Garden Update Five Years On


Since ripping out the turfgrass in my new townhouse garden in 2012, I’m still waiting for the turfless garden to look DONE, like Evelyn Hadden’s new garden seems to have done in barely a season.

Here you see the front garden in late May, after the azaleas were done. The evergreens on the outside are barely growing at all. Wish I were more patient about them but that’s never been my strong point – in gardening or in life.

Last year’s new perennials are taking their sweet time, too. Who doesn’t love Amsonia hubrichtii – and wish they could buy them full-grown already? I recently added some Little Bluestem ‘The Blues’ to fill up the border and they looked good immediately, however short.

Thankfully my favorite volunteers are going strong and because I’ve massed them over the years, they have a real impact – Rose Campion and Pink Evening Primrose.

Vigorous as always is the groundcover Sedum takesimense lining the path. Every visitor asks about it.

Sun-tolerant Coleuses have been outstanding in these containers in recent years but they look better than ever with a new skirt of Sedum ‘Angelina’ creeping down the sides. Who knew these seeming opposites could share a pot so happily – the thirsty Coleus with the dry-loving Sedum? Maybe adaptability should be added to plant descriptions.

The Coleus on the right is suffering, though the Sedum sarmentosum is cascading like a champ. Any guesses what’s eating the Coleus?

Another favorite with visitors is this Iresine ‘Blazing Lime.’ Love the rhubarby stems! I’m growing a redish Iresine potted up in a sunnier location and it’s wilting by mid-day. I’m wishing I’d done something like this instead in the pots.

From the house this is my view out front, still dominated by parked cars. The ‘Emerald Green’ Arborvitaes may not be growing but the Rudbeckias have filled in, at least.

Here in the back yard there’s more S. takesimsense (because no lawn, y’all) and this year I’m going a bit New-Dutch Wave with the addition of short grasses, like this Mexican Feather Grass. They filled in around the asters, which don’t look like much in the early season.

This week the Echinacea purpureas look so fabulous, I’m giving them a close-up.  Someone told me this is a short-lived plant but please let that be wrong! My patch is finally (almost) as large as I want.

Trying my patience in a good way are the trees I added to my back garden in recent months – two Japanese maples, two Redbuds and a fast-growing ‘Royal Purple’ Smoke Tree (or Bush). It’ll take a while for them to achieve their full glory but they were all beautiful on day one, so I’m a happy gardener.

For these last photos I drove the Beltway back to my old neighborhood on July 4th – because they do July 4th Parades like nobody else. On my way to the parade route I couldn’t resist stopping to stealthily shoot this garden and mentally thanking the unknown gardener for brightening my day.


  1. Love the Sedum and Coleus in a pot together… will you plant the Sedum in the ground this fall? re Echinacea – don’t know if an individual plant is short-lived or not, but in my experience, if you don’t dead head the spent flowers you’ll have enough new plants starting from seed to keep your patch as large as you wish. Because some birds like the seed as well – I’ll sometimes snip the seed heads and lightly brush the seeds into the ground/mulch.

    • Thanks for the encouraging words about hte Echinacea, which I’d never deadhead and miss the goldfinches on them.
      About the Sedum in pots, I left it in the pots all last winter and slipped the coleus in the middle in the spring. Susan

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