Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Update on the Front Garden

I realized recently that it's been a while since I posted any photos of the progress I've made planting the front garden, which was built back in December, and finished off with the greenhouse back in February. I think the last time I posted about this area was in February (is it really May already?) when I posted about finding a dwarf Cedrus atlantica to plant in the bed with a few other conifers (read that post here). I've been planting the beds ever since, which means I have a lot to show you, so hold on to your hats.

Besides the conifers, I've also planted a couple of Arctostaphylos that I bought last fall and overwintered in my pot ghetto.

Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn' and a shrubby Clematis tubulosa

Arctostaphylos 'St. Helena'

I have planted herbs, such as cilantro, sage, oregano, chives, thyme and golden feverfew in this area just steps from the front door. I sowed more chives under the bell cloches.

Culinary sage getting ready to bloom

A little further down toward the street I planted a hardy banana, Musa basjoo, but it is looking rather tattered and sunburnt. There are various annuals sowed under the plastic cloches. And the grass has sprouted, although it is looking rather patchy and bare in spots.

A moment of carelessness when I was sowing the grass seed resulted in grass growing in the gravel. I have to remember to hit it with a shot of horticultural vinegar next time we have a string of dry warm days.

Here's a view of the front bed along the street.
I put out the glass flower that I made from thrift store plates. I have the makings for another, but it's a bit more complicated, so I haven't started on it yet.

A few weeks ago, when I returned from picking Nigel up at the train station at the end of the day, I discovered that some mysterious person had left a foundling garden ornament on my front step, the green glass ball in the following photo. It was a mystery that I questioned a couple of friends and neighbors about, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it was my neighbor Mary. She was gone all weekend and I couldn't ask her. But when I saw her in her garden a couple of days later, I asked her about it, and she admitted she had found a couple for a good price at a sale, and bought one for each of us! What a kind and sweet thing to do! She almost wasn't going to admit it, but her friend Terry showed me the evidence of the matching green ball in her garage waiting to be set out in her garden.

I'm planning to put Cannas in the orange pot, and I'm also going to add the broken pot that I got from Loree at the plant exchange, once I plant it up with sedums.

One of my Eremurus in the street bed is going to flower.

All of the lilies that I bought at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show have shown up, but some are further along than others.

I sowed some Amaranthus under a cloche, and many have sprouted.

Silene 'Ray's Golden Campion,' sowed from seeds shared by Nan Ondra two winters ago, is flowering. It sat in a little pot all winter, and finally got planted in a permanent spot a month or so ago.

Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' is getting ready to bloom.

Here's a view of the other side of that same bed along the street, where I've planted a repeating pattern of Sedum 'Autumn Joy,' lavender, blackberry lily, purple coneflowers, and Centaurea dealbata with 'White Swan' coneflower and Alstroemeria, with annuals like California poppy under the cloches.

The three Peonies that I moved from the Bottle Tree Bed are going to flower, but they're looking a little worn.

Centaurea dealbata is kind of ugly as it prepares to bloom, but it's a pretty flower when it finally opens.

I'm hoping the two cardoons, Kniphofia caulescens, Achillea 'Moonshine' and Verbascum bombyciferum (barely visible behind the Kniphofia) will eventually make a striking combo here.

At the other end of that bed behind the greenhouse, I've put in a cobblestone-like path, which provides me with a cut-through to the street.

I made the path out of smaller concrete chunks that didn't get used on the recycled concrete wall, and fist-size stones that I dig up every time I plant.

I've made a lot of progress on planting the beds that ring the grass circle.

There are repeating patterns of Sedum 'Autumn Joy,' purple coneflower, Rudbeckia, Anamanthele lessoniana,  Panicum 'Rohtstrahlbusch,' Asclepias 'Soulmate,' Eupatorium maculatum, Kniphofia caulescens, and a couple of different kinds of hardy Geraniums (among others which I can't recall right now).

The purple coneflowers were sowed a few months ago under cloches, and have sprouted, but they will stay babies this summer and not flower till next year.

I sowed some California poppies here too.

Rudbeckia and annual poppy seedlings, sowed thickly.

There's a handful of Allium shubertii in those beds too

In the culvert planter I've put a Nolina 'La Siberica,' a handful of Agave havardiana, and a hardy palm, Chaemerops humilis var. cerifera. It still needs a topping of gravel.

