Spring Garden Tour

For so many of the early years on the farm spring was a daily, relentless battle against grass and weeds. One I almost always lost.


So it’s a bit surreal to walk around the property this year and see a manicured lawn and well-tended gardens.


Let me just say, the remarkable transformation in the gardens is largely due to my mom. It’s rare for her to show up to the farm without some lilies or hostas or groundcover that she’s divided or transplanted from her own gardens. Almost without my realizing it, she turned the garden around the house into, well, an actual garden and not just a bunch of weeds.

Here’s what the north side of the house looked like my first year on the farm…


And now…


First, holy crap have those arborvitae grown. I didn’t realize it until I saw those two pictures next to each other. Also, one of the best parts about this garden is that after a concentrated effort to weed and mulch this bed over the last couple of years, it’s finally gotten to the place where it only required minimal maintenance (and a ton of mulch) this year. That might be the first time I’ve used the term “minimal maintenance” related to anything on this property.

These beds are mostly transplanted lilies, but my mom suggested we add a few coral bells this year, and I love them!


We’ll likely add more in the coming years, but there isn’t a ton of urgency around this garden because it finally looks good and doesn’t require a ton of work.

As you move around to the west side of the house, there’s a little corner between the hedges in the front and the well established side gardens that has kind of been hit or miss. The little Japanese maple is adorable and I’ve had some luck with saliva in that corner (which the bees love) but still trying to find other plants that work well here.


One of the other fun and unexpected (for me) additions to the gardens this year is actually this shade/hosta garden my mom started under the pine trees where the hives are…


This has always been just a straggly little copse of pine trees. The trees aren’t doing amazingly well and in late 2015 I had a bunch of the dead trees cut out of this area, which then left it feeling remarkably bare and unsheltered.


So in 2016 my mom bought me a birthday tree and some american cranberries to plant in this area to help fill things in again. Then she started transplanting hostas and a few other plants, mostly without my paying attention… and then all of the sudden this year I walked out to check on the bees and realized that while I wasn’t looking my mom turned this whole area into a pretty little shade garden. (There’s also a little part-sun spot on the other side that has some sedum and other bee-friendly flowers.)

The one unfortunate thing is that this garden is riddled with poison ivy (hence the rash my mom got on her eyeball this year), so there’s still some work to do, but I’ve been trying to convince my mom to at least postpone weeding out there until I can order some full-coverage hazmat suits for us off Amazon.

In the meantime, both of us have been busy with the gardens in the back yard. First up, the pergola. Last year we decided to plant an autumn-bloom clematis that’s supposed to spread up to 20′, and I really loved it and was excited to see how it grew up the pergola…


However, clematis really wasn’t the best option for this (or for full-coverage over the pergola), my grandmother convinced us early this year that we needed to plant some wisteria there instead. So, on of my birthday presents from my mom this year were a couple of wisteria plants that she tracked down at a local nursery…


The newly-finished arbor over the entry to the veggie garden seemed like a better spot for the clematis, so in one day my mom and I dug out all the grass for the two full-sun gardens flanking the arbor, then dug huge holes around the clematis to transplant it with the least amount of root-disturbance, and then planted the new wisteria.

Here’s how the pergola looks now. I can already tell this really is a better choice over here…


Meanwhile, over by the veggie garden, this is what we started with…


We dug out the grass, which was no small feat even with the help of the chickens and the tractor. We also added a little compost and garden soil back in to prep the ground for the new plants…


Then I dug a big hole to transplant the clematis into, and one of the chickens was like, OH! A BRAND NEW DUST-BATH JUST FOR ME?!


You’ve never seen a happier chicken…it was almost a shame to move her. But, the plants had to get in the ground, and at the end of the day we had two beds with some beautiful bee-friendly flowers that I’m very excited about…


My original autumn-blooming clematis is in the back, with a new spring-blooming variety planted in the front. The we put in butterfly bushes, peonies, black-eyed susan, phlox, and some cone flowers and bee-balm that my mom started from seeds.

In all of my years and all of my houses, I’ve never had a full-sun garden where I could plant flowers like this, so I’m beyond excited for these new beds.

But, mostly I’m just grateful for my mom who has a knack for gardening and making the grounds look much prettier and more polished than they would otherwise. I’m not planning to add any new gardens after this, but I can’t wait to see how these grow and mature over the next few years!

20 Responses

  1. Way to go, Mom! Everything looks great. If there is enough sun, try either daylilies or Shasta daisies under the Japanese maple! Deer resistant and they are perennials. Many color choices if you select daylilies.

  2. I love all of the gardens!! Thanks for sharing life on the farm with us. 🙂

  3. I love flower gardens and yours are going to grow and fill in quickly. I can already see the wisteria in my mind…shades of Italy! Your Mom knows her plants. Once well established, the wisteria will be indestructible!

    1. But the wisteria can also be very destructive if not kept in check. Promises to be a beautiful setting.

  4. This makes me happy on so many levels! You and your mom make a great team. Mulch is worth its weight in gold.

  5. Beautiful! My yard and garden definitely look more like the “before” versions of yours, and I feel like I’m always fighting a losing battle on them. But you’ve given me hope. Now if only I were lucky enough to have a mom like yours that sneaks in and helps plant things! Enjoy your lovely gardens this summer. 🙂

  6. PI needs the Dauber of Death.
    Craft bottle with sponge dauber on cap(think liquid shoe polish bottle) filled with **full strength** RoundUp type herbicide.
    Wear a rubber glove, hand spread under leaf and stroke/daub with D of D. Works great for nailing that shit where other plants are at risk of spraying.

    Wisteria is NOT a minimal maintenance plant, tho you can prune by hand when sprouts are new and tender-but it’s almost a daily endeavor. It wants to take over the world. Don’t let it get up into the barn eaves.

    Doom and Gloom dispensed…
    …great post, lovely pics and places!

  7. This seems like something my mom would do! I guess I need to get a farm. I learned everything I know about gardening from her.

    That wisteria will look great, but be careful with it. It will also pull the pergola down if left to it’s own devices. The branches will become thick and woody; I’ve seen firsthand what they’re capable of.

  8. What variety of Wisteria did you plant? Chinese & Japanese Wisteria are highly invasive, but there is an American Wisteria that’s native to the more southern states.

  9. Everything looks wonderful – thanks Mom!

    I’m going to agree with the others warning about wisteria – it will eventually crush anything it uses for support. Hopefully you will be able to keep it under control and have many years before it gets to that stage.

  10. What great progress. And what a great team you and your Mom make. I’m finding five years in makes a huge difference. It’s nice to get just a little bit closer to steady state rather than having disasters absolutely everywhere.

  11. Cracked me up on the west side of the house how the bees love the SALIVA. I didn’t know that had any interest for them.

    Your mom is truly amazing and incredibly generous. She personifies the great things about moms.

  12. Who knew it was so easy to make chickens happy? Have they sorted themselves out on the overnight roosts yet without human intervention?

  13. I wouldn’t plant wisteria. If you look at ones that have been growing for some years on pergolas, the wisteria has trunks like elephant legs. I love elephants, but…

    I would have planted grapes, but I think you already have those. How about kiwis, will they grow in your zone? You need a male and a female, and they take 5-10 years before they produce fruit.

  14. If you want a shrub for the maple corner, check out bluebeard, particularly the one with bright lemon lime leaves to really accent off the red maple. We have that trio growing quite happily together and our local (PNW) bees *love* the bluebeard in the summer.

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