Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Single Goal: Un-Icking the Front Garden

I sit slumped in the kitchen chair, eyes tight between a furrowed brow, nails drumming the table like a band on parade. " I need to redo the front garden". His mouth drops open in surprise, words suspended between us laundry on a line. 
"Why?" He's cautious and irritated, the current shrubs big enough, green enough to suffice as landscaping. "Because the shrubs are miserable and the garden looks like Ick."
"Ick? What the hell does Ick look like?"
I stare at him, determined. "Every time I walk past the garden all I can think is 'Ick'. I need to de-ickify it. Now."
So I did.


I added a butterfly garden to the front a few years ago. At first I only used annuals but added orange milkweed (asclepias tuberosa), purple and pink salvias and yellow and white coreopsis in fall 2012.


I sowed annual California poppies last fall to remind me of my home state.


The front garden includes shrubs as well as lots of perennials. This area is full of daffodils in the spring. A giant 'Baltyk' clematis devours the front railing every year. This year it's also eaten a birdhouse and part of a pot. (It's been raining a lot lately so the pics are all a bit dim.)


'Baltyk' clematis


The butterfly garden also includes catmint, which thrives in the reflected heat off the asphalt driveway. This area receives full morning sun for about 7 hours and bright afternoon shade.


late June 2013

This bed is also full of coreopsis but they haven't bloomed yet.


I love my new handmade Welcome sign! It's from Scenic Signs in Canada but they also ship to the US. I made the pot. It was an excellent excuse to smash plates.



I used to have loads of daylilies between the grass and the thyme, but I got so mad at them last summer for not being drought-tolerant that I ripped them out and replaced them with two more 'Little Princess' dwarf spirea. Dumb name, great shrub. Spirea grow quickly so it won't take too long for them to fill in. I'm still waiting for the daffodil foliage to die back. 


White 'Delta Dawn' phlox and obedient plant grows in a moist spot near the clematis. A mason bee house sits atop the rain barrel.


I've had hollies, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and loropetalum in this spot under the bay window. The latest victims are two 'Blue Shadow' fothergilla. But one is very blue while the other is very green. Hmmm..... The variegated abelia in the middle is recovering from a lot of winter die back as well as a horrendous attempt at pruning.
 

The builder planted these Japanese hollies, my only evergreens. I add tons of soil acidifier to them yearly to compensate for the lime that leaches into the soil from the concrete walkway and house foundation. A Dutchman's pipevine is climbing the double column. It looks like a big green meatball.



The plants in these pots died this winter so I'm experimenting with coleus. So far, so good!




'The President' clematis


I prefer to call her 'Madame President'. 


The front garden

A giant viburnum trilobum (American cranberry bush) grows along the side of the house underplanted with native yellowroot. I expanded my beds by several feet, purposely breaking our HOA's stupid rule that no bed should be deeper than three feet. My house, my garden, my rules.


Catmint also grows on the other side of the driveway next to a mid-sized lespedeza. Catmint (nepeta) are great for attracting pollinators.


 Variegated abelia 'Mardi Gras'

77 comments:

  1. You've built a wonderful and diverse front garden, Tammy. I love the Clematis (even if they consume whatever is in their path). Your HOA's restriction is patently ridiculous.

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    1. Thanks! The first garden designs were less diverse and wonderful. It's taken a long time to finally get the garden I'd been envisioning. Our HOA is a pain in the butt. I just do what I want. :o)

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  2. I like how you de-ickified the front -- nice complexity, nice mix of interesting shrubs. The gorgeous clematis is beautiful, but I like how the more subtle greenery complements it too. Why is one fothergilla blue and one not?? -- that is frustrating. I've had it happen with plants too, and can only assume rampant mislabeling at all the nurseries, even the good ones.

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    1. When I bought the fothergilla they were in bloom but hadn't leafed out. I was really surprised when they developed leaves of a different colors. But the friend at the garden center who sold them to me has moved to a new job and I didn't keep the receipt because I was so sure there wouldn't be any problems. :( They must have arrived mislabeled. I went back to the nursery to talk to them but bringing in fothergilla that large is a challenge so I'm stuck with them. Actually, I love them both. I just wish they pick a single color. I always say I like things that are a bit quirky so maybe I need to be careful what I wish for since I now have 2 quirky shrubs!

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  3. Love a rule breaker!! Love your garden - it is looking very 'un-icky' to me!!

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    1. I find breaking rules much easier than following them. I follow important rules like "Don't run red lights or cheat on your taxes" but stupid HOA rules make me crazy!

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  4. Well de-icked! Fab plants. I love your plate-smashing opportunity too.

