A City Girl Plans a Garden

I haven’t had a ton of success with my previous gardening attempts, despite the fact that I come from a long line of women who know how to work the land, and even had some training early on…

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I feel like I must have some latent gardening gene that’s going to surface eventually, and I’ve decided to at least give it a fair attempt this year.

Two years ago when we planted the vegetable garden on Memorial our corn topped out at about 10″ higher than this.

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MysteryMan’s grandpa–the consummate farmer–got a little twinkle in his eye whenever he saw it. (Meanwhile, just down the street, he had corn growing seven feet tall.) I think he gets a little kick out of the “city girl” trying to grow things. Which, in my defense, I didn’t exactly grow up in an urban paradise.

In fact, this is an example of my grandmothers garden, and yes that’s me circa a long time ago.

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That cottage garden is exactly what I like. Nothing formal, and a lot of shapes and colors all mixed together. The permed hair I can do without.

Since we had another day this weekend that felt like spring instead of our usual deep freeze, I took the opportunity to get started on the one part of our property that actually has some landscaping. Two years ago we planted the arborvitae to start to give us a little privacy from the road and the golf course that is just across the street.  Last year my stepmother gave me some of her divided Stella de Oro daylilies to get me started. And today we have a weed patch.

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I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with “country weeds” before owning this property, but I really feel like the term weeding doesn’t really do justice to the kind of war you have to wage to keep your flowerbeds clear. Especially new ones. A good hour showed some progress, however.

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Unfortunately, that’s about one third of the length of this bed, which has eight arborvitae evenly spaced over 80 feet or so. there are also some hostas I transplanted from in front of the house prior to demo that I hope make a reappearance. And that’s basically what we’ve got to work with.

Research: Like homework, but more colorful

It’s possible that in a previous life if I wanted to plant some flowers I might get an urge one day to go to the nursery, randomly pick out some plants that caught my eye, and stick them haphazardly in the ground. Which never quite worked the way you would expect.

This year I planned ahead and asked for some gardening books for Christmas, which I’ve since been perusing in my spare time, and I finally came up with a short list of plants to get me started.

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I noted some important information like time of bloom, available colors, height of plant, and sun/soil needs, then copied an image into Photoshop and laid out a grid that showed plants by season (left to right) and height (tallest at top to shortest at the bottom.)

Devising a Plan: Less devious than it sounds

While I might go a little crazy around the house if I find that I can keep up with the gardens, I really tried hard not to go overboard with my plan for this bed (even though I’d really love to plant one of everything.) I tried sketches, lists, note cards, and finally came up with two different ideas.

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Starting with my current foundation of arbovitae and Stella de Oros, I made myself choose my two favorites from the list.

Existing Stella de Oro Daylillies:

This are spring bloomers (and beyond) and are a foot or so high.

Coneflower:

Summer bloomers that grow 1-2 feet, and for some reason just feel like the perfect country flower.

Russian Sage:

Has great silver-gray foliage and blooms in late summer to fall.

The first plan is pretty simple and consistent. If I let myself dream a little, it looks more like this:

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In addition to the three plants above it contains these gems.

Snapdragons:

Summer bloomers that can grow up to 2 feet.

Daisies:

Also summer bloomers that can get up to 3 ft tall.

Bellflower:

Phlox:

Which can grow up to 4 feet tall.

Now all I have to do is finish two bathrooms and move into the house we’ve been building for the last year so that I have time to garden. But when that time comes, at least now I have a plan.

Do you have any favorite perennials in your gardens?

9 Responses

  1. Sunflowers! I planted them as a fence around my tiny graduate school trailer once to avoid having people staring into my living room as I was doing yoga, and they grew to incredible heights, attracting all sorts of birds and butterflies. They lasted for a very long time and even after the seeds were gone (into the tummies of hungry little birds), the plants themselves stood strong and tall.

  2. Iris & hydrangea! You picked some great perennials to start! Now if I can just get my veggie garden done (and get it to grow!).

  3. Snapdragons are awesome! We planted some last fall and they’re growing like crazy. Flowering quince are really beautiful too. They have a great wild look to them.

    We pretty much choose our plants based on what the deer won’t eat — they’re all over our neighborhood!

  4. I’m in a completely different climate than you, but I also love the cone flowers. Lantanas are a creeping highly drought tolerant plant that are nice and low maintenance! Hydrangeas are also great and fun for cutting bouquets.

    I have an extreme deer problem like margarite, so all my lilies last year got eaten! 🙁 Every time a flower would pop up they’d eat it. Luckily the foliage still grew OK. I’ve heard they won’t eat anything purple so that’s my new goal 🙂

  5. Um I have way too many favorite plants to mention but I’m currently using a lot of shrubs and conifers because they are so low maintenance and make a nice base. You need some early spring blooming plants in there because they make the winter blues wash away! How about some daffodils, crocus, tulips, or hyacinths. If you plant the last three I’d either plant a lot or line the hole and top with chicken wire so the rodents don’t get them. Daffodils they won’t eat though.

    Oh and do I see Dame’s Rocket on your list of plants to use?!! That is an invasive weed please don’t plant it! Granted I’ve always liked seeing that plant alongside the road in the ditch but there are so many better plants to have that don’t push out native plants and spread like wildfire.

  6. You’ve hit on one of my favorite things!

    I agree as someone above said, you need some spring bloomers to greet spring. Plus it’s nice to see flowers early after a dreary winter.

    A word of caution if you have deer. Nix the phlox. They love it and will come along and eat off the tops all summer. Ask me how I know.

    Coneflower is a great flower but be aware they self seed freely, sometime to the point of choking out a lot of other things.

  7. I love all plants, sad to say. The husband and I made a move to native plants when the rain gardens were put in. That decision has made our life so much easier in maintenance. This year we are beginning to use the concepts of Permaculture. The design, land use and yields appeals to us. I can hardly stand it. Now if mother nature would only cooperate with us, damn Ohio weather.

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