New Garden Ready for its Debut


Readers may be remember that I recently moved and downsized, especially in the size of the garden.  Above is the “before” shot of my new front* yard – a lawn with a couple of oversized boxwoods and a few ungainly azaleas.

While indoors is still a dirty, messy construction site – kitchen and dining reno’s still in progress, though at least the bathroom is completed – the completion of the new flagstone finally allowed me to start planting the garden around it.  I welcome your ideas on what’s done so far and what more could be added.

This shot shows the two connected rectangles that are the patio, which a designer friend suggested be flagstone because the color complements the gray building.  besides, flagstone is beautiful!  We made it large enough to be connected to the front door and still extend out into the yard where the sun is in the morning. Surrounded by humongous oaks in this town, I feel lucky to have almost full sun on this side of my house, which I’ll enjoy even more with the help of an easy-crank market umbrella, for when the sun is too much.

In the foreground are the threeInvincibelle Spirit Hydrangeas (H. aborescens) that I’m excited about.  It’s reported to have huge blooms on sturdy stems, and unlike its cousin Annabelle, those blooms are pink.  On the right is another view of the Invincibelles, shown behind the Japanese Carexes that do a great job creating filler in a new garden.  These rather dull but very useful plants are from my old garden, where they won’t be missed, as they’re just three of dozens of divisions from the original plant I bought 25 years ago.

Back to the hydrangeas – notice I bought three of them?  Despite the smallness of this garden, I’m trying my best to avoid the dreaded “onesies” – the tendency of plant-lovers like myself to buy one of everything.  You know the look – interesting, but kinda chaotic?    Even in tiny spaces, massing of plants is essential for the type of garden I seem to like best, so that’s the goal here.

Above is another example of massing – this time of the chartreuse-leaved Spirea ‘Ogon’ that you see in the foreground.  Love them!

The simple black bird bath was chosen it because it matches the black patio furniture.  Around it are other bird and butterfly-attracting features – some Agastache (the best plant I’ve ever grown for attracting hummingbirds), some ‘Red Husker’ Penstemon and a dwarf, sterile butterfly bush called ‘Blue Chip’.  I’ll be adding more plants to fill out the space and attract still more critters for me to watch from my patio and kitchen window.

From another angle you see, in the foreground right, the Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’ that’s so new I haven’t even planted it yet, and I’ve already decided to replace it with some evergreens – five boxwoods along the border.  (I have a good spot for the Fothergilla in the back garden, which I can’t show you until the new porch is done – and I’m still in permitting hell on that project.)

Above are five Apricot Drift roses.  Like the extremely popular Knockouts, Drifts bloom repeatedly throughout the season and are virtually (or literally) disease-free.  These guys will spread a bit to fill in, but won’t get any taller than a foot and a half or so.

In front of the roses are a few Lamb’s Ears that a neighbor gave me, along with the weedy-but-beautiful Rose Campion (a weed to some, a beauty to my eyes), and a bunch of annuals that I’m hoping will make a big splash here this year, making up for the newness of all the shrubs and perennials, which won’t make a big splash until their second and later years.

In the pots are more annuals – especially Salvia, Petunias and sweet potato vine.   They’re SUCH great performers, I’ll be growing them even after the rest of the garden mature.

Behind the umbrella is the stunning Japanese Snowbell that’s technically my neighbor’s but the view and the fragrance are mine to enjoy.

Above is the view as I step out the front door.

Here’s a view of the foundation plantings, with some empty spots still to be filled in; e.g., in front of the old (existing) azaleas on the left.  This is the northwest side of the house, so foundation plantings get just an hour or so of late afternoon sun.   To the right of the door are three ‘Burgundy Wine’ Nandinas I just bought, chosen because the red foliage matches the red of the large Japanese maple nearby in my neighbor’s yard.  In front of them I’ve planted some of my favorite Euphorbias – E. amygdaloides.  It prefers almost complete shade and best of all, is evergreen.

‘Goshiki’ Osmanthus and ‘Burgundy Wine’ Nandina

On either side of the front door are two brand-new ‘Goshiki’ Osmanthus, a plant I’ve coveted for years now.  They’re fine with no direct sun at all.

Finally, the view from a second-floor window.
Plant list after the bump.

Plant List, so Far:Shrubs: Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea (H. aborescens), Apricot Drift Roses,  Nandina ‘Burgundy Wine’, Spirea thumbergii ‘Ogon’, Osmanthus ‘Goshiki ,  Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’, ‘Blue Chip’ Buddleia.  One existing boxwood, possibly more to come.Perennials: ‘Pink Pop’ Agastache, ‘Husker Red’ Penstemon.  From my  old garden or neighbors: ‘Morning Light’ Miscanthus, Euphorbia Amygdaloides,  Solomon’s seal, ‘Goldstrum’ Rudbeckia,  Evening primrose, Plumonaria,  Celandine poppy, Japanese Carex.

Groundcovers:  Sedum sarmentosum (also known as Sedum acre) and Sedum takesimense.

Annuals: Petunias, Sweet Potato Vine ‘Sidekick Lime’, Alyssum ‘Deep Rose’, Salvia ‘Black and Blue’,  Angelonia Serenita ‘Lavender Pink’, Begonia babywing ‘Bronze Leaf White’, Osteospermum ‘Aldia White’.

*Here’s a historical anomaly about the “New Deal Utopia” that is Old Greenbelt.  It was designed to be accessed by interior sidewalks, not by car.  So what we think of now as the back side of the homes, facing those interior sidewalks, is architecturally the front and officially called the “garden side”.   And what we now think of as the front, because it’s how visitors arrive from the parking lot, is where the garbage-can closet is located and so to this day is called not the “front” but the “service side”.  Quirky, huh?


  1. “a plant I’ve coveted for years now” – That really made me laugh. As a passionate gardener, I might obey all 10 Commandments including not coveting thy neighbors wife, but I sure might covet their Japanese Maple or stands of Asiatic Lilies.

  2. Wow. It looks very good and also emphasizes how valuable a mature backdrop is for a garden, making it look older than it is. Lovely!

  3. Here are a few thoughts.

    For low perennials in part shade: Spotted Geranium (G. maculatum), Jacobs Ladder (Polemonium reptans).
    For mid-size shrubs: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin).
    For fragrance in a sunny spot: Oriental Lilly ‘Casa Blanca.’
    For a tall annual to fill in: Cleome.
    For mid-size annuals to fill in: ‘Sensaton’ cosmos.
    For mid-size perennials in sun or shade: Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), Canada Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).

    Of course, the problem is that there are just too many wonderful plants to choose from. I am considering a strategy of stealth annexation, whereby I move my flower border a foot or so into the neighbors yard each year, in order to create room for more plants.

    Have fun with your new garden.

  4. Carex is not boring!!! (okay, I am over it… I will be ok now. I am just a Carex lover in recovery) Seriously, Susan, It looks beautiful. I agree about avoiding the “Onsies” and your plant choices are spot on. There is a sad and wonderful freedom when you leave one garden to start a new one, as many of us know.

  5. Great use of space!

    Makes me want to right size not just down size.
    might even give up my lawn………..wait already did that. .3 acre lawn now only 6,000 sq ft.

    the TROLL

  6. My new garden looks like your new garden – little sticks of plants- minus the lovely flagstone patios that you are lucky to have! My plant list is running to 18 single-spaced pages. Isn’t it fun?

  7. you migt just take out one or two of your smaller patio flagstone pavers, and plant with low creeping herbs,which will release their scent as you walk on them>? that is very popular here!they need to be low!

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