mumble mumble mulch

Spring is here and I love it.  It means work of course, and for me it’s hard to hit just the right balance of sitting around and actually doing something, but I try my best.  One problem which always haunts me is that I’m the type who (again while sitting around) usually gets tons of unnecessary projects in his head, starts them, and then moves on before they’re done.  Fortunately I’m not much bothered by this, but someone else here is, and sometimes decides to be helpful and remind me of the obvious…. but most of the time that person doesn’t notice unplanted chrysanthemum collections or realize it’s been years since the boxwood cuttings should have been planted out, so it all works out fine.  How can it not when rain and rainbows and warm sunshine have brought out the daffodils?

double rainbow over the garden

Double rainbow over the ‘potager’.  A beautiful sight if you can tune out the industrial park and white vinylrama next door 🙂

I’ve been relentlessly mulching.  It started innocently enough with a load of mulched leaves hauled out of the woods, but then exploded from there.  My neighbors were so generous last autumn with several heaps of nicely chopped leaves and grass clippings that I couldn’t stop lugging them back to the garden.  The entire front bed got a nice layer and I would have kept going but of course ran through all the available bounty.

cheap leaf mulched perennial beds

The front perennial bed all nestled in with a nice mulch of chopped leaves.  The earthworms will munch them all down by the end of  summer but for now they should go a long way in keeping the weed seedlings down.  Did I mention it was all free?

As if that wasn’t enough, for some reason when finished I got it in my head to crack open the wallet and order a load of shredded bark mulch to finish off the yard.  With most of the front already covered I felt finishing with a little purchased mulch might be something the budget could handle, so $290 later I was mulling over another new heap in the driveway.  It seemed a steep price to me but judging from the other $1,000 plus order slips hanging next to mine I guess I’m being downright frugal.  Also, mulch is a gardening expense the boss never criticizes, so now it just needs to be spread.  More on that later, daffodils first!

narcissus tahiti daffodil

Always a favorite, ‘Tahiti’ is an awesome daffodil.  Sorry if you’re not a fan of doubles, but this one never fails, and the yellow petals seem to glow with an orange shade which I love.

I’m stuck on orange lately.  The daffodil ‘Serola’ tops the list this year.

daffodil narcissus serola

Narcissus ‘Serola’ with the first of the tulips opening behind.  When I divide this bed (hopefully this June) I’ll need to put these out in the front garden to brighten things up even more!

My whining about space in the vegetable garden is entirely due to my weakness for spring bulbs and the abundance of open space left when vegetables finally give up the ghost in September.  It’s so easy to just pop a few bulbs in here and there 🙂

daffodils in the vegetable garden

It’s so much easier to line a few daffs out in the vegetable patch than it is to decide on a spot in the open garden!  I’ll just plant a few pumpkins or squash over them in July to make it look respectable again. (fyi it’s bouncy house season so please ignore the deflated mess in the background) 

One more orange.  ‘Kedron’ has a color which stands out very well…. if you’re into colors that stand out very well 🙂

daffodil narcissus kedron

Narcissus ‘Kedron’.  Notice the empty spaces nearby.  Not everyone does well here and I just don’t have the patience to nurse unhappy plants along, so while ‘Kedron’ takes off the others just fade away…

Although the vegetables complain, bulbs in general seem to like my lazy (or complete lack) of an efficient watering ethic.  Tulips in particular like the open, sunny, fertile soil, and unless I weed them out (which I could never do) most clump up and bloom.  Even if I do pull a few of the smaller bulbs they just end up in the compost anyway so get spread throughout the garden a few months later when I take and spread the barely rotted goodness.

tulips and double hellebore

Yet another plant which needs to find a permanent home outside of the vegetable patch.  This double hellebore seedling is taking up prime bean and pepper real estate.

Believe it or not I’m making progress with my bulb issues.  When I was younger and carefree I used to plant out patches of whatever tulips I had on hand and then dig them up again in June just in time to clear the beds for tomato planting.  It was insanely beautiful (to me at least) and I can’t rule out this happening again.

mixed darwin tulips

Tulips blooming in the vegetable garden (spring 2013). These would all be dug, dried, and stored while the warm season veggies occupied the same beds.

