Front Yard Complete (Almost) and Beautiful

The photos say it all.

Before, the area in front of the Limelight hydrangeas needed mowing. I’m not fond of mowing especially in tight spaces.

Now, Double Red Knockout roses have replaced the lawn. No more mowing, continuous blooms of red, a light spicy fragrance and a neat and tidy look.

That’s low maintenance at its best.

What I did was dig three holes and mix cow manure and peat moss into the soil that was removed from the hole. Run water into the hole to soak. Place the roses and return the amended soil mix around the plant and pat it in.

Then I placed a soaker hose to reach the crown of the roses and hydrangeas. Water the plants well. front1

The next step was to cover the grassy soil area with cardboard and then heavy duty landscape fabric. Why cardboard? To smother the grass and weeds and hold moisture in. I have done this before and know it will remain weed free for a decade.

20130831_4335Then I covered the landscape fabric with cedar mulch, which also lasts a long time.

I’m almost done. As the earth and mulch settle over the next couple of weeks, I will tweak the front bricks to be even and cover any bare spots that come through.

Then on to the next project….there’s always a next project, right?

Pleasing Plant Combinations

Designing gardens is all about bringing plants together with an eye toward how the flowers and foliage shape, color and structure work next to another plant.

The following two pairings of perennials look wonderful together.

The first is for full sun – Coneflower and Russian Sage.P1040654

The second is for shade Japanese fern, hosta and European ginger.texture2

These combinations work so nicely because of the various textures, the glossiness of one foliage against another and the play of soft, subtle colors.

Designing the Front Yard

This is a switch for me. Usually I am working in other people’s gardens, but this week I’m focusing on my own front yard. My goals: less lawn to mow, more color, little added maintenance.

Everything in front of the house changed a couple of years ago when a Linden tree split during a storm and had to be removed. The area went from full shade to full sun. Out went the pachysandra – never a favorite but it did the job – and in came an old-fashioned Annabelle hydrangea, new Limelight hydrangeas, a caryopteris ‘Blue Knight,’ a few day lilies, some forget me nots and lady’s mantle.

Deciding What to Grow

I like plants that are undemanding and bloom for a long time. Hydrangeas do that with flowers that start in July and go until frost. I also like to dry the blooms and use them to decorate the house for the holidays. So, I enjoy these big, fluffy panicle of flowers for a long, long time.

frontofmadisonIn front of the hydrangeas is a 12 by 5 feet rectangle on each side of the front walkway. This is currently lawn. The plan is to take this out and plant something low maintenance that flowers as long as the hydrangeas. My choice: Double Red ‘Radtko’ Knock Out roses.

For this year, the plan is to plant the 3 roses on each side which means they will have plenty of room to spread to their mature size of about 4 by 4 feet. If it looks too spare next season, I will add petunias to fill the space visually as I did in the photo above.

In time, the roses won’t need fillers. If you had more room and wanted to add plants in front, you could add perennials such as Walker’s Low catmint or Lady’s mantle with its frothy flowers and appealing green round leaves — either of these would look very pretty.

Getting Started

The area is grass now and there are bricks to be move to line the sidewalk and create the rose bed. The next step will be to add topsoil and peat moss to the sandy soil that is the base of the garden. Then digging holes, planting the Knock Outs, putting down cardboard under a high quality landscape fabric and mulching. The cardboard will smother the grass and weeds that grow there now.

To water this section, I plan to use soaker hoses on a timer. This method has worked well for me in other areas.

The Plan

Today I am shopping for a specimen tree for the corner of the house. I’m thinking of a Rose of Sharon ‘Diana’ which is pure white and reaches a height of 8 to 10 feet. In front of it, I will plant another white hydrangea and to the side a Hinnomaki Red gooseberry.

Growing food is an interest of mine and I already have honeyberries, blueberries, strawberries, elderberries and quince in the home garden. Adding gooseberries is a natural and this shrub will produce lots of vitamin-rich fruit, not outgrow its designated space, and add interest with red berries that should be made even more visible with the backdrop of white hydrangeas.

That’s the plan. I’ll keep you posted.

Boston’s Fenway Victory Gardens

v4I’ve been exploring other community gardens.

Recently, I visited the Fenway Victory Gardens, located on seven acres near Fenway Park in Boston. It is the nation’s only remaining, continuously operating WWII Victory Gardens founded by the Roosevelt Administration. During WWII over 20 million victory gardens were grown by Americans and produced nearly half of all the vegetables consumed during the war.

