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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Soaking in the Slow

I did not set my alarm Monday. I did not get up early and spend the day telling 110 twelve year olds to tie their shoes, put their name on their paper, or sit up straight. I did not attend conferences or meetings and didn't take home a single paper to grade. I may have gone mad if I had. Instead, I did nothing. I slept late, puttered in my pajamas, sipped my coffee. I spent the morning in the garden and just soaked in the slow.

Annual ammi majus with drumstick alliums and yellow yarrow


The 'Rocky Top' coneflowers to the left only grow facing east.

Lucy at the gate behind a sea of flowers

I love frogs, despite having kissed a few. 

Pots up the patio steps and a hidden birdhouse

I grew the gomphrena from seed and they were supposed to be a variety of bright colors. Instead they bloomed mostly white. White flowers against beige siding is pretty boring. I'm hoping the next batch is a bit sassier.

This was supposed to be purple but I like the red, too.

One of my students gave me two Eastern Box turtles her father rescued from the middle of the road. I named them Shaggy and Scooby.

So curious...

Shaggy didn't appreciate being drooled on and went back into the garden. 

Spigelia marilandica (Indian Pink) grows alongside 'Moonshine' pulmonaria and stained glass in the shade garden.

This southeastern native thrives in moist but well drained soil in light shade.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Rain Garden Redesign

I think I'm one of those people that likes having a project. Hauling rocks, compost, and breaking out the shovels makes me happy. Spending all day in a shopping mall does not. After redesigning my shade garden, one side of my garden swooshed into a beautiful deep curve and one side of my garden did not. It tortured me. I need visual balance and wanted each side of my garden to curve inward like an embrace around an ellipse of grass. The only way to accomplish this was to expand my rain garden. 

My rain garden isn't a traditional sunken garden but a riverbed that fills with water when it rains. Raised berms on each side maintain moisture without permanent saturation. The purpose of a rain garden is to capture as much water as possible to reduce runoff. A giant trumpet creeper vine dominates the fence along the riverbed.

 Clematis grow well in the rich, moist soil. The handmade birdhouse is from Mike Merritt Art.

Staychs 'Hummelo' is a pollinator favorite.

Using the plant selection philosophy of "If it's already in my garden, I must really like it", I redesigned this bed with plants I'd liberated from other sections of the garden. While this seems resourceful, it was my only option after blowing my budget on my shade garden redesign. I purchased a small abelia 'Rose Creek' last fall but since I made the rules, I decided I could also break them. It's hard to resist an abelia.

A curving grass path leads to the gate. The patio to the right is slightly higher than the bed next to the grass allowing water to flow into the trench between the grass and the rain garden. Clover blurs the lines between the riverbed and the grass. A pot of variegated silene rescued from the sale table was just added.

Seashells are scattered along the rocks.

The riverbed is on a slight slope. The area at the front near the grass is the highest point and this area is the lowest. Swamp milkweed added this spring has been planted into the middle of the bed at it's deepest spot. My little abelia is next to the 'Pink Grapefruit' yarrow in a drier spot than the milkweed. Pink turtlehead (chelone 'Hot Lips'), blue mist flower (eupatorium coelestinum), and 'Piglet' fountain grass (pennisetum) thrive in the rich, moist soil. The big rock at the end acts as a dam. 

The rain garden sits at the bottom of a slight slope. The higher up the slope you go, the shadier it is. Malva 'Zebrina', day lilies, and monarda love moist soil. The closer you go to the mouth of the riverbed, the drier it is.

I know this picture is absurdly bright, but I love the contrast between the shady and sunny areas of my garden. This section of the rain garden provides moist but well drained soil.

This is the sunniest part of my garden.

I added 'Little Hennie' sedum to test how dry the soil is at the mouth of the riverbed. Planted in a pocket of pea gravel next to a few large rocks, it's thriving in moist but very well draining soil. 

Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) has small blue flowers that bloom early. The happy frog hose guide keeps the dogs from using this area as a shortcut.


Creating the rain garden was a huge project. Begun in 2012, I worked on it steadily each spring and fall, making the process more manageable. Over 2,000 pounds of compost and 1,000 pounds of rocks were used. I did all the work myself.

 Spring 2012

I removed the sod with a shovel and slowly built the berms. Water permeable landscaping fabric lines the bottom of the riverbed. The initial rain garden was pretty small.

February 2013

May 2013

In a plot to replace grass with garden, I expanded the rain garden again last spring

October 2013

and again in the fall.

June 20, 2014

My latest expansion increased the depth of this bed, giving me more sunny spots in an ever shadier garden.

I hand picked the larger rocks at a local stone yard. Bags of river rocks form the base of the river bed.

Adding different sized rocks to the riverbed gave it an more authentic feel. After it rains, it's common to find butterflies licking the minerals from the wet stones. Do I have a photo of this fabulous event? Of course not.

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'

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What the Neighbors Saw

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be my neighbor. According to my back neighbor, he has the best view in the neighborhood: all the garden, none of the work. I think he may be right.

My Peggy Martin rose bloomed the heaviest on my neighbor's side of the fence.

There is no privacy in my neighborhood. Our HOA requires all fences be four feet tall and almost identical in design. We live our lives as if they were performance art. We are always on display.

I could have pruned this off but it seemed pointless and cruel.

Grass paths lead from the fence gates into the garden. The children next door love to come over and pet my four dogs.

My garden curves around an ellipse of grass like a giant Bodoni font C. When you have dogs, grass makes for a better playground than a perennial bed.

A view into the dogwood garden and a peek at the patio

I'm lucky to have incredible neighbors and don't mind the lack of privacy. After 10 years of gardening to the chatter of songbirds and a busy neighborhood, I might go crazy in the country. Or I might not.

The Etoille Violet clematis also chose the sun on my neighbors side
for the lushest display.

It took pity on me and flung a few blooms over to my side.

 A peek into the shade garden.

All of these pictures were taken from my neighbors' yards. We planted four trees when we moved in eleven years ago to help give the illusion of privacy.

Chester Thornless blackberries grow along the fence. My neighbor is free to eat whatever berries grow on his side. I leave the rest for the birds.

A view over the fence into the rain garden.

When my other neighbors had their fence built, they included a gate for me so I could take care of their garden, too, and tend to my plants that grow along our shared fence. 

Yellow yarrow and pink knautia grow near the rain garden. The reddish lump in the background is a happy dog in grass that needs to be mowed.

When I designed my garden, I picked plants I like. It didn't occur to me how much my neighbors would enjoy them, too.

My 'Night Owl' rose is recovering from a nasty bout with black spot
and a severe pruning.

The first people who lived in the house next door didn't care for their yard and it looked like a jungle so I planted this trumpet vine to block the view. Now I keep it pruned so we can both enjoy it while giving ourselves a small bit of privacy. (No special effects were used on this picture. I just shot into the sun.)

More pink mystery clematis growing along our shared fence.

I should find out its name but I enjoy its anonymity. 

My neighbors love the clematis so much I'm training several other vines along the fence. I garden and they show up at my door with homemade Indian food. Hooray!