Thursday, July 14, 2016

Work in Progress - Front Yard - West Ornamental Island


I'm off to Minneapolis for the Fling but figured I would squeeze another post in as I sit here in the airport.  This particular post has been on the backburner for a while so I thought it best to get it out there before my computer & mind gets flooded by the sights and experiences of the Fling.

A long time WIP at our house has been all of the ornamental borders.  This has been an on again/off again project as there are numerous areas, some of them quite large, and all needed a LOT of attention.  The main problem, of course, was that the ornamental areas were never a priority - the veg garden came first as that was something I had been dreaming about for over 2 decades.

So each year, I would complete one or two beds, and the rest were left for next year.  Then the following year, I would start on another bed...and the first two would go to pot, what with 2 small kids running around and the veg beds to build, fill, mulch and take care of...you get the idea.

Well, this year things are different.  Firstly, the kids are older and can pretty much do their own thing for a good chunk of the day without my needing to "entertain" them.  Secondly - and this was the biggest factor - my husband finally had the time to pitch in and help - up until now, it had been a solo effort.  This not only gets things done quicker but it also helps with the procrastination factor - we each egged the other one on when they didn't "feel" like working on it.

We finally finished one of the “islands” as I call them – areas that are surrounded by grass - a few weeks ago.  There are 3 such islands in our front yard -  a large one on the east & west side of the  yard and a smaller one on the far west side, only a few feet from the properly line.

Unfortunately – as is often the case – I completely forgot to take photos until after we were done the edging.  I do, however, have photos of this bed from 2011 when I took a whole series of "before photos" as I was planning on getting all the beds done that year...yeah, that was wishful thinking!

The first bed to be completed and the subject of this post is the large west island.  It is somewhat kidney shaped and approximately 12' wide x 35' long (3.6M x 10.6M).  A big pile of rocks that inexplicably cut the bed in half was removed as was the plastic edging.  Weeds were pulled and the shrubs were pruned.  The biggest challenge was edging and dealing with the encroachment of grass.  We also decided to expand a couple of areas so that we could more easily mow around the bed.

North end of bed (west side):

Plants on this end that were kept include an Amur maple, lilies and a peony.

North end of bed (west side) in  2011

North end of bed (west side) after edging & grass removal

North end of bed (west side) after weeding/pruning/mulching

North end of bed (east side):

North end of bed (east side) in 2011

North end of bed (east side) after edging & grass removal


North end of bed after weeding/mulching/pruning


South end of bed:

Plants on this end include a weigela, a bridalwreath spirea (not 100% sure about that one) and a juniper.

South end of bed in 2011

South end of bed after edging

South end of bed after weeding/pruning/mulching

The spirea (on the far left) has yet to be pruned as it was in full flower when we did the bed, so I wanted to wait until the flowers were done before tackling it.  As for the others, I decided to do a renewal pruning on the most overgrown shrubs, cutting out about 1/3 to half of the oldest branches, together with those that were dead or broken.  This guy was definitely the worst of the bunch:

This shrub easily tops 10' tall

After trimming out a lot of the old wood

Next year, I’ll tackle the remaining old branches & we'll see what happens.  I may end up ripping it out altogether if I don't like how it's growing back.

Now, I'm not a plant expert as many of you know and this particular shrub has me stumped.  I've taken a series of photos of the foliage and berries to see if someone can identify it for me:









This shrub also self-seeds rather easily as I have a couple of them that sprang up in other areas of the garden.  In fact, the photos above are from one of the volunteers as the one in the bed we finished is looking rather straggly.

And that’s all we are doing in this bed right now.  Yes, I know that it’s just begging for a few additions – bulbs, perennials, perhaps another small evergreen – and there are also a couple of plants that need moving (the lilies & peony).   But this year is about the tidy up and keeping ahead of the weeds as they spring up through the mulch.  The first year always has the most upkeep on that score, so I would rather keep things simple.  As I pull them up through the summer, the weeds will get weaker and/or die and I’ll be left with a clean(er) slate next year, at which point the fun starts – adding to the bed.

We have also been tackling one of the large backyard beds (the worst of the bunch) since early May and I made a rather unexpected discovery a couple of weeks ago:

Unexpected Beauty

I knew there was a rose there as I cut it way back in May, but I couldn't for the life of me remember ever seeing any blooms in that area.  I have a feeling they were there, but completely blocked by a couple of overgrown shrubs that were in front of them.


The cut-back must have done them a world of good - I still can't believe I would have missed this show, regardless of how dense the shrubbery was.

