Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Encouragement for New Gardeners/Stories from our Yard

This post is going to include photos and stories I've shared before in separate posts, making it a condensed history of our flower beds.  I have met a number of people on Facebook who are in the beginning stages of planting, and some are looking for ideas.  I want them to see the changes we have made over time.

I've mentioned this is the house my husband and his 3 brothers and 1 sister grew up in.  His mom had a couple peonies on this side of the house, but Larry didn't want them there, so we gave them to a neighbor.  Before we moved in, we had an egress window put in because our son was going to have his bedroom in the basement.  (The ladder is on the cover to the window.  We put some of our potted plants in there over the winter.)

Anyway, there was a nice mound of dirt when the egress window was put in.  Larry was determined to plant grass seeds there, and I was determined to plant flowers.  He relented when we went to a local garden center and found False sunflower plants that he liked.  He said if I planted those, he'd agree to not plant grass.   They are native to our area, which appealed to me.  We got 3 of them, and I proceeded to plant other flowers as well.  The original plants wilted a lot when it was hot, so I moved them over time.  The original bed went about half way between the two windows.

The first number of photos are from August of 2009.  (I'm not sure when I got this computer, but when I did, Larry did something that caused my photos to disappear.  We were both sick about it, but that's why I don't have photos of the area previous to these.)

The next year or two, for a Mother's Day gift, Larry said we could take the flower bed across the house.   We dug out the grass by hand next to the house, and then, Larry tilled with our Mantis tiller.  I'm thinking he tilled right over the grass by the time we got to the area next to the back yard, and I just pulled out the bits of grass to compost.

I don't remember when we took it across the back yard, but do remember Larry choosing some grasses to plant. 

This photo was taken May 3, 2008.  It shows the 2 curb beds and circle one where a shrub used to be.  The curb bed on the right was put in first.  We had a debate about the size of it.  Larry kind of won this one.  I wanted to take it all the way across, or at least wider than this.  The next year, our neighbor had to have her water main replaced in the area across the sidewalk, and they dug a big hole in our yard.  Larry assumed I would want to put that into flowers as well. 

On May 20, 2008, our west front yard looked quite different from how it looks now.

May 28, 2008

On May 28, 2008, I knew Larry had agreed more easily, I'm thinking, than other times, to make this flower bed larger.  This may be the one where I told him I'd get a room that was pretty cluttered tidied up over the winter in exchange for a larger planting area here.  I said I wanted to plant some annuals in the area.  I didn't tell him, but my ulterior motive was to plant some tomatoes and peppers in the area.  I don't remember now whether I ever did, but the only annuals there now are ones that self sow.  The blue flowers are Amsonia, I think, tabernaemontana.

 On June1, 2008, Larry and a friend rented a sod cutter with the idea of doing ours and then hers.  By the time we made it to her place, she had changed her mind.  She said she couldn't decide what area to do, but she also had seen how hard it was to do, and felt Larry may not have the stamina to help with hers.  This is the only area that we used a sod cutter on.  We gave the sod to a neighbor, but it didn't make it.

August, 2008

September, 2008, before the sunflowers were taken down by squirrels:

On August 11, 2009, an awesome crew came through to put new curbs in on both sides of the street.

We knew ahead of time that the crew would be coming, and that I would have to dig out plants that were within 18 inches of the curb.  I got permission to dig out as much dirt as I could, and the workers said they would put my dirt back so I wouldn't have to risk getting someone's dirt that may have chemicals in it.  One of the guys got there before the others, and helped me dig some of it, too. 

I had suggested that since they would be tearing up the area across the way, we should go ahead and take the curb planting across the way, and Larry had said, "Maybe."  When the time came, I said I'd like to go for it, and he said if I was going to to it, I was on my own, and to hire someone to till it.  Well, I saw an ad, and called, and was tickled when the guy said he was available to come in an hour.  I had to ask the workers if it would be OK, and they said there was time before they would be ready to work in the area, so when Larry got home, the deed was done.

Larry and his dad had dug up this silver maple from a nearby alley and planted it when he was a boy.  We had asked for an estimate to have it trimmed, but were told it was unsafe and needed to come down.  April 10, 2011, when I got home from work, this was the scene that greeted me.  I was hoping to get home before they started, but I still got there in time to take too many photos, and a number of videos. This crew was awesome, too!  The guy doing the cutting threw the branches away from the flower beds, and the others took extra steps to stay off of the flowers.

I was in awe of the guy looking so calm up there.

So bare!  There was some discussion on how big of a planting area would go here, and Larry thought maybe he should plant grass in the whole area.  I objected, because I had already had some plants around the tree, and wanted at least that big of an area.  He told me to decide how big the area should be.  When I showed him my idea, which was about half of the area, he said I may as well plant the whole thing, and then, he wouldn't have to get seed to grow and would have less to mow.  I always take him up on it when he offers more space for flowers.

This was taken May 2, 2011.  I hired a guy to do some tilling, and after he did it, he said we should either drive a car over it to pack it down or put in a retaining wall before the next rain, or the soil would wash away.  I was not pleased.  I even had to finish the tilling where some of the roots were up closer to the house, because he didn't want to do it with his tiller.

After doing some asking around, maybe online, I decided to go ahead and plant some things to hold the soil down.  We put the fake bricks down to hold some, and I'm glad we didn't go to all the work of putting in a retaining wall.  This was taken May 6, 2011.

