Tweaking The Garden, One Step At A Time
Making the most out of whatever I have to work with is what I 'm all about, and by that I mean the plants, site or whatever design I've inherited. Just about every garden that I ever worked on - including my own, has had problems that needed to be solved. Things like the existing plants-often a weird assortment of stuff that's overgrown or planted in the wrong spot can make me want to pull my hair out. And then there's the site... it might be poor soil and relentless sun, shade and big tree roots, or steep slopes and invasive weeds - well,you get the picture.
There's usually plenty of good things around too, but sometimes it takes awhile to see it. Often the problems turn out to be gifts in disguise.
What am I talking about?
I'll start with my own garden.
Twelve years ago my husband and I purchased a little cottage in a lakefront community in upstate New York. It was cute, cozy, needed no work (ha!) and was only 100 steps to the shoreline of Lake Ontario, I liked the fact that most of the windows and doors opened out into what would be our future garden. Here it is in its early stages....
I couldn’t wait to get started. We inherited a few trees, some oddly pruned shrubs, and a motley mess of perennials. Most of our money was going into fixing up the house, so we decided to work on the garden in stages. I knew I was in trouble when I started digging- after the first inch of topsoil my shovel hit sand, pebbles and rocks. Yikes! This was a gardeners nightmare - beating down western sun, soil that wouldn’t hold moisture and relentless winter winds that damaged and killed my plants.
I spent a lot of backbreaking days wheel-barrowing in compost and manure to amend the soil. Even so, it remained dry and lean, and the plants required constant watering.
In addition to all this, there were a bunch of eyesores in our front yard – an ugly cement sidewalk, the boat in our neighbors yard, and a glaring street lamp that blinded us when we wanted to sit outside in the evening.
Even though maintaining and designing gardens has been my career for most of my adult life, this little quarter acre plot has truly humbled me. My relationship with it has spanned emotions that run from despair to delight, and I’ve had to learn to roll with what I’ve got.
This is what it looks like now, and it's still a work in progress that has taught me a lot about plants, less than perfect conditions and how to make the most of what I have. I hope you'll follow my ongoing adventures with it, along with a few others I've designed and some that just inspire me.
Brighten Up Your Winter Window Sill With Forced Bulbs
Seriously, I can't dig one more hole - and why the heck did I order so many bulbs? Clearly, my enthusiasm got the best of me and now I've run out of places to plant them.
If you're strapped for time, space and energy, why not pot up leftover bulbs, tuck them away in a protected spot to force and bring inside later? It's worth doing just to get a sneak preview of spring!
Here's how to do it.
These Love It Dry: 3 Hardy Shrubs That Never Get Thirsty
I'm not complaining about all the hot, dry sunny days we had this summer, but dragging hoses around to wilting plants is not my idea of a good time. On the other hand, I gained a new appreciation for several shrubs that remained unfazed by drought. Check out three stalwart beauties that can take just about anything you throw at them.
Stomp Out Stupid Weeding: 5 Perennials That Make It Easy
Don't you hate weeding areas where growing anything is a struggle and it doesn't look much better when you're done? I call this 'stupid weeding' and I'm on a mission to reduce it in all my gardens. At the end of the day, it's really all about the best plant choices. Learn more about 5 beautiful and useful perennials that will save you work.
Make Summer More Sensual: Add These 8 Fragrant Beauties
Don't you wish you could bottle up all the smells of summer? Fragrance is memorable. Scents define the personality of the garden and etch their way into your memory bank. The aroma of petunias and nicotiana still take me straight back to childhood days in my grandmothers garden. Inspired by these memories,I've developed a mix of aromatic plants worth trying.
It's All About Perspective: A Gardeners Journey
Patience and faith are being sorely tried these days, and no one knows when life is going to return to normal. As with gardening, we just have to hang on, wait for the plants to grow and have faith that they'll survive. Delving through old photographs of my front garden brought this home to me. Each image was a reminder of the joys and frustration I felt while I was going through the process of creating it. Anyone who has ever started a garden or hopes to have one knows what I'm talking about. This is my story.
Lost In The Tropics: Gardening On The Other Side Of The World
I'm grateful for public gardens wherever I go, but my recent trip to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Vietnam to visit grandchildren left me doubly appreciative of what they provide. In a city where even crossing the streeet is a hair raising experience, the tree-lined public parks provide shelter from the heat and respite from the daily hubbub. Need a little tropical eye candy? Read on.
Amaryllis Angst? How To Get Them To Rebloom
I'm always reading rave reviews about how easy amaryllis are to grow. Hah! What they don't tell you is that you must have the patience of a saint to get them to flower, much less rebloom. How the heck do you make that happen? Read on to find out.