Take a stroll through the garden with me as I share insights, tips and “I wish I had known better” thoughts. As a designer, container gardener and plantaholic I have learned by simply getting my hands dirty that thumbs really can go from brown to green. Join me on a fun adventure.
It’s that time of year when I get itchy fingers. I can’t help but wonder how much better that monster sized shrub would be just 2’ to the left. Or a grove of river birch trees would look in the middle of the field. Or perhaps a mass of waving grasses added to line the 200’ driveway. It’s also the time of year when you can hear the cries for mercy from my cringing plants as they see the garden spade being dusted off in preparation for…..SPRING FEVER!
After months of watching the garden go though it’s seemingly daily cycles of snow and sunshine I was finally able to get outside this weekend and had a long list of things that I wanted to either move or change.
For me this spring also brings a sense of anticipation. After two years of major landscape renovations of the messy, expensive but not-much-to-show-for-it kind, we are finally able to see progress.
I know there's a house under there somewhere!
When we moved here the house wasn’t surrounded by a garden so much as swallowed by it. A machete was the easiest way to make it to the front door – if only you knew where it was. After over a year fighting highly invasive ornamental plants, building a patio, adding a new pathway and redesigning the beds we were able to start planting last fall. My idea was to create a garden of soft mounded forms in shades of blue, white and silver with a little deep purple and dusky pink for interest. This is quite a departure from my usual design style but that alone is a good reason to try it! I still have lots of plants to add and in these ‘after’ photos the garden looks especially bare as the sedums, peonies and ‘Rozanne’ geraniums are still snuggled underground and the maples and ‘Concorde’ barberries are yet to leaf out.
A work in progress - but at least it is progressing! My design
I also planted several hundred white crocus and blue windflowers (Anemone blanda) last year and have been impatient to see if they looked the way I hoped they would. When the sun finally peeked through I was thrilled to see that the massed crocus did indeed lead the eye towards the front door as I had envisioned while rivers of blue were already meandering happily between rocks and pavers. It may not be ‘mature’ but it is pretty and a far cry from where we started. There is a sense now that someone cares and that there is a plan even if it isn’t complete.
Where to start?
Looking at a mass of blackberries and envisioning a showcase border takes some imagination. Amazing what a glass of wine can do. Actually as a little aside here, always take friends to stroll through your garden with wine glass in hand– they’ll love it all and never notice a weed. Anyway, eighteen months, several weekends of renting seriously heavy machinery, 30 yards of gravel, 150’ of drainage pipe, 100 yards of soil and more $ than I want to admit to, we were ready to start planting our new island border last fall also. Many plants were gifts or had been salvaged and I propagated quite a few so I splurged on several hundred daffodil bulbs in shades of yellow. Being deer resistant and easy to naturalize I was hoping to see drifts of yellow that Wordsworth would have recognized – eventually. As Seattle cloud cover finally gave way to some sunshine I had to smile. The arbor entrance is flanked by masses of traditional yellow daffodils like a golden funnel drawing you in, while softer shades are massed underneath the weeping willow-leaf pear tree. As with the front border, this garden is still pretty bare, but my vision is slowly taking shape.
I always hesitate to show photographs of our own garden. I know that many of you will look at these ‘after’ photos and be horrified that I’m a garden designer and also, quite understandably not be able to see where I’m going with all this! I decided to put my pride to one side today, however, and show you our garden in the making. Getting from the before to the after is not an instant fix, despite what the numerous garden makeover TV shows suggest. It takes, time, effort and $ in roughly equal amounts and much of all three is spent on things you don’t even see such as soil amendments or drainage. However, I’m sharing my own unfolding story with you as an encouragement to those who wonder if a transformation of your garden space is even possible. If you’d like to see some more established ‘after ‘ image of gardens I have designed in the past – including our previous home, take a moment to enjoy this link to a portfolio on my website. Most of these images show the gardens after several years’ growth.
Finally, just as my garden needed updating and rethinking so did my website and blog. This week my website has been transformed with a fresh new look, easy to navigate pages and updated portfolios which I hope will inspire and encourage you. This blog will be moved onto the same site on Monday March 26th so you’ll have a sort of one-stop-shop for garden ideas and fun le jardinet style! Inevitably there will be a few kinks (the equivalent of aphids on the roses perhaps) as I try to make sure all my subscribers continue to get my feed and that all the links work. I may need to move a few things around again. But I have a vision, and it is beautiful. Just bear with me and ignore the weeds.