 The next photos were taken in August, 2011.  The tall orange blooms are on a Mexican sunflower plant, Tithonia.  Monarchs love them.  I didn't have room for them here this year, but I planted some seeds across the street. They aren't big enough to bloom yet.

This is the Wild senna plant that I got from Benjamin from The Deep Middle blog's yard when it was on a garden tour.  I got the last one that he had potted up for folks to take.

This was taken in September of 2011.  The Love lies bleeding plants didn't do as well this year as they did the last couple of years.

August, 2012, the Wild senna plant that I got from the arboretum blooms a little earlier than the other one.  This one was taller than the other last year, but not this year.  The Rudbeckia maxima had just a few blooms.

I was pleased with the number of blooms on the Cup plant that I planted in the spring.

 The next two were taken in October, 2011.  The hummingbirds came back to enjoy the agastache and salvia 'Black and Blue' last year, and I've mentioned seeing one this year so far.

I had forgotten there were still monarchs here in October in 2011.  I don't remember how long they were here last year.  The blooms are New England asters.

The last two are from today, August 7, 2013.  Look how much the cup plant has grown!

This one of my two Wild senna plants is wider, but a little shorter than last year.  The Rudbeckia maxima has lots more blooms, too.  Well they are seed heads now, but still look good to me.

I am adding this photo 8/14/13.  I took it today and posted it on a local news Facebook page in response to them posting a photo of the book Beautiful No Mow Yards, asking us what we thought of the idea.  It wouldn't fit in a comment, so I put it in its own spot.  I guess they didn't like that, because they took it down.  I am going to go back and leave a link to this post in a comment.

Well, I don't plan on asking to replace any more grass with flowers.  The rest is where a sidewalk would be, except on the east side along the curb.  People park cars there, so it's probably best to leave that alone.   Plus, that's where Heidi likes to run.  She does a good job staying out of the flowers.

I do continue to tweak the current flower beds.  I no longer grow many of the plants in the earlier photos.  I like how I used annuals, though, to fill in the areas while I was in the process of finding perennials to put there.  I have mentioned that whenever I have seen a butterfly on a tag, that plant would usually find a spot here.  I have always liked the idea of plants that are native to our area, too, but didn't know of very many when I first started gardening.  Once the tree came down, I had decided that I was going to attempt to fill it with native plants.  As it turns out, a number of them are cultivars, but progress is being made in finding more natives.  I am now putting in some of the same plants across the sidewalk to make it look like one large planting area with the sidewalk as a path.  I will continue to grow the plants I already have and love that are not native, but, except for some annuals, future plants to join our buzzing with insects place will be native at least to places near us.

Please don't think I am criticizing your choices for plants if you have different views than I do, but I do hope you grow at least some plants native to your area for the native bees and such.  I have started a Facebook group called Gardening with Nature in Mind.  I know each of us is in a different place in how we interpret what that means, and I feel it's good to be patient with each other..  Part of the original purpose was to meet local people and do some plant exchanges, and I am thankful that has happened.  Some of my blogging and Facebook gardeners from other states have also joined the group.  I am glad about that, too, because we can all learn from each other.  

I better close this post!  I wrote more than usual!  I hope your summer is going well.


  1. Hi Sue,
    I love your garden history!It's amazing to see how much your garden has grown.
    Your cup plant intrigues me. Sometimes God out does Himself!
    I got a booklet on plants native to Massachusetts from the library but it's very limited. I continue to search for more ideas to integrate local plants into my gardens. The Butter and Eggs has blossomed all along the road sides. Sounds like a mini road trip to me!

  2. Thanks, Sally! I have butter and eggs in a wash tub because they spread farther than I have room for them. They have survived winter left outdoors for a number of seasons. I don't know what the laws are in your area (or ours, as far as that goes) about digging from the wild. If you do that, a small clump will do, because it will spread quickly. Try going to this site to find more plants native to your area.

  3. Hey Sue,TY for the website. It's really, really helpful. I bookmarked it. Then, I went into my woodsy yard to see what was coming up wild....LOL

  4. You are blessed not to have to fight major perennial weeds. One solution I am working on is using annuals since I can take it all to the ground in the fall. I would love to have a corner garden, thanks for showing yours. The cup plant is amazing!

  5. That's fantastic, Sue! It's incredible to see the transformation. I'm glad I've been able to see some of your changes over time--I always enjoy following your blog. Is the Facebook group open? If so, I will join in. :)

  6. I love before and after photos! I wish I had taken some early photos of my garden before I got started. What you have done with your garden is an inspiration, Sue, to all gardeners, not just beginners. I can't think of a better example of how a garden is always evolving and changing over time.

  7. It's fun to look back at how the garden changes over time. Nice photos. I wanted to let you know Sue that I found a relatively large crab spider on a buddleia flower. He was eating a honey bee. Naturally that was his last meal. I have photos on my latest blog post. Have a great weekend.

  8. What a wonderful idea for a post, the history of your garden. Thanks for the story!

  9. I have been browsing your blog occasionally, and find it so beautiful! It's encouraging to me because this is what I hope to have in my yard someday, especially trying to use mostly native plants. I loved to read about the little deals between you and your husband for getting more flowers because that's exactly how it goes at our house haha! Unbeknownst to him I plan on shrinking that yard little by little. :)

  10. Very interesting post! I love what you've done with your gardens, Sue. I appreciate your philosophy. I get great joy when I see birds and butterflies enjoying my gardens.
    Hugs, Beth

  11. It was interesting to watch your garden grow.....and change. Gardens are never static places.

    I love how it has turned out. Congratulations.


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