I’ve been working on a few projects in the yard. First up, a status check on that front flower bed:
Last year’s drought was tough on this bed so the plants that made it are real survivors. We lost all the dwarf rhododendron early on and both the azaleas and one hydrangea were lost by late summer. We still have the hydrangea on the left and it’s getting a solid leaf base early on. The pink and white rhododendron in the back–are both purple but very alive so we’ll take them. We added six geraniums last year that stayed green all winter and we’ve got a clematis climbing the trellis in the middle. There are some plants to replace but it’s looking alive again.
My corner flower bed has a project going on that’s about 90% complete. I’ll share it soon but here’s a hint:
Last week I saw flurries again. Can you believe it? Last year I was trying not to turn on the AC and this year it is snowing a month past spring. In the same week I saw 90 degree temperatures and two trips to the basement for tornado sirens. And it’s flooding. Welcome to Missouri.
I’ve got another project about 40% complete. One day I came home from work to catch my husband digging in the yard. He’d gotten off work early and decided to start another flower bed. Forget a nap or a beer, he likes working after work. We’ve planted a shipment of hostas, a new jack frost brunnera and my lovely coworker just gave me some elephant ears that are likely to end up in here too. We’ve filled the car up with mulch twice but we’ve only gotten so far. Compared to a photo two summers ago, I think the yard is finally making some progress.
I decided not to finish any of these projects today. Sure I could have but I’ve been running around working like crazy, gardening, cooking meals for the week, and planning my high school reunion. Then I saw this face and realized you have to make time for the important things in life, like playing with a pitbull and her ball.
How could I resist a face like that?
Last year one of my favorite experiences was seeing the Lantern Festival at Missouri Botanical Garden. The gardens are always beautiful but the lanterns were gorgeous pieces of art in a beautiful landscape.
That last one there was so incredible. At night it lit up and breathed smoke. My favorite at night was this one:
Seriously, how gorgeous are all the reflections? I’ve profiled the gardens on my old travel blog and I have to say that even without the lanterns that place is beautiful. I came away from that visit so inspired by what I could do in my own yard. Can you just see adding lights to a water feature in your own yard to play with texture?
I was pleased to see the gardens suffering from the same effects of drought that my yard was. Even the pros suffer too! I realized I was just fine in many of my plant choices and sometimes living in Missouri means bad years. I’m hoping this year will be a better one. Tomorrow will hopefully be the last snowfall of the season and I expect the rest to be melted by Friday. I won’t plant then because I’ve got a Muse concert to see but Saturday this girl is putting on her shoes and planting grass seed.
Back on topic to the cooler plants though. The botanical garden has a plant finder tool to help you decide what plants around Missouri and the gardens will work in your own yard. I used it with some of the photos I took of the hanging baskets in the garden.
This basket has lantana, swedish ivy and coleus in it. I learned from the plant finder that lantana blooms in July (when I was there) and that it resists drought well which is probably why it was thriving so well. Bonus: it attracts butterflies.
This basket also has lantana but this time it’s paired with a licorice plant. Crazy how you can get such different planters both starting with the same species.
This basket has vinca, spurflower, and spider lily. The finder tool helped me to see that all would do well in the shade meaning I can still have a gorgeous basket even in the darker corners of my yard.
What do you use for garden inspiration?
It’s been a busy fall at my house. I’ve been finishing the final weeks on my work’s big project and soon I’ll be moving on to a new office and new responsibilities. My husband and I took a big trip to Europe. I finally finished the Couch to 5K program and I have 2 races lined up.
That hasn’t stopped me from having some fun either. I went with some friends and family to my old high school’s Homecoming football game. My littlest brother still goes to school there and it was a big anniversary for me as well. I was most excited to see the marching band. I’m a former member and my little brother (that’s him on the 45 yard line playing the sax) has won several championships at competitions this year. I’m a proud big sister. As a bonus, the football team pulled out a win as well.
I’ve been dressing the house up for fall too. Some pumpkins and some coleus plants add a nice seasonal look with purples and oranges. I have a yellow wreath I use each year. This year I paired it with an owl hanging I found at Michaels. I love the bottlecap eyes…and the fact that it was on clearance.
Here’s a glance at the garden as of 2 weeks ago. Since then we had a tornado warning that knocked down leaves and now a frost warning that froze everything up. The garden barely survived the horrible summer. Remember how gorgeous it looked back in May? I had a hydrangea die, one just barely survived. All the dwarf rhododendron died before the end of June. We planned to replace them with more boxwoods but after a boxelder bug invasion I’m not so sure now. The regular rhododendron made it till July but then they died too. The azalea survived. My husband had bought some geraniums and added them and they thrived as did our coleus plants. We’ll definitely be trying to makeover this garden again next year. I’d like to imagine this year was just a freaky year of drought but I need a low-maintenance plan that can survive drought, massive rains, hail, winds, and me.