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    1. Plate smashing is highly therapeutic. I recommend it for a variety of ills, both real and imagined. :o)

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  5. Your front gardens look lovely but you are the one that looks at them everyday and I believe we should have what makes us happy to look at each day.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  6. I am not sure what is so icky. You have such a wonderful variety of plants. I would have left out the cat nip. Isn't it rather aggressive? So do you have plans for the garden?

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    1. These pictures are all post-Ick. The Ick pictures would have left everyone screaming and writhing in pain. Nepeta (catmint) isn't aggressive at all. It's a totally different plant than catnip. I don't have any big plans except to wait for everything to fill in.

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  7. I love it, everything is so beautiful. I have the orange butterfly milkweed in my garden also, took me 3 years of digging it up from the fields to get it to grow and thank goodness it finally did. My granddaughter loves chasing the butterflies it attracts.

    Where did you get the dutchman's pipe vine? I've been looking and so far haven't been able to find one locally?

    Have a great weekend.

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    1. Thanks! You can find pipevine at Lazy S's Farm Nursery. They have several different varieties.

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  8. It is just beautiful Tammy and that clematis! I have never managed to grow one so lush and so covered with flowers! What do you do with your catmint? Mine blooms well but is very lax and spreads over everything else. This year I trimmed half of it in the spring hoping it would bloom just as well but perhaps on shorter stems. It is a bit early to see if it has worked. The one left to itself is in bloom and the other is in bud, but it is hard to say if it will get as long as the one that is not trimmed.

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    1. I think catmint is just a lax plant. Mine is overdue for a big trim. I should have cut it back a while ago to keep it from flopping but the pollinators were all over it, so I let it go until other pollinator supporting plants were in bloom. Clematis likes very rich, moist soil. The President is growing in a tough spot so I baby it a lot.

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    2. My soil is poor and dry - no wonder clematis are not wonderful. I will have to make more of an effort for them. I have a species clematis that does very well (c. potaninii)- no doubt species are more accommodating than hybrids.

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  9. Very much the opposite of ick! Isn't orange butterfly milkweed a great perennial?

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    1. It's one of my favorites! I stuff it in everywhere and always let it go to seed.

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  10. Every time I see that Madame President clematis, I start to drool all down my chest...it is stunning....I so wish it would grow here.
    For the record, I see no sign of "Ick" in your garden.

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  11. So lush and gorgeous! Definitely no ick to be found. The butterflies must rejoice when they discover your garden.

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  12. Oh, Madame President is so big and gorgeous! I have one as well that is smaller but still pretty. Love that deep violet color.

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    2. Me, too! It's one of my favorite colors to add to the garden. :o)

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  13. Wow, so much in this post that I had to take notes. 1) Congrats on a job well done - I saw no ick at all. My spouse also is irritated by my need to change around stuff in the garden. 2) I really need to remember to sow California poppies in my sunny beds. 3) Fantastic butterfly garden - for myself I am all about the catmint and salvia these days. 4) Amazing clematis! Love it! 5) Good you showed the daylilies who is boss. They'll think twice before disappointing you again. 6) With those heart shaped leaves, I would refer to the Dutchman's pipe as a green meatball of love. 7) No deeper than 3 feet? You mean for the low-growing plants at the front of the border? That is all.

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    1. It took my husband a long time to understand why I had to rearrange the garden every year. I like the meatball of love! I'm hoping it climbs the rest of the column, too. It may need a little help. The three foot rule is so absurd I laughed when I heard it.

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  14. If you ask me your front garden is just heaven! All the milkweed you have there is a dream and your plants merge so beautifully together! And that clematis about knocked me over! What a gorgeous home you have pal! Ha...I can only imagine the look on your husbands face! I know it all too well as my husband came home yesterday and I was digging up the parkway! Oh but the thought of a new garden is like the most amazing rush isn't it?!?! Happy weekend to you!!!! Nicole xoxo

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    1. Designing a new garden is exhilarating but sometimes nerve-wracking if I'm working with a really tough spot that's a plant killer. Fortunately, my mental plant lists of what grows well where are pretty long. The front garden has a few moist spots as well as several bone dry spots. But I'm always excited to pour over the choices and research/plan it all out. My husband loves the garden and has given up on getting worked up over losing grass. :o)

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  15. I like your front garden. I think you need to add some ornamental grassed for contrast.