The Agave havardiana came with a handful of babies, which I separated and planted in the culvert in a ring around the Chaemerops.

It probably would have looked more natural if I had planted them in a ring around the mother plant, but, well, I didn't.

With all this action going on in the rest of the front garden, it's been hard to ignore the ugliness of my one foundation bed that wraps around the southwest corner of the house. Four years ago, not long after we moved in, I pulled out a lot of the plants left by the previous owners, and filled the bed up with a mish-mash of plants, in an attempt to learn what would look good and thrive here. But of course, it looked like what it was, a bed that I had thrown one of everything into. So a few days ago I started pulling everything out, tossing some things, saving others. I even dug out the enormous Escallonia that was here obstructing the view from the front window, and a low-growing Euonymus 'Emerald Gaiety,' which was hell-bent on taking over the world (it was trying to grow under the house shingles, not good.)  Now, the only plants left in here are a purple upright barberry, a Forsythia 'Fiesta,' a Clematis and, around the corner and out of sight, a tall, rangy purple-leaf Weigela. I have no clue what variety of Clematis it is, it's the third one I've tried to grow there and the only one that finally took.

Now the question is -- What do I plant here?

I took out a nice, healthy Spirea (probably 'Gold Flame') that I'm going to put back under the window. I have plenty of seedlings sprouting that I can plant in this little bed: Catananche caerulea, Asclepias tuberosa, Liatris spicata and Belamcanda chinensis (Blackberry lily). I also picked up two Alchemilla mollis at the plant exchange, and I have a third growing in the back garden that I can transplant to here. I dug up a Geranium renardii from the Bottle Tree Bed a few weeks ago that I can divide (it's been sitting in a bin unpotted and will probably like being put back in the ground), and I took a good-size clump of Salvia 'East Friesland' out of here that I can divide in half or even in quarters and replant. And I have five plugs of Pennisetum 'Red Head' that I want to plant here. Those will all make very nice repeating combos, I think, especially if I tie them all together with self-sowing annuals like California poppy, Nasturtium 'Alaska,' and Nigella damascena.

I'm going to move that barberry over, about two or three feet to the left.

I'm putting in a little access path for the faucet and hose.

Did you notice Alison's Folly in the background of one of the pictures above of the foundation bed? I've made a start on decorating it.

It doesn't look like much. Yet.

Curtains, a reed screen, an outdoor carpet, a wicker chaise and coffee table (the pots on the chaise are keeping the cover from blowing away). I've been so busy planting up, rearranging and weeding that I just haven't made much progress decorating this, but I still have time. I want to hang things from the "roof' and maybe add some upscale tiki torches. Got any other ideas? I want to give it a Bohemian/gypsy look, very colorful.

Also, you may notice that the glass fountain is missing, there on the right.

I broke it.

I've since bought a new one, but haven't gotten around to installing it yet. I think I'm afraid to.

So....did you make it all the way through this Olympic-size post? Kudos to you if you did. I've definitely been "Mrs. Busy Bee," as Peter The Outlaw Gardener dubbed me in a comment in one of his recent posts.


  1. Wow! What an amazing amount of progress you've made. And so many opportunities for creativity remaining... I am so jealous. I'm glad I got to see the folly--Peter's recent post reminded me that you haven't shown it in a while. Looking great!

  2. You know I love your garden and admire all the work you've done in this new front area! Bravo my hard working friend!

    I'm thinking that deeply colored tulle, chiffon or similar sheer fabric would help with a gypsy vibe. (bunting around the top with periodic lengths of fabric hanging to the ground, maybe at the corners.) Sometimes stuff like that is relatively inexpensive at Artco, Michaels, etc. Ikea used to make a big mosquito net thingy that would hang from a ceiling. There was a smaller than hula hoop sized hollow plastic circle from which yards of netting hung. These were often used over beds for fun but one might work in the middle of your folly to make a ceiling of sorts with the fabric pinned to the top of the tubes. Or it might be fun as an accent above the chaise with the fabric hanging down. I love your idea of hanging things from the roof - lanterns, hanging candle holders, etc. Cost Plus World Market has lots of baubles like that. You'll have to shop for some full skirts and big dangly jewelry. Will Nigel be taking up the violin?

