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Front-Yard Transformation

Gardener Turns Modest Yard into a Traffic-Stopping Oasis

Connie McGlothern
Connie McGlothern relaxes in her flower-filled backyard.
Each day, when Connie McGlothern sets out to walk her two dogs through the streets of suburban Seattle, she slips a knife into her pocket.

"When I go by a plant I really like, I just ask if I can have a little cutting," she said. "I've never been refused."

With the help of those cuttings, Connie has transformed her modest yard into a traffic-stopping garden oasis. When she moved in 25 years ago, there were few plantings. Now, she has covered virtually every inch of ground with a wide variety of plants, from espaliered fruit trees to perennials and vegetables.

It started with a rock wall
For the first few years after moving into the house with her three children, Connie focused on the house, renovating it and putting on an addition. "I was itching to work on the yard, but I couldn't for a while. The first thing I did was to level the front yard and put in a short English-style rock wall," she said.

Then Connie started filling the front yard with plants. "I never had a drawn out plan, I just had something in my mind," she said. "I always leaned toward the English country look. But I do what I like, and I don't follow any particular rules. It kind of fell together. Over the years I have tried different things in different places. And if it doesn't work, or I want to do something different, I do."

Connie says Gardener's Supply has been instrumental in her gardening success. She incorporates lots of our wares into her yard, from practical products like Tomato Ladders and Grow-Through Supports to ornamental pieces like our Copper Obelisk.

Dealing with the rain
In Seattle frosts are rare, so Connie is able to grow a wide variety of plants. She does however, have special challenges with the rain.

On the north side of the house, she found that a wooden walkway was the key. "It is the only thing that has really worked there," she said. "We get a lot of rain, and sod would just get squishy."

Then, there are the slugs. "The dogs and I go out every morning before work. I put on garden gloves and I just pick up the slugs and huck them into the street," she said, laughing. "It works for me."

It all comes down to propagation
Connie doesn't just start perennials from cuttings, she also grows virtually all of her own annual flowers and vegetables from seed.

"Seeing if I can get something to grow is the biggest challenge and probably the thing I like the best about gardening," she said.

For seeds, she has created a germination area in her furnace room. The temperature stays about 70 degrees in there, and she has set up five racks of lights. Once the plants are ready, she moves them to her outdoor greenhouse.

Connie puts her cuttings into a mixture of two parts sand and one part peat in 4-inch pots. "I just keep them moist and see how many survive," she said.

Packing in the plants
With her love of propagation, Connie never has a shortage of plants to add to her garden.

"There are so many plants and trees that I still want, but there's no room," she said.

To be able to plant as much as possible, she has turned to espalier. Four dwarf apple trees are espaliered on her front fence, a pear tree in the side yard. Arbors support other climbing plants including roses and wisteria.

To make space, she also turns to another resource. "When I'm done with a plant, I dig it up and go plant it in my son's yard," she said. "He never minds."

"My yard is kind of like the living room," she added. "You want to change it around every now and then."

And she's not done yet.

"A garden to me is an ongoing process. It's never finished."

 

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