Launching the chick into homeowner flight

Our daughter just closed on her first home this week. The house was constructed in 1930 on a corner lot here on the west side of Vancouver. It’s a bit of an unkempt duckling in need of TLC but has the potential to turn into a swan.


Rebecca's house front


While she works on the interior of the house she’s asked me (with some help of my Master Gardener pals) for ideas for the garden. I’m excited at the prospect but it is in need of major clean up first.  So this week my husband and I plus my Master Gardener pal Toni spent one cool morning putting a dent in it.

Toni tackled the overgrown ivy on the fence. My husband took down three pesky Tree-of-Heaven, while I worked on the blackberry bramble.  We completely filled up Toni’s pick-up with debris.



Overgrown ivy on fence before


Ivy removal in progress


Tree of Heaven by the fence


Blackberry bramble before




Later that day I met with Vancouver’s Urban Forester to discuss which trees needed to come out. There is Black Locust growing in the alley way, a sad-looking flowering cherry by the garage, and an even sadder looking purple flowering plum  starting to grow into the overhead wires.  His suggestion was to remove them all and start over with better behaved trees, appropriate for the size of the lot.  He measured and marked the area on the hot west side of the lot where two street trees may eventually go.


Black Locust trees in foreground 


We went back Saturday and did more work, digging up masses of iris tubers, separating them and putting them out in two free boxes. Took out some very old roses, so old they had reverted back to the rootstock. Going, going, gone. Time to start over.  Cleaned up the dead stuff around the banana trees. Took all the debris and filled up our yard debris bin at home.

While I was hacking back anything and everything plus digging up irises my husband busied himself with cleaning up all the rubbish and sorting it into piles of recyclable material and garbage.  He found kid’s toys, bits of plastic everywhere, metal, sunflower shells, cigarette butts, and used Q-tips all off of the front porch area.

The place comes with a concrete pad behind the garage. The previous owner stored a camper and a boat on it. Once cleaned up this would make for a nice outdoor dining area. It could also be a good base for an outdoor mosaic tile ‘carpet.’


RV pad in the back


Found a border of lilies with some hardy geraniums and asters inside the fence and this sweet little Japanese Maple plonked in the center of the ‘lawn.’ My daughter would like to move it but we don’t know if it would survive a move.


Front area


These junipers will have to go. The front faces south and the shade is from evergreens across the road. It’s pretty narrow here and sloped so I’m considering ornamental grasses. Massed Mexican Feather Grass?  Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster?’

Juniper blobs on sentry duty


The previous owners had a vegetable garden on the west side of the house. My daughter would like to put raised beds in here for vegetables. There is no hose bib on this side and we’ll have to put one in eventually.  There is a basement so hopefully the water pipe running through is not far off. Weird that there is only one hose bib though.  I thought houses had to have at least two.




The west side outside the fence receives the most sun and is very dry.  Native plantings would go well here.




This front border is now cleaned out. Bye-bye irises, bye-bye lilac. For now the banana mini-forest will stay. We all think they’re kind of cool. So maybe a tropicalisimo garden ya think? There’s a lot of work ahead!






2 thoughts on “Launching the chick into homeowner flight

  1. WOW, your daughter is lucky to have family that will do so much hard work.  Isn’t there any place to replant some of the iris?  Which fruit trees (dwarf, perhaps) would do well?  That concrete pad in back is real plus, lots of potential for outdoor living.  Yes, certainly do need at least one more hose bib out there.  My house has four.  So glad you kept the Banana trees, your daughter seems to really like them.  Would hibiscus survive in that growing zone?  Would add to the exotic look. Hope to see pictures of the progress, that little place has so much potential!  BJ    | “The past is past, and the future is yet to come. That means the future is in your hands—the future entirely depends on the present. That realization gives you a great responsibility. “   | |  H.H. the Dalai Lama, “The Experience of Change |

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    1. Thanks Barb. Rebecca spent some time in Hawaii and really loved it there. One thought is that we try a kind of island tropical feel to the garden. And yes, some of the hibiscus family will do well up here…already picked one up! Also Ginger. She really wants a water feature. I want to suggest some kind of water rill to her. Those are usually low, flat, and narrow. Just enough to dabble feet in on a hot day.


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