Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Vanishing Act

If I were a magician, my best trick would be the vanishing act. I'm very good at disappearing and often leave few clues. Sometimes you just need to take a break from one part of your life to give yourself time to deal with what's happening in another. I stopped reading blogs and rarely posted. I disappeared from social media and didn't think much about gardening. I was in a holding pattern while I waited for the front brick work and back garden retaining walls in my new garden to be completed and had nowhere to plant my seedlings. Instead, I walked for miles and worked out to force myself to focus on the moment. Music is a constant in my life and when I just needed to get out of my head, I turned up the volume and danced danced danced. I took long baths with a glass of wine and a good book and talked to my dogs, who think I'm a genius.


'Welcome' seemed like a bit of a stretch but I can say 'hello' to anyone. 
Even my door mat was a philosophical choice. 

The past twelve months have been a delicate balance of holding on and letting go, of having the strength to listen to that quiet, steady voice that always speaks the truth and finding the courage to do what needed to be done. Often without realizing it, we seek what we need to nurture ourselves emotionally but our choices reflect who we are.  I needed to come home to warmth, peace, positivity, and balance but also wanted space for my family when they visit. I had divorced the father not the family. I bought an old house, painted it yellow, and began a new life.



The dead tree to the left was removed before I bought the house.



My house in November 2017


The front hardscaping was finally completed in early June. I added over 2,000 pounds of compost to the soil, which is mostly heavy clay.


June 2018



I planted diervilla 'Kodiak Black' and abelia 'Kaleidoscope' under the windows. Diervilla is a tough native shrub that thrives in dry soil in both sun and shade. Both shrubs attract pollinators and have beautiful fall color. Right now the yellow diervilla flowers are blending into the house, which breaks all the design rules but I don't give a rat's ass about design rules. 



The view from the front door

After purchasing my home and beginning a month of mostly interior renovations that ended right before Christmas, I decided to only buy what inspired the strongest gut reaction. I didn't overthink or analyze anything. I simply made a list of what I needed and broke everything down into a Yes or No decision. If I didn't immediately love it and it wasn't perfect for the space, I stopped considering it.


The path from the side porch to the front garden.

I took the same approach to my garden. Without an HOA or spouse to contend with, I went outside, asked myself "What do I want?" and followed my gut. A side slope covered in turf grass was turned into a meadow full of prairie drop seed grass, liatris, and milkweed while I waited for the front hardscaping to be finished. To balance the strong, simple lines of the house, I replaced a scruffy, narrow flagstone path with a wide brick walkway and two curving side paths. A small path dead ends into a semi-circle centered with a bird bath so I can watch the action from the dining room window. Once the brick work was done, I threw myself into creating a new garden.



This bed is full of plants I started from seed that should have been moved out of their growing cups a month ago. What started as my annual seed starting bender quickly became a hostage situation observed with pity by the hefty, vigorous seedlings added to a few pots in May. The miserable, undersized Solo cup prisoners were planted into compost with apologies, a drench of liquid kelp, and a request to please stay alive. They've grudgingly agreed. Some of my favorite perennials from my other garden were also added. This is my new butterfly garden.



A cotinus 'Grace' (purple smoke bush in the far right corner) will eventually give me privacy from my neighbor and will balance the massive cherry tree in the shady side.



Wrens quickly moved into this house and have raised two broods, despite the constant presence of contractors.

The grass has been replaced with perennials and a metal glider given to me after my mom died fifteen years ago has been painted a warm copper and placed under the cherry tree. Plants brought over from my other garden were plopped into whatever spot I could find last November and again this spring, which explains why I have short plants in the back and tall plants in the front. I thought I'd have time to redesign the beds before summer. I'll save that fun for fall.



This bed is full of plants salvaged from my other garden, rescued from garden center sale tables, or gifted by my amazing local friends, who all knew where to find me. 


I purchased these handmade mosaic stepping stones from artist Jan Wilhelmi. They'll be here in about a month and will be placed in front of the copper glider. I love mosaic art because it takes the best parts of what's broken and turns it into something beautiful and new. That's the approach I took with my divorce and my ex-husband and I are still friends.



Gold solar globes hang like ornaments in the cherry tree. 
At night they glow as if full of fireflies.  


The website where I found these called them fairy dust balls. Whatever. The closest I'll ever come to fairy dust or a magic wand is a cheap hunk of plastic made in China but they're pretty and my tree looks cool at night so I bought them.


I have golden, glowy balls in my tree. What's not to like?