For my October table, I wanted to use complementary colors. I know a blue and orange table isn’t traditional for October but I loved how rustic it felt. I was able to shop my house for this project, using my blue willow china and blue cobalt glasses. The matching cobalt wine bottles are from some riesling I drank and the pumpkin votive holders are from Pier1. They match last month’s design. The flowers in the basket were actually a gift holder my husband gave me years back that comes in handy every year.
The only new item I bought for the table were the mini pumpkins. I wanted to buy some napkins but I had the hardest time finding some matching blue napkins. Has anyone seen some deep blue napkins that might match my blue willow or blue cobalt? I’d love to find some before the next time I use them all on the table again.
How was your month of October?Pin It
My front flower bed wasn’t the only eyesore in my front yard. I have a second flower bed that sits on the front corner of my house that is just as bad or worse. My husband and I had pulled out all the eyesore plants but the remaining dirt and weeds became an eyesore themselves.
You can see that we’re testing out pavers for yet another retaining wall and we have one bush we plan to save. We’ll also be making a second rain barrel base for our other rain barrel. We also would love to see a pathway to walk on, one that would connect our front door to our side door. We’re not sure if we’re thinking concrete or stepping stones or some other material but we know a path of some kind is in order.
Our plans include designing an inner and an outer corner flower bed. You can see where our tentative dividing retaining wall would fall between the two but that bush would be in the outer ring. Then we’d build a sidewalk that would curve around the house to the side yard. We’ll dead end it where we hope to build a patio in phase 2 of this project. Phase 2 will be at some point in the future, probably next summer. Then we’ll expand the shade garden to follow the curve of our new path.
You can see it all on my super-awesome guide. The blue area is the front flower bed we just finished. The orange will be the new corner flower beds, the brown will be our path, and the yellow is phase 2 of the project.
I’m still working on the timeline for this project and it’ll probably take a bit of a backseat until we get the closet done. It’s been bumped up the list though so we’ll be working on this before our fireplace. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of the garden but for the most recent updates, make sure to follow my facebook page. I usually include progress pictures along the way over there.
This week has been a crazy one. I started a new job last week and it’s been keeping me on my toes. Luckily it’s close to home and I get an hour for lunch so I can come home, play with the dog, eat some food, and prep dinner. The husband has really stepped up his game and has cooked roasted salmon and learned to make croutons but he’d much rather me mention his mad Kraft Mac & Cheese skills.
So while I’m adjusting I’m still trying to find time to do all those other tasks. This isn’t me complaining, I’m just adjusting and wishing Mother’s Day had been on a day I don’t use for blog writing. Complaining would be telling all you people to work on your penmanship because there are some people out there with awful handwriting and my super-secret-please-don’t-fire-me position requires me to read bad handwriting for hours upon hours but at least they pay me. It’s nice to have place to work and I have some great co-workers but there’s still nothing like home.
After work my favorite thing to do is to do “the rounds” with the husband and dog. The husband laments that his plants haven’t grown much since the last evening and the dog thinks every time we move our legs that we will kick her ball for her. Sometimes we do and then she looks like this after she’s all worn out. Then 5 minutes later she wants to go again.
That hydrangea at the top of the post–it’s decided to be pink this year. Last year it was blue, the one next to it is blue but this year it wants to be a special snowflake so pink it is. Just 2 weeks ago it had a blue tint so now it’s in a lavender transition plan. When you comment on your plants daily you start to notice lots of little color variations that normal people don’t notice.
We also have these rocking coleus plants. We planted them in our new planters but really every planter in the yard has at least 2 just thrown in. We bought way too many because we love coleus plants. This year we found some great varieties. Since they grow fantastically in the shade, they’re one of the few ways we get color into the shade garden.
The husband likes the “watermelon” ones best (green and pink) but I seem to favor the reddish ones just for the unusual color. Coleus plants pair really well with flowers like impatiens or even ivy but we’ve gone flowerless this year to go a touch more low-maintenance. I’ll show you later in the summer how huge these plants can get. Which variety is your favorite?
Remember when my front flower bed looked like this? Overgrown and full of leaves was not this bed’s finest hour.
After some hard work we built a retaining wall but the area didn’t look quite like I’d envisioned. Then we had to build a base for our old rain barrel. After a lot of planting and a lot of mulch, here it is today.
We ended up making a few changes from our original plans, like removing one azalea from the top section and instead adding in some coleus plants and geraniums. You can see some work still needs to be done on the left staircase but that’s another plan for another day. We still have a planter to build to cover up that phone box in the middle section but this is definitely progress.