Maybe my bulbaholism isn’t getting any better.  Maybe it’s just migrating.  I planted these fritillaria imperialis bulbs out in the meadow late last fall (clearance bulbs) and can’t wait to see how they do.  If I get one decent spring out of them I’ll be thrilled, but in my heart I want them to settle in… even if they do look slightly out of place in the short turf.  Hopefully they enjoy the dry summertime baking this spot receives, and the grass should come up soon enough to hide the yellowing foliage.

growing fritillaria imperialis

My ‘meadow’ is in danger of becoming a bulb field.  The fritillaria imperialis don’t look entirely happy yet, but I have my fingers crossed they’ll at least bloom and then maybe return next spring?

Out front I may have a few bulbs as well.  Early spring is when I love the front beds the most.

spring bulbs front entry

Tulips and daffodils where snowdrops ruled just a few weeks ago.  I should have taken this picture today since I mulched yesterday afternoon, but after all the work I was ready to just sit and relax!

I better wrap this post up.  Now that mulch sits in the middle of the driveway I’ve got plenty to do even from the non-gardening viewpoint.  And it’s not the fastest process since mulch needs to be worked in between sprouts and edges need to be tidied up…. and actually a bigger problem is that I’m coming up with all kinds of bed enlargements and side projects while I dilly-dally on finishing the main project.  I promised to trim back the yews along the side of the house, and this golden arborvitae just happened to show up in the lawn between us and the neighbor.  As long as I’m mulching, might as well create a nice big bed around it 😉

new perennial bed

new perennial bed

Let me get out there then.  Good luck on all your own spring projects, may they progress more quickly than my own!

A day of rest

Sunday being a day of rest I try to avoid too much noisy, heavy labor on this end of the weekend.  I don’t exactly deserve it since I did plenty of resting yesterday as well, but on this subject I will defer to the higher authority and take it easy.  With daffodils beginning their season it’s hard anyway to focus on serious projects.  The blooms are a great distraction on what thankfully turned out to be a warm sunny spring day.

best daffodils

The vegetable garden is looking good in spite of its lack of vegetable space. My favorite daffodils deserve a good spot just as much as some bean or pepper plant.

I did manage to get a few things moving in the ‘potager’.  With so many flowers filling the beds, calling it “the farm” anymore seems a bit inappropriate.  Maybe a flower farm, but definitely not a hotbed for fresh produce.  I did find a few open spots for squeezing in a couple lettuce and broccoli transplants.  That should keep the rabbits happy.

planting sprouted potatoes

Lettuce and arugula tranplants are in and hopefully will amount to something before temperatures rise. I also planted a few of the sprouting potatoes found in the back of the storage bin. Not a picture for the serious gardener but that’s how we roll here 😉

Covering all the vegetable beds with whatever mulch I could scrounge up (mostly shredded leaves and grass clippings from the lawnmower bag) has made bed prep a snap this spring.  I just stirred in whatever leaves were left of the top coating and popped transplants into the ground.  My little vegetable babies from under the growlights will hopefully make me proud in no time at all.

growing daffodils

I’ve given up on this vegetable bed, and the daffodils have completely taken over.  Note the empty chair.  Trust me it gets plenty of use 🙂

So I did get a little done yesterday to deserve a break.  Not exactly a lot by most standards but after waiting so long I hate to see the season fly by.  I want to soak up every minute and hope you can do the same as well!

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

A few weeks ago I posted about the trouble with idle hands and how they were inching me over to the dark side.  It sounded funny at the time but the string of bad luck and minor tragedy which followed reassured me that there will be no deals made on this end and I would in fact like to stay on the lighter side.  So to sum it up surgery has been scheduled for some, blood tests every three months for others, stitches have been removed, and the family has a new bunny.  Hopefully garden cleanup will now continue to bring us back into good graces.  It’s about time for both 🙂

yard cleanup perennial beds

The front yard is definitely looking a little wild and wooly now that the snow has melted.  Probably time to get rid of the sled.

Cleanup has been ongoing all week (in between April showers) and this morning the sunshine and leftover morning frost are making the front yard glisten with springtime promise.

front yard garden cleanup

front yard garden cleanup

The view from inside the front door was also in need of some sprucing up.

messy yard spring cleanup

I sometimes think my entire neighborhood is an advertisement for plastic and vinyl.