It’s a pretty impressive garden with 500 plots. Talking to a few of the gardeners and walking around you get a clear idea of just how enormous this garden is and how diverse the gardeners are.

I saw plots about 15 by 25 that looked like a back patio with chairs, a few flowers and a tomato plant and I saw others with every inch planted with things to eat. I also saw beautifully landscaped plots of trees, shrubs and flowers and other plots that were pretty much a tangle of weeds. There is also a learning center with bees! And I saw more than one garden with elevated raised beds.

Here are a few of the photos I took:V-1v7v220130722_1919

Green Roof Graces Ingenious Chicken Coop

w-coop1I visited a garden this weekend that had a chicken coop touched with both whimsy and practicality.

The wooden coop was attached to a wire enclosed cage for raspberries. Built with four by fours and hardware cloth (a sturdy wire mesh) the cage was large enough for several rows of berries and for the tallest berry picker to stand upright with ease. My best guess was that it measured 30 by 30 feet.

No deer, raccoons or birds could possibly enter. The adjacent wooden chicken coop had a hatched door that could be lifted and give insect pecking chickens the opportunity to enter. An advantageous arrangement for both the fowl and the farmer.

And, as if this cleverness wasn’t enough, the roof of the hen-house was covered in succulents including . . . yes, hens and chicks. wcloseup

Small Scale Garden Big on Imagination

Mostly, the garden is made of succulents along with herbs such as the rosemary "tree" and thyme shrubbery.

Mostly, the garden is made of succulents along with herbs such as the rosemary “tree” and thyme shrubbery.

It was love at first sight.

We were having lunch at The Black Cat restaurant in Sharon Springs, NY and tucked in a corner of the outdoor deck was a shop called Garden Creations. One of those creations was this delightful miniature garden in a bowl.

Sweet, petite and perfect as a centerpiece for an outdoor table. Or you can take this idea a little further and create an elfin garden tucked among your flower beds. Perhaps using a tiny birdhouse or creating a house of twigs like you imagine a fairy might do. Great project for imaginative young ones to help create and then play in with little dolls.

Either way, this would be a charming addition to an outdoor space and play area.

The King’s Garden

1KGI think I may have found the perfect day trip for gardeners and their history-buff, or scenic beauty loving or camera happy spouses.

It’s a trip to Fort Ticonderoga, where in addition to the fort, the Pell family gardens, a garrison garden and a medicinal herb garden are open to the public. (Admission to the entire property is $17.50 for adults)

7kg2KGA brick wall encloses the family garden adjacent to the Pell home. It was designed by trailblazing landscape architect Marian Coffin in 1921 and still holds up today as a beautiful space with architecturally charming alcoves and hide-away rooms to retreat from the sun. Earl, one of the gardeners, told me that the ladies of the time would have afternoon tea in one of the alcoves-like structures and later in the evening, the men would go there to smoke their cigars. You can imagine it and probably wouldn’t mind having a space like this for yourself.

9kg8kg Earl was planting the vegetable garden while we were there and took a moment to answer questions, point out the resident osprey and explain the construction of a wattle fence which is made by weaving the trunks of saplings around posts hammered into the ground. It has a rustic appeal that would be appropriate in an English cottage garden or at an Adirondack retreat.

I’m sure you will come away from this outing with ideas for your own beds and borders. I saw lovely plant combinations, attractive stonework, a reflecting pool and nice use of Goat’s Beard, a native plant, that was in full plume yesterday. It is great as a back of the border planting as it stands tall – up to six feet – and dramatic with creamy white flowers that are big and bold (see bottom photo). Goat’s beard is a perennial and many people think it resembles an oversized astilbe. If you decide you would like to grow goatsbeard, choose a moist location for best results. 5kg4kggoat'sbeard

Oh…and when you’ve spent enough time wandering the gardens, there’s a terrific fort with massive cannons, informative exhibits, an art gallery including an oil painting by Thomas Cole, and breathtaking vistas to take in.

There is also a cafe and gift shop. In the cafe, produce grown in the garden is served.

There is so much to say about this wonderful attraction. I suggest you visit the website for more information: Note that garden workshops and classes are held occasionally.

It is a fabulous day trip. When you go, bring your camera. Wear a hat and comfortable shoes and slather on the sunscreen.