The hydrangeas we ended up finding are called Invincibelle Spirit and they’re just getting ready to bloom. They’ll be a deep pink color and will add some color now that the other flowers are switching to their summer greens.
So what’s up next for the yard? We have a second flower bed to create that will connect our front door to our side door. This project was only a test for that bigger project. Since this one took a month working only weekends and evenings in between rain and crazy record highs, I’m betting the second project will take longer. I’ll show you our plans and timeline in the coming weeks along with the mess we’re up against.Pin It
Part of my front flower bed makeover called for finding a home for my rain barrel. I have 65-gallon rain barrels that I bought from Amazon. The price has since increased but most hardware stores seem to be carrying rain barrels these days. We use rain barrels for 2 reasons, one to prevent water from collecting around the foundation of our house and the other is to water the plants.
From our experience, we discovered that a rain barrel needs to be about a foot off the ground. The barrel uses a gravity based hose system and there’s a bottom spigot that needs to be raised to fit a watering can underneath. We wanted to build a base with pavers that was big enough to support the rain barrel without tipping over when it was full. We needed a bottom base that would hold the watering can without it falling over either.
After we found a setup we liked, we mixed up some concrete and filled in the rain barrel base with it. That base will not be going anywhere. Then we adhered the bricks for the watering can base to the ground with more concrete. Then there was some mortar used to attach a flat surface to the rain barrel base. Finally we used some extra concrete to fill in the watering can base like a grout.
After doing a test run to make sure everything fit, we let the blocks and concrete harden for 48 hours. We put the rain barrel onto its new home and decided to let the rain collect. We had several days of rain after that and the base held up beautifully, with our angled watering can base preventing rain from pooling up around the foundation, just as we’d hoped. Stick around this week and I’ll show you the full front flower bed makeover.Pin It
If you remember, my husband and I built ourselves a retaining wall. I’m happy to tell you that it’s been up a week and it hasn’t fallen down so clearly we did something right. This weekend my husband and I used our weekend trip into town to scout out plants for the front bed. In that trip alone I bought about 90% of the plants for my garden. Unfortunately, I’ve been under a tornado watch for most of the day Sunday and it’s been raining so the actual planting has been delayed until a time I won’t die when planting.
The spot used to be full shade but since cutting down some trees we get around 4-6 hours of sun. This is one of the sunniest spots in our yard, believe it or not. Since we have so few plants that flower I really wanted to get some color into this spot. Here’s the plan we came up with. Don’t laugh at my amazing art skills.
The gray areas are the sidewalks and porches. My house has two front doors so there’s a lot of concrete in one spot. In front of the retaining wall are a mix of boxwoods and purple dwarf rhododendrons. Both can grow quite tall but we’ll be maintaining them heavily until some of the back section plants grow taller. We’ll also probably throw a planter in front of the porch on the right but that’ll be another post. Here’s a better shot of the exterior. This is pre-tree removal and a few other projects.
The back section will be the brightest. There will be two rows of plants. In the back and on the right will be our rain barrel. It collects from our gutters and it’ll be the watering source for this whole area. To the left we want to balance out the height so I’m thinking a planter with some grass or bamboo depending on what we can find for partial shade. In the center we plan to buy or build a planter with a trellis so a climbing vine (clematis?) can be the centerpiece. It’ll fit right between our two front windows. To round out the back row we’ll plant two larger rhododendrons, one white and one pink. The front row of the back section will have a hydrangea on either end and three red azaleas in the middle.
We made sure our plans included enough space for for all the plants to grow. Always make sure to check the mature height and width for all your plants before putting them in the ground. Then before planting you should put all the pots where you’re planning to place them to make sure you like the arrangement. We had originally planned to alternate boxwood/dwarf rhododendron but testing it out made us realize we liked it better with some of the plants doubled up.
The 10-day forecast shows sun for most of the days so hopefully I’ll have some photos of plants in the ground soon enough.
This past week my husband and I decided to tackle our front flower bed. It hadn’t been maintained very well before we bought the house and there were some massive bushes taking over.
The garden we tackled this weekend is the one on the left. Over the years we had already replanted the daffodils and removed the bushes but we were left with a big pile of dirt just sitting there looking ugly. We had removed the front tree next to the flower bed so we knew that sun might actually climb through the trees at some point this year and we intended to get our garden going. We wanted to build a retaining wall to create some depth and dimension in the garden.
Little did we know we’d see 90 degree weather in March. It’s Missouri and we’re used to weird weather but this was out of control. Naturally we were right in the middle of the project when that 90 degree weather hit, then rain, and I was suffering a case of poison ivy from another project so let’s just say this project didn’t go as planned.
