Come Visit

You may have heard that I mulched the garden.  It was brutal mid-summer work and would have been much better suited for more civilized spring or fall temperatures, but it’s done.  The schedule said now or never so I reluctantly chose now, and with the job done I’m way more pleased with myself than I should be.  With that in mind I’m taking a cue from bloggers such as Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening and Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides and doing a walk-through post to finally give an accurate view of the garden.  I hope it doesn’t take away any of the mystery which sticking to closeups has provided, since in my opinion the “big picture” can tend to sum things up more than it should, so lets hope your reaction isn’t “oh, I thought it was bigger”…

front of house

Welcome.  Look at that mulch… ok, enough of that… the other first thing you’re likely to notice is the thicket of a garden out front.  It’s colorful but I don’t know if it does much for the house’s curb appeal.

Before getting too into the tour, I feel like there’s always something distracting going on at our house.  Tools, buckets, hoses, construction debris, and unfinished projects may appear at any point so consider this your fair warning.

garage cleanup

The garage cleanup is wrapping up this weekend.  Much of it just moved around but the new paint and big boy steps towards neatness are gradually making this into a space which doesn’t scare visitors or embarrass homeowners.

Surprisingly enough there were no run-ins with the law these past few days.  With the garage cleanup underway I was nearly positive there would be a visit from the EPA concerning the destruction on such a massive scale of vast areas of spider habitat.  There were also no emergency room visits.  I thought for sure when I broke that 6 foot bathroom mirror there would be some bad luck involved but so far just the usual.  Let’s get going though.  Here’s the foundation border as you proceed around the house.

foundation bed

During last year’s dry spell I officially gave up on this bed, but recovery has been swift.  Although it’s still a little “wooly” for a foundation planting I do think it’s coming along, even if sunflowers and 9 foot tall mullein don’t exactly go with the spiral-cut arborvitae.

The front street border shows up enough on Tuesdays so here’s just the very end looking over at the neighbors.  I snuck a few white ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea into her mulch beds but the blue ones are all her.  Amazing what ample rain can do for a hydrangea.

front border

At the end of the front yard looking toward the neighbor.  The golden juniper is about where my property ends.

I don’t know when I last showed the south side of the house.  It used to be covered by overgrown yew but two years ago I cut them back to the base and since then they’ve come back fine, but in the meantime I’ve filled up the dry, rooty space in front of them with all the odds and ends of my seed starting experiments.  In case it’s not obvious I call this my rock garden despite the fact there are no rocks and it’s mulched with shredded bark.

side yard

The rock garden along the south side of the house.  I should probably add rocks, that would seem appropriate… then of course I’d need to make it bigger as well 🙂

As we enter the back yard we pass last year’s Tuesday View, the tropical garden.

tropical garden

Warm weather is finally bringing on the tropics.  Unfortunately I’ve again allowed random things to take over, but sunflowers and squash seedling are always fun and they make a nice distraction from the poor drainage and rotted dahlias which should have filled the space…

Rounding the corner the backyard comes into view.  Look at that green grass!

backyard view

Potager (aka vegetable garden) around to the left, meadow behind the swings, deck and house to the right.

A quick glance to the right at the new lawn which replaced my most hated failure of a flower bed.  I’m so much happier with this area now, even though the world really doesn’t need more lawn to mow.

new lawn

The plan called for finishing off the deck in May, but the planner got distracted by the garden and ended up ripping everything out of here and planting grass instead.  This area has no name but please don’t let all the rocks confuse you into referring to this bed as the rock garden.

Here’s a closer look at the ‘potager’.

boxwood hedge

Whoops.  Wrong year.  I was wondering why several phlox ended up not returning this spring until I remembered how the garden looked last summer.

Here’s the view almost exactly a year later.


Don’t judge my love for little hedges, it’s the only thing keeping this area neat, and I actually sort of enjoy trimming them.

The potager is officially the part of the garden which requires the most work and unfortunately I don’t provide it.  Chaos develops… well I guess chaos never “develops” it just degenerates… but something happens, and the flowers generally do their own thing and if we’re lucky a vegetable finds its way out every now and then.


I have no problem supporting my local farmer after seeing how much work it takes to bring a broccoli from seed to soup.  Two things of note though are the marigolds (I needed lots of marigolds this year) and yellowing potato tops near the front mean something edible finally cometh.

I promise to limit my comments on the precious phlox.  They’re a favorite even though several clumps went to phlox heaven last summer.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Who says phlox seedlings are bad?  I got lucky and there are several nice ones here to replace the casualties.  ‘Cabot Pink’ is front and center and a sprig of ‘Salmon Beauty’ is off to the right, but the rest are volunteers which (should) be moved to new locations this fall.

A few more phlox as we move on over to the meadow garden.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Some more phlox and seedlings.  Athough the colors are more average I can tell the pink in the center is a ‘Blushing Shortwood’ seedling since it shares the same rounded flowers and slightly reflexed petals.