Corkscrew vine
Picture shamelessly borrowed from Google Images.
As for the arbor, I've always wanted a rose covered arbor so I bought one. It appeals to the romantic in me and gives the garden a greater sense of place with a prominent entrance. While I wait for the 'Laguna' and 'Climbing Lady of Shallott' roses and 'Baltyk' clematis to grow, corkscrew vine started from seed will quickly scramble up the sides and spill over the top, their purple pendulous flowers hanging down between the beams like fat snails. 

June 2018 
I'm back and will be blogging more regularly now that my new garden is taking shape.

70 comments:

  1. Wow, wow, wow, Tammy I love how you've transformed your new front garden! The walkway, the arbor, the birdbath-everything is perfect and such a reflection of you! I look forward to seeing your new garden evolve.

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    1. Thank you so much! The front garden has two very different areas to it so the paths and garden over grass seemed like a good way to unify it. Plus, I love the practicality of a path. But life is all about the paths we choose so adding that element just made sense.

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  2. Tammy, Love your design sense! You wowed us on the changes to the garden and house (the color is perfect). Btw, welcome back. gail

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    1. Thanks, Gail! I do love the color. I wanted a color that was warm and deep but not garish. I originally had a different design in mind but once the side path to the porch was done, my design didn’t work and seeing how unbalanced the front was practically made me itch. I took pics of the front, used a photo tool to sketch out what I wanted and texted them to my contractor who started on the birdbath path the next day.

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  3. Tammy, you have such an awesome talent for design and writing! I am glad you are finding your peace! Miss you!

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    1. Miss you too!!! Check your Messenger. Why does Ohio have to be so far away? What the hell is up with that????

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  4. I love the warm sunny yellow of your new home and the brick path is perfect. I like that you are nurturing yourself and letting the garden evolve. You look fabulous, lighter and happier!Hugs

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    1. I wear my Ravenscourt Landscaping t shirt all the time, the tote bag is my go-to tote, and use your note as a book mark in one of my cookbooks. Miss you and Shawn! I wish you were closer. Your sage advice is always needed!

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  5. It is all wonderful - not surprisingly - and you look ridiculously happy!

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    1. I am happy! Life isn’t perfect, by any means, but I look for the good in every day and when I get down about some of the situations in mine that I can’t control, I go in the basement, yell and scream to get it all out of my system and then play some music, go for a walk, or dig in the garden. It hasn’t changed any of the situations that frustrate me but it keeps me sane. When you can't control what's happening, all you can do is choose how to react and decide what choice to make in the future. Patterns always tell the truth and sometimes we just need to create new ones for ourselves.

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  6. Absolutely fabulous....following your gut and going with the flow is the best way to live......and your new house and garden show how wonderful your intuition has been for them.....a true labor of love! And you do look so happy!!

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    1. Thanks, Donna! I had the house painted immediately after I bought it. A friend asked why I was in such a rush and I responded that I wanted to come home to something that reflected my choice not someone else's. I needed a shot of warmth and life. The color was so encouraging and I needed that. I found the original white paint depressing. It felt like I was walking into someone else's life not my new one. My neighbors love the color and the changes, which has been a pleasant surprise.

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    2. Good reinforcement all round. It is fun to watch this chapter unfolding.

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    3. It’s been quite the journey!

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  7. I love your yellow house and can't wait to see how your garden matures.

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  8. Welcome back Tammi. We missed you, but you were very busy arranging a new life that suits you. Not to mention a new garden. Great to hear your cheekiness is still intact!!

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    1. I've been really shocked to discover I've been missed. That is such a massive compliment! My cheekiness is quite intact! Once a smartass, always a smartass! ;o)

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  9. I am so glad to see you back Tammy. You probably won't believe this but I have been thinking about you the past week or so. I looked up your blog to see if I was just missing something or you weren't posting...yet. I think you are a wise woman. Taking time of self, getting priorties aligned is most important. The results are evident. A beautiful start to a new life.

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    1. I was really stunned and touched by this comment. I had no idea anyone ever thought about me or my blog. I assumed I was just part of all the white noise that occupies our lives. It feels good to be back and to know people hadn't written me off but were just waiting for me. That is just incredible!

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  10. So glad that your new garden is taking shape, in a wonderful way. All best wishes for a continuing evolution in a new place.

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    1. Thanks and same to you! Big adventures lie ahead of you!

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  11. Tammmyyyy!!! I will be there soon to see you because I miss you and secondly because I have fallen in love with your house already!that's way too cool. Miss you my friend!

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  12. It was great to see a post from you show you on my Blogroll this morning ! Your house is just charming and that color is great-love the new porch lights,love the arbor and love your attitude. I hope you will keep us updated on your progress. A job well done !

