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Garden Update: Our 2017 Garden Priority List

20 Jan

SONY DSCvia Confessions of a Serial DIYer here

When we moved into our new home at the height of summer in New England, it was easy to prioritize our “outside” projects over the “inside” ones. This largely meant that I focused on our yard and garden while we remained barely unpacked throughout the summer and fall. As I planted astilbe, bee balm and hydrangea in the sweltering heat of July, I imagined us barreling through all those lingering projects that weigh-on new home owners come winter, while blizzards raged outside. Things like freshening up the trim paint and updating light fixtures. The little tweaks you make to transform a house into a home.


Thanks to a mild fall, I was out in the garden until nearly mid-October, then the race to Christmas started. My attention was diverted from home projects in favor of baking and wrapping and decorating the house for our first Christmas (squee!) but I was sure after the holidays, we’d tackle our list of “inside” To Dos.

However, now that Christmas is over and we’ve enjoyed a few more days of mild temps in the 60’s I’ve found my focus shifting back to the garden again. I even bought vegetable seeds and recruited a friend’s handy husband to help us build the cold frame pictured above so I can start them outside a bit sooner than I’d normally be able to direct sow for our Plant Hardiness Zone, which is 6b. (To find your zone, visit the USDA website and just input your zip code.)


Since I have a tendency to dream away hours envisioning possibilities instead of ticking off to dos, I put together a Garden Priority List for the next few months. Our ultimate goal is be able to enjoy a beautifully manicured backyard this summer which we weren’t quite able to do last season.

Our 2017 Spring/Summer Garden Priority List

– Stump and tree removal in the backyard
– Deal with the chipmunks
– Remove two shrubs under kitchen window
– Level the backyard
– Redo and build-out the patio
– Build-up berms along the back perimeter
– Seed the lawn
– Start our vegetable garden
– Plant privacy trees and shrubs on back perimeter
– Install side yard arbor and gate; plant clematis and roses
– Purchase lounge chair seating
– Find the perfect hammock
– Find a swing set for Emilia
– Install front window boxes

We sat out in the yard, don’t get me wrong. But we were in such a frenzy to get plants into the ground so they’d have time to get established that the lawn wasn’t a priority so it was depressingly crispy and brown by the end of July.  In our defense, it was the hottest year on record and nearly every town around us had a mandatory water ban so it was easy to let the lawn go. Also, half of it was covered in invasive Lily of the Valley and ivy that we needed to combat without chemicals which was the other challenge we attempted to tackle last summer with a rototiller.


Our prioritized list should help us tackle some of the major, foundational items we need to do in order to be able to really enjoy our backyard and outdoor space this summer. Come June, when Baby #2 arrives, I can’t imagine we’ll have too much free time to spend on the list above so we have a very busy spring ahead of us. Still, I hadn’t been feeling very inspired to move in a specific direction as far as designing our backyard landscape until I discovered the backyard makeover by Christy of Confessions of a Serial DIYer. Most of the pictures featured in this post are from her gorgeous yard makeover and have inspired what is beginning to take shape in my mind as our future backyard.

I actually put in a lot of similar plantings last summer just to establish them until we had a better idea of our garden design, but after seeing Christy’s layout, berms and a curved perimeter are on my mind in addition to tracking down some beautiful lanterns, a nice swing set and a beautiful hammock to relax on all summer.

I’m so excited to get started now that I have a concrete vision! Stay tuned for updates.

New Perennials for the Garden

10 Oct


When I started buying plants for our garden last spring, I focused largely on perennials. Plants need time to establish in the garden before the harsh winters we have here in New England (we’re in hardiness Zone 7). I hadn’t planned to pick up any more, but as the temperatures have plunged these past few weeks and mums have taken over at garden centers, perennials have been moved to clearance so I scooped up a few new goodies that I’m really excited about. Both are very heat-resistant which is great since we had scorching late July temps this past summer. Now I just need to get my spring bulbs in before the first frost and we’ll be in good shape. Well, except for the damn grass we still need to seed AND the raised beds we need to build.

Stachys Officinalis — (Common Name: Wood Betony, ‘Humelo’ — details here
Something I’ve been slow to truly grasp as I’ve begun to put in our garden is how important it is to consider the “bloom time” for perennials. I last read about this when I was planning my wedding since the flowers that can be most easily sourced are those that are “in season.” A lot of beloved flowers, like tulips and peony, are spring-flowering, spanning a month or two at most. It’s a wonderful reminder to enjoy every precious moment drinking in the gorgeousness of your spring display, but it has also taught me to really appreciate those rare, long-blooming perennials like Wood Betony, which blooms July to September.

Agastache “Heatwave” (Common Name: Anise Hyssop) details here
heatwave3Probably my favorite perennial purchase of the season for so many reasons. First, I love the scent of the leaves. I never understood the value of foliage that released fragrance only when brushed — how often am I going to be out touching my plants, you know — but catching a whiff of anise as  I’m out weeding or mulching or deadheading near my Hyssop makes me so happy. Next, the flowers are stunning. I’ve always loved the cottage-y effect that salvias give a garden but the flowering season is so short, so Hyssop makes a great alternative. Left untouched, it will mound itself in it’s place and grow rather large, too, so it’s a great garden filler and major butterfly, hummingbird and bee-attractor.

ruby-throated-hummingbirdRelated side-story: Let me just share that I’d never seen a hummingbird in the wild until this summer when I happened to catch one whirring in front of the red “Bee Balm” my mom transplanted for me when I was out on the patio one morning. I felt like I was watching a fairy, it’s wings barely visible and it’s body so exquisitely tiny and delicate. It was absolutely magical.


Garden Update: Poppies

4 Oct

I’ve discovered the most stunning shade of poppy I’ve EVER seen and have to share. The variety is called “Princess Victoria Louise” and can be grown without too much effort from seed, starting in the spring. Considering how much I love a subdued green/white palette in the garden, these will really POP with little to no effort on my part. My packet of 200 seeds is already on its way.

Something I’m coming to really appreciate as I continue to plan out and put in our garden —and in fact, just what I’m learning through trial and error— are the hearty, no-fuss plants. There is enough to do in maintaining a garden and while it’s incredibly enjoyable for me to muck around as I please, fussy plants that need “dry feet” and constant deadheading are quickly becoming the bane of my existence. Poppies (seeds) can basically be pitched wherever the hell you want in the garden and basically just left alone. You should give them a try if you’re looking for a pretty spring show with minimal effort.