There are two words to describe the month of June this year---wet
. In fact, it's now official that this has been the wettest June on record. All the rain has meant it has been difficult to get out into the garden often enough to pull all the weeds that are thriving, let alone finish putting the mulch down. On the bright side, though, the plants are loving it, and I haven't had to water at all other than a few containers sitting under the eaves.
I realized this week that in spite of the weeds and unfinished chores, this is the perfect time to visit my garden. The coneflowers are in full bloom everywhere, and the lilies are all opening up, making this the most colorful time of the year. So how about a little stroll through my garden? For once, I'm going to show mostly long shots instead of my usual close-ups, as long as you promise to ignore the weeds and the random hoses or
tools or mulch that I couldn't crop out of the picture. My garden isn't that large, but it is spread out, so if you were here, you'd need some walking shoes. Instead, grab another cup of coffee and join me as I give you a little history of the garden.
When we moved to this house in the late summer of 2004, we inherited a large yard with many beautiful trees. But there was nothing else here, other than some overgrown yews on the north side of the house. That fall I moved a few of the plants I wanted to keep from the old house and plopped them into a shady spot under the big evergreen at the corner of the house. I wasn't much of a gardener then, so I'm surprised they survived, but they did. Little did I know at the time that that would be just the beginning of a new obsession. The front of the house looked so plain
, so several years later I added the shrubs along the front side, too.
When I retired a few years later, I expanded the shade garden, doubling its size. By that time I was becoming a plant addict, so of course, I had to add more plants, resulting in the green jungle where ever-growing hostas threaten to take over smaller plants.
On one side, the shade garden is bordered by a 'Limelight' hydrangea with the miniature Japanese garden
nestled underneath. Looking back at my post on this little garden from two years ago, I'm amazed at how much the 'Limelight' has grown. I've been trying to get it to become more of a tree shape and prune a few branches each spring, but darn, it's hard cutting back much when I see all those gorgeous flowers every August.
The other side of the shade garden is bordered by a very tall evergreen, which I still haven't identified. The area underneath its low-hanging branches tends to get very weedy, and I've pretty much ignored it until the last year or two. But this year I cut back as many of the weeds as possible and mulched most of the area with a thick layer of leaves. I've also planted various groundcovers, hoping one day they'll take over the area and choke out the weeds. The tower planter, by the way, was made by my daughter's boyfriend and a birthday gift last year--it's not so easy to grow things vertically, I've found:)
I've been trying to add more height to the back of the shade garden, but it's taking awhile. The bargain Japanese maple on the left has taken a growth spurt, though, and finally can be seen above the giant 'Sum and Substance' hosta.
From my first garden area to my newest--I had been wanting to expand the shade garden even further for a long time. Last year I noticed the lawnmower tracks around this nearby oak tree, and a light bulb went off. I convinced my non-gardening-you-have-more-garden-than-you-can-take-care-of husband that if I planted all this area, it would be so much easier for him to mow around the tree. The logic worked! I quickly got busy, covering the area with newspapers and compost and began digging up hostas from the shade garden to move here. It's amazing how quickly I could fill an area just with divisions from my own garden, but of course, I couldn't resist buying even more shade-loving plants now that I had more room.
I've learned some valuable lessons over the past few years as I've evolved into a gardener. One of the most important is not to plant things too close together,
so this area still looks rather bare to me, but I think I'll be happier in another year or two. I also have been better about getting this area mulched right away. The tall, spiky plants, by the way, are some of the 80 daffodils I planted in this area last fall whose foliage just will not die back, it seems. Oh yes, and Sasha is only temporary garden art:)
Back to the chronological tour . . . the first full summer we lived here, I decided to turn this triangular area into a flower garden. At one time I think there were some small shrubs and flowers here (my in-laws built this house and lived here until they passed away), but the house had sat vacant for several years, and nothing remained here but some very overgrown yews at the back and layers and layers of gravel. I've told the story of digging out all that gravel before, so I won't repeat it here, but let's just say it was a challenging experience that took me most of the summer. The area has changed over the past 10 years, most notably the absence of the big yews which we cut back, and which I was told would grow back, but didn't. But that's a story for another day. I keep intending to revamp this whole garden and started the process this May until my mother became ill. She's doing better, I'm happy to say, but it's too late to make any major changes to the sidewalk garden now--another project for next year.