And in other blooming news, the Peggy's Delight zinnia which I spoke about in my last update post has started to bloom:




The blooms come in various colours, so you never know what you will get - I love that!  I'll be thanking Tammy personally at the Fling in a few hours.  But now, I have a plane to catch....

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

23 comments:

  1. That's a lot of work on those beds, and they look great. I enjoy my flower beds almost as much as I enjoy my vegetable gardens.

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    1. Thanks k - I am loving ornamentals more and more. Each time I grow a new flower from seed, I fall in love with it. I have a feeling that space under the grow lights is going to get very tight as the years go on :)

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  2. Beautiful rose.

    I hope the weather is cooperative and keep us posted about what you see and like. Have a great time.

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    1. Mark's impression led me to
      Amur Bush-honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii

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    2. Thanks Jane! We had wonderful weather although it did get a bit too hot for me a couple of times, especially when I forgot my hat on the bus!

      Thanks for the ID - from what I see online, you are indeed right, that is exactly what I have. I'm actually not too impressed by what I have read about this particular variety so I think it will be getting the chop as soon as I figure out what to replace it with.

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  3. Well, you certainly smartened things up a lot! Looking at your photos made me so glad I don't have vast expanses of grass to mow... I don't know what the mystery plant is, but my first impression was that it looked rather like a Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea). Could it be related?

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    1. Thanks Mark! Well, the weather in Minneapolis DID cooperate while we were there as it was relatively cool compared to the 90C+ they are experiencing now! And thanks for the specific ID - I think you hit the nail on the head!

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  4. I know that story of wishful thinking. Great job of showing the progress with your different beds. The roses and iron fencing really makes a statement.

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  5. You have worked hard on those island beds the difference is quite dramatic.

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  6. Have a wonderful time! Your beds look so nice and you have earned it! Love the rose. Nancy

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    1. Thanks Nancy - it was a wonderful surprise!

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  7. I've just read your first post, April 2014 entitled "The Tale of Why" and I couldn't agree more. I like reading other peoples blogs and I'll slowly plough my way through your back catalogue of posts.

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    1. Welcome Andy! I hope you enjoy reading my posts. It's been a wonderful journey and I've learned so much since I first started :)

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  8. OH my!! How I love the new and improved edged beds. Seriously fantastic...park like and oh I know the hard days that went into making them look that way. Bravo Margaret and hub..just fantastic. Enjoy the fling. Always wanted to go and almost did. Maybe another year.

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    1. Thanks Bren. It certainly is a lot of work, especially the first time a bed is cleaned up, but so very worth it. I quite enjoy gazing at it every time I walk by & coming up with a ideas as to how I'm going to plant it up.

      BTW, next year the Fling is in Washington D.C., so it's not THAT far...hint, hint :)

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  9. Oh, that rose is gorgeous! And the Zinnias are awesome, too! You've been busy! I'm just catching up with blog visits after traveling out west, and then of course at the Fling. Boy, was that a fun time again, wasn't it? I'm terrible at goodbyes, but I look forward to the next time we all meet again. :) I'll also look forward to your updates on your ornamental beds!

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    1. Thanks Beth - it was so wonderful to see you again! The Fling was amazing - so many ideas that we can actually implement in our own gardens.

      I'm just now starting to catch up on blog reading as the first order of duty once I got back was catching up in the garden! And I know what you mean about goodbyes - I'm not fond of those either :)

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  10. Grass removal and a clean edge makes a huge difference, doesn't it? Your beds look 1000% better. I think you are wise to remove that shrub honeysuckle, around here it is very invasive.

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    1. Thanks so much, Jason. I did read that this shrub can be invasive and it has self-seeded in a couple of areas of the garden so that was a consideration. If it seemed to be a winner otherwise, I would probably leave it as it doesn't appear to be overly aggressive in my garden but as I'm not loving it's mature form, the decision to remove it was rather easy.

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  11. It was lovely to get to know you better at the Fling. What a great job you've done on your island beds! That's a big project. I'm not positive, Margaret, but I think your shrub might be some kind of honeysuckle. Here's an info sheet on tatarian honeysuckle (you might have to copy and paste), which comes close. Do you recall how it looks in flower? https://www.gardentaining.com/PSC2620/plant_images/lonicera_tatarica.html

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    1. I so enjoyed the time we spent together as well Helen, especially that last day of sightseeing :)

      The general consensus seems to be that my mystery shrub is a honeysuckle of some type. I was thinking Amur per Jane's suggestion, but it does have the darker stems like the tatarian, so that may very well be it. As your article points out, it has a tendency to become overgrown and there are better candidates out there for flowering shrubs in a border so I'm confident that I'm making the right decision in removing it.

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