  3. You were really a busy bee, so much to do. Your frontgarden will be great, I can imagine how the trees will look like when they are about 10 years old, it will be gorgeous. The glass flower made by yourself is such a nice idea, may be when I have more time left than I have now, I will try to make something like that for my own garden.

  4. I kept thinking of things I wanted to saw as I read along, but now that I've gotten to the end I've forgotten them all. Oh've been busy and made me very tired just thinking about all that work!

  5. You have been busy! It's really coming together. Thanks for the picture of the Eremurus. It's hard to find pictures that include the foliage. Now I love them even more. Sometimes I like beds with one of everything, but it's easy for them to look messy and chaotic. Sounds like you have a good plan to put that bed in order.

  6. I made it was well worth it! The planting of the bed is shaping up nicely and so many choice plants there. Nice of your neighbour to give an ornament and your folly looks so inviting! Perhaps a colourful throw or two will help reinforce a gypsy feel to the area.

  7. Mrs Busy Bee indeed, with lots to show for it. Now you can don your gypsy garb, loll on the chaise and watch it all fill in. Yeah, sure.

  8. I am so impressed by your vision! This is going to look fabulous. The next time you're in Portland you should pop over to Fabrics For Less. It's a super weird (but crazy cheap) store full of fabrics ready for belly dancer costumes, Stevie Nicks wear, or gypsy get ups.

  9. Wow! You've been working hard! Lots of cool plants there. With all of the seeds you have been sowing and plants you have divided, those beds are going to fill really quick! Nice to see your garden.

  10. You've got such great hardscape there! Love all the stonework and the culvert planter.

  11. AWESOME!!! I love that you have a palm! And I'm in super plant envy over your manzanita and digiplexis

  12. Wow, you have been unbelievably busy! I am liking your re-do more every time you post about it. The room to create repeating patterns and mixtures is wonderful and it's nice to see you taking good advantage of it. I LOVE the culvert planters, and what you have in them: a palm and agaves = pretty much perfect!

  13. I'm very impressed by all the progress you've made, especially given the delays imposed by your extended winter weather! The front bed along the street is looking especially good - have you had any comments from your neighbors yet?

  14. It's all looking really good. I'm impressed at all of the plants that you self sow. It's hard for me to not get impatient and want bigger plants right now. I will love watching all of this mature.

  15. I can't wait to see photos of you ( as Stevie Nicks) and Nigel ( with Violin) this summer and all your lovely neighbors cavorting in Alison's Folley .

  16. Oh it is all looking lovely. I especially like how your borders have the different sized rocks in them....

  17. I thought this post was too soon over. Really points up the differences in our climates that your CA Poppies are just coming up and mine are making seed. They are loving this warm weather.

    You know I love cobbled paths, cobbled anything.

    Does The Folly needs things that hang and make noise (bells?) and more pattern and texture? Are there going to be lights? Put a potted palm in a corner? Verlene Brooks has some great Pinterest links to Bohemian.

  18. This is a wonderful tour. I don't know how you handle all of those beds! Huge garden! Of course, I love the stonework!

  19. Alison there is so much going on....first I love the Folly and how you have decorated it but sad to hear the fountain broke...good you have another ready to go soon. Now that front garden is amazing and it looks great especially with everything growing under glass. I need to add some paths in key areas of the garden as they are being trampled and compacted especially with all the wet we are having.

    I love how you are decorating everything and the whimsy of things like the plate make me tired just seeing all you are tackling a new bed.

  20. Alison, you've worked wonders. I have to ask, where did you buy the magic wand? No, only kidding - it all looks smashing and a credit to all your hard work.
    I remember your last posting as we had both sowed grass seed and moved peonies (at the wrong time) looks like both our efforts have been worth it!
    Oops, re grass seed - I noticed some of mine has blown into one of the borders and I can't get at it until that part of lawn is ready to be walked on!
    Have a nice week :)

  21. I really like that palm. It's going on my ever-expanding wish list. What a beautiful job you've done creating your front yard paradise. I'm in awe.

  22. The front garden is looking amazing. I love everything about it. I like how you arranged the raised beds. That glass flower made from plates is really cute. I want to have one. Haha! Anyway, I hope everything grows beautifully this summer. Cheers!

    Gwendolyn Reyes @ Tapestry


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