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! There are more posts to come as the rest of the garden shapes up. The retaining walls will soon be constructed, which is gearing up to be a really huge project. I've designed and engineered a gravity fed waterfall and dry riverbed that drops into each level of the three tier retaining wall garden that ends in a rain garden. Very cool stuff!!

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  13. Wonderful! You've put a lot of muscle, time, and money into your new garden and it shows. And of course your amazing creativity, Tammy! I love the glider and the mosaics! Everything about your new garden is very special. Congrats!

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    1. Thanks! I was thinking about you when I added a bunch of actea to the area behind the cherry tree. :o) This has definitely been an expensive undertaking and the bank manager and I are on a first name basis but the value of the house has drastically increased and it's ridiculous to put in a garden only to have to undo it to add hardscaping. I can hardly wait for those mosaics to arrive!

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  14. It's wonderful to see a photo of you looking healthy and happy! That your garden also looks beautiful is no surprise whatsoever as I know you're an unsinkable gardener with a clear vision (whether you see it in a given moment or not). I've no doubt this past year has been difficult and challenging and has pulled you in a variety of emotional directions but I also know that you have a strong internal compass that will see you through anything. Welcome back to blogland, Tammy. I've missed you.

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    1. This comment means so much, Kris!!! I've missed you, too. :o) I do listen to my gut and sometimes make choices not everyone understands until I explain them. I've never thought of myself as unsinkable but there is a lot of truth to that description. I am a fighter, for sure. It never occurs to me to give up although I will walk away from people and situations that are emotionally depleting, controlling, one-sided, or toxic. I do have a vision for my life although there are many days I feel like I'm wading through pea soup and fog and what I want seems elusive. But life is still good!!

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  15. You've made all sorts of wonderful progress--I look forward to seeing and reading about your new life, new garden adventures.

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  16. Welcome back Tammy! Still with ya in spirit and knowing you will be fine!

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    1. Looking forward to seeing you and the rest of the crew in July!

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  17. You go girl! Love how happy you look. "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked." Kahlil Gibran
    Very excited to see your new garden taking shape and being entirely what you want! Happy new chapter.

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    1. Thanks, Peter!! It's interesting having brick paths instead of the casual grass paths I'm used to but it made the most design sense and now I don't have to mow.

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  18. I'm so happy to hear an update from you! You have been so very busy in your garden and caring for you! The new garden looks amazing! I love everything you've done. I'm sure this hasn't been an easy journey but the new chapter is looking great! Hugs!

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    1. Thanks! Nothing about this has been easy but it was a journey that needed to happen. I'm so glad you love the new garden! Hugs right back at ya!

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  19. The transformation of the house and garden is special -- but the words you use to describe how you weathered the hard times are why I'm saving this post. Bravo!

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    1. Thank you so much, Pat! What a difficult year this has been....

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  20. Welcome back, Tammy! You have been one busy girl! Your new garden looks beautiful, and I know it's going to be even more amazing as everything grows. You are an inspiring example of "doing what you love"!

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    1. Thanks, Rose! I can't imagine not doing what I love. I am looking forward to having plants on the sunny side that are larger than a few inches tall!

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  21. It's just great to see how you and that amazing new garden are growing! The garden, and you look amazing. I love absolutely everything!!! What a transformation. Like Pat above, I just love how beautifully you have written about the last twelve months or so, what a way with words you have. Good to see you back, I have missed you and popped back here in case I wasn't receiving your posts. Looking forward to hearing and seeing more.xxx

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    1. Thanks!! You'll hear from me on a regular basis now!

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  22. Darlin' you have done a lot in the course of a year. It looks lovely. Looking forward to seeing it as it continues to grow...and see how you are.

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    1. I do tend to keep busy, don't I? I do hope the rest of the year is much calmer!

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  23. Wow, Tammy - you have outdone yourself. Your new front garden looks incredible and so fully encapsulates who you are - it's amazing!! Now ask me if I'm surprised :) You are wholeheartedly embracing your new life and I can see how content you are...that makes me so happy. XOXO

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    1. Thank you so much, Margaret! You'll see me on your blog again! I keep looking at my front garden thinking, "I can't believe that's mine!".

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  24. I'm so glad you posted this, it's really great to hear what you've been up to. Not surprisingly, you've done a fantastic job with your front garden - beautiful, original, and creative. I like the house painted yellow. I wanted to paint our house yellow a while back, but Judy exercised her veto power.

