It’s been four years since I started working on the gardens here at the “new” house. I thought it was about time I gave you a full-fledged tour. It takes a bit of time to see all the gardens, so prepare for a leisurely visit. Can I pour you something to drink?
The Front Garden
Let’s start the tour the way I usually start it, by walking out the front door of the kitchen.The bed closest to the house is coming along nicely. On the left, however, you can see a casualty of winter’s last stand–a small Japanese maple that lost all its leaves on the right main lateral. The left lateral leafed out fine and I am crossing my fingers that the right side will re-leaf. This was the only “shrub” from the original planting around the terrace that I decided to keep, and I added a lot of red flowering or foliage plants to play off of it. It would be a pity to lose it. The dianthus are seedlings of a friend’s original plants. Now the ones she gave me are themselves seeding about. It is wonderful to sit on the porch and have their fragrance waft around you.
I wanted to have something blooming in the roadside beds all the time. Anyone who has tried this knows it’s not that easy–especially if you don’t use perpetually blooming annuals. I envisioned that the flowering quince would bloom after the tulips bloomed, and that after the flowering quince the peonies would kick in. As you can see way in the back on the left in the first photo above, there is one lone peony blooming: ‘Bev’. Here’s her glamour shot:It might interest you to know that there is another ‘Bev’ on the other side of the walk and she doesn’t even seem to have flower buds. They both came from the same original plant at the old house. Maybe the blooming plant was bigger to begin with? There are other peonies there in a row parallel with the road, and I really thought more of them would be blooming by now. At least most of them have buds. Later on in the season there will be a daylily extravaganza here.
The Parking Pad Bed
If we turn right and walk on the lawn underneath the shade of the oak tree said to have been planted in 1885, we eventually come to the driveway and the parking pad, where we view the parking pad bed. This is incorporated into a stone wall that keeps the parking pad from sliding into the carriage barn below.I really love the purple irises with the scarlet and gold flowering azaleas. “Why haven’t I planted more of these irises?” Then it dawned on me: most years, the azaleas bloom in May, and the irises bloom in June. They have never bloomed together before! I blame winter’s last stand. After our earlier-than-usual-Spring-Part-A we had our deepest snow (a mere six inches) and our coldest temps (single digits! Ack!) before we had our cooler-and-slower-than-usual-Spring-Part-B. Many spring shrubs never bloomed: forsythias, redbuds, magnolias, lilacs, and the ‘Olga Mezitt’ rhododendrons. The late spring/early summer bloomers are blooming later than usual, I think.
By walking down the driveway just a bit and turning left, we arrive at the entrance to Fern Alley.Besides ferns, there are many spring ephemerals and other plants that like moist shade, such as Siberian bugloss and foxgloves.
The Slope Garden
After crossing the driveway in front of the carriage barn, we come to the major change of grade between the front of the house and the back. The Slope Garden was here when we moved in, overgrown not just with weeds but with vigorous perennials that had taken over. As I’ve removed those thugs–or at least reined them in–I’ve been adding more shrubs and ornamental grasses. This bed really comes into its own in the fall, but here are some current highlights.Another case of delayed bloom–the rhodos are usually further along. But wasn’t it clever of me to plant the primroses there?
The Herb Garden
Let’s do an about-face and turn back towards the house and visit the Herb Garden. Mediterranean herbs such as lavender, oregano, and sage like it hot and dry in summer and well-drained in winter. I chose a narrow bed sandwiched between the attached garage and a bluestone walk as the most likely place for them to succeed here, and I amended it well with grit to improve drainage.Even with the special treatment, some of the plants really struggle, but getting hit with winter after they thought it was spring really set some plants back. What I’m most proud of is the little patch of Arum italicum I’ve got growing in a corner of this bed. It’s not an herb at all–in fact, it’s poisonous–but I planted it here because I figured it was the warmest microclimate I had. Because, you see, Lords and Ladies (its common name) is only hardy to Zone 6, although sometimes you’ll see it listed as zone 5 “with protection”. In warmer climates it can be invasive, but here I am just happy it is growing at all.
The Cutting Garden and the South DeckThe south side of our deck is one of the few places with a southern exposure that I can actually garden in. In the past I have tried roses here, but many of them haven’t done well. This year I decided to try dahlias in that spot, but they won’t bloom until much later this summer. My friend Cindy of My Corner of Katy sent me some rain lilies (Zephyranthes sp.) and I tucked some in around the lower growing dahlias. Doggone if they didn’t bloom! I wish I had read this Wisconsin gardener’s method of growing them before I tucked them in the ground. It sounds like it’s easier to winter them over if you grow them in pots. I’ll probably try to keep them for next year anyway. They sound like they’re pretty tough, and they are really cute. The cutting garden has been planted with annuals, most of which are still tiny seedlings. But last year it was sown with a wildflower mix, and the wallflowers must have been part of that mix. I’ve never grown them before, and I wasn’t expecting to see them, so it’s a good thing they bloomed before my daughter and I started weeding here! I need to learn more about them; I’m not even sure whether they’re annuals, biennials, or perennials.
The West Deck
Walking around the Cutting Garden, we arrive at the back of the house and the West Deck. This bed is in the midst of a major rearranging.Many plants are divisions or rooted cuttings and don’t look like much yet. Those three huge hostas were in that exact same spot when we moved in, which is why they’re so huge.
The Deck Alcove and StairsI’ve been planting shrubs here, hoping they’d grow tall enough to be seen from the deck. The ‘Coppertina’ ninebark has already achieved that goal, and the ‘Amber Jubilee’ ninebark is trying hard to catch up. There are plenty of shade perennials underneath them, as well as Abelia monsanensis, which is hardier than Abelia x grandiflora and deliciously fragrant. You can also see a bit of Mountain Fringe vine around the edges of the heucheras and also growing up the stair handrail (in the previous picture).
The North Deck and the Bird Sanctuary
Rounding the next corner, we are face to face with the north side of the deck.With ‘Black Stockings’ meadow rue and ‘Black Negligee’ bugbane growing here, I sometimes think this should be called the boudoir border. But no one would get that but me. The clematis is Smoke on a Rope, which I’ve profiled before. The golden foliage is Astilbe ‘Amber Moon’, which I really love for the contrast it provides. If you turn around you’ll be face-to-face with the bird sanctuary. Most of the woody plants in it are ones that provide berries for birds to eat. I really don’t know why the previous owners left this wild area when the rest of the landscape was so well groomed, but I’m working with it, removing invasives and adding native plants.
We’re almost done
Returning to the North Deck border, we slip through a narrow opening between the corner of the house and the bird sanctuary. The north side of the house has some spring ephemerals, but they are all done, so we’ll just round the corner . . .You can see the front walk, which is where we started, and off in the distance, beyond the trailer, you can make out a bit of scarlet from the azaleas in the parking pad bed. (Click on the photo to enlarge it if you can’t see the scarlet.) But hey, turn around one more time. Read about the Secret Garden here. Thank you, dear readers, for your patience. Why don’t you join me on the porch for a cool drink?
Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens, and leave a link in Mr. Linky and the comments of May Dreams Gardens.