Tag Archives: garden renovation

Garden Recordkeeping Part 4

As September 2013 winds down I have some photographs and notes to record. This is the fourth of several posts.

While I am in the mood to record some thoughts about the previous gardening season I wanted to jot down this reminder. Several years ago I wrote an entry about a New York Times interview with Piet Oudolf in which he was asked for “final advice for the beginner.”

Experience starts the moment you start to like gardening. You can’t do it right the first time. You can’t even do it right in a few years. You always see the next step you have to do. Start simply, putting good combinations of plants together, and work from there. You have to go through all the steps. You cannot skip any lessons. That is honest. It’s hard work. But you get something back, that’s the good thing. It’s like raising children. You try to do your best.

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To read the entire interview see: The New York Times, HOME & GARDEN, Q&A: Piet Oudolf on Designing a Winter Garden, By SARA BARRETT, Published: February 9, 2011. The Dutch designer shares advice on getting the most out of your garden all year round.

What Is Missing?

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed) 5/27/2011

My neighbor gave me some Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) this spring, so just as I got those re-introduced into the perennial garden, I noticed the Foxglove do not look like they will bloom this year. And where are the Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed)? There should be at least three of these native milkweed species plants providing larval food for Monarch butterflies. The one pictured above was flowering in late May last year.

Realizing several things are missing from the garden this year made me think back to some other plants that were once important to the garden, but are no longer around.

Colocasia (Elephant Ear) and Cornus C. Kousa Dogwood both succumbed to back-to-back drought years, but were great features in 2006. The Kousa never bloomed though.

Colocasia (Elephant Ear) 7/5/2006

Kousa Dogwood 7/5/2006

Eutrochium purpureum (Joe-Pye Weed) was actually called Eupatorium purpureum when this first grew in my garden. A native eastern North American plant, Joe-Pye can grow 5-8 feet. I planted this in a spot too close to the house and was not able to move it. Now I see places in the back of the borders where one might do well.

Eutrochium purpureum (Joe-Pye Weed) 7/18/2006

Both Rudbeckia hirta var. angustifolia (Black-eyed Susan) and Crocosmia should be easy to grow here. Both have repeatedly been added to the garden but they do not stay around.

Black-eyed Susan 9:6:2009

Crocosmia 7/25/2006

Hydrangeas are also finicky in this garden, probably not getting enough water in the years I have tried them. With all the rain this year perhaps one would have thrived. They grow all around this area, including next-door, so it is certainly possible. Asiatic Lily, Phlox Paniculata and Hosta were highlights in the garden’s early years. Deer have made these too frustrating to grow.

Hosta and Bishops’ Weed 5/25/2006

The garden is starting to slow and I am wondering what plants to add to give it more structure and carry it further into the summer. Trips to garden centers and public gardens are in order for inspiration.

Last Day of May

Canna and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Early this morning Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) and Canna waited in the shade as the sun slowly moved to warm these sun-loving perennials.

Echinacea purpurea is native to Eastern USA and bees find it attractive. Later American Goldfinches will enjoy its seeds.

Canna and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

While it still can this bee should enjoy the Tradescantia (Spiderwort) that abounds in the garden. This week I am making some progress in cutting it back, but am finding it difficult work to remove it by the roots.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Although afternoon temperatures reached 92 degrees, the garden this morning was pleasant and mostly shaded, perfect for welcoming visitors to view the flowers. So when a neighbor and her friend walked by while I was taking pictures in the front side garden, I eagerly asked them to come to the back to see my garden.

This year, more than in any other year, I have felt comfortable with the state of the garden overall and am happy when I can share this place. It is not perfect, of course, but some key garden renovation projects during the last year have made the garden much more cohesive and have given it personality. The meditation circle is one such project and today my neighbor’s friend walked the meditation path, experiencing  a labyrinth for her first time. It was a nice morning in the garden.

Late Winter Garden Notes

Several clusters of cheery daffodils enliven the garden. Adding more spring bulbs, (especially daffodils which the deer resist) would be an easy improvement to make. Usually when it is time to order and plant bulbs I tend to be focused elsewhere. This is a reminder to myself to really do it this fall—plant more Spring bulbs.

By this time last year I had been very active in the garden, planning the garden renovation, pruning, tidying around the perennials, installing a hedge. I have logged many fewer hours this year. Although the need is strong, discipline is lacking. Garden tasks abound. There are weeds to pull, pruning and trimming chores and general cleanup to perform, as well as some paths to redesign, more screening plants to choose and a replacement to locate for the Arizona Cypress that died last year. Note to self: get busy on these projects.

Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion)

Actually two items can be checked off my task list this week. I planted six or seven Rose campions a thoughtful neighbor potted up and saved for me after I lamented that my magenta ones died out several years ago. The garden has many white ones thriving that were planted from seed, but I had missed the red. These three were placed near a lavender, spiderwort and irises.