As planned would be to dig out the dirt to form a trench, layer 2 inches of gravel at the bottom of the trench, layer an inch of sand on top of the gravel, and then place 3 rows of pavers on top of all that. Then we would sip sweet tea, admire our work and be awesome.
What really happened was something like:
1. Discuss what pavers we want. Refuse to agree on anything and take a zillion trips to Lowes and Home Depot
2. Wake up Saturday morning to see husband digging a trench. Realize that the roots from the removed tree made that flower bed their home. Use shears to cut out roots and scowl at the past homeowners and their bad decisions.
3. Realize that we made a giant trench and had no clue on paver choice. Rather than dwell on the possible mistake we made we just decided to try to make a guide to help keep our future work level.
4. Go to the store and finally agree that we both don’t hate 2 pavers and that 1 is cheaper so it will win if we like the look at our house. Buy 5 bags of paver base (gravel), 3 bags of sand, and 3 pavers. Put everything in the car and realize it is dragging the ground.
5. Get home and agree we like the pavers but we need about 62 more. Considering the car situation, realize we’ll need a delivery and freak out over the cost.
6. Go online and discover that for the next 24 hours Lowes will deliver for free. Place the order for 62 pavers, go out and grab pizza, then put down some paver base and paver sand.
7. Realize we made the trench way too big for these pavers, make our 4th trip into town for the night and pick up more paver base and sand. Work our butts off the next day in 90 degree temps and start to regret a lot of life choices.
8. The pavers arrive Tuesday morning and we spend the second 90 degree day putting row 1 down. There’s a lot of leveling that goes on here. Realize we’ll have to cut one paver and decide we’ll do that and row 2 on Wednesday.
9. Temps are only in the 80s but the poison ivy has spread from my arm to the rest of my body. Run to the drug store for all the drugs in the world. Husband grabs a chisel from the store to split the pavers along with 2 tubes of landscape adhesive so our pavers will stay in place. We cut one paver down to size and then lay row 2 with adhesive. It gets dark really early (okay, this is a lie– it was Opening Day) so we end the evening after row 2.
10. It rains overnight so we decide to let the pavers dry before adding the next row and its adhesive. We still take a trip into town.
11. Friday we work our butts off and lay down the top row of pavers minus the end one that needs to be cut down. It’s just too dark to see the cutting lines.
12. Saturday I wake up and go out with friends and when I come home the flower bed is finished, the dirt is pushed back in place, the lawn is mowed, and my husband wants to go out for dinner. An Easter miracle! (or just an amazing husband)
In reality our quick and easy flower bed went from me wanting to put down a few landscape timbers to a week long project but the final look is so much nicer. We still have to add some soil and compost, some plants, and some mulch but now we feel like paver laying pros and figure we gained a lot of knowledge for our next paver project. I’m happy to say it’s still standing and my husband and I are no longer regretting this project because it looks so nice. It was almost worth all the trouble but I really wish we had checked the 10-day forecast instead of the weekend forecast before starting.
- Check the weather
- Have a full tank of gas for all those trips into town when you inevitably forget something.
- Make your wall look awesome so you forget all the trouble your project was
I think everyone I know spent most of their weekend either outside or at The Hunger Games. Naturally I did both.
My yard has suffered for years. We’ve had trees more than a century old blocking off sunlight from reaching the ground since I lived here but last year we cut down 7 of them. Calm down Lorax lovers, we have plenty of trees and privacy still and we’re replanting as we go. Now our lawn has 7 bare spots and giant areas of lawn that hadn’t seen sunlight since Elvis’s last show. Mud pit would be a nice description for how awful our yard has looked in past years. This weekend we leveled out the ground and put down some grass seed and straw. It was a lot of work but hopefully we’ll see a reward soon.
Speaking of rewards, remember my post about my favorite plants for a shade garden? All my plants are coming up early so I have something to show off. We have so many varieties of hostas but my most successful ones were split from my mom’s garden. She knows how to work a garden.
My mom also picked out a garden peacock for me for my last birthday. What’s that you say, what is a garden peacock? It’s this decade’s flamingo but with more flair. Plus it matches my peacock Christmas tree.
I’ve got some bluebells coming up and blooming for the first time and my pulmonaria are out of control. I thought I had lost some plants after so much hail damage last year but I spied my ginger coming up earlier this week and today I spotted this:
My fiddlehead fern survived! I’m hoping his fellow ferns come right up with him. Spring came so early this year we hadn’t had a chance to clean all the winter sticks out of it or even to remulch it but now that I’ve finished up some indoor projects it looks like it’s time for me to head back outside and maintain that flower garden.
What kept you busy this weekend?