Cleanup this spring is nearly all power tools.  Everything gets cut down with the hedge trimmer into manageable bits and then the largest bits are raked onto the lawn for mowing up into the bag.  The bag is then emptied onto the beds out back.  The front yard then gets a nice topping off with shredded leaves from last fall’s cleanup.  Not only do the shredded leaves cover up all the twigs and debris I was too lazy to remove, they also frame the first crocus nicely.

spring garden cleanup mulch

Mulched leaves on the beds and the lawn mowed at its lowest setting.  Things look better already.

Work has an annoying way of getting in the way of spring cleanup, but whenever I have a chance it feels great to get out there again.  The birds follow behind looking for worms and the kids rediscover all the messes they can make with the most simple of tools.  Spring mud and mulchpiles are fun but I’m just happy enough to see plants finally growing again in the open air.

hardy cyclamen with leucojum vernum

The pink cyclamen coum look much better this spring even after our insulting amount of cold and snow.  Temperatures were actually lower than last winter but a good amount of leaves and flower buds made it through and at least I have something to set off the spring snowflake (leucojum vernum) flowers this year.

I’ve added an embarrassing amount of snowdrops since last year.  These showed up in the mail one day as a baggie full of washed clean, sprouting bulbs.  I planted them immediately and they are perfect this spring.  In contrast the dry bulbs of the same type which looked perfect upon planting barely sprouted last spring and have now died off completely.

double snowdrop galanthus flore pleno

The double snowdrop (galanthus ‘flore pleno’) hopefully settling in nicely under the apple tree.  FYI -the apple tree is that twig at the back of the photo 🙂

I will bore you with more snowdrops at a later date but for now other spring bulbs.

corydalis George baker

The first corydalis, this one’s “George Baker”, looking good and reminding me I should divide my other overcrowded clumps.

Ok one more snowdrop.

galanthus wonston double

Galanthus ‘Wonston Double’.  I have to keep reminding myself I don’t like doubles.

This little bulb who’s name I will never be able to spell without looking up (scilla mischtschenkoana) is one of those unassuming things which you never NEED but you should always have.  This one’s been with me for a while going all the way back to a single stray bulb which must have been overlooked or abandoned by squirrels after all its brothers and sisters had been planted.  Being the daring teen who I was and feeling a little dangerous, I pocketed the bulb and brought it home.  Somehow it survived being unplanted all winter and within a few weeks even put out the first of many pale, icy blue flowers.  It has never reseeded (likely because they’re all the clone descendants of one single bulb) but it’s multiplied and followed me from garden to garden over the decades.  hmmmm.  I should go back to that park some day and see how the original planting has made out.

Scilla mischtschenkoana

Scilla mischtschenkoana.

The hellebores are starting as well.  This one is right up against the porch foundation and lives the good life.

white ashwood hybrid hellebore

I bought this one as a white Ashwood seedling from Santa Rosa Gardens.  I bought this one as a started plant, but deep down inside I covet seeds from the Ashwood line.  They’re either crazy expensive or I just can’t find them here in the states.

A few of the other hellebores are also coming along.  Drought last summer has really taken a bite out of this year’s show but the real killer was my transplanting several and then not really bothering to give them any aftercare.  A sprinkler would have done wonders in August, but you can’t dwell on these things in April.

double pink hellebore from seed

A nice double pink hellebore from Elizabethtown seed.  I’m glad I had the chance to buy seed from them before they closed retail sales…. but I’m still missing all the cool seedlings coming along each spring.

Last spring’s late blasts of arctic weather didn’t please the hellebores at all but this year the more settled pattern has done them well.  I finally get to see a nice clean bloom on my yellow.

yellow hellebore from seed

This one, also from Elizabethtown seed, looks buttery enough for me to think ‘yummy!’  I’ve been wanting a yellow like this for years.  Wish me luck it clumps up and continues to do well 🙂

The warmer temperatures and singing birds have me completely optimistic and I’m starting to rake back the winter mulch from around my late fall conifer splurge from Conifer Kingdom.  They all look great and I’m hoping for healthy new growth in a few weeks.  Just think… if my blue spruce (p. pungens ‘Walnut Glen’) doubles in size this year it may break the four inch mark!

late planting conifer winter protection

A late planting of conifers still snuggled in under a thick winter mulch of shredded leaves.  Time to start peeling it back.

