A Whimsical Cottage Garden Escape

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Photo by Chad Bremmerman


By Melissa S. Labberton

Photos by Chad Bremmerman

Marrying her passion for gardening and collecting, third-grade teacher Claudia Tabayoyon has transformed her small backyard into a delightful retreat from her busy life. Her whimsical cottage garden was featured in the Yakima Area Arboretum’s annual tour of gardens this year — and for good reason.
“One thing that is fun about her garden is that you can take your time looking at
everything,” said Colleen Adams-Schuppe, co-executive director of the arboretum. “We always look for a small garden, because it appeals to a lot of people.”
Fifteen years ago, Tabayoyon moved to the old five-bedroom farmhouse that sits
on a block with smaller, older homes off a busy Yakima thoroughfare.
“The home’s garden was nothing but weeds when we moved in,” she said. “All of the
bricks were here, but I relocated them.” A contorted willow, which over the years has grown to majestic proportions, now makes a magnificent centerpiece for the fanciful garden.
“We really didn’t have a plan, but piece by piece it came together.”
Although small, Tabayoyon’s garden offers surprises at every turn. She recently turned her ho-hum single-car garage into a sparkling white, red-trimmed potting shed adorned with black shutters and window boxes dripping with flowers.
A talented gardener, she enjoys cultivating different varieties of bonsai trees. In the spring and summer, her collection ranges from the traditional green mound juniper to a lilac plant, which even in miniature actually blooms. In the fall, she tucks the small trees into the potting shed to weather Yakima’s winter.

Tabayoyon’s garden offers surprises at every turn.

Tabayoyon can transform the most common household castoff into a prized piece of garden art, like the antique 1930s stove that sits proudly in her driveway or the bentwood chair that’s become a flowerpot. She says that much of her creative inspiration is from magazines such as Country Living and Country Sampler. What some people would describe as fodder for the landfill, Tabayoyon considers a treasure to which she can give new life by adding to her backyard retreat.
She also admits to a penchant for collecting garden art. Whether it’s bunnies, ceramic suns, roosters, turtles, birdhouses, teapots — even flying pigs — each of these collections have a special meaning for Tabayoyon. Her roosters, she explains, are signs of welcome in Germany.
The fun of her garden is in the exploring: every nook and cranny includes thoughtfully placed collections.
The sound of a flagstone waterfall that spills into a koi pond adds to the garden’s ambiance. She built the pond 14 years ago, and Tabayoyon’s koi have doubled in size about every two years. A wooden pergola near the back door makes a beautiful summer show of trumpet vine, wine grapes and clematis, and the koi love to feast on the trumpet vine petals when they fall into the pond.
As avid gardeners will tell you, keeping up with even the tiniest plot of land takes time and a great deal of commitment. With Yakima’s unexpected amount of rain and cold this spring, many gardeners have waited to get out and start their annual cleaning and bed preparation. But Tabayoyon has learned over the years that her garden will grow despite the wind, rain or hail. She says she spends at least one hour every day, and approximately eight hours each weekend, tending to her garden. Her passion has led her to create a magical sanctuary, filled with things she loves.

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