A Skinny Space Before-and-After plus a Giveaway!

As  I wrote about in my last post, time is a critical element in the garden. When planting a new garden, it’s understandable to want your plants to hurry up and GROW. 

But, you just can’t rush it no matter how big of a plant specimen you buy, or how close you plant them together.

Time is needed to let your plants come into their natural shape, for branches to reach out and mingle with their neighbors, for your garden to slowly reveal itself to you.  

Time is needed to show whether or not your original planting ideas have worked. There’s  just no getting around it.

Having moved two years ago from my beautiful, established garden to a somewhat blank canvas (one that’s needed a TON of work), I’ve been made painfully aware of time

I’ve spent every spare moment trying to clean up this uninspiring mess to begin its transformation into a meaningful, magical garden.

Overhauling this 1-acre space has been such a massive project; the only way I could do it is to call in the troops – my husband and my mother. 

While the three of us have made HUGE amounts of progress, there’s so much more to be done.  We’ve spent countless hours clearing out overgrown and half-dead shrubs, removing never-ending piles of unsightly rocks, and spreading over 30 yards of soil. 

And don’t even get me started on the nightmare of an irrigation system we inherited with one daunting underground leak after another.  It’s a miracle my family still talks to me after having worked their fingers to the bone in this garden.

BUT after two years, I can finally see a little magic starting to happen!

Things are slowly happening  that gives a garden that lived-in feeling, which only comes with time.

For example, subtle nuances such as personal mementos added here and there that find their way into the garden….


Or, random re-seeding that softens bare spaces.

After two years of working fast and furious, I finally have some pretty good before-and-after photos that will illustrate my thinking process and hopefully help inspire you in your own garden.

Today I thought I’d start small and show you a before-and-after of a super awkward, skinny space located between my driveway and covered carport. 

Here’s the low-down:

skinny space before and after

This is a crescent-shaped, bed which means it ends up with a sharp point on either end (oh joy). 

It suffers blistering heat in the summer, thanks to the reflective qualities of the surrounding hardscaping.

Thanks to the carport overhang, the bed is in half sun-half shade, which makes lighting a challenge.

As if this wasn’t enough, this bed is also open to browsing by the deer in my area (not to mention turkeys that like to wander around, making a mess.)

skinny space before and after
skinny space before and after
skinny space before and after

Oh, and that unsightly fake boulder above?  Unfortunately it was there when we moved in, covering a mass of above-ground irrigation.  

Luckily, it’s only taken two years for the westringia and the grass (panicum virgatum ‘Apache Rose’) to grow enough to completely cover it (like the updated photo, left, illustrates.)

Phew!  No more fake rock and no more irrigation controls!

Plants in this bed

Westringea ‘Smokey’

Scented geranium ‘Lime’ (pelargonium x nervosum)

Rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’

Lamb’s Ears (stachys byzantina ‘Helen Von Stein’)

Purple Heart/Wandering Jew (tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’)

Coast Wooly Bush (adenanthos sericeus

Grevillea ‘Mt. Tamboritha’

Brown-eyed Susan (rudbeckia triloba)

Society Garlic (tulbaghia violacea)

Panicum virgatum  ‘Apache Rose’


I also thought it might be easiest to show all sides of this strip with a quick video I made.  I hope you enjoy it!


And now for the GIVEAWAY!  UPDATE:  Contest is now closed.  

Congratulations Holly B!!!  You’re the lucky winner and a set of garden tools will be coming your way within the next week or so.  And thanks everyone else for entering the giveaway!   

Dramm Garden Tools (one of my favorite family-owned garden tool companies) has generously offered a 3-prize package to one lucky winner!

Included in this package will be a One-Touch Rain Wand, a ColorPoint Bypass Pruner, AND a Brass Hose Swivel.  

I absolutely love, love, love Dramm products (click here to read why!), and have used them for many years in my own garden and those of my clients. 

All you need to do to win is leave a comment below.  It’s that easy!

I’ll choose a random winner by midnight, January 19th, 2020. 

Oh, and please remember that I won’t be able to respond to your comments as it’ll mess up the random number generator I use to pick the winner (but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading what you all write, because I do!)

