seeing Banana trees in some of the Seattle westside homes – so I knew some kind of Banana can survive and grow quite tall (15 ft) here as well. Again, after some research and several nursery trips I found a type of banana plant ‘Muso Basjo’ which could survive here. – wondering how? Because they are Japan native (similar climate as ours). It was on quite an expensive side, ofcourse! But was totally worth it. It grew from 2 ft (the size I bought it) to 5 ft within 3 months and REALLY added that extra punch to the tropical look of the space!
Hawaii in our Backyard! During one of our trips to Waikiki Island around 6 years back, I had seen Canna flower beds @Halekulani courtyard and it made a lasting impression on my mind. I always kept dreaming about creating similar effect in our own backyard. So of course, I had to fill out my 35 X 4 ft space with those canna bulbs. No kidding, I planted around 150 bulbs, all of them by myself – Everyone thought I have been hitting the gym a lot lately! Also, the icing on the cake is unlike Lilies, Cannas continue to flower and put up the show until late October!
Tip: Always plant 10-15% more bulbs than what you need, as not all of them may come up!
Our own wall of trees – As with many homes in the city, our yard also faces other homes on the back side, and since privacy has been one of the top item in my wishlist, our obvious choice was Bamboo trees – and also because it goes very well with the modern and serene look we were going for. I had seen them in one of the ‘Milliom Listings LA’ show on HGTV once – a modern home’s backyard all surrounded by this same variety of bamboo trees – boy did it looked amazing!
Tip: Never plant bamboos without the bamboo barrier (3-4 ft deep trench in the ground surrounded) installed, you can either do on your own or hire professionals. We did hire a professional. It is quite important that you do some referral checks before hiring someone for landscaping as there are lots of loopholes and ambiguity in these kinds job, so contracts can be very misleading.
Red contrast – In the 20 ft long space that I had reserved for trees, I got bamboos planted in the middle 35 ft part only, rest 10 ft on both side I had planned for ornamental & flowering trees. The side that corners with Palm tree rows, I chose Red Maple tree , to have a good contrast against Palm trees. On the other side of the Bamboos, we got a Sweetgum tree planted in the corner to get the nice crimson Red color during fall!
Rose Galore and seasonal colors – We picked 6 different color roses, all hybrid tea varieties, because of their florist quality size, fragrance and disease resistance! The only mistake I did was planting them in the hidden side of our garden completely underestimating their beauty and performance. My original intention was to use them for my weekly flower bouquet needs, but boy, they looked stunning and kept flowering till November, when all other plants had given up by that time of the year! So, this year I am planning to get few more roses for the focal locations in my garden!
Lillies (Rows of Pink, yellow, sunrise color – around 100 bulbs)
Tip: If you are planting Lilies on a flower bed, ensure you alternate them with perennials which have different blooming cycle so you don’t end of with an empty bed.
Dahlias ( Pink/purple/fuscia/yellow/white – around 15 bulbs)
Gladiolus – (1 row of pink/purple – around 100 bulbs)
Hydrangea Love – I wanted to plant just one hydrangea plant – again just for my weekly bouquet needs, but when I went to buy the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, since those are the ones mostly you would see florists using in flower bouquets! I fell in love with different colors and varieties of Hydrangeas and got 5 more of them! Planted lots of summer flowering perennials and few annuals as well! I usually plant lots of perennial bulbs and few annual plants as fillers, so I don’t have to do lot of work every year!
Tip: If you are looking for summer long flowers in your garden and maximum bang for the buck then no other perennial shrub can beat Hydrangeas!
I also used these annuals as fillers,
Hibiscus, Poppy, Marigold, Cosmos, Fuschia, Petunia
The Trees that I picked and why,
Most of my research and nursery visits that I did for this entire project were for the 4 trees that I planted on both sides of the sweetgum trees, the idea was to get late spring and summer flowering trees so even if some year I am not able to keep up with flowering bulbs and plants, I still have my garden blooming throughout summer! The reason I only picked late spring , summer and mid fall blooming trees was because that’s the only time we spend time outside in our backyard. Rest of the time we just like to enjoy outdoors by being inside .
Royal Raindrops CrabApple – This was one of the most beautiful crabapple tree that I had seen when I walked into one of the big nurseries in our area – picking it was absolutely a no brainer – and since it flowers in late spring, it did fit my wish-list.
Mimosa & Purple Lobe Locust – Tropical look and summer blooming flowers were definitely the prime reasons to pick these trees! I have to admit that I didn’t get any flowers on the mimosa tree, maybe because it was the 1st year, but we did get to enjoy purple flower clusters on the locust tree throughout summer! I am not sure of their bird and butterflies attracting score but Pink Chitalpa did work hard on keeping our garden full of bird chirpings J
Pink Dawn Chitalpa – If you have a craze for tropical flowering trees and love Oleander tree & flower like me, then this is the tree for you! When I chose this tree, which was mainly for it’s tropical look and beautiful clusters of flowers which stays from early summer to early fall. I didn’t know how popular it was among hummingbird! In our last home we tried all kinds of tricks to attract hummingbirds, with very little success and this tree turned out to be magical in that respect! Hummingbirds became our garden guests for the entire summer – what a bonus! Finding this tree in our area was bit of a challenge though. There was only one nursery in our entire 50 mile radius that carried just 1 Chitalpa tree and I was the lucky one to get it!
I can tell that all the effort and money that we spent on our tropical garden dream was completely worth it! Every summer evening when we would come home all tired and stressed out with work deadlines and corporate nuances, this place would literally become our tropical gateway! Swaying of Bamboo and Palm leaves with the summer breeze is so addictive – thankfully we didn’t have to spend airline dollars for this experience!
PS: All the pictures in this blog are from my garden last summer (2015).
Thank you for visiting! I hope you found some inspirations here to get started on your garden dream. Please leave your comments if you enjoyed reading my blog!