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    1. Show her this post and maybe she'll change her mind about the yellow! I'm so glad you like the garden. :o)

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  25. Hi there! I doubt you remember me from your visit to Portland, Oregon, but I was so jazzed to see your pictures and above all, how very genuine you look to me. You look like someone who has dropped a weight of some kind of sorrow and found herself buried deep inside. I'm sure things aren't always easy...but you look very ALIVE. All the work you've done to make a real home for yourself is marvelous. (I especially love the lights in the trees at night!) What a beautiful garden you are making of your life. Go Girl! (The unblogger these days - Susie T.)

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    1. I absolutely remember you! It's good to hear from you! Life is good, indeed, and my ex and I are genuine friends who took a 'kindness only' approach to the divorce. I do love those lights, which I refer to as my tree balls much to the confusion of whoever overhears me! Gotta laugh!!

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  26. You have been on quite a journey. The garden is lovely and I am sure the neighbors will enjoy it too. Transition and change are hard; you have done well.

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    1. My neighbors are fascinated by the changes! The huge retaining wall project starts soon so that will help transform the backyard from a mess to a real garden. Change is the only true constant. :o)

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  27. Tammy ... you are freaken' amazing ! .. this is absolutely gorgeous (and I too don't give a rat's ass about "design" .. I do what I like and maybe clean up that mess later ? LOL) .. everything looks stunning and you are thinking well ahead of time whether you know it for certain or not .. there is a lot to be said about the unconsciousness taking the lead when needed .. so much in your life has changed and you have mastered it admirably .. your home and garden will be the true you .. it, and you are wonderful !! You should be extremely proud of what you have accomplished !
    I love the glider .. and that rose arbor is going to be a masterpiece .. I love the Kodiak series in black and orange (my Halloween side coming out with that ) .. your plant choices are marvelous .. I can't say enough about how pretty everything looks. Well done YOU !

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  28. Thanks a million! I thought this design would work well for when I’m older since I plan on living here forever. I really appreciate your kind words. I’m not one to wallow in self-pity for too long. A billion other people have a best day that’s worse than my worst days every day and I can’t let myself ever forget that. So I just carry on with my life and get busy moving forward.

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  29. Welcome back! Your new house and gardens are wonderful. What an enormous improvement you have made in a short amount of time. The brick paths and white arbor provide such wonderful bones for your garden, and I LOVE the yellow house! The fairy dust balls are very pretty, and I want some to hang from a dogwood at the edge of our patio- if you don't mind me stealing your idea! And you, yourself - why, you are looking fantastic, too!

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    1. Thank you so much!! The yellow color has been a big hit with the neighbors, too. Steal every idea you love and thanks for your kind words. :o) I wanted a deep, rich, aged yellow that felt warm and cheerful without being too bright and I think I nailed it.

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  30. You still have sparkly eyes and a lovely smile despite all the stress of recent events. Love, love, love the house color.

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    1. Tammy, I’m so glad we’re friends, and I can say I knew you when...! Hopefully, I can just say, “I know her; we’re good friends!” You are destined to be a writer. Of Books, I think. I love your blog, your house, your garden. Leah

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    2. Thanks, Susan!! This past year has been an elephant of a year for a lot of reasons but I'm still here. I'm a survivor!

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    3. Leah - we went way past friendship 19 years ago. We've been sisters ever since and I love you to the moon and back!

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  31. It' great to see you back, Tammy, I missed you. I love the new house colour and the formal layout of the paths but with the informal borders in between. The white archway is imposing and it will look great once you have the climbers established all over it. Sending you lots of love and happiness.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sunil! Sending you love and happiness right back! I missed our conversations in blogland and via Messenger, too. The arbor fits the space but roses will definitely soften it. I can hardly wait to stand under it and just smell the amazing rose fragrance. :o)

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  32. I am close to completing my vision for the garden that I started years ago. If I were to start over I have no idea what I'd do. I think I would let the place speak to me and then follow my heart. That's what I think you've done with your new house. I look at the pictures and can imagine quite clearly all the work you've done. School must be done now. Enjoy those first days of your summer break. I can't wait to see how everything grows.

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    1. It feels like the front garden designed itself. I hated the patchy, lumpy flagstone path from the start and thought brick would be a better replacement since the new stoop was brick. I kept cutting across the lawn to go to the door on the side porch so adding a path to the porch just made sense. But once the concrete was poured for both paths, my garden design was off because there was no sense of symmetry or even cohesion to the front so I added the bird bath path. The brick and the arbor do seem formal, which isn't my style, so I made sure to add cool, whimsical, funky art. The design feels soft but strong and that fits me perfectly. But I'll be very glad when everything has grown in and there's a sense of round lushness to the design. I like the contrast of something soft and curvy against something rigid and linear.

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  33. Welcome back, Tammy. Good luck with your new house and garden and the new chapter of your life.

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