Good Luck!

The Fine Print: A random winner will be chosen by midnight Jan. 19th, 2019 and contacted within 24 hours. If the proposed winner forfeits or does not claim the prize by January 24th, the prize will be re-awarded based on the sponsor’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded.

Please provide your first and last name to enter this contest so I can immediately contact you if you win. The winner agrees to allow his/her first name to be mentioned in conjunction with this giveaway. This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old. No purchase necessary to win. This sweepstake is also void where prohibited by law (wherever that is, I’d sure hate to live there!) and by entering this giveaway, you agree to these conditions.

Affiliate Links: Over the years, I’ve tried tons of garden-related products and only recommend those I truly believe in and those that have held up well in my garden.

Enjoyed this article?  Please share it with others: 

Please leave a comment below


  • Hello, I live and garden in Perth in Western Australia, where we have a similar Mediterranean climate to that in California. I was delighted to see that you have used two WA plants in this hot spot: the westringia and the wooly bush. The other plants you used were all familiar to me. We have very old sandy soils here in Perth, which we describe as “gutless”. They drain any water extremely quickly, become hydrophobic very quickly and have no organic matter or nutrients, so our main task is to add clay and as much organic matter as possible in order to get a decent soil to grow our gardens in.
    Thank you for your blog.

    • Hello Jan, it’s so nice to hear from you! I tried to find out where Perth is located in Australia, and came across an interesting article that called it the ‘most isolated city in the world’ and found it so interesting! Everyone I know is heartsick about the fires you’ve been having, and the destruction everywhere. Every time I turn on the news, my heart sinks a little lower just hearing about what you’ve all been through. I used to live in a town in central CA called Los Osos, which was basically built on sand dunes. I know all-too-well about that sandy, quick-draining, ‘gutless’ (my new favorite term, by the way!) soil and used to work so hard trying to get anything to grow. My soil now is a mix of clay, areas of pure sand (thanks to the previous owner bringing in truckloads of it to create giant berms) and a few patches of wonderful composty soil (again, thanks to the previous owner’s complete neglect of cleaning up fallen oak leaves for decades – a wonderful surprise for me!) Australian plants are some of my very favorites, EVER, and are a staple of my designs. I don’t know where I’d be without them – they’ve fantastic here and let my gardens shine throughout the year. Thanks again for stopping by! 🙂

  • I am so excited and cannot thank you enough, what a wonderful surprise to win! I’ve never won anything before!! BTW, your contest ended on my 29th Wedding Anniversary to my high school sweetheart ~ we were married Januaury 19, 1991! I cannot wait to use these garden tools – come on SPRING & SUMMER!!! Thank you again, Rebecca and Dramm!! 😉

  • I really enjoyed your video on your crescent shaped entry bed. You have such good insight into design and a great understanding of plants that fit the criteria of their conditions! But most of all, I needed to be reminded that I can’t rush time in my garden. I need to be more patient and enjoy the process.

  • I love the pictures of the succulents above. I have actually slowly been doing something similar to this in my own yard.

  • Your new crescent bed is delightful! Purple Tradescantia is one of my favorites and it looks fantastic with the contrasting Sedum Angelina. The variety of fragrant plants should keep the doe-eyed babies at bay too!

  • Looks wonderful! What is that rainbow thing at the base of the tree in the picture with the Aeonium? It looks like some wild colored shelf mushroom!

    • Hi Arielle – that is, indeed, a wild colored shelf mushroom! An artist made it from concrete many years ago and I’ve loved it ever since, placing it here and there around my garden.

  • What a beautiful transformation. I really love how you added the bench and obelisk for additional interest. Wonderful job!!!

  • I love your combination of color and textures. Your knack for making a garden look established is amazing

  • You have given me a few inspiring ideas for my garden.

  • No matter where you plant your roots, you create beauty. Miss you!!

  • I love following your new garden transformation Rebecca!

  • Fun to go on a video tour of your “hot spot” driveway garden and hear your voice again! Of course I can grow almost none of those plants, living in part-shade in humid DC, but I always enjoy your designs.

