In December 2008 I moved into the first home I’ve ever owned — it’s a 1901 bungalow that had been vacant & neglected for many years. All the outdoor space around the home was filled with invasive weeds and volunteer trees & shrubs that had been allowed to grow wherever they wanted. The rear property line was being invaded by blackberry, bind weed, ivy and clematis vitalba wound through a chain link fence that stood behind our wooden fence.
Underneath all of that were crumbling concrete paths, some of which had large sections missing, mysterious large mounds of ferns and daffodils, patios buried under other patios, a rotting & ineffective fence, and arbitrarily placed and incompatibly sized ornamental plants. Oh, and FOUR rotting wooden arbors. Yikes.
With the enthusiasm that comes with new home ownership I dove into garden renovations in the middle of winter. I cleared out as much as I could to see what I was dealing with, then set about creating necessary hardscaping, such as a retaining wall in the front to keep the front garden from sliding down towards the sidewalk, and a new fence section that matched the existing sections with gates on either side to fully enclose the back for our new puppies. I also dug trenches to bury solid downspout extensions leading to the front of the property to alleviate basement water issues. I wanted to get the big stuff done before any major planting, as I don’t want to undo any work I’ve already done.
Over time, as the budget has allowed, I’ve created 6 distinct garden areas that afford privacy, allow for entertaining & relaxation, food production, stormwater management, and something beautiful to look at from within the house and as I come and go. I started with structure plants — trees and large shrubs, which are now starting to give much-needed privacy as they reach a more mature size — and then added lots of dwarf, flowering shrubs and drought-tolerant, low-maintenance perennials. All the plantings are knit together with ground covers of all types to keep weeds to a minimum and more moisture in the soil in the warmer months. And also because they’re beautiful.
The overall design allows me to spend as much or as little time working on the garden as I want, as it mostly looks after itself except for approximately 4 afternoons of cleanup each year.
In the coming year I’ll be creating a low, restoration juniper retaining wall in the back to add some structure to those planting beds, renovating a small transition space in the back garden, planting a new pathway area, and enhancing some stone steps … so there are lots of projects to keep me busy in the garden, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I am also a certified backyard habitat, which means my garden benefits local wildlife and pollinating insects while I get to enjoy what they bring to the garden.