The meadow garden is beginning to look a little unkempt as the grasses continue to grow rather than politely drying up in the summer heat.  For now I’m hoping the golden rudbeckia flowers are enough of a distraction for minds which crave neatness all over.

meadow garden

I’m in the process of editing out the aspen suckers which are coming up throughout the meadow.  An aspen grove is the last thing my garden needs, but once I get distracted with these new ideas…

Moving past the swings and looking back, the neat hedge really does a lot to tame the messiness.  In complete disregard for plant health and proper timing I finished off the new swingset bed with a section of hedge transplanted from the back of the potager.  Just to be clear, sweltering 90F days in July are not recommended for transplanting boxwood, but I guess we’ll score one more for stupid ignorance.


This is so neat and trim it’s almost sickening.

Although it’s nice to have a spare boxwood hedge growing around, this one only covered about half the section.  As luck would have it though, there was also a tray of rooted cuttings to fall back on.  To be clear on this as well, it’s generally not a good idea to root cuttings you don’t need and then throw them under the deck for at least five years while you wait for something to happen… and that ‘something’ also happens on a 90F sweltering July day… but as usual we just carry on and ignore what should have been.

boxwood cuttings

Fortunately boxwood is pretty hardy stuff and survived all this abuse with only minimal damage, and you can at least say the cuttings are very well rooted… which wasn’t much of a plus as I ripped apart the nursery tray trying to get them out.

Lets wrap things up though.  I feel this year there’s been a near heroic effort to keep weeds at bay at this end of the yard, especially since I just can’t figure out what to plant here. The soil gets too soggy in the rain to grow iris well, delicate flowers are destroyed during kickball games, and overly lush plants are often bushwhacked when looking for lost tennis balls.

hydrangea Annabelle

From a distance, with a neat edge on the bed, at just the right angle… many of this bed’s flaws become easier to ignore.

Lets also ignore the beds around the back porch.  They still need some ‘vision’ but for now as long as the most rampant weeds are kept at bay and the Virginia creeper is regularly beat back off the porch it’s a generally non-offensive area.

virginia creeper porch

Still a work in progress going around to the north side of the house.

We end our tour by coming around the garage and passing the ‘pot ghetto’ where all the least fortunate plants-in-waiting bide their time until the gardener makes up his mind on a location.  The gardener is not sure what the holdup is since all the other perfectly placed plantings really haven’t stood the test of time, but he likes to think someday inspiration will strike.  Studies show that inspiration usually strikes the day before a two week road trip, but until that happens the plants wait.

pot ghetto


So that brings us back around to the front of the garage again.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that nothing has changed in terms of garage cleanup since we started, but it being a day of rest I think that can be overlooked into tomorrow.  For now I want to thank you for coming along and feel free to stop by if you’re in the area.  Just be ready.  If you think this post went on for way too long imagine what the real on-site experience is like!

Have a great week.

25 comments on “Come Visit

  1. Cathy says:

    What a great tour Frank! And no, I see it is actually bigger than I thought! I particularly liked the photo of the boxwood being removed from its tray. LOL! It all looks fantastic – so green. The potager is amazing compared with last year! Nice to get an overview, and to see the tropical bed again too. Oh, and I am sure you want me to admire the mulch too…. terrific! 😉

    • bittster says:

      Isn’t it amazing how things keep coming and going in spite of the weather and other mishaps? Last year I thought the whole garden was a disaster and spent most of the summer next door at the pool (the only reasonable reaction) but this year I feel like it’s a garden again. I’m surprised you think it’s bigger, I guess seeing it every day gives me a much different perception.

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What a nice tour. It is fun to be able put into perspective all the wonderful pictures you share. I even think your ghetto is even neat. I am sure ‘VISIONS’ will occur to remedy all of your complaints. That cache of boxwood starts is epic. You don’t need to apologize about the phlox. It is one of my favorites too. I love that smell. I don’t have a lot of them but the ones I have are very fragrant. Cheers.

    • bittster says:

      At this time of year I could easily fill half the garden with phlox. It doesn’t particularly like my garden but I force it to stick around and hope someday I’ll find a good spot.
      In all honesty I did clean up the pot ghetto the day before I took the picture. Removing many of the casualties helps me forget and move on. Gardening should never bring on guilt 😉

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed the tour, Frank. Wow, last year sure was dry, a striking contrast to this year, which I’ve been enjoying in its lushness. It really looks neat and tidy and I wonder how you find to take care of it all, plus work and have family time.

