Aug 12, 2019

Garden Redo Project: The New Garden

The garden is finished. FINISHED. It's everything I ever could have wanted.

I'm so happy this is done. And I'm glad we went with low maintenance materials that should last a long time. I can't wait to plant this garden for real next year - it's going to be such a pleasure.

New fence. New beds. Wider paths. More stone and more stable walkways. Better weed barriers. Three gates. It totally has that English country garden/New England country garden vibe I love.

We put a trellis up centered on the back of the garage. Next year I want to plant an annual vine here to climb up (like a morning glory or a black eyed susan vine). This big beautiful aqua pot matches the bird bath and was part of my birthday gift. I have a bunch of aqua pots on the deck and patio that would look really nice back here next year. 

It took a lot of work and a lot of time to get here, but it feels so good. There are a couple of minor details we have to work out, but overall I'm happy to call this done. With the garden season at its peak right now, we are enjoying it with a few flowers and a few tomatoes. But next year? It's going to be AWESOME working in this vegetable garden.

 The big pot in the corner was crazy on clearance from Home Goods. It was like $22 on summer clearance. It's big enough to hold a small child, or a potted tree in the future.

Here's the view of the garden from the back of the property. It's big, but in a good way.

On the far side of the garage (by the swing set) we installed the trellis for the climbing rose. Eventually this will be the support structure that brings the climbing rose up to the pergola we want to build in the front. (Pergola will be built this fall...)

This new garden for me is heaven. There are a couple of final details to be done, but I'm just so happy to have it in a good place. I love how it came out.

Aug 9, 2019

Peak Summer Garden

Late July, early August always seems to be the peak summer garden around here. Before the early summer blooms stop blooming, but when the late summer/fall blooms are strong. I haven't trimmed back the spring plants that don't like the heat so I know where they go. It's the best time to assess the gaps and make some notes for the fall.

Starting at my favorite tree, the red bud, in the middle of the yard. I am devastated to say I don't know how much longer this wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous tree is going to last. There are multiple factors. Ever since we had a really bad snowstorm where we lost a big piece of it, the base has been weak. The three trunks are pulling away from each other from the massive weight on top. I try to trim the top aggressively every year... but this year there was a robin's nest in the tree so I left it. All that extra weight + surprisingly dexterous hunting dog that tried to climb it to get the robins = the trunks are now fully separated. So you can see below some evidence that I did a major trim once the robins were gone, but it might be too late. And when I was trimming I found some diseased branches that had tree blight on them. They are gone now, but it might be too late - two of the trunks are now heavily shedding bark. So we'll see. I will definitely put another red bud in if I lose this one. 

Around the red bud most things are doing well. This has been a great year for hostas. I did lose a
purple coral bells (heuchera) and my purple salvia back here - they were very small to begin with and while they came back in the spring, they disappeared with all the cool, soppy wet weather.  I did replace the coral bell with a lime light hosta (with bright lime variegated leaves so it's different than the others), and the salvia with some shade loving plant that came from our favorite local nursery (recommended by them, it can survive being stepped on by rude dogs who don't obey fences!) but I lost the tag and have NO idea what it is. I still need something behind the new no-name plant, and something in front of the lime light hosta... but it's progress.

Behind the red bud tree, everything is great. Maybe too great. I had to pull the fig trees back from taking over everything. All my plants back here are super happy to the point of being almost overcrowded - I wish the rest of the yard was this full and lush. Double day lillies, hostas, astilbe, butterfly weed, anenomes, even two surprise dahlias that came back from nothing (I must have not harvested the full bulb and the split came back, surviving the winter!).

Back to the main part of our backyard, on the other side of the red bud tree, I added a red carnival coral bells (heuchera), these seem to be pretty happy in the part-shade environment and I like that they don't get too big. It's between the columbines for some summer interest. There is a gap behind the black eyed susans where I stuck a hanging basket to keep Morgan from thinking this is a great place to bark at our neighbor's dogs. I planted irises here but they just aren't filling in the way I thought they would - they are just single stalks still. I either need to add more and fill it in, or add something else here that's tall and can handle the anenomes next to it this fall.

There are a couple of dahlias under the obelisk, a poor choice for the spot since they are completely hidden by the anenomes. They are a tall variety, but for whatever reason, while they are tall elsewhere in the garden, they are short here. I do love having the obelisk here though - it was placed here to prevent Morgan from digging up this area in the winter/spring, but now I don't want it to move. I think I'm just going to have to build a new one for the raised bed garden next summer. And then get a climbing vine for this obelisk... I'm thinking a clematis right now.

So this area is mostly new, just past the bleeding heart. It was supposed to be irises, delphiniums, lupines, echinachea, lavender and blanket flowers. The irises are there, but they aren't filling in the way I had expected. I can't seem to keep delphiniums or lupines alive. The echinachea I picked for this area is the short pretty kind and while it's alive, it doesn't spread much. The blanket flower was a victim of Morgan before the fencing went up. The lavender didn't survive the winter. I planted peach coral bells last fall which definitely helped, but it wasn't enough.

So it was just... empty. And terrible looking. Which is sad because really this if half the main garden we look at when we're on the deck and grass. Piece by piece I've been filling it in over this spring and early summer... and I will admit it has made SUCH a difference. In the front there's now blue balloon flowers and two large phlox around the two low echinacheas. I added a red-orange blanket flower in front of the hydrangea where the lavender died. In the back row there's now a pink tortuga, a medium red echinachea, and an orange crocosmia with leaves similar to irises so it keeps everything interesting. In the middle there's also a blue stokesia and a yellow daisy hybrid.

