Privilege Blog

When A Garden Surprises At Easter Time


I spent a good bit of last week’s blog break standing in my yard, not always in the grip of awe and wonder. I waxed pragmatic – planted some things, pulled other things out of the ground, snipped errant branches, watered. And was surprised, as I am every year at this time, by a brief spate of pastel flowering.


Mostly this garden is quiet. Green and white – with a few red berries and leaves for winter, a little pink from the lace-cap hydrangeas in early summer. No wall o’flowers allowed, unless they are white, and part of a green hedge. A pox on vivid.

But when Easter comes, as it will every year, suddenly the garden teems with pale blue forget-me-nots and pink bleeding hearts, coral bells and native iris. In the last few years, bright yellow oxalis has also volunteered, resulting in an Easter basket of small woodland blooms.


It’s important to point out that the garden wasn’t all, or even mostly, my doing. I had help and a guiding spirit.

When we moved in, this 1953 rancher’s backyard consisted of:

  • Entry through a standard mid-century sliding glass door…
  • onto a large, irregular cement patio complete with embedded metal poles. We assume they were for a vinyl awning, but never proved out the hypothesis.
  • The usual lawn.
  • One beautiful Chinese evergreen elm.
  • A tall dark green hedge.

When we remodeled in 1992, we took off the entire back of the house, replacing the sliding door and cement patio with a wall of windows, a slate hall and an extended slate patio. The hedge was uprooted to make room for a new master bedroom and bath.


So then we needed a new backyard.

I started working with one landscape architect, but her sketches were too involved, too mannered. Then a friend introduced me to Jeff S. And Jeff made me a garden I love to this day. It’s serene, layered, and natural.


It’s important to find someone talented, someone you like to work with. Professionals are so great, even for, or maybe especially for, enthusiastic amateurs. They lay the foundation for years of tomfoolery.

By the time I moved back into the house after my divorce, in 2008, Jeff had decamped for Portland, Oregon. The yard had deteriorated. So I worked with yet another firm on a rehab; they kept to Jeff’s original design but changed out overgrown or dying shrubs.


I like the new inhabitants, but I liked Jeff’s original work best. Every Easter I remember why. I prefer my gardens ragged, but hopeful.


In software, hidden images or little tricks are called “Easter eggs.” They serve both as a signature of the developer, and as little moments of fun for the user. I always wonder if Jeff planned these seasonal colors. Or maybe when someone who knows his stuff works with your climate and life in mind, you get lucky. Either way, thanks Mr. S., long overdue.

44 Responses

  1. I hope Mr. S. reads this!
    Nothing greater than having your work remembered, appreciated, talked about so beautifully.
    I wish you enjoy your garden for many-many-many springs to come.

    1. Thank you! I am planning on reconnecting with Mr. S., and having him counsel me on where to take it all next!

  2. Your garden looks lovely, I’ve had a hard time with landscape architects, a bit flakey.

    I’m still worrying about your front door.

    1. As well you might. I can’t get past the idea of one all in light wood. I am waiting for quotes, am expecting them to be horrendous. Anyone know a good contractor here in Norcal?

    2. It shouldn’t be horrendous. You should be able to order the door and have it installed. Is your opening not standard?

      1. It’s 1953-standard. We have to replace the side panel too. If I’m willing to go with fir, it will be better than if I insist on maple.

  3. Lovely garden, and lovely spring flowers. How nice to have found professional help that made that connection and whose work still offers joy.

  4. I have that same iris…the pacific dwarf, I believe it is called…mine was from SF and a gift from a gardener friend who had gone on a garden tour. Your garden sounds like a wonderful spot to potter about in and sit and contemplate life….love that you find it a peaceful retreat….
    We had a wine colour painted front door and had to have it rebuilt in the original style and my husband, the “architect” insisted on oak so it is in it’s natural state…frightfully expensive as the craftsman reused the original glass from 1912…but well worth the investment….it was the original architects signature door. Milo S Farwell….who I believe worked here in Victoria, Seattle and San Francisco.
    Your landscape architect might have a website…and you might be able to link your post up!

  5. “ragged but hopeful” — what a lovely phrase for flowers, gardens, and so much more. Thank you!

  6. Beautiful, Lisa! It makes me nostalgic for the garden we had in MN. Yes, believe it or not, flowers grow in the hot, humid summers of the upper-Midwest. On the other hand, now that we’re out along the rugged coastline of Montauk, I can’t even get beach grass to grow! Gardener friends tell me I have to start over, dig it all up and mix in something or other magical. But, we probably will. (Notice how the pronoun cleverly changed to “we”?

  7. Your garden is looking lovely, Lisa…this time of year in a garden is definitely”hopeful”. I’ll bet you could reconnect with Jeff and through the magic of the internet, get the update you want!

  8. Such pretty blooms and I like it that they just appear among the green.

    We refurbished our landscaping last summer prior to a wedding reception at our house. Now, I’m enjoying watching it come to life again.

    1. @Susan, That’s what I like too, they are like woodland blooms, shy. I hope your garden looks beautiful in its second go-round:)

  9. As a quiet dresser I find I also like green and white in our yard. Right now I am looking a gorgeous white cherry blossoms. You would like them too

  10. Lovely to see flowers as the snow has not yet all melted in Connecticut. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of what is to come!

  11. Lovely — I think spring is my favourite time in the garden with all the sweet pastels. You’re at least a month ahead with the coral bells and the bleeding heart, although my forget-me-nots are blooming along with yours right now. The annual unfolding of blooms is rather like hearing a favourite story told once again, knowing there will be a few variations. . . .

  12. Hello Lisa

    I love all you have shared of your garden. The expression ragged but hopeful is wonderful
    Happy Easter

  13. Hi Lisa,

    Very attractive looking your garden!!! All flowers you have planted are so lovely and every flower has its special beauty.

    I like the very much flower which is in 3rd image.

    Thanks for sharing the post!

  14. “Ragged but hopeful”- what a wonderful phrase. A superb garden designer creates a garden that nourishes your life.

  15. How wonderful your garden must be at this glorious time of year, my favorite here in the Bay Area. I love forget-me-nots, and my very first plant was given to me by a friend who took it from her mother’s garden. Many years later, the one plant has moved on and has volunteered an army of them for our enjoyment at this time of year.

    As for the oxalis, as pretty as it is, it has become my arch enemy, having spread so much that I’m probably four weeks into its painful removal (those little white bulbs are buried deep and are EVERYWHERE!).

    I adore bleeding hearts. Did you know they also come in white, which would fit in with your planting scheme perhaps?

    1. @Chronica Domus, I have an ambivalent relationship with oxalis:). It’s a tad too neon for my tastes. However, I have a small yard, shaded, so I just rip it out of any place I don’t like it, as I go. I might eventually go for eradication, for now it’s kind of an “OK, fine, if you insist, but stay in your corner” kind of thing:). The dicentra are a native species, white would be wonderful.

  16. I love gardening although I am no expert so I deeply appreciate a talented landscaper’s expertise for establishing a good foundation. It makes all the difference! Thanks for sharing your garden – it’s lovely.

    1. @Jane, I’m no expert either, I just love it so I blunder along and hope nature forgives! My pleasure to share, and thanks.

  17. Ragged but hopeful – indeed! And here’s to professional help setting us up for years of tomfoolery. Serious gardens are no fun at all.

  18. Having a wall of windows to see a garden in the back yard sounds so lovely to me. I look out my back window and see lots of concrete, framed by weeds. Next year, maybe I’ll tackle the patio…

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