Penstemon 'Huskers Red'

Another chore completed recently was to finally plant several perennials purchased a couple of weeks ago.  Five Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox) were added to a front section of the western border.  Many things there had died out over the years, leaving behind mostly a sad area of mulch, so the phlox will add color in Spring and will be mostly evergreen.

Three Penstemons ‘Huskers Red’  went into the meditation circle at turn-around points. The purpose is to provide some visual guidance (and a physical barrier) to clarify where to step next along the labyrinth.

Camellia x `Coral Delight` (C. japonica x C. saluenensis)

The label that came with this Camellia ‘Coral Delight’ indicates flowers should appear December to February. Planted in 2006 on the north side of the house, it actually blooms around March 20th each year. So many plants are opening ahead of schedule this year, it will be interesting to see if that date will hold.

Perhaps a Trout Lily?

In late December I transplanted this mottled-leafed plant and its mossy accompaniment from its home under a beautiful tea camellia at my sister’s house.  Upon seeing it, the name Trout Lily came to mind, but so far I have not found a picture that matches these reddish leaves—trout lilies seem to have green leaves with a mottled pattern.  Time will tell if it will bloom so it can be identified.

My Garden Attic

Contemplating yesterday how best to proceed with my garden renovation started last year, it dawned on me how much my garden resembles my attic.

A recent attic cleanup effort resulted in many donations and a few trips to the dump–hard work and satisfying. Now someone else can enjoy the colorful elephant and 3D puzzle.

Despite the improvement the attic remains filled with a large number of items that simply entered my life at some point. For whatever reasons they were introduced, collected, saved and are now still a part of my life.

Like the lathe-turned rocking chair, built more than fifty years ago by my carpenter craftsman grandfather, some attic treasures are cherished as a way to remember my family. These items are part of my childhood, my heritage, and I hope one day someone close will want them. There is always enough room in the attic to keep these treasures.

Other things in the attic are oh so very useful, such as the large blue-speckled enameled canning pot I bring out to make watermelon pickles. Never mind it has been more than eight years since the last batch of pickles emerged from a steamy water bath in that porcelain pot. I still embrace the idea this canner still could be called upon any day.

Then there is the other stuff. Some of this stuff is not valuable, like old papers no one else would care about–too boring to look through, but possibly too important to simply discard. There definitely is good stuff too though: photographs,  extra Christmas ornaments in perfect condition; numerous books (classics); musical instruments; many useful things maybe someone might want.

So, after this recent, frenzied cleanup effort, the attic still needs attention and organization, and thus it is with my garden.

In the past year I have added a juniper shrub hedge, a meditation circle with a labyrinth and a picket fence around the entirety. I have enjoyed gardening more than ever, weeding, trimming, planting and delighting in the cycles that take blossoms from newly opened toward waning. The garden has some beautiful moments.

Yet, looking out on this wintry day my 10 year-old garden feels like an attic, a quarter-acre room filled with perennials that fondly became part of my life at some point. As I think about plant height, size when mature, color combinations, texture, light requirements, it hits me that I am working with a garden attic full of treasures and stuff.

Just as my grandfather’s rocking chair sits in my attic, sitting in perennial beds are various plants made dear because they were shared with me by relatives and friends. As they bloom each year I am reminded of these special gardeners and the garden seems even more special. Among the treasures are

woodland phlox, an old-fashioned rose, tradescantia and sweet pea, rose campion, dusty miller, columbine–these pass-along plants formed the beginning of my very first garden.  They were the first couple of boxes in the garden attic.  I love them and can always find reasons to keep them.

Other things in the garden are useful plants I want to keep where they are for the time being. (Remember, I just do not want to make those pickles right now.) Some plants that are reliable through periods of drought or heavy rain or severe cold or those that manage to bloom when it is 100 degrees for 5 days in a row, those plants fulfill a purpose in the garden.  It would not make sense to get rid of those or disturb them until there is a good design plan in place to replace them. And so, year after year the lamb’s ear keeps spreading, the daylilies attract deer, the ‘Blue sky’ salvia crowds and intertwines with everything; however, again this year, the garden might need some reliable bloomers, some things to fill up an empty space here and there–better hang on to these for now. So the boxes keep accumulating in the garden attic.

Then there is the other stuff, mostly good stuff too that just needs so much sorting out.

Plants like irises, pink yarrow, tansy, canna and others need to be dug and divided, replanted, relocated. I never seem to get around to it, but when I do, these will yield leftovers to be donated, useful plants maybe someone might want.

The garden has evolved over time and filled up with treasures. Now it needs a strong design plan, it needs structure and discipline. What a great time this would be to organize a serious cleanup in the garden attic.  If I do not make some ruthless decisions now, once the spring flowers start blooming I simply will not have the heart to even think about it until next winter.

2011 – A Garden Review

2011 – A Year of Gardening and Writing

2011 has been a rewarding year for working in this garden and for writing about it as well. On the last day of the year it seems a good time to review pbmGarden entries and remember favorite garden scenes, assess goals and carry over ideas.