So spring is finally here.  The sun is shining this morning and I’m buying pansies today.  The only snow left are snowdrops and since I paid a visit to the Temple nursery on Saturday you’re still going to have to sit through that, but fortunately the pictures aren’t all that great so you’ll be spared much of the repeating white and green.  Enjoy!

Happy Easter! (almost)

Another warm day and we jump ahead a week (and I’m sure we’ll take three steps back tommorow).  Generally I prefer a long drawn out spring, but at this point I’ll take anything we can get, even if it means fast-forwarding through the season.  Five days ago the bunny buffet officially opened with its first crocus bloom and now a second sunny day has brought out the rest of the snow crocus (mostly crocus chrysanthus types).

crocus lawn of dreams

Van Egelen’s “lawn of dreams” crocus mix just starting to bloom. 200 snow crocus barely make a splash, but it’s enough to bring me out to sit in this part of the garden on a sunny day.

These are what remains of a fall 2012 planting <for more planting details click here> of about 200 snow crocus and maybe 150 tommies (crocus tommasinianus).  The tommies are not yet up but are supposed to be better spreaders and less tasty to all things which love crocus as much as I do.  Unfortunately Pennsylvania rabbits must be a less refined bunch since in my experience they mow down all crocus equally.

snow crocus naturalized lawn

They sure would look nicer spotted about in a velvety green carpet of lawn, but this is the Pennsylvania tundra so you get what you get!

I don’t mow this patch of thin grass until late, so waiting for the crocus foliage to die off naturally is no problem, but if you are a mower keep in mind that the crocus need to grow for five or so weeks after blooming in order to build up next year’s blooms.  Because the rabbits were so brutal on both bloom and foliage last year I didn’t think I’d see any flowers this year, but fortunately they came through even if a little weaker.  Luckily the snowdrops are not at all tasty to bunnies.

first snowdrops galanthus

The first snowdrops opening in the backyard.  They’ve multiplied but not so much that I can’t still count every last bloom to compare to 2014’s show…. sad and desperate, I know.

I of course did not follow the rules of common sense last year and ended up adding more new and expensive snowdrops to my garden.  They’re just as white and drop-shaped as my free snowdrops and all the other ones I have, but they’re much much better 🙂

galanthus lapwing

Galanthus ‘lapwing’

Another new bulb added last fall is iris “Katherine Hodgkin”.  Everyone loves Katherine for her subtle colors and intricate patterns…. except me.  I have a lower class of taste and of course prefer the brightest colors, and this one doesn’t show up as well as I’d like.  My mother of course will like it, and my wife too if she ever happens out into the garden before May, but I on the other hand say “meh.”  Hopefully our children will not inherit their taste from me but will instead be the perfect blend of well rounded, refined, garden loving young adults.  Optimism is one of the highlights of spring.

iris Katherine hodgkin

Iris “Katherine Hodgkin”.  Makes me think of dirty snakes.  I bet it’s virused too, I can see darker blue streaks in the blooms on the left and believe this is a sign…. 

A couple more warm days and all the early bulbs will be blooming.  Crocus are a favorite and along the warm south side of the house the first of the plump and bright dutch hybrids are opening.  I wish they lasted longer, but nothing lasts forever and when spring turns warm and sunny I always make a point of getting out to see them.

first dutch crocus blooms

Dutch crocus just starting to bloom in the warmest parts of the garden. The bees will be happy, the bunnies too.

Yesterday was beautiful, today not so much.  I want to get out there and clean up but don’t want the neighbors judging me for gardening in the cold, gray drizzle.  Looking at the forecast, Easter Sunday is supposed to be the most promising day, but Godless and crazy is probably a worse label than just plain old crazy so maybe I’ll try and get a few things cut back and cleaned up before then.   Fortunately I was out there last weekend for a start (the backyard snow melted briefly before the latest batch came down, so I rushed out to do some raking and trimming!)

vegetable beds ready for spring

The vegetable beds cleaned, straightened up, and ready to go. I even went over the lawn with the mower to give it a springtime “vacuum” of twigs and other debris.

It’s going to be a lazy cleanup this year, I can feel it already.  Electric hedge trimmer to cut everything back, mower to go over it once to chop, mower bag emptied on the beds to cover up all the leaves and bits which I didn’t bother raking out.  Done.  I need more time to transplant and divide, and gift plants with shovelfuls of compost.  Plus the mulched debris will keep down many of the self sowers, and I think last year’s “riot” of volunteers was a little messier than I want this year.  Always have to keep things changing!