Pinks, reds, oranges, yellows and purple/blues all mixed together - it really fills in the garden and looks great with everything else. Lot of variation in size, colors and textures, short in the front and tall in the back. It's really starting to look like the garden I always wanted.

Between the hydrangea and the peony (back left) there's a gap that just doesn't want to fill in. So I want to transplant a piece of sedum here to fill it in. I don't have any close by that spot, so it will vary the textures nicely, and it's free since I have so much in the yard.

In the bottom left below, the bergen's blue veronica is still alive, just very small still. It came back though and has survived the summer, so hopefully it will fill in more next year.

Down the line everything is good (minus my crushed by dog irises from a doggy play date where someone didn't respect the fences). I have a couple of dahlias here to fill things in, but I like them here so I think I'll just keep them there for now. The globe amaranth I started from seed is started to really take off - I love it!

Next to the deck there are dahlias, butterfly weed, two medium echinacheas, two phlox, sweet autumn sedum, dianthus and dahlias. Next year I think I can skip the low dahlias here - we don't need them. The quince and crepe myrtle are in the back.

Next to the patio is that little wedge and after all those transplants, the wedge is full. I squeezed two dahlias in here and I don't think both will fit next year.

This area is always out of control this time of year with sweet pea vines. The new butterfly bush is growing enough that it should hold its own next year. My parents got me a bird bath for my birthday and originally I was going to put it in the new raised bed garden, but it's growing on me over here.

The long strip along the fence is okay. It's green. The dahlias I planted in here are blooming. The peonies, anenomes and astilbe I added here are still alive. The asparagus has two fern fronds. I have 2 dahlias in here that are blooming, plus the blackberries, sweet pea vines and violets. It's way better than it used to be, especially with the rock border.

All these flowers around the yard and so few in my flower cutting garden (due to late planting), I've been pillaging my flower beds instead. It does make for some gorgeous bouquets though.

Jul 31, 2019

Outdoor To-Do List Summer Countdown

Summer is half over. And with that comes a million thoughts of what's left to do. Balancing fun with those million to-do's is the name of the game. And trying to stay on top of everyday chores so that the house doesn't fall apart. Working from home more gives me a chance to have a more flexible schedule so I can prioritize fun with the kids. This time together is precious and we want to make the most of it.

Oliver goes to half day playground camp with his friends, and taekwondo. Matt does soccer and our nanny still comes part time until school starts. We've gone to the beach a few times and the pool several times a week. Weekly walks through the local arboretum. Fun outings with friends and family, play dates and playgrounds and walks through the woods. Craft cocktails, cold brew and dinners alfresco. Bike rides, summer concerts and outdoor movies. Kayaking, fishing, BBQs and night swims. We're trying to go on adventures - like a night dig to look for fluorescent minerals at the mine dump behind the mineral museum. Or hunting for fossils at Big Brook. When it's raining I've stocked up on all these fun craft and science kits. It's become the summer of science and nature (especially geology and fossils - the kids are super into those).

I am trying to remember to take breaks and ignore the remaining chaos of the backyard, but it's not easy. The patio is great, an oasis for relaxing and entertaining (especially if I block the yard mess with the curtains). The deck is lovely (except for needing a coat of stain, but that doesn't bother me as much). The flower pots are full of flowers, the garden beds are thriving. So many parts of the yard right now are really beautiful, or so close to coming together.

Our flower covered yard is literally full of butterflies, dragonflies and rainbows. 

But the reality is that this is what things really look like right now as a whole.

My eyes hurt just looking at it. Toys, toys and more toys, supplies, piles of wood and rocks, bikes, pools, chaos and general mess that can't be easily put away so it just gets worse. Honestly we need to schedule a full day just to clean up everything... but we can't  do that until the major projects are done because we need to keep getting all the stuff out or need room in the garage to store it or will use some of those piles. I know chaos is completely normal during construction, and the garden project definitely counts as construction... but I am just so ready to be done!

There's a lot of self-inflicted pressure to finish the garden project and the backyard to-do's as soon as possible so that we can better enjoy the backyard... but at the same time, September and October are prime patio enjoyment months. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside. Plus those chilly nights will be the perfect time for the fiiiiiiiire piiiiiiit.....

So here's the final to-do list countdown:

  • Finish garden pathways (weed blocking fabric + square pavers + pea gravel)
  • Build trellises
  • Build arbor
  • Plant climbing rose next to arbor and mulch the new bed
  • Clean up crazy wood pile mess
  • Find a home for all the unused pavers and stone
  • Seal driveway 
  • Stain deck (possibly in the fall, but it needs it)
Upcoming: Build a pergola for front of the garage for climbing rose (Fall)
Upcoming: Fix rotted door frames: house side door and garage side door (Fall)
Upcoming: Mitigate way back water issues (Fall)
  • Dig 3 drainage ditches
  • Fill drainage ditches with gravel and drain pipes with socks
  • Dig 3 dry wells and fill with gravel on the right side of each ditch
  • Fill in low spots/regrade landscaping back there
  • Reseed grass
Also... inside we've been working on making updates to the boys bedrooms (when the weather isn't conducive to outdoor projects) and I've been trying to reorganize our bedroom and closet. Unfortunately for me I promised the boys I'd have it done before school started and I have a long way to go!!!