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    1. They would look cool. I'm just not sure where I'd put them. I've added quite a few grasses to my back garden since seeing them so well used on your blog. :o) I've added sea oats, variegated sea oats, 2 types of pennisetum, prairie dropseed, and a golden tufted grass for a dry, partially shady area. I even added some Mexican feather grass to a few pots. :o)

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  16. Seriously? You think all this is ICK??? Why???? It's gorgeous, I am MOST confused, there are so many wonderful plants to comments on, I love the shrubs and the clematis and the arrangement on the steps is lovely....I do love your pot and that sign. Lol....glad you ignore the border rules, I would too!!!
    Now which bit of this haven do you find icky....please tell....maybe you are just teasing us!xxx

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  17. Re-read post as was so confused.....lol.....Ahha....DE-ICKED!!! Of course, too much wine last night!!!! Phew, thought you had lost the plot! xxx

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    1. I have lost my plot but I assure you these are the post-Ick pictures. :o) De-Icking my front garden has been a long process. I'm finally happy with it. It's only taken 11 years!

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  18. Beautiful garden! So colorful... and once again so gorgeous. Love the clematis an orange milkweed. Thanks for sharing the beauty.

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  19. Definitely de- ickified. What a great selection of plants. I was amused that you don' t have 'any great plans except to let everything fill in.' I have never met a gardener who is happy to leave it at that for more than a year or two. You think that you will be happy to sit back and enjoy it but then you need a project.
    You do grow amazing clematis. It all looks wonderful.
    I know I' m being dense but I can' t work out where your follow button is.

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    1. I am quite content with it now but ask me again in a year or two and I might have a new plan. I keep going out side and looking at it all, feeling satisfied and happy. :o) My Follow Button is above my Popular Posts column on the right.

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    2. Oh yes, so it is. I was being dense.

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  20. Well there is certainly nothing icky about it now - it looks perfectly unickyfied. Good job well done Tammy. Now what's next on the list that needs your golden touch.

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    1. Thanks! I still have tweaking to do in my shade garden that I redesigned last fall and the black spot battle with my roses seems to be never-ending.

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  21. Your garden is gorgeous, no doubt about it. You do have a way with clematis. The President is a favorite of mine, too. I think everything looks just perfect!

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    1. Thanks! I love clematis, so I find a way to stuff them in everywhere and then I baby them a bit. Or a lot! :o)

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  22. No ick factor evident here. We'll just have to take your word for it that the before was not pleasing. Everything looks wonderful now.

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  23. Well, I don't remember it looking "icky" but you've done a great job of "unicking" it. Gosh, you have a fabulous, healthy patch of Butterfly Weed! It makes my single stem of it look ridiculous. Hope mine will fill in over time (I added it last year, and was amazed to see it actually came back). Good job, Tammy!

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    1. We moved here 11 years ago and I've spent 10 years trying to figure out how to get the front garden to look the way I wanted it to. There has been a lot of Ick in those past years, especially in mid-summer. Let your butterfly weed go to seed and it will pop up everywhere. :o)

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  24. The de-icktified garden looks lovely Tammy. My fothergilla (the blue leafed kind :)) gets eaten by rabbits. I find it a slow grower , you?

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    1. I just added mine about two months or so ago so I'm not sure how quickly it will grow. I just wish they were the same color! So far the rabbits have been leaving it alone. They'd rather eat my toad lilies. :(

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  25. Hi Tammy, that's just beautiful, it looks stunning and the clematis are a knockout. It's funny because when we moved, the first thing I thought was, "I'm going to have to do something about that front garden" and it's getting most of my attention now. Missing tiles and leaking guttering can wait, I'm not tolerating a shabby front any longer, hence the redone borders and clematis/bedding trugs. Thank you for your blogger spotlight too! I'm blushing all over!

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    1. I wish I had 'Before' pictures of how rotten it looked but I never took any. It always looked just okay in the spring but by mid-summer the clematis was crispy and everything looked like death. It truly was bad bad bad. You're a fab blogger so putting you in my spotlight was my pleasure. :)

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  26. Walking toward your front door past your welcoming garden must be a wonderful experience. I can imagine all the butterflies and bees bustling about from plant to plant. Your hubby should be very proud! And the HOA ought to be shamed! How in the world do they come up with such rules? Is this their attempt to make every house look the same? Are they power hungry?

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    1. I think they are power hungry. It feeds into the suburban mindset that every house needs to look the same. It's nauseating.

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  27. Thanks for letting me have a stroll in your front garden! I also adore your Madame President, every time I see it I think I need to get one – although I don’t have such a nice sunny spot for it. I have a part of my garden I need to de-icify too, I am itching to do it, but have to wait till late autumn when plants have died down or finished flowering.

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    1. There's always a spot that needs to be redesigned, it seems. It took me a long time to figure out how to keep my clematis happy. Madame President used to be brown and crispy by July and I would avoid the front garden because nothing I did seemed to make it happier. The learning curve on my front garden was steep and ugly but I finally figured out how to use that space to create beauty. :o) It's very satisfying!