Best springtime and Easter wishes to all, enjoy the weekend!

When the going gets tough….

The tough get sowing 🙂

Young 'masquerade' hot pepper seedlings, some onions, and other stuff.

Young ‘masquerade’ hot pepper seedlings, some onions, and other stuff.

I guess for as cold as February was spring is almost on schedule.  Maybe a week late.  I should be cleaning the yard and getting things ready, but nothing’s ever perfect, and as long as there’s not a couple bikes laying on top of the hellebores I think there’s no rush and it will all work out just fine.  In case you’re wondering I started a few more seeds to sooth my anxiety.

lunaria annua rosemary verey seedlings

Money plant (lunaria annua) ‘Rosemary Verey’ was one of my oops plantings.  They surprised me by sprouting in the fridge, so out of the wet paper towels they came and under the growlights they went.  They’re a purple foliage version of the regular moneyplant, and I think their dark purple stems look extremely promising!

I’ve never been this bad with seed starting.  My thinking is that as long as I have the seeds I might as well plant them, so besides the ones sprouting under the lights I have a bunch outside in pots exposed to the cold as well.  Also I suppose I should fess up to the dozens of baggies of seeds folded up in damp paper towels in the fridge which are also getting a nice cold treatment.

Why do I need dozens of hot pepper seedling?  Not important.  Why do I need non-hardy South African velthemia bracteata seedling?  Because I can.  (that’s a nearly direct quote from Chloris btw).  So I’ll just continue sowing and growing more seedlings than I’ll ever need until finally I can get outside without a facemask and gloves.

veltheimia bracteata seedling

The first of possibly five veltheimia bracteata seedlings just sprouting.  I’ll report back in a couple years to let you know how this turns out… 

I’m ready for warmer weather.  There’s still snow sitting in every shaded nook of the yard and far too many not-up-yet bulb plantings, but  I want to see them now!  Plus I need warmer weather in order to think over where the approximately 30-40 Magnolia Grandiflora trees will go.  I potted those seeds up today.

Making up for lost time

The first few weeks of spring all happened in four days, four gloriously warm and sunny days!  I prefer a drawn out cool season with no big shocks but I don’t think that will be the case this year.  Last Saturday went up to just over 80F (27C) and the drab gray garden exploded into color.

narcissus tete a tete

Narcissus “Tete a Tete” one of the best small, early daffodils for the garden and also for forcing in pots.

Just a few days ago we were freezing our kazooies off looking at snowdrops, now I’m rushing to admire the last spring snowflake (leucojum vernum) before the warm weather fries its delicate bloom.  It’s hanging on in a cold spot which only just thawed out last week.

leucojum vernum

Leucojum vernum the spring snowflake, that’s a flake, not a drop, even though snowdrops are a close relative.

Around front, the shelter of the house has things popping up even faster.  Corydalis “George Baker?” and the hellebores opened in two days, the hyacinth was a fat bud Sunday and then full bloom on Monday when I took this picture.

hellebores and corydalis

I have good luck with hyacinths.  In fact the blooms get so big and heavy they end up flopping when fully open.  This little piglet has been in the same spot for five years and has a bloom bigger than ever, plus two secondary stalks.  If only the yucca “colorguard” behind wasn’t so beat up by the winter….

how I like all my hyacinths to grow

The hard winter may have been good for something though.  This is the first spring I’ve ever seen corydalis seedlings, and Carolyn over at Carolyn’s Shade Garden said she notices an abundance of seedlings around her plants after a snowier winter.  Maybe the snow cover helps moderate the soil moisture or temperature and aids in germination or maybe after all the snow we’re just looking more desperately and notice every single green sprout!

corydalis solida seedlings

Corydalis seedlings, I first thought they were some odd one-leafed clover that needed weeding out!

Corydalis are one of my new favorites, and the most confusing thing about the seedlings is I never even noticed the seed pods forming… and trust me I was looking!  I have it in my head to nurture nice swaths of corydalis color similar to the showcase found in Carolyn’s garden.  The ones I have here (“George Baker and “Beth Evans”) were originally ordered from Brent and Becky’s and are exactly the bold colors I’m looking for.  I also added some straight species corydalis solida from Van Engelen’s,  but they’re just a little too pale and small and actually seem to be dying out.

corydalis and scilla "spring beauty"

Corydalis solida with blue scilla siberica “Spring Beauty” and Chiondoxas…. and finally some greening grass.

