New Gardens: One Year Anniversary

– Posted in: Design, New House, New Gardens
21 comments

One year ago today, my family and I moved into our new home. As I mentioned previously, the former owners did a great job renovating the house, but the landscaping was safe and boring. I spent the winter looking out windows and imagining what I’d like to see there.

front walk stamped in snow

Looking out the kitchen door, imagining how a front walk would look.

I wondered if there were spring blooming bulbs waiting under the earth (there weren’t). And because a garden, at least a garden around a house, is the integration of people and the natural world, I observed where the family walked every day, and as the seasons progressed, where they like to gather, how they used the various areas of the property. I listened to what they missed about the old garden.

One Giant Puzzle

As winter gradually changed over to spring, I noted where the snow melted first–and where it lingered longest. When the trees leafed out, I started looking at the pattern of light and shadow throughout the course of a day.

pattern of light on the lawn

Light and shadow on the lawn varies with the time of day.

Soil moisture was another factor I attempted to track. I also mulled over the plants I had brought here in containers, the plants I received to trial, the plants I found growing here, and the plants at my old garden, which I still owned and was able to dig from.
plants in containers

Where should these be planted?

It seemed like solving one giant, complex puzzle, but gradually I began to edit the gardens that were here and create new ones. The puzzle isn’t solved by any means–is it ever?–but certain areas are beginning to take shape.

A Light Bulb Moment

In the process of working on the various pieces, I had a light bulb moment: I’m not a beginner gardener anymore! This may not come as a surprise to you, but since a gardener is always making mistakes, since plants do die–despite our best efforts–it’s easy to feel like you’re a beginner, even if you’ve been gardening for more than twenty years. But I realized I knew certain things–how a plant would look next year, even though it was a stick now–or how the bloom of one plant would set off the foliage of another–or even that a plant wasn’t going to die after I moved it, even though it looked like death warmed over.

I hope, during the garden downtime that most folks call winter, to catch you up on what I’ve been doing in this first gardening season at the new place. I want to tell you my current thoughts on the Slope Garden, Fern Alley, the Parking Pad Bed, the Secret Garden, the Front Walk Garden and the Cabin Fever Bed, plus a few other areas I haven’t figured out good names for.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

18 Comments… add one

Jenn January 19, 2013, 9:54 pm

“…which I still owned and was able to dig from.”
This is a huge blessing!

“But I realized I knew certain things–how a plant would look next year, even though it was a stick now–or how the bloom of one plant would set off the foliage of another–or even that a plant wasn’t going to die after I moved it, even though it looked like death warmed over.”

All of these realizations are pretty much a rite of passage.
I’m approaching that place, again, after five or so years in this desert… It’s all a journey, no?

The Enduring Gardener November 14, 2012, 7:06 am

Over the pond in the UK I’ll be using the winter downtime to get the garden in shape for Spring. I seem to do more in the garden in winter than I do during the summer. I look forward to seeing your garden take shape.

Les October 24, 2012, 7:51 pm

And not being a beginner gardener you know that waiting is the best policy just to see all the things you observed, or didn’t observe. And not being a beginning gardener myself, I know how hard it was for you to wait.

Louise October 23, 2012, 6:24 pm

I’ve loved your perspective about gardening. Do enjoy getting out there and transplanting when you figure out better spots for things. I’ve come to love the dappled sunshine in the shadier part of my lawn.

debra October 23, 2012, 10:24 am

Kathy and family…CONGRATULATIONS! You made it through year one!
I can tell you’ve been busy imagining how your garden will take shape – and be an expression of your preferences, artistry and love of plants.
Can’t wait to see how it evolves!
best, Debra

Donna@Gardens Eye View October 23, 2012, 5:45 am

Great advice for starting gardens Kathy…I am looking forward to all these gardens….love the names.

Flâneur Gardener October 23, 2012, 4:45 am

I’ve had my garden for just over two years, but there is still no plan. (Except PLANTS, FLOWERS, ANYTHING THAT GROWS!)

Still, as time passes I get decreasingly gung-ho about the garden and more and more deliberate when I create something new. I learn from my mistakes, correct some and leave others as charming reminders of good intentions gone bad. As time passes I become a better gardener, and for each mistake I learn something new.

Jan October 22, 2012, 5:00 pm

I looked at my garden this weekend and caught myself wondering what I would have done differently if it had actually been planned… I’m sure your halt for insight will go a long way! We’ve been in our place for coming up to two years. We arrived as a ten year drought was breaking and have had amazing rain for the last two years. You can’t plan this timing and we’ve been exceptionally lucky to get the best possible start on healthy gardens. This week we’re taking an enormous financial gamble and attempting to sink a bore. There are successful bores in the area but no certainty we’ll be lucky. Fingers crossed we get water!!!

Deirdre in Seattle October 22, 2012, 6:46 pm

A plan is a VERY good thing when it comes to the “bones” of a garden; layout, hardscaping, trees, etc, but smaller details are always subject to change in a gardener’s garden. Plants don’t always follow plans. People give you plants. Your parents’ home goes on the market, and you must have some of Mom’s plants for sentimental reasons. You develop a passion for species rhododendrons. Plant sales and plant lust will happen. Don’t sweat it.
Besides, it’s never to late to start a plan.

Kathy Purdy October 22, 2012, 7:55 pm

I agree with Deirdre: don’t sweat it. And good luck sinking that bore!

Jan October 25, 2012, 4:24 pm

Success. We have a 68 meter deep bore that will provide about 1100 liters an hour. That will safeguard us against drought!

Deirdre in Seattle October 22, 2012, 12:49 pm

We moved into our current house almost five years ago. It was November, and I also had a broken foot, so I had to observe and plan rather than dive in. I have a period house, a 1916 arts and crafts bungalow. I wanted to do something, not a period piece, but in keeping with the house. Another consideration was a new husband whose tastes I was still figuring out, and had strong opinions. It was nice to know a thing or two about gardening. It was one less thing to worry about. Once I planned the outlines, the filling in was easy.
I was pleased in the spring when hundreds of daffodils came up.

Kathy Purdy October 22, 2012, 7:56 pm

Oh, yes, and if you had started digging you would have disturbed them.

Layanee October 22, 2012, 11:38 am

I look forward to reading those future posts concerning your developing garden. You are gardening with purpose.

Leslie October 22, 2012, 10:34 am

What a gift to be forced/able to take the time to observe all those important factors! I can’t wait to read more about your garden’s growth.

Pam/Digging October 22, 2012, 10:13 am

One year can bring a lot of changes to a new garden, although it’s wise to take it slow and observe first, as you did. I’ve been in my new house four years now, and can attest to how quickly the years fly by and how fast the new garden grows once its roots settle in.

Helen at Toronto Gardens October 22, 2012, 9:59 am

Happy anniversary, Kathy. I like your thoughtful perspective.

Gail October 22, 2012, 9:34 am

Kathy, You were so wise to pay attention before dropping a lot of plants or money into the garden. I wish I had had the patience to do this 25+ years ago or a garden mentor like you to guide me! I look forward to your winter musings and learning about you new garden this winter. gail

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