One of the things you'll notice in the previous photo is that the coneflowers have taken over this area. I pulled many of them at the front of the border this spring and intended to take out more before I got interrupted by family obligations, but once they began to bloom....well, who would have the heart to pull these out??
I do love coneflowers; I just would like to have more variety in this small area. But they are butterfly and pollinator magnets. If you look closely, you'll see there are at least five Red Admirals in this photo. I counted another dozen on the rest of the flowers this day before I lost count.
The large boulder in place at corner of the driveway also begged for some color, so I added some of the 'Stella d'Oro' lilies I had also brought with me. In the spring, daffodils and tulips bloom here as well.
That same year our beloved big dog Roco passed away, and I created a little garden memorial for him. It's a challenge keeping the weeds out of this area, especially all the creeping charlie that wants to invade the space. I often talk to Roco while I'm weeding, reminiscing about all the good times we had. He has since been joined by daughter's cat Max and granddaughter's first guinea pig.
Now let's take a little hike down our long lane to what I call my roadside garden which I planted the following year, in 2006. It's really just a narrow flowerbed in front of three large burning bushes. The daylilies at the front--mostly 'Stellas'--are finishing up blooming while the coneflowers are just beginning. Behind the coneflowers are some of my favorite daylilies, which you can't see from here, that should open up any day now.
One of my favorite flowers in this garden at the moment are these 'Prairie Sun' Rudbeckia. I'll say more about these cheery flowers on Bloom Day.
Now let's head back up the lane to see the last few newer garden areas.
Once I retired, I had much more time to devote to gardening and discovered how much I loved it. I dug up a small area out back to attract more butterflies. In recent years it has become pretty wild, overrun with asters and goldenrod, but there are some blooms that stand out from their foliage right now, like this beebalm.
Butterfly weed's orange blooms show up through the foliage quite noticeably. I just hope all the rain this year doesn't prove too much for them as it did for the large butterfly weed I used to have in the roadside garden.
A new addition this year is this Ascelpias curassavica
, a tropical milkweed. It's an annual here, but I love its vibrant colors and plan to grow it each year from now on.
Over the years I've learned more about the benefits of native plants and have added more of them to this area in particular. I've also learned you have to be patient for some of these to grow, but it's worth the wait to finally see blooms like these just beginning on the gray-headed coneflower.
Nearer the driveway is one of the flowerbeds I created after retiring, the Lily Bed. This is the area that really stands out right now, though it's hard to get a decent long shot of it. I have become addicted to daylilies, and I've packed so many of them into this narrow space that I've run out of room.
Although this area was meant to show off my growing collection of daylilies, there are other plants, of course, too, that vie for attention like this bright phlox and the 'Vanilla Strawberry' hydrangea behind the NOID daylilies.
Over the years my garden has grown, but not enough to keep up with my ever-growing desire to have more plants. Still, the lack of room doesn't stop me from adding more beauties like this one!
Finally, the next-to-newest garden area and the largest is the Arbor Bed. In the spring the front of this garden is filled with daffodils and tulips of every color. Right now it's just beginning to acquire its summer color with more lilies and phlox as well as annuals beginning to bloom.
And of course, there are more coneflowers! This area was carefully planned in the beginning, but as usual with all my plantings, this garden seems to have a mind of its own, too. Besides all the plants I plopped here because I didn't know where else to put them, many, like the coneflowers, have re-seeded and taken up residence here. Sometimes I pull them, sometimes not.
One of the plants here that is definitely a keeper, however, is my Amsonia Hubrichtii
. Although it's no longer blooming, its foliage looks beautiful all year whether surrounded by the last of the red poppies or Japanese anemones in the fall.
Thanks for taking the time to stroll through my garden with me. Since these photos were taken, I've had a couple garden helpers help me do some more weeding and finally finish the mulching, so the garden is looking even better (including the small vegetable garden, which we didn't see). It's the perfect time to visit my garden, so do stop by if you're in the area!
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July, everyone!