  • Only two years since you started this garden? I’m impressed by your progress, Rebecca! I enjoyed seeing what you’ve done with this narrow strip and look forward to more before-and-afters too. And I would LOVE to win the Dramm giveaway. 🙂

  • I love Westringia for full sun sites too, and there are so many varieties! You now have such a nice mix of color and texture in this challenging space!! A very welcoming look to the house!

  • It is so helpful to see creative, small space gardens. The bigger gardens seem to make themselves with less help from me, but the small, tight spots take a delft touch and focused attention to climate. Thank you.

  • I really like the gray plant in the last photo. Could you please tell me what it is?

    • Cheri: Westringea ‘Smokey’ 🙂

      Awesome article, Rebecca! Glad you shared abt the hard work. (And yr sense of humor!)
      Lovely transformation!

    • Mary’s right, Cheri – it’s a westringea ‘Smokey’ and I absolutely adore this plant! It’s so hard for me to find, but when I do I like to buy several at a time. The color gets better and better as it ages.

  • Have always loved your work. Our side garden in Los Altos still looks good even these 14 years later. wish you were still in town as would love to have your help on my front space by the picket fence.

  • It’s all so beautiful. I would love this prize package. Thanks!

  • Enjoyed watching the transformation of this skinny and somewhat challenging strip of your landscape. Coastal Rosemary is a favorite shrub of mine that I like to grow in my garden. It has brought me a couple of wonderful surprises such as a wild swarm of bees that temporarily hived inside the shrub, and my first sighting of a Giant Swallowtail butterfly. Would love to win a set of Dramm garden tools. I could really use them! Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Love seeing the varied plant choices for your skinny garden. That reflective heat in the Sacramento Valley can be challenging and I look forward to an update.
    I just watched a video last night about Dramm products last night and I would like to try them, so I hope I win.

  • Thanks for sharing your progress – I always look forward to reading your posts & looking at the photos; can’t wait for the snow to melt & my hellebore buds to open. They do quite well here in Washington, so I’m getting a nice variety of colors, shapes, & even some interesting foliage patterns.

  • I have a skinny, rocky garden space with wide temperature variations that I have been contemplating for about 4 years. Now, I have inspiration from your video and before/after photos! Perfect timing! Spring is just around the corner.

  • Fun to see how you can have charm and personality with mostly foliage in a tough, hot space! Appreciate the inspiration!

  • You had a “lemon” of a space and you made lemonade with it. It looks lovely! I always enjoy your blog posts and so appreciate the generous sharing of your expertise and your garden. It’s an inspiration to your readers!

  • Great ideas! I was wondering if the downspouts on the carport drain into the bed? Or do these plants get hand-watered?

  • Love love love this blog!
    You make it so easy to understand and the beautiful pictures Wow!

  • I’m in!
    I enjoy seeing you in my “In Box” and appreciate your gardening wisdom. (And enthusiasm … ya gotta be devoted to figure out how to garden in the summer heat there!)

  • I am always happy to see your emails in my in box. I just love how you present them, I learn from them….and I wish that you were MY neighbor!!

  • It is fun to see your new home and hear what you are doing to make the garden your own. Thanks.

  • Loved your skinny garden. Lots of plants that I don’t recognize, I’ll be searching for them. Thank you for your blog and before and after shots.

  • Your “after” photos already look great! Can’t wait to see other parts of the yard 🙂

  • Love the before and after views, and I’m looking forward to you sharing more of them. You’re so right about time and patience……I’ve certainly made the mistake of not wanting to wait and then having to relocate plants.

  • Thanks again Rebecca! I love reading Harmony in the Garden, and your new home looks wonderful! You have inspired me to work on my own narrow garden strip, next to a driveway that we replaced last year. We tore out everything that was there and put in a French drain system. I love the colors you have used, especially that purple-hued wandering jew.

  • I love your before and after. I have one acre that needs to be overhauled-you give me HOPE!

  • Loved the video! It also helps me know not only what takes the heat but how to pronounce all those plant names. I think I will look for a lime geranium, if that’s what I heard correctly? I assume it has fragrance? I look forward to hearing more. Karen does too. ♥️

  • Really enjoy your garden tips. Thanks for chance to win in the give away.

