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  • Writer's pictureYomari Cruz-DeWeese

What's in a garden?

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

Aside from photographing old Portland homes on my walks, I photograph gardens, especially during this time of the year. Portlanders, myself included, love gardens, and it is thrilling to see them change every season, year after year. Portland home owners not only tend to their backyard gardens, they also grow luscious front gardens, and parking strip gardens.

A vibrant four season garden growing on a parking strip in NE Portland.

A never ending string of interest on my walks, I love seeing the mix of edibles and flowers growing all over the city. And you can't blame Portlanders for being crazy for gardening - you can grow almost anything here. Much of our soil is clay, and while this may need amending to grow certain things, it retains moisture well and is full of nutrients. Also, as I may have mentioned once or twice, it rains here A LOT. And as much as I love to complain about it, come June, I am always SO GRATEFUL FOR THE RAIN. It is fun to garden here. Plus, during this pandemic, growing a garden can help decrease the amount of grocery trips, and give you a wonderful and grounding hobby for years to come.

A Mount Tabor beauty includes many shade perennials.

But when it comes to house buying and selling, what's in a garden? Gardens may not rank as high as a gourmet kitchen on the list of things buyers look for, but in Portland, it does hold weight. Home buyers looking for a single family home without any yard maintenance in Portland are fewer than those seeking at least some relaxing outdoor space, and a good sunny spot for a flower and vegetable garden. That doesn't mean you need to have half an acre of perennial flowers and vegetables to attract buyers! That in fact will only attract a handful of avid gardeners. Most buyers looking for a single family home live somewhere in between, and everyone enjoys a beautiful outdoor space where they feel they can play, relax, and entertain.

A happy corner in my own garden where I can sit and relax all spring and summer long.

What garden features will attract the most buyers? A shed, a patio or paved area, and a fence for privacy are at the top of the list, but a nicely landscaped garden can also add a lot of value, especially as it sends the message that the property has been loved and taken care of. Landscaping is among the top 15 updates a homeowner can do to increase home value.

If you have the space for a garden, be organized and draw a blueprint! Include an area for sitting and enjoying a meal or a cup of tea. Depending on how much space you have, that could be a paved patio, a small deck or just a small corner with a bench. Then decide on an area or areas for flowers and/or edibles and design a garden plan. There are many free garden plans available online. Make sure to choose a garden plan that will work with the size of your garden. Consult with your local nursery about plants that do well in your climate, and incorporate perennials that will bloom at different times so you always have some interest in your garden, even in winter!

I like to keep a little garden calendar that includes a list of all my plants and reminds me of what time of the year is best to plant new ones, transplant or move ones I have, when to divide perennials, and when and how much I should prune all my plants. Decide if you want to mix edibles with flowers in the same area or if you want to keep them separate. I love having a raised bed for annual crops like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, but I also plant peas and herbs along with my flowers.

The mix of grasses on this parking strip garden is stunning.

If your backyard is small, consider just designating and creating a small patio area and add a flower and vegetable container. Sprucing areas along the entrance of your home can also be very satisfying and effective. You may consider digging out a small area in your front garden or parking strip and planting some perennial flowers and colorful bushes. If your property is a condo or duplex with very limited outdoor spaces, think about adding potted herbs, flowers and vegetables in containers to your porch or balcony.

I don’t believe in “green thumbs," only in “well researched and good at planning thumbs,” but be realistic. If you overwhelm yourself with too much gardening, or if you simply won't be able to maintain it, your garden will die, and you will have wasted a lot of money and energy.

Pure joy.

When the time comes to sell your home, make sure you prune all bushes and shrubs, seed empty spots on your lawn and make sure it is mowed, clear pesky weeds (although gardeners will always say a weed is just a plant growing were you don't want it, some weeds are very invasive and can be a turn off), and perhaps invest in a couple of trees to plant if you have the space. The added value to your home’s appeal is worth the work, but remember to plan, and think about balance. Balance of colors and textures and uses, but also a balance between the time that will be spent up keeping the garden and the time you will want to have in order to relax in a space that brings joy, perhaps while hosting a pop-up dinner in the perfect Oregon summer.

For a list of local and recommended garden resources see below!




Soil and Compost:


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