before and after photos of a backyard makeover

Finding Sanctuary In the Garden

Meet Yvonne. She is all about mindfulness, which is why she loves being in the garden. She has been able to find that ever elusive perspective by making time to walk and touch and feel and breathe in the garden. She finds healing through nature, and a reawakening of the senses that often get lost in today’s world of distraction.

She often tells the women she mentors through the Breast Friends organization to combat a negative mindset by finding their “light switch”, in reference to Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that.” For Yvonne, that light switch is gardening - a way of focusing on her problems, bringing her out of the darkness and into the light and magic of nature.

It’s no wonder that when the mandatory stay-at-home orders went into effect in March, Yvonne and her husband decided that this would be the time they would dedicate to a full renovation project, tearing down the 20 year old fence they constructed when they built their home, as well as the wood deck, and conduct an entire overhaul of the yard from the ground up. In true Oregonian fashion, they worked through the spring rain, leveled the yard while fighting mud and cold, all while Yvonne’s husband continued to go to work every day. They were dead set on seeing this project through to the end and that determination and persistence was rewarded!

Turning a Yard into a Sanctuary

Yvonne and her husband are a team. He trusts her design eye, as she has many years of experience as a window dresser and knows a good thing when she sees it. In keeping with design principles, they structured their yard into three separate zones, each serving a different purpose.

Their dining area with a view of the 10 foot long cedar planter box built by Yvonne’s husband and filled with hosta, fuchsia and penstemon. She also separated existing plants in the garden - some of them bought at Al’s over 20 years ago - and gave them a new space to grow.

The lounge area, protected and lit for late summer evenings with comfortable seating that encourages you to “stay a while”. The large scale planters anchor the lounge area around and inside the gazebo, boasting ferns and hostas. The hanging basket gives height and balance to the space.

Finally, they decided to add a rock/fountain garden with meditative muted colors, including a rock path that draws your eyes to a lush 20 year old bamboo.

The interest in the garden is varied depending on where you look. In one part of her garden, she chose beautiful florals and bright colors from the turquoise rug and complimentary red umbrella for pops of color, to clusters of potted plants in chartreuse, turquoise and earth tones filled with hostas, salvia, cannas, dahlia and geraniums. If you turn toward the other side of her landscape, you’ll see in her rock garden filled with hostas, muted colors, and even a dead juniper hauled all the way from Christmas Valley, cleaned and sprayed into a pristine sculpture with a desert theme built around it complete with a pathway and river walk.

How they did it

The first thing that Yvonne did was head to Al’s and found turquoise planters.

Now this is the part of the story where it turns from a backyard renovation to creating a true healing sanctuary. You see, Yvonne’s power color is turquoise. She chose turquoise because that was the color of her toenails when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. And when you go through 1 1/2 years of cancer treatment with turquoise on your toe nails only to come out the other end in power, it takes on a special meaning.

So she walked into Al’s and saw the turquoise pots and, as she said, “the angels sang over the turquoise pots,” so of course she brought them home. Her husband agreed they were perfect.

Back to Al’s she went, found Diane and Judy in the Sherwood location and they went through the store together picking the plants, ooh-ing over the cannas, and matching and grouping colors and textures to create beautiful planters, while finding anything else that “sang to the space”.

She collected, she watered, she talked to her plants, and when the patio was ready and the beds were built, it was just like a “beautiful puzzle that came together.”

So Much More than a Backyard Facelift

Yvonne’s yard is full of beautiful blooms and color, but there is meaning underneath it all. At the beginning of the stay-at-home order, Yvonne’s husband suffered a heartbreak with the loss of his father. The day he returned home from his father’s side, he began the project of building the garden, and used that time for healing through the process. And since on the 10 year anniversary of her diagnosis she wasn’t able to take her celebratory trip, she and her husband decided that this garden will be the celebration.

They both feel deeply about the garden, “almost like it’s sacred” with its history of being built with the house from the ground up, the renovations, the 20 years of plants, and the time spent recovering together on this project. They couldn’t celebrate their 60th birthdays, they couldn’t celebrate Yvonne being cancer-free, there is still so much they can’t do right now. But as Yvonne tells the 120 women of Young Warrior Women fighting their own battles with cancer, they can celebrate life in the garden.

Breast Friends is a community of support created to fill the emotional needs of women from the time of diagnosis through thriving beyond. If you, or someone you know is walking a journey of cancer diagnosis and treatment, Breast Friends is a unique resource for women, striving to minimize the fear and isolation of cancer. Connect with them on Facebook at Breast Friends Around the Globe or visit their website at ‪www.breastfriends.org