For Sandra, a “hands-on” person, it was tough to stay out of the way as a contractor and workmen gutted and completely renovated the 1950s house she and her husband, Howard, had just bought in Walla Walla, Washington.
New to the area, Sandra was keen to get to know the neighborhood. So while the men upgraded her new home to a more modern aesthetic and condition, she turned to the front garden. Each day, from a rental house a few blocks away, Sandra would come over and labor in the garden in an effort to make progress on the house and to begin to meet her neighbors.
The garden was not a garden when she started. Her first efforts were directed at a steep bank along the sidewalk, a discouraging mass of rocks knit together by a dense mat of Bermuda grass. She progressed incrementally, each day removing a few more rocks and clearing a little more area.
On the strip of land between the sidewalk and street, sheltered under an old weeping cherry tree, Sandra placed a cheerful red rustic table and chairs saved from her garden at her previous house, in Seattle. She used river-washed natural gravel to cover the soil. A big water dish for dogs and a beautifully planted pot on the table, a garden in miniature, were the finishing touches. In effect, she created a street-side living room, a place to sit and visit. The tables and chairs had provided the same function at her former home, and many conversations, cups of coffee and glasses of wine had passed over its brightly colored surface.
The steep bank took shape with plants Sandra brought from her Seattle garden, chiefly low-growing succulents like groundcover sedums, low-growing grasses like fescues and American millet grass milium effusum ‘Aureum’ —