Meet TS and Come See the Rest of the Garden...

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I spent yesterday afternoon helping a friend landscape the front yard of her new home. Out came mite infested azaleas and clumps of overgrown monkey grass. Hostas, ignorantly planted by the previous owner in full sun on a hot dry slope were moved to the moist shade in the back and replaced with a small herb garden and perennials to complement the existing shrubs. Her daughter eagerly dug through a bucket of worm compost searching for wigglers while we amended the soil and designed my friend's first garden. When the last bag of mulch was finally laid, we stood back, cold and covered in dirt, clapping and cheering.

Having moved seventeen times in thirty four years, I've never understood how deeply attached people become to their surroundings. While I loved many of the places I lived, they were always just pit stops and I focused my attachments on the people I met rather than the town or landscape. But if you were to ask me where I considered my true home to be, I would have drawn a blank. Home was where ever my husband, children, and dogs were, regardless of the state abbreviation at the end of our address. It wasn't a fixed location but rather a fluid course that was guaranteed to change.

I've lived in the same house in northern Virginia for nine years, longer than I've lived anywhere, and the idea of moving again brings nausea and the realization that I've become, for the first time, deeply attached to where I live. Home is no longer where ever I hang my hat but these walls and this garden. It's an odd feeling, as strange as it is comforting. I laid on the hammock in my back yard this afternoon doing nothing but dreaming and savored how good it was to be home.

'Johnson's Blue' cranesbill geraniums 

They grow in a moist spot near the dogwood.

Geraniums and Siberian iris

The dogwood garden in early evening. This bed is full of perennials and sweetspire 'Little Henry'.

Genie and the marguerites 

Thalictrum in bud

The flowers remind me of fireworks. 

They grow near the river birch and native Bowman's Root.

Chives have self seeded gently around my garden.

Peeking at a pot of seed grown curly parsley planted for the butterflies. 

It was too bright when I took this photo. Chives thrive in a well drained bed near white geraniums, 'Laura' phlox, and a Sceptre d'Isle rose, all grown in the shade of a massive Rose of Sharon.

'Miss Kim' lilac

These shrubs have only been in the garden a few years but bloom heavier every season. I'm hoping they'll be covered with blossoms by next spring. They grow between an American Cranberry bush (viburnum trilobum) and fragrant sweetbox (sarcocca).

I planted them near a window so I could enjoy their incredible fragrance even while inside. I think Lucy likes them, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Long and Short of It

I don't know about you, but for me the new gardening year starts in spring when everything begins to bloom and ends when my garden goes dormant in late fall. This year I've decided to show more of the entire garden and various beds in my posts to help balance out the occasional macro shot. This allows the reader to appreciate the details of the plant while also seeing how it's used in the garden. This also means I can't hide any mistakes or crop out plants that are less than fabulous to preserve my dignity. But that's ok. Considering I once got up at a drag queen brunch and danced with one of the queens, I'm not that dignified to begin with.

Here are a few things you should know about me before I begin this new theme:

1. I'm not a landscape designer, landscape architect, horticulturalist, or botanist. I'm a slightly crazy science teacher who spends all day with 12 year olds.

2. I'm not independently wealthy, a fact I find highly irritating. My gardening decisions are often made based on cost and practicality. I view compost, mulch, and organic soil amendments as investments since healthy soil creates healthy plants. But it means I have to cut corners in other areas. I often use seedlings and bare root plants to populate my beds.

3. I have a very basic, cheap camera and virtually no photography skills. However, I make incredible cookies and can run in heels. Whenever I take a great picture, I'm shocked and thrilled. The best part about my camera is the anti-jiggle setting. It's always on.

4. My photography goals are: don't take a picture of your finger or a pooping dog. I have recently stopped taking videos of the interior of my purse and pockets. I'm very proud.

5.  I have a doctorate from the University of Trial and Error.

6. When I talk to myself in my head, I sometimes talk like a pirate.

'Susanna Mitchell' marguerites (Anthemis) are one of my favorite flowers. I love how simple they are.

They need sharp drainage, full sun, and very little fertilizer. They thrive in my container garden. 

I've spent the last 15 years using cheap plastic containers which always overheat and fry the roots of my plants. This year I splurged and bought glazed clay containers. The last empty pot is the future home of an Abraham Darby rose. I doubt it will live in the pot forever since they get so big. The back garden and the entrances to the dog run are in the background.

