Guest post by Diane in MN
AN OLD-STANDBY GARDEN TOUR
We live in a not quite rural area because, with multiple Great Danes, we wanted more land than a quarter of an acre in a subdivision. We have almost three acres, but probably about half of it remains scruffy second-growth woods enhanced by a swamp. The fenced area behind the house doesn’t really count as garden; it’s all lawn—or as much lawn as I can get, given shade, hillsides, and Great Danes.
That leaves me with front and side borders and beds, which are more than enough for one person to manage. Over the years I’ve replaced what the builder’s landscaper planted, what other landscapers planted, and what I thought would work (ground covers: take it from me, they’re over-hyped in the weed control department). I have scaled back various ambitious schemes to deal with slopes (if you guess that these depended on large quantities of ground covers, you’re right). I no longer have the time or energy to spend six hours a day, three or four days a week, weeding (prairie grass and wild sumac are not all bad, you know?). My garden beds are stocked with reliable old standbys that reward minimal effort. Needless to say, they are perennials. If I had to mess around with annuals, I’d have less time for digging weeds.
I’ve been through several iterations with this front border.
(This is a merge of two photos, so it’s a little weird at the junction. If you don’t look at the grass it’s not too bad.)
I put the first of these Annabelle hydrangeas in about twelve years ago, after getting rid of what the builder’s landscaper planted. The ones on the left, by the crabapple tree, came later, after the second landscaper’s shrub roses got shaded out. After I took those roses out (SORRY!), I filled in the back with more hydrangeas, and added the daylilies for color. I’m experimenting with dwarf astilbe, which you probably can’t see very well, in front of the crabapple. The edge of this border gets afternoon sun, which makes the astilbes a little crispy, and crispy plants don’t overwinter very well. We’ll see what happens next spring.
This border is crabapple trees with an understory of spireas, most of which came from the original front border. About three years ago I added a few more spireas, as I wanted a drift of them under the drift of crabapple trees. Unfortunately the spireas bloom later than the crabapples; the trees have deep pink flowers too, and I would then have a drift of PINK.
The daylilies–very tall scapes, russet orange flowers–are offspring of plants in my big daylily bed; I had to put them somewhere, and there was an empty spot over here. Waste not, want not, right?
And this is my older daylily bed, the one with the dark flowers, slightly past its prime in this picture.
These plants seed themselves and have filled in to the point where they do effectively control weeds, which is truly amazing and must be the germ of the groundcover myth. Unfortunately my other daylily bed, with yellow and pale mauve flowers, got infested by horrible thistles and two kinds of evil prairie grass.
Cleaning it up was my big project last year. I seem to have beaten the thistles (knock wood), but as you can see, the grasses were not much affected by my removing bags and bags of them and their root mats. It will probably be my big project again next year.
This hosta bed was my big project three years ago.
(These photos were taken from different angles, so merge attempt was not successful.)
The space under these two oak trees had been unsuccessfully (and expensively) planted several times. Nothing was happy. In spite of being under trees, it gets southern and western sun in the afternoon, and the oaks are very well established and compete very successfully for resources. I had been noticing that many people here grow hostas in full sun, and of course everyone grows them under trees, so I hired some muscle to clear out the resurgent wilderness under the oaks and then put in four kinds of hostas. The two Endless Summer hydrangeas on the left were moved from a spot they hadn’t liked to this one, with more sun, and this year they actually produced some flowers. I put more daylilies on the right side to add a little height and color. (I love daylilies, can you tell?) This area now actually LOOKS like a hosta bed, and pleases me immensely every time I approach the house and see it. I’m becoming quite fond of hostas, too. And I have no idea why none of the landscape people I hired over the years ever suggested planting hostas here.
A hill comes down from the woods to the front lawn. It was originally cleared and planted with dwarf lilacs and daffodils. I spent a lot of time and money planting it with ajuga when the wood mulch didn’t keep the prairie out; the ajuga didn’t keep it out either, and now lives happily as a prairie understory. Eventually I bowed to the inevitable and gave up trying to impose civilization, and now wild sumac is duking it out with the lilacs and I have goldenrod in the fall. I’d love to give you a picture of scarlet sumac and goldenrod, a combination that I love at this time of year, but it’s been so dry this summer that the sumac leaves fall off as soon as they turn color. Maybe next year. . . . But here’s some goldenrod.
And this is Tono, the concrete Great Dane, with two pots of double impatiens. These are without a doubt the best pot plants I’ve ever used, and the only annuals I bother with, and they’re gorgeous—the closest thing I have to roses these days.
My gardening goals are pretty simple—to have flowers for as long as possible on plants that can pretty much take care of themselves. I’m glad I eventually figured out that using these old reliable plants was the most effective way to do this, and I won’t covet tree peonies when the next catalog comes in, no no no . . .
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