Welcome to my garden!
Our front yard is primarily a woodland garden, with many native wildflowers, shrubs and trees. But believe it or not, it’s also an herb garden. If you define herbs as the useful plants, then most of our ornamentals and natives qualify. You just have to learn what the uses are! That’s what I’m doing, and what I hope to write about for you here. There’s a lot to learn, but spending time with these fragrant green plants and the books written about them, makes the lessons some of the most pleasant I can think of.
In the photo up top (taken in July), you see the strip of garden bed between the lawn and the wood’s edge. We’ve planted that with mostly native prairie plants for birds and butterflies. There is lots of color and activity there, especially in late summer and fall.
We have all started to rethink acres of lawn, haven’t we? A small circle of grass with perennials and shrubs all around looks sharp, provides more interest than lawn alone, and is better habitat for wildlife, too. We reduced the size of our lawn by at least half a few years ago, and haven’t missed it a bit. Of course, it depends on your needs. If you need space to play soccer, you might want a little more. Photo #1 above is the view just to the left of the butterfly garden (in May).
From the front steps looking toward the street, you see the view in photo #2. We still have many of the Asian azaleas that were here when we moved in 20 years ago, and we have added Canada hemlock, witchhazels, fothergilla, oakleaf hydrangea and scads of wildflowers.
In November, the maple tree in photo #3 blazes orange every year. One neighbor told me he had to stop in his tracks to take a picture of it. I understood—I’ve done that too! The color is astounding.
The last three photos are my backyard, which is a cottagy sort of mess most of the time. Photo #4 is a mini-bog, late season. The star in the middle, (ignore the weeds), is Sarracenia leucophylla. Carnivorous plants are hard to beat for the pure fascination factor, aren’t they? Pitcher plants are surprisingly easy to grow, too.
Photo #5 is my patio. Before you ask, the pretty plant between the flagstones is Mazus reptans. It blooms most dramatically in April, but has at least a few blooms for most of the growing season. There are sections of the patio that get too hot for mazus in the summer and we’ve experimented with several sedums with limited success. A few forget-me-nots, species tulips and hardy begonias tucked in around the edges add texture and color as the season progresses.
I think my garden may be its best in fall. In October, across the lawn from the patio, chrysanthemums bloom (photo #6). Most are ‘Ryan’s Yellow’ but there are some ‘Niche’s October Glow’ as well as a pink one—’Clara Curtis’ maybe. Dramatic leaf color in the native trees and shrubs adds some jaw-dropping pizzaz, too.
But now a disclaimer of sorts—2015 has not been a great gardening year so far around here!:
Gardens are always changing, right? This year an illness, that year too much travel, most years too many deer (or all of the above!)—it’s hard to make the garden look like you want it to all the time. But, there are those years that you plant each time just before a gentle rain (what luck!), the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing even once after April 10 (stupendous!), the deer find another buffet (woohoo!), and Eden flourishes all around (do you hear angels?).
Whichever kind of year it is, gardeners tend to be hopeful people who persevere. There’s always something beautiful to look at, listen to, marvel when you plant things outside and watch them grow. And doing that makes you care about nature and being a good steward and all that good stuff.
Gardeners care about making the world a better place, and I believe that’s what they do. So here’s to gardening and gardeners—Happy planting!