2011 Month By Month

January was all about making plans for reviving my interest in gardening.  I wanted to rejuvenate the existing garden and often found myself remembering an older garden that was more special to me: Remembering Gardens and Gardeners.

February was a continuation of reflection, ideation, and assessment. In Reflections On A Rainy Afternoon I made some brief almanac-type observations, weighed the pros and cons of fencing the garden and looked back for inspiration at pictures from prior years. Deer have become a big problem for gardeners in the area and in Garden Plants the Deer Allow Me To Enjoy it was therapeutic to enumerate the many plants that the deer have tended to ignore.

In early March Meditation Path Plans were under consideration and by mid-month I could see the Meditation Garden Taking Shape.

By early April the meditation garden was still the main focus of my attention, but in Encircling The Garden I took time to notice the emerging bearded iris, spiderwort (tradescantia) and more. Digging the labyrinth was a huge job, including an 8-hour stint on Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday. Just two days later came Labyrinth Friday, marking an exciting milestone in the garden renovation. Meanwhile many perennials had emerged and were blooming and it was Time To Enjoy The Garden.

By the first of May the garden was full of Garden Scenes to share. The Meditation Circle was a happy focus. In Transitions and A Few Hours In the Garden Today I made note of  many garden chores that had been accomplished. May was a peaceful time to be grateful and enjoy the pleasures of the garden, as evidenced by Morning Garden Walk.

Early in June, June Vignettes documented historic high temperatures and  told of what an active place the garden had become, home to bees, birds, and butterflies as well as plants. Views Of The Late June Garden seemed a lament of the passing of Spring and acknowledgment of the waning of the garden’s interest.  Yet, the garden continued to be a thriving place.

In July I wrote only three entries, starting with Early July and July Flowers. There were still plenty of blossoms to photograph.  In July Draws To A Close the grass had browned from severe drought and heat and the importance of the garden’s new meditation circle was highlighted.

Nothing in August.

By mid-September the garden caught my interest again and I captured its essence in a four-part series beginning with Blooming In Mid-September  (and continuing with part two, part three and part four). Rain and cooler weather had revitalized the garden and the gardener. A significant feature of the garden from its beginning, an Arizona Cypress “Carolina Sapphire” died and had to be taken out.  This event was noted in A Tree LostSeptember Finale illustrated the garden’s autumn charm.

In October I summarized the creation of the meditation circle: October Meditation On The Meditation Circle. Other posts during this time documented the cooling weather and highlighted many perennials of interest, such as Ginger Lily (in October Flourishes) and Russian Sage.

The weather in November was mild.  I photographed the garden frequently and posted many large galleries such as November ObservationsChrysanthemums Just Before TenDroplets, Webs and Color: Select Details, and Garden Gallery.  During November I did few chores, though it certainly would have been an ideal time.

In December Winter Daphne are already blooming.   So are the Hellebores, earlier than ever, as noted in Late December Vignettes.

2011 – A Good Year In The Garden

This year has been a good one in the garden. Many plans for renovating the garden were completed this year–a screening hedge, a fence and a meditation circle with its own labyrinth. The new fence kept deer away. The meditation circle added a peaceful, meaningful focal point to the garden.  Rains were reasonably frequent, enough to support lush, satisfying growth. So, yes, it has been a good year.

But I am writing about a garden, so there is a new list of tasks. Removing a holly hedge and a dead cypress have left empty spaces for now. Installing the fence changed the usefulness of existing paths and created the need to improve garden access points.   The garden’s design and structure needs improvement.  There are new plants to learn about.  So, yes, there are may tasks.

Thinking about the garden will be a good way to spend these upcoming winter days. Happy New Year!

A Close-up Texture Study

The garden is losing a sense of overall structure as autumn progresses, something I had planned to remedy when I started a renovation project last winter. Indeed there have been enhancements toward this end. The additions of a screening hedge of five ‘Blue Point’ junipers, a white picket fence enclosing the garden and a meditation circle with a labyrinth are all happy improvements. Still, the overall garden framework is and will be a work-in-progress.

Today I have set aside that larger view to concentrate on the textures that reveal themselves when one closely examines individual elements in the garden. With their leaves puddled around their bases or scattered into the neighbors’s yards, a river birch, a pair of crape myrtles and a Chinese elm prominently display interesting bark surfaces.

Chinese Elm


Chinese Elm


Chinese Elm


Chinese Elm


Crape Myrtle


River Birch

The rich green color and fern-like quality of tansy and yarrow leaves are lovely and welcome this time of year.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)


Pink Yarrow

With mild temperatures in the seventies the yarrow continues to set buds, set off by the silvery narrow leaves of a nearby lavender.

Pink Yarrow and Lavender

Eastern red columbine adds garden interest year round. Though the colorful leaves are drying now they add contrast to the burgeoning hellebores leaves underneath.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)