  • Wow! You worked a little miracle on that difficult space.

  • I’ve improvement my garden with all your wonderful ideas, especially the use of leave texture. Thank you.

  • So glad you are back to blogging regularly! Your posts are always interesting and informative. I love the way you combine plans and I always get a few good ideas for my own garden.

  • Thanks for your inspiration! Such a beautiful small side garden. Time to work on mine.

  • Your blog inspires and encourages me! I will check out the Dramm products. Thanks for all of the excellent info!

  • Lovely. I really like that Purple Heart. I assume that tolerates the heat as well as the others in your video?

  • Keep at it! The results are so worth it!
    I love the color and textures you chose in thr skinny garden.
    Good luck!

  • With your skill, vision and incredible helpers you have turned the former nightmare strip into an aesthetically pleasing beauty! We’ve talked about the difficulty of leaving the gardens we put our hearts and soul into for a blank slate. It’s heartbreaking, but once the challenge is in front of us it’s kind of exciting, too, in an overwhelming kind of way. I must say, you are making far more progress than I am in my low desert space!!! Our gardens do teach us patience, don’t they? Step by step…

  • I love seeing before and after pictures. You’ve done a lot of work! Great ideas for me!

  • I have a few Dramm products as well. I love them all! Quality made to last!

  • As usual, you are amazing.! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Your blog is such an inspiration to me! You’ve given me so many ideas for plants that I can work with as I go about a guy renovation to my own yard.

  • What a wonderful tapestry of color and texture you have made! And it is deer resistant!!

  • I am not familiar with the line of Dramm garden tools and you can be sure that even though I may not win the drawing, I will add a couple of them to my wish list. So enjoy your post which gives me hope that I can still have a beautiful garden no matter where I live with time and patience.

  • Love the instruction information you provide. I too suffer from instant gratification, but have learned there is a trade off, so I reined in a few years ago. See you at the seminars at the Northwest Flower and Garden show in February.

  • So happy to wake up to a garden post like this today – as I’m still cultivating our gardens on a small .36 of an acre, around our home that was built 5 years ago. I’m in full planning mode right now, and it’s always inspiring to see what you’ve been up to! You plantings looks fabulous, great job filling up a difficult area. I would love any one of the Dramm products, but the bypass pruners would be a huge asset, as I’ve never had a proper pair. Have a great day!

  • I too love the combination of yellow and purple flowers. Your skinny space is an inspiration.

  • Great information! You turned awkward into amazing.

  • Thanks, Rebecca, for an informative video and the photos as well. Love the mix textures and colors and so appreciate the detailed plant list as well. I’ve learned so much from you over the years.

  • You really made a “challenging” area look beautiful! Loved the short video. Before and after pictures showing progress are encouraging. I wish had taken “before” pictures.

  • Love your blog – especially before and after stories- so inspiring!


  • You are creating s very lovely garden
    You should be proud of your gardening skills!

  • Hello Rebecca!
    Yes, time and patience is a difficult task to learn for most of my landscape project clients. Many times all I hear is “plant very full”, “I do not want to wait”. I try to teach them otherwise. But the ones that won’t take my advise, I simply go back and divide the grasses or perennials in a couple of years. I am very mindful of placement of trees and shrubs, since I do not want to remove those. And I have been using more of my favorite annuals to “fill-in” borders for those wanting more and more sooner. Thanks for the very informative blog.
    Best always, Sabrina

  • I wish I had your patience…I can see why proper prep is so important but most of the time I am in too much of a hurry…will try to be better!

  • Enjoyed your comments and if I lived close I would be happy to take the rock so you could enjoy your bed more..

  • Oh Happy Sunday when I read your blog/newsletter! Thank you for reminding me that changes in our gardens take time. I love the before and after photos and the video.

  • I love starting with a blank slate! I started 10 years ago and it has been quite an adventure watching it take life, literally with birds, butterflies, pollinators and wildlife!

  • I think I need to completely start over on my garden. Sure wish I had some built in helpers!

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