    • bittster says:

      Isn’t it amazing how different a season can be from one year to the next? We had a heat wave, a tornado, and massive hail in February but then it’s been unusually quiet since. I’m worried though, this is the kind of setup which surprises you with a late summer hurricane and then flooding…
      The neat and tidy is already fading. It helps when you have ample time off during the summer, few friends, and no guilt in ignoring the family. Plus I learned I can trick the kids into mowing the lawn every now and then! The garden will be on its own in August though. I’ve had my fill of this for now, and once the mulch is down and the drip lines turn on there’s little I want to do other than dig a few bulbs and take a few cuttings and sit back!

  4. Your garden tour was great! Everything looks so nice and the mulch finishes it off. I have a place next to my garage that still houses some plants I can plant in fall. There is always something to do in the garden.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks, having the garden looking so neat is a first and I hope no one expects this to be the new norm! For the next month or two I’m scaling back and just watching things grow and develop. The weeds will be easier to pull after they grow a bit.

  5. Thanks for the tour–and for linking to my tour. It’s amazing how trim little boxwood hedges give the illusion that Someone is in control. I love that you have a rock garden with no rocks and a non-rock garden edged with rocks. In that wet area, maybe Japanese irises or Queen of the praire or Joe Pye weed. The JI might be too delicate for soccer balls, but the other two could take it, I think.

    • PS Guess what I did this week? Dug up 300 daffodil bulbs! What a story! I should write a blog post! Maybe I will. The real question is: where am I going to replant them all?

    • bittster says:

      Yes, apparently my rock garden is all in my head 🙂
      The other problem with my soggy bed is how dry it gets in a normal summer. I think what it really needs is good soil prep… but it’s also within the root zone of some red maples, so any soil improvements seem to go straight up their trunks.
      Japanese iris can probably take it though. They only bloom for a few weeks, so maybe I can distract the kids elsewhere for those days, and summer dry shouldn’t cause too many problems for them.

      • bittster says:

        btw I’m upset about you digging all those daffs. I was planning on digging a few hundred of my own and need to ship them off to other unsuspecting gardeners so that they can do the replanting!

  6. JessiesGirl says:

    I particularly love the portion of the garden that was so ‘sickeningly’ neat. It is pleasing to the eye. What’s not pleasing is the area that houses the ‘golden rudbeckia’ … it may be time for a haircut😉

  7. Loved getting to see the whole shebang! What a lot of things you have happening and in lots of places which means lots of edging and mulch. No wonder you are exhausted. I always make garden visitors leave through the side of the house that is the work area/plant and pot ghetto. You always need to see where the magic happens. And I love those little hedges and now may have to take boxwood cuttings. I know I have a spot where I can leave them to ripen for five years!

    • bittster says:

      How funny, I look at your immaculate plantings and it makes me exhausted!
      I was admiring the new raised beds on Nancy Ondra’s blog and think I might need to come up with something similar for my own garden. Like you pointed out there’s an awful lot of edging, and it’s messy edges that really make a bed look neglected. That and ground covers 🙂 -as soon as I find some ‘tamer’ ground covers I’m switching to some of that!

  8. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Thanks for the tour, Frank! This was really helpful to piece together the individual garden parts you’ve posted previously. Your garden is wonderful and the boxwood cutting comments made me laugh out loud. Everything is looking really great and your hard work with the mulch really shows. I’m envious of your perfect green lawn. All plant-obsessed gardeners have pot ghettos/work spaces!

    • bittster says:

      Phew, I thought for sure there would be a bunch of gardeners politely reminding me not to buy things I have no spot for, or to make sure new plants get in the ground the same day they’re bought. I think you can appreciate the NEED to get a certain plant when you see it!
      Don’t be too impressed with the lawn, it may be green but apparently even creeping Charlie and clover look halfway decent when freshly cut 🙂

  9. pbmgarden says:

    Enjoyed seeing all aspects of your garden. Really impressive and I love your phlox.

  10. March Picker says:

    Loved this tour, Frank! Your gardens are labors of love. Here’s hoping you will take time to sit a bit and just enjoy them! I think you should win a prize for those roots in the tray. hahahaha

  11. Oh, I wish I could grow phlox here! I’m so envious of yours! I love your boxwood borders, too. Trying to figure out where I could do such a thing in my own garden. How did I miss that new lawn section near your back deck the other day? Quite the clean up you did there! Finally, I do get a good chuckle out of your rock-less rock garden!

    • bittster says:

      I think your whirlwind tour was a little too fast for catching dull things like yawn… I mean lawn… at least it wasn’t raining, and no snakes either!
      I suspect a deer went through last night. There were missing leaves here and there and I think I saw a track. I don’t like this one bit and will be pricing fencing. My phlox need protection!
      Deer don’t eat boxwood though. As a matter of fact now would be the perfect time for you to head out to the street, clip a few sprigs, and start your own hedge 🙂

      • A deer ventured its way to the far end of my rock garden yesterday and ate most of the flowers off of one of the gomphrenas before I burst through the back door screaming like a mad woman! I’ve never seen deer come in there before–always thought the topography of the yard kept that area safe! Arghhhh!!!!!

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