Corydalis really appreciate division and replanting, and this single bulb moved the year before last is already a nice little clump.  You just have to get to them quick though, they die down fast after blooming and it’s hard to remember where they were.

corydalis george baker

Corydalis “George Baker” with some hyacinths in need of division and replanting.

My focus for the last few days has been getting the cleanup done so everything can sprout up all nice and fresh.  Some people are concerned that early cleanups leave the little sprouts exposed to late frosts, but I never have a problem.  Actually I feel that mulched areas warm up in the sun more quickly than damp exposed earth, but overall it’s the mid May freezes that kill my plants, not the cold blasts in March and April, so I clean up as soon as I can get out there.  It lets me see all the weeds such as this campanula that has taken over most of what was supposed to be an iris bed.

kids in the garden

Cleanup includes taking the seeds out from under the deck.  What was I thinking when I started all these!?  Even if I get rid of all the campanula plus some more lawn, there still might not be enough room for planting out all these seedlings.  A few pots already show sprouts btw.

seeds sown in winter

Seed pots sown throughout fall and winter and left to stratify (exposed to the elements) under the deck.

Daffodils will also need some attention this summer.  The first are opening and I’d like to divide several of these clumps after they die back.  Here’s the early yellow “Peeping Tom” and some unknown bicolor that I’d love to put a name to.

daffodil peeping tom

Some of the daffodil beds got a nice mulch of mowed up maple leaves last fall, but they only go so far.  As I clean out the flower beds everything from leaves to perennial stalks to shrub trimmings to ornamental grass tops, all gets run over by the mower and bagged up to either mulch beds or feed the compost.  The warm weather brought up this clump of narcissus “Rapture” so fast, I barely had time to get the mulch around it before the blooms opened.

narcissus rapture

Narcissus “Rapture” opening so fast in the warm weather the blooms barely had time to make it up out of the ground.

I really should use some of these early daffodils out in the front beds along with a few of these blue chiondoxas.  This clump was actually just a weed which hitchhiked in on some scilla mischtschenkoana bulbs which share this same spot.  Six days prior the scilla was in full bloom and there wasn’t a sign of the chiondoxa.  Now look at it!

chiondoxa forbesii

A clump of what might be chiondoxa forbesii… don’t know for sure since I never really planted it 🙂

There’s nothing subtle about spring in my garden.  Besides yard cleanup I planted these pansies out in pots by the front door, and although these are in a more subtle grayish pot, the rest were planted in a bright cobalt pot!  Planter choices aside,  I may be on to something with the pansy mix.  Christina over at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides used a similar color mix for an arrangement of Gerber daisies, and I’m going to be on the lookout for my own daisies in these colors too.

matrix daffodil mix pansies

‘daffodil mix’ Matrix pansies

So that brings us to the next flush of color.  The hellebores are also starting to open up in the exposed parts of the garden.  Here’s “HGC Silvermoon” still looking kind of greenish.  The foliage on this one is great and I’m jealous of gardeners who are able to get it through the winter with leaves worth looking at.

hgc silvermoon

Hellebore “HGC Silvermoon” just starting to open up. Too bad the nice foliage on this one was burnt up by the cold.

And one of the first Elizabethtown seedlings just starting to come up.

pink hellebore

A nice freckled hellebore from Elizabethtown seed.

So spring is finally here in full force, just in time for Easter.  There are still a few bumps in the road …..such as last night’s snowfall and low of 21F (-6C) but I think we’ll make it.  I just have to find the time to catch up on all the things that were on hold because of the weather.  It’s way too early to fall behind!

The Foundation Planting

Our latest arctic blast has got me going through old pictures, and I found a few that have been sitting around for a while.  They’re all about the bed along the front of the house, and they all relate to a redesign I attempted this past spring.  Let me know what you think!

