Eight Years of Garden Growth

porch border AugustIt was eight years ago today, that I clicked on “Publish” and sent the first post of Jean’s Garden, Welcome to My Garden, out into the world. In the years since, the garden has grown, and I have grown as a gardener.

When I began the blog, my garden consisted of the circular bed at the turn into my driveway, the back slope, two small plantings along the front of the house (the iris bed and the bedroom border), and two large borders at the back of the house (the deck border and the blue and yellow border). A third flower bed for the back garden, the fence border, was under construction. By the time I prepared an overview diagram of the garden in January 2011 (see The Big Picture), the fence border had been completed and I was imagining another flower bed at the back of the garden, the serenity garden.

garden diagram

In the years since, not only has the serenity garden been created and a raised bed added to close off that area of the garden from the clothesline and driveway, but I have had an addition built on my house and embarked on a 5-year project to create a whole new front garden.


Eight years ago, the front of my house looked like this. front garden before
house front 2017 Now it looks like this – and work on developing a lower garden below the retaining walls has just begun.

As my garden has been growing during these past eight years, I have also been growing as a gardener; and blogging has been an important catalyst for that growth. Blogging put me in touch with other gardeners, both online and in person, from whom I have learned a great deal. (When I read some of my early blog posts, I’m sometimes embarrassed by my own ignorance.)

I found that writing about my garden process required that I reflect on it, and reflection led me to a better understanding of garden design (see, for example, Serendipity in Garden Design) and to reading books about garden design in greater depth and with more appreciation (e.g., Favorite Garden Books: The Inward Garden).

Participating in a series of Earth Day memes (see, for example, Books That Have Turned Me Green) led me into an interest in garden science. This is probably the greatest area of growth to result from my blogging experience, because I was a science-phobe when I was young. With the help of a botanist friend, I began to study and write about garden science (e.g., Botanical Identity Crisis). Since my retirement three years ago, I have been pursuing the study of horticultural science – by becoming certified as a Master Gardener Volunteer and through my work toward a Certificate in Native Plants and Ecological Horticulture from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

When I clicked on “Publish” eight years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t know how little I knew, or how much I would learn, or how much my life would be enriched by becoming a garden blogger.

Filed under: blogging, Garden, garden education Tagged: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, flower beds, garden blogs, Garden Books, garden design, Master Gardener Volunteers

The Season of Summer Phlox: GBBD, August 2017

Side Slope August

Our garden season in Maine is short; but as you can see from the above view down the side slope from the patio border to the driveway, there’s still quite a lot happening in the garden in mid-August.

If July is daylily season, the stars of the August garden are the summer phlox (Phlox paniculata). I have been taking advantage of my new front garden project to add more of these. Two varieties, ‘Blue Paradise’ and ‘David’ are old friends that have been growing in the back garden for years. ‘Blue Paradise,’ the earliest blooming of my summer phlox varieties,  has already been flowering for weeks and is beginning to look a little tired. ‘David’ is just beginning to open its flowers in the fence border.

Blue Paradise August David opening

As I add more phlox to the garden, I’ve been taking advantage of the amazing selection offered by Rachel Kane at Perennial Pleasures in Vermont, a nursery that specializes in growing and propagating old-fashioned garden varieties. The pink phloxes below include ‘Robert Poore’ (the photo doesn’t really do justice to its intense color), a variety that Kane has named ‘Old Cellarhole’ (because that’s where she discovered it growing), ‘Bright Eyes,’ and ‘Miss Pepper.’

Pink phlox

Although the daylilies are past their peak in mid-August, there are still more than a dozen varieties in bloom, including these which had flowers open today.

August Daylilies

Casa Blanca blooms The Casa Blanca lilies are adding beauty (and their glorious fragrance) to the August garden.
While the lilies have just begun to bloom in August, the flowers of Geranium x oxonianum are garden stalwarts that have been blooming since early June. I occasionally think about cutting back their long floriferous arms, especially now that they are putting up new blooms from fresh new mounds of foliage at the centers of the plants – but I love the way they weave their clear pink flowers among other plants, as here with the blue balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus). Pink geranium & blue platycodon

Composite flowers (now in the family Asteraceae) also come into their own in August. These include the flowers of Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ blooming their hearts out along the Lavender Walk.