This view shows the newest perennial bed and the dry stream bed I dug through the middle. I'm still in the process of planting and mulching that bed. The beginnings of my NanoFarm, along with plants set aside for friends, are at the end of the patio. I'll be growing tomatoes, ground cherries, carrots, and sweet potatoes. The blue and yellow balls are bird houses.

Silene 'Rolly's Favorite' is one of my earliest spring bloomers. It thrives in dry soil with sharp drainage.

The silene grows next to a dwarf white catmint that blooms with the daffodils. A native white penstemon, agastache, knautia, alliums, and sedum grow nearby. Orange milkweed and blue mist flower are just beginning to push up.

 This bed is near one of the entrances to the dog run. A huge Westerland climbing rose grows along the fence.


Geums thrive in one of the few moist spots in my garden. 

They clash shamelessly with the 'Pink Champagne' clematis but so what? I love how exuberantly each plant grows in its spot and see no point in moving them. Monarda, yellow geums, and caryopteris (blue mist shrub) grow nearby.

Pink bigroot geranium 

Bigroot geraniums make an excellent ground cover for partial shade. They're putting the squeeze on my purple euphorbia and have plans to invade the campanula and phlox in the neighboring bed. Fortunately for the other plants, they're easy to control.

This bed is full of campanula, phlox, black eyed susans (rudbeckia), staychys 'Hummelo', native mountain mint, 'Etoille Violet clematis' and a 'River Mist' sea oats.

'River Mist' sea oats

A stand of Japanese anemones grows near the variegated sea oats but thanks to a dry spring, they've been slow to emerge. Thornless blackberries grow along the back fence near the crepe myrtle.  

Another pink clematis I can't remember the name of!

Clematis and False Solomon's Seal

Two different pink clematis grow along the fence I share with my neighbor. The second clematis begins blooming when the dark pink one finishes. I didn't plan it that way. I just got lucky. False Solomon's Seal, daylilies, amsonia, blue asters, and tall veronica grow nearby. It's hard to see in this picture but two dwarf lespedeza plants are just leafing out. The cheddar pinks (dianthus) at the bottom are headed for a spot near the knautia (growing along the iron fence) since they're too close to the grass. A big red brick holds down the daffodil foliage so it doesn't suffocate the veronica. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Welcome to Today

After the warmest March on record we're having the driest April I can remember and my garden is thirsty. But I love today, anyway. The skies are clear, I saw a frog in my frog pond, and after a deep soaking, my plants are happy. So am I!

For this post I'm showing the plants two ways: up close to enjoy the details and from a short distance to show how they are used in the garden.

Native green and gold (Chrysoganum) is an excellent ground cover for dry shade.

It grows under columbine at the edge of the patio. I just planted it last fall so it's still small.

 I just love how only one flower is pink while the rest are purple.

'The President' clematis has recovered from wilt and is feeling much better.

'The President' clematis

The bleeding heart continues its outward sprawl and has started its annual invasion of the heuchera.

Wood anemonies grow between the sarcocca and the bleeding heart.

Rutgers hybrid 'Stellar Pink' dogwood

More daffodils have pushed up and begun to bloom.

Lucy watches the neighborhood through a window flanked by 'Miss Kim' lilacs and a massive viburnum trilobum.

American Cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) has white lace cap flowers in the spring and fabulous fall foliage.

This picture isn't the greatest! The viburnum was planted way too close to the house (oops!) and is underplanted with yellowroot. A 'Miss Kim' lilac grows to the right. I recently added two rows of fragrant day lilies to the area in front of the lilac.

Southeastern native clematis crispa grows along the fence.

It's flowers remind me of an octopus!

False Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum) is my new favorite plant!

I added it to several areas of the garden including the Bed of Death and Misery. I redesigned this bed last fall and I'm hoping it will earn a new nickname!

False Solomon's Seal, aster ericoides, variegated sedum, northern sea oats grass (very back), coreopsis 'Sunshine Superman' (self-seeded), chives, chrysoganum, and amsonia fill out the new design. Blue stem solidago grows to the back right.

Hosta I can't remember the name of.

 The river birch garden

Cowslip primroses - one of my favorite spring flowers.

Cowlsip and self-seeded wood poppies grow near a dwarf sweetspire 'Little Henry'. Everybody, including the dogs, kept using this area as a short cut so I added a stepping stone to eliminate plant damage.