The house we live in now was built by my wife’s grandparents in the late 1950’s, and is probably still considered stylish by many.  Unfortunately we don’t share that retro-Italianate taste in ranches and set about to change things up while remodeling.  This was our front view circa spring 2009, not long after we moved in.retro landscapingThe combination of toddler, new baby, and home renovations is a fun mix, and outside changes were mostly put onto the back burner,  but that summer I did manage to get out the salmon colored edging and covered the colorful red bark mulch with a more natural shade.  I’m not saying it looked better, but at least it’s a little less sterile looking.Summer 2009If I was forced to give an answer I would probably say I hate the orangey color of our brick.  We’re stuck with it though, and since there’s not much of a design flair in me the collector gene took over, and all the cuttings and divisions I collected easily found a home in the vacant mulch beds.  By 2011 the mess was spreading and in an attempt to reign in the disorder I consulted with the ‘can’t beat em join em” theory.  I tried to embrace the orange by entering into a red phase.  I figured if I planted an even brighter scarlet then perhaps it would be bright enough to distract viewers from the orange brick…. or maybe I was trying to offend the neighbors, I don’t know- but I would like to challenge anyone out there to show me an example of red salvia used tastefully 🙂Late August 2011

Maybe Secretly I delighted in reds and chartreuse, and I think I still do….. just not in the front bed highlighting the orange brick.  This lovely combo has been saved and moved to the tropical bed to face down the already-overwhelmingly tasteful white vinyl privacy fencing there…. I’m not sure it looks much better there, but at least I’m sparing the neighbors from this assault of color. (fyi the hummingbirds loved it)the landscape's red phase

Now what to do?  The next year I had no enthusiasm for the bed without my lovely coleus and salvia.  A few perennials filled in to give it a fuller look, but it still lacks something.  The blue spruce was getting too big for under the window, and the Chamaecyparis too tall….. and I was getting tired of trimming the silly pompom juniper. Fall 2012So late that fall I laid out a bed expansion.  Truth be told I over estimated the space available for tulips, so after lining out the new border I dug tulips in all around in the lawn and then left the grass for spring removal.  Dec 2012That spring as the tulips came up through the overturned sod, I finished digging under the rest of the grass.digging under the turf

Moving the spruce was no picnic, and I almost thought it would die (considering how many roots I cut) but I think it will be much better off in the new position, and give a nice anchor to the end of the bed.  Fortunately for me, just when the shrub moving started to get too back-breaking, a buddy stopped by to help.a friend stops by

Soooo, here’s the finished product.  I moved a small paperbark maple over a few feet to be included in the bed, lined it with blues fescue divisions, and placed three tiny holly bushes where the spruce was.  Against all other urges I tried to limit the plant choices and plant in groups.  The curve is a little odd, but I’ll work on that during the next expansion 😉the "finished" product

With mulch applied and tulips blooming, it didn’t look half bad, but to be honest I still didn’t like it.  (one of the reasons you rarely see pictures of this border)foundation planting with tulips

I do like the yucca “color guard”.  It and the blue fescue seem to be a nice fit for this border.yucca colorguard with blue fescueBlues, yellows , and greens seem to complement the house better than all the loud mixed up flower colors.  For a couple weeks I didn’t mind this look, even as the tulip foliage yellowed and died off.  But then boredom and excess plants struck, and I was back to my old ways of sneaking in a few new plants here and there. dying foliage of tulips

Red cabbage wasn’t the worst color to add, but maybe it was just a little inappropriate for a front yard foundation planting.  Coleus crept in again, and the sunflower seedlings looked so innocent in the early summer…. but the lavender with the yucca and blue fescue kept it respectable.red cabbage in the border

Sunflower explosion.  Still better than my red experiment, but not yet the look I was going for.  midsummer abundance

Maybe annuals are just not a good choice for this bed.  I’ll rethink it next year and maybe skip the dahlias too 🙂   For now I’ll use the excuse that they distract you from the too-small hollies planted under the window…. better to be distracted than to be downright bored I think….  By the way those hollies better get growing, I want them nice and big and prickly by the time my little daughter starts to consider things like sneaking out a window or meeting some Romeo who comes by throwing pebbles.too much color again

The border last month (before winter and winter boredom hit).December 2013

Four things:  bigger plants, get rid of the grasses, remove the tall evergreen, and stick to a mellow color palette…. and of course expand the bed just a few more feet 🙂  Any other suggestions?  I know there will be some good ones and I’m looking forward to hearing them as well as hearing some more criticism.  I can take it, and I’m hoping it will get me back on the path that leads to me finally liking this bed!