Bull Mountain garden is one of eight to be open for fundraiser
Noni and Arlin Inman create an oasis on sloping lot with help from garden designer Paul Taylor
On a quiet May afternoon, a pair of hummingbirds fight over a birdfeeder in Noni and Arlin Inman's back yard on Bull Mountain as other birds chirp amid lush foliage, and trees sprout with their spring growth.
This is exactly the ambiance the Inmans wanted to create when they hired garden designer Paul Taylor to transform their yard from the impractical layout left by their subdivision's contractor into one that takes advantage of the small space.
The Inmans' garden is one of eight that will be open for viewing during the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools' annual Garden Tour set for Saturday, June 25.
The couple moved into the house from Southern California in September 2006 and within a month were making plans with Taylor, who recalled that the original back yard, which has a steep slope, had a small amount of grass and a few newly planted trees along with existing Douglas firs, a narrow "Juliette" deck and stairs leading to a concrete pad.
"And it was all mud past the patch of lawn," he added.
Taylor and the Inmans discussed various ideas and came up with the final plan, which included adding a large Trex deck on the lower level.
"We pretty much went with a native plant pallet," Taylor said. "I'm big into having something interesting during each of the four seasons. I'm into texture - not screaming color but interesting plants that attract birds."
Noni Inman added, "Coming from Southern California, we are still getting used to the plants and trees that grow here. One thing that is different is that we don't have to prune so much, so you don't have to be a slave to your garden.
"It's lovely to see it dormant in the winter and then come to life, and some plants keep their leaves all year around. The fir trees are a big bonus for giving us privacy plus shade on hot summer days - the only drawback is the sap."
Taylor rattled off some of the additions to the garden - cotoneastera, parneyi, wax leaf myrtle, uwanamus, burning bushes and an Alaska weeping cedar.
"Another thing I like to do is create many usable 'rooms' in the yard - the upper deck is for cooking, and it connects to the kitchen and family rooms, and the lower deck is for eating and a seating area," said Taylor, pointing out an arbor over the deck and a trellis in the lower yard that have been added.
The Inmans installed some benches, and Noni has picked up a number of garden art pieces that are on display around the yard.
Also growing in the back yard is a "peanut butter tree that blooms in late fall and has sweet, delicate lines that help blur the sightline to the neighbors," Taylor said.
In addition to learning about Northwest foliage, Inman has had to deal with wildlife.
"The first time I saw a banana slug, I didn't know what it was," she said. "In Southern California, the slugs have shells."
In the lower yard, Taylor pointed out a low retaining wall that was added for soil stability next to a flagstone path that circles around the back yard and leads to a small patio in a corner.
"I like to create destinations in a yard," said Taylor, and Inman added, "We wouldn't have lived out here without the changes."
Although the spaces along each side of the house are only a few feet wide, Taylor and Inman didn't let them go to waste.
The west side features hardy fuchsias, red-leaf pieris, lily of the valley, bishop's hat, salal and blue arctic willow, and the east side has ferns and huckleberries.
Along the street, the developer put in flowering pears as the street trees, and in the Inmans' yard, some of the lawn was removed, and a circle of plantings was added for more interest.
A strategically planted magnolia blocks the front door from the street, and a Japanese maple was relocated.
"I like 'blockage' - trees to block the view between driveways along the street," Taylor said, and Inman added, "It's perfect."
In addition to bringing in medium-sized boulders, Taylor added wax leaf privet, black mondo grass, kinnicknick, another Alaska weeping cedar, spring bouquet, sarccocca hookereana, climbing hydrangea and witch hazel, "which will give you fall color," Taylor said.
"You'd never see that in Southern California," Inman said. "I love it."
And she thanked Taylor for giving her an original garden that suits their interests and "shabby chic" style, noting, "Some designers make all their gardens look the same."