New Summer, New Garden


The new garden, from the landing next to the front stoop. Lily of the valley and hostas on the left, bushes and redbud tree straight ahead.

Last year, it was the wall built by the neighbor that caused us to put in a new garden.

This year, I don’t have such an excuse, the garden was mostly our idea. To be fair, Wally did have an indirect influence on it—we had both cut out some overgrown evergreen bushes last year, and he noted that every 20 years or so you have to replace evergreen bushes by a house because they become overgrown.

Anyway, we had large evergreen bushes on the north side of our house. I liked them, but they were becoming ungainly huge, and seemed to be a type that did not respond well to trimming—just had dead stumps where I cut them back, did not form attractive new foliage the way a regular-leaved bush often does.

I am always a bit troubled by removing a mature plant (in fact, despite her hatred of the smell, Audrey is dithering right now about the pear trees—doesn’t want me to cut them down). If a plant is not causing problems, I would rather just let it go—particularly trees and bushes. But, our house came with several problematic patches of evergreen—one a gnarly short tree in back that we cut out when we added gardens back there (by “we” I mean the royal we, I cut it out, I guess I can say “we” because the boss approved).

The redbud, mainly, part of the new garden seem from the lawn.

And, this year, the evergreens in front went away. They put up a magnificent two-day epic battle, but a small electric chainsaw, limb saw and hedge clippers finally had their way.

When we (“we”—ha!) removed the bushes, I (or we) was (or were) amazed at the space that was left. The old bushes were over 5-feet in width, although they were shorter than that. There was a lot of garden room!

Although it’s on the north side of the house and thus shaded for parts of the year, during mid-summer there is a fair amount of sunlight on much of the patch. We (the real we, nothing funny about it) picked out some shady plants and some sun/shade plants for the spot. Audrey and I chose them on a whim at Menards for no particular reason other than we happened to be there to buy paint for other projects.

So, what did I put in the new garden?

The main feature is a redbud tree in the “far corner,” the part farthest from the house. It was the only redbud we saw at the store, but looks pretty good, and is more than 6-feet tall. As you can see, it’s much smaller than that height might suggest since it hasn’t spread out at all. We have two redbuds in back, but none in front, and redbuds stay small enough that there should be room for this tree in this spot.

Foilage of the new dogwood bush. The bush itself will also provide a bit of interest in winter, particuarly when it snows--it's called "red twig" becuase it has smooth red bark, a nice contrast to white snow.

I like dogwood bushes, and Cate noted that a variegated one had done well in a previous house she and Paulette had near Mount Mercy, so (despite arguments from Audrey who didn’t think it looked vigorous enough) one of the bushes is a “variegated red-twig dogwood.” We also agreed on a Black Knight Butterfly Bush, just because it looked and smelled nice (and it was Audrey’s favorite, a deal that helped me get the dogwood). Both of those bushes require some light, so I put them on the far north end of the garden—the more south one moves in the garden, the closer to the house and shadier it gets. In an area nearer the house, I planted two “ruby spice summersweet” bushes, which are labeled as shade friendly. I also moved two volunteer dwarf burning bushes which were further west in front, but really had no room to grow there.

Finally, right next to our front stoop, on the north side and around the corner on the west side, I planted some less original plants—an “autumn fern” in the shadiest spot, followed by three hostas (all three slightly different from each other, as you can see) and then some “donated” lily of the valley from our back gardens.

Black Knight Butterfly Bush. Pretty blue flowers that smell nice to humans, too. Note foot--promised in earlier blog post not to feature my feet, could crop it out but it snuck in ...

Since these photos were taken, I’ve added some more river rock (and probably will get another couple of bags). In addition, we will probably plant either one or two more rhododendron bushes—have two beside the front steps now and want to complete the line now that the evergreens have made way.

It occurs to me that rhododendrons are about the only evergreen we have left. When we first moved into the house, I cut out some overgrown evergreens on the east side and planted hostas there—primarily because the evergreen bushes were so large it was hard to get our back yard gate. After Wally’s construction of his wall made access even more difficult, I moved the hostas and made the area a walkway.

And, as noted earlier, the one evergreen tree in our back yard was eliminated several years ago.

The thing about evergreens is that they are space eaters. I like them, but have slowly been driven to eliminate the ones I have. Odd, how a gardener like me who enjoys crowdin

g plants comes to that conclusion. But I do.

Anyway, I love redbuds and hope this one on the north side manages to do OK. I have some hopes it will—there is a redbud on the north side of the Stello Hall wing of Warde Hall that is quite old and tall. Redbuds seem to do OK in semi-shady areas, the only question is what will the north winds do to this tree?

Nothing too bad, I hope. We’ll see.

Ruby Spice Summersweet bush, one of two I planted. Not sure what they will do, with the exception of the two volunteer dwarf burning bushes, the bushes are new to my gardens.

Sorry for cutting you out, evergreens. But, after several days of getting used to

it (today is Tuesday, I cut out the bushes Saturday and Sunday and planted Monday) I am liking the look of this new garden.

By the way, when we finish it off with a rhododendron or two, a volunteer maple will have to go.

It’s a bit more than a foot tall. It looks just like the one that I moved four years ago from the side of the house to the back yard—the one in back is about 12 feet tall now, so if this little tree isn’t eaten by deer or bunnies, it probably will grown quickly.

It’s a family tradition to move and plant volunteer maples, but I don’t want to moved it to our woods behind the fence because I’m trying to get cottonwood, oak and walnut going there, and maples manage to invade all on their own.  And I really have no spot at all for this maple.

If you want it, let me know soon.

Up for grabs-volunteer maple that had been hidden by evergreen bushes. Act fast, it will be coming up before week's end.

West side of front stoop, autumn fern and a new hosta.

Other two new hostas on the north, or front side, of front stoop, with lily of the valley in background.

Detail of redbud. Despite being gnarly, dwarfish trees, I like redbuds for leaves and pretty early spring pink flowers. Why red bud and not pink bud? No idea.

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