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  28. Yes, my reaction was also going to be like him if you told me that you needed to change your front garden. Jeez...that's so amazing. I live like about 4 hours drive from you. Can I come and see your garden please? What a sight, what a garden...even those botanical gardens are pale compared to this...

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    1. I don't need to change it now but I did need to change it several years ago. These pictures show the result of several years worth of redesign. Every year I would tweak it a bit more until I was satisfied. It's been a long, slow process. You are welcome to come see the garden!

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  29. Tammy I think you are too hard on yourself and the front garden you have created. It always looks great to me in all its incarnations. The clematis near the door is stunning! I like the premise of your last post: what the neighbours saw. That Peggy Martin rose is incredibly beautiful and so is the purple clematis. If I lived next door I'd be bringing you homemade goodies too!
    P.S. Love the phrase "words suspended between us laundry on a line" Great writing Tammy!

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    1. Three years ago I posted some pics of the front garden and asked for help. I couldn't stand the design but couldn't figure out the main problem. I knew the design was wrong but didn't know how to make it right. You left a comment that a few plantings were out of proportion. That was the catalyst and the "ah ha!" moment I needed to help me create a new design. I replaced several shrubs, figured out to keep the clematis happy, added more flowers and over two years kept widening/tweaking the beds until I liked what I saw. Many of your garden pics helped inspire this design!! Betcha didn't know that!! :o)

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  30. Nothing "Ick" about any of your gardens! I have been looking for obedient plants - mine don't mind me at all. (I always knew you were a rebel - HOA rules be damned...)

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    1. Thanks! But I assure you the Ick factor was pretty high for a while. "My life-my rules" should be my motto. I was born original. Why die a clone?

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  31. It looks fantastic! I admire your hard work.

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    1. Thanks! I can be pretty determined to figure out how to make the garden look the way I want it to. :o)

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  32. Wow mission accomplished! Nice. I too adore catmint and really the green meatball is awesome. Glad to see the clematis-- I have a theory that clematis is not given the credit it deserves, so forgiving and so dependably beautiful.

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    1. It's taken a few years for the meatball to get that big. I'm hoping it will climb the rest of the column. I have visions of a porch covered in giant green heart shaped leaves. Clematis are so much tougher than they appear. I once got mad at a clematis for being the wrong color so I ripped it out of the ground and then felt guilty for a minute. It grew back but a slightly darker shade. Lesson learned on both sides! I love a determined plant with a snarky sense of humor. Now it's here to stay. :o)

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  33. lol...the deeds to our house say NO ROCKERY...so I built a rockery. Sheesh...what's wrong with people.
    You go girl...it all looks pretty amazing to me.
    PS when are visiting hours in prizon?
    :-)

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    1. How can a deed say No rockery? That's so stoopid. It's your house. Do whatever you damn well please. I take visitors from 1 -3. ;o)

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  34. Well I don't see "ick" but I do see some lovely garden spaces. You're much too hard on yourself. That's the gardener in you:) Are you out of school? We finished a couple weeks ago but I have to say that each year in this business is getting tougher. So I bird and you garden. Thankfully, we have these things to fall back on:)

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    1. These are all post-Ick pictures. This is what the garden looks like now that I've de-ickified it. :o) Today was our last day. Woo-hoo!

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  35. No ick there! It looks great. Stupid HOA rules. Those are to make people do something and not just leave a blank yard. They should be a minimum not a maximum. I'd never survive with HOA rules.

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    1. Our HOA is a ridiculous group full of people who don't know the difference between a box of wood and a boxwood. I ignore them.

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  36. What a gorgeous front garden--definity not Ick! I love how big and lush your clematises are. I almost missed the pot you made--I was trying to figure out how you molded a pot out of smashed plates:) It's lovely! I would hate to live with some kind of HOA rules; they would probably write up violation after violation for my crazy quilt flowerbeds:)

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    1. Thanks so much! They probably harass you. The pot was ultra easy to make. If you click on the word POT it's linked to post I wrote about making it. :o)

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  37. Aside from the slew of absolutely gorgeous flowers (i love your garden) the one thing that struck me in this post was 3 FEET?!?! What idiot actually thought that 3 feet was the right size for a garden bed? Clearly you have a large house and a bed that small would be completely dwarfed next to it. Somebody out there must really hate plants to make a rule like that.

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  38. It is certainly not icky but I have done the de-icktifying many times...then the voles struck and the weeds and we are back to ick...oh well you have given me some great ideas.

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  39. You have an impressive front! Your garden is pretty swell, too. There is a fish medication called Ich Out (short for Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a disease of aquarium fish.) I couldn't help thinking that there should be an equally easy bottled solution to garden ick, from which my parking strip is currently suffering.

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