The yard was an overgrown jumble. The house was in shambles.
It was a shack compared to the sprawling suburban home that Ardie and Gary McLean had built as their dream home, what they thought was their forever home.
When the economic downturn in 2009 forced them to downsize, the couple looked forward, not back. They transformed the sorry little shack into a showplace.
"We literally restored it from the inside out," Ardie McLean said.
Behind the white picket fence that Gary McLean built is one of eight gardens featured on the Snohomish Garden Club Tour on Sunday.
The garden tour features a mix of urban and spacious rural gardens.
"It has a bit of both, so everybody will have some type of garden they can take ideas from," said Fred Rowe, tour spokesman.
The McLean garden has a small but mighty footprint.
"We kind of have an Asian thing going on," Ardie McLean said.
For the event she made origami butterflies to give to visitors, who can also tour part of the home after strolling through the narrow side-yard garden.
The garden design was inspired by a ginkgo tree planted in 1947.
"The ginkgo was planted shortly after the war ended. One of the sons in the war didn't come back. It was planted in his memory," Ardie McLean said.
"The ginkgo is a symbol of peace. It is one of oldest living species of trees on Earth."
The ginkgo tree is a male, so it doesn't produce the fruitlike seed with the horrid smell.
"When it gets to a certain cold degree, all the leaves start falling at once," she said. "It's like rain. All the leaves come down in one swoop of bright gold."
The side fence Gary McLean built offers a wall of sorts to decorate. A potting shed he constructed from attic planks holds all the needful things.
The garden is manicured to the hilt.
"My kids tease us. 'They go, 'Oh, there's a weed,'" Ardie Mclean said. "We mulch religiously."
The rear yard is a "young yard" in terms of new plantings and of the targeted audience.
"We wanted a little area with grass for the grandkids," she said. "We wanted an area where they could have a little swimming pool or sprinklers."
The garden is the couple's retreat from all the noise of work. He's an agent with Windermere Real Estate/East in Kirkland. She is the coronary unit coordinator at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
"I listen to monitors on my shift," she said. "The garden is my oasis and therapy to get away from the beepings. I come out and listen to birds.
"I like to listen to the parachuters. Harvey Field is right over there. They jump and go 'Wahoo.'"
The name on plaque on the front of the house is Goff, not McLean. In keeping with Snohomish tradition, a home on the historic register is named after a previous occupant. Lydia Goff had the place for 50 years.
"She was one of the first people who had a telephone. Old-timers remember coming in to use her phone," Ardie McLean said.
Lydia Goff was also a piano teacher. "The old-timers remember coming in and taking piano lessons from Mrs. Goff," she said.
Mrs. McLean felt a connection to Goff.
"I play the piano and it had room for my baby grand piano. Not many houses like this do."
Music. Birds. Gold trees.
Long story short: The place turned out to be the couple's true dream home.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org
Snohomish Garden Club Tour
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. It features eight urban and suburban gardens in and around Snohomish.
Tickets: $12. Children 13 and under are free.
Advance tickets on sale in Snohomish at Annie's on First, Curly Willow, Joyworks, Kusler's Pharmacy, McAuliffe's Valley Nursery, Machias Nursery and McDaniel's Do It Center. Other sites: Molbak's Garden and Home in Woodinville, My Garden Nursery in Mill Creek and Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
On tour day, tickets will be available at outlets as well as at the Snohomish Library, Fourth Street and Maple Avenue, starting at 10:30 a.m.
For more information: www.snohomishgardenclub.com or call 425-374-8622.
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