Echinacea August

But also the flowers of Liatris, here Liatris spicata ‘Floristan Violet’ blooming with daylily ‘Late Summer Breeze’ and L. spicata ‘Floristan White’ blooming with ‘Orange Bounty.’

Late Summer Breeze and Liatris Liatris & Orange Bounty
In the back garden, the lemon yellow composite flowers of the tall rudbeckia ‘Autumn Sun’ (or ‘Herbstsonne’) light up the back of the blue and yellow border. Autumn Sun
Solidago And around the edges of the garden, the native goldenrods (Solidago) have begun to bloom.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is the creation of Carol at May Dreams Gardens and is hosted by her in the 15th of every month. Visit her blog to see what other gardeners have in bloom this August.

Filed under: GBBD, Photo essays, seasons Tagged: Casa Blanca lily, daylilies, Echinacea purpurea, flower beds, goldenrod, hardy geranium, Hemerocallis, Liatris, native plants, phlox, platycodon, rudbeckia, Solidago

New Front Garden: Year 3 Progress Report

imageI’ve been in a bit of a slump this year with my new front garden project, without the clear goals and timetables for reaching them that are typical for me. I thought the gratification of getting the Side Slope (below) and Fragrant Garden plantings created in year 2 would give me momentum, but this year’s projects just don’t excite me in the same way.

side slope year 1

My 5-year schedule called for completing the Clover Path and the Shrubbery this year. The Clover Path may not engage me in the way that creating perennial borders does, but it is a critical structural element in the front garden design. The Clover Path provides an entry point into the lower garden from the driveway; it connects the lower and upper parts of the new front garden, and it frames the Front Slope, the Shrubbery and the front and side perennial borders. The widening of the path at the curve by the Shrubbery also creates room for a small seating area, a destination in the lower garden.

clover path in progressSo I have been slogging my way through the Clover Path project and expect to get it done this month. In late spring, I laid out the borders of the path using a garden hose and some pieces of rope. I have been removing existing vegetation (unless it is clover!) and tilling in some compost. I had hoped to get the top half of the path prepared and seeded before the end of June, but other garden chores captured my attention and energy. Thinking I had until fall to get this done, I was working at a leisurely pace – until some research on planting clover revealed that, unlike grass seed, clover must be sown in spring or summer, no later than mid-August. This unexpected deadline lit a fire under me, and I hope to get the soil preparation and seeding finished in the coming week. Nevertheless, because my late timing is pushing the envelope, I have bought extra seed so that I can re-seed next spring if necessary.

My other planned project for this year, a planting of shrubs at the west front corner of my property has been delayed. I am scheduled to take a course on “Selecting Native Woody Plants for the Maine Garden” at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in mid-October, and I realized that it made no sense to design and plant this shrub border before taking the class. My goal now is to prepare the soil for planting this fall, design over the winter, and plant next spring. I have made some progress on this, getting trees limbed up to let more light into the planting area and beginning to pull up some of the existing vegetation.

rain garden siteAnother project has been added to my agenda for this year. I’ve decided to create a small rain garden to collect runoff from the roof at the corner of the house by the Fragrant Garden. I don’t really need a rain garden, since my very sandy soil drains quickly; but I am hoping that by creating a depression where rain water will collect, however briefly, I will be able to grow some plants that require more moisture than my conditions generally provide. (I am dreaming of a ‘Quickfire’ hydrangea.) Because this is a small area (about 25 square feet), I should be able to get it done quickly, preferably within the next 4-6 weeks. I have already added a flexible extension to the downspout to channel the water in the right direction. Next is to dig the depression, amend the soil, and put in plants.

I must admit that I am pushing myself to complete these projects in order to stay on track and get to the year 4 project that I find much more interesting – creating the Front Slope planting. (Indeed, I have already begun some preparatory work on this big garden area.)

Filed under: front garden, garden design Tagged: clover lawn, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, flower beds, garden design, hydrangea, native plants, rain garden, shrub plantings