Earlier this week on the 4th of July, I brought some flowers into the gazebo to dress up our summer holiday dinner table. It was our first meal of the summer in the gazebo. Up until recently, it was a mess of nursery pots and soil — a makeshift greenhouse and horticultural safe room as I prepared the garden for summer.
The garden still needed some serious work, but the 4th was a time to enjoy these blooms, good food and each other’s company. As the last firework exploded over the Champaign skyline that evening, I started thinking about the weeding and mulching that would be my therapeutic lot over the next 48 hours.
On Saturday, with several carts full of weeds pulled and one last cubic yard of mulch spread, I walked into the house as the first hint of dusk gathered over the rooftops. The back of my left calf itched from one of the few mosquitoes to find me appetizing, but its annoyance could not dampen my feeling of accomplishment. Still one day left of my vacation and the garden was ready for summer.
With my chore list breathing with certainly short-lived vacancy this morning, I took the chance to capture our gardens in all their Sunday finest.
I began outside the gazebo, where a Rainbow Knockout rose reaches skyward at the southernmost edge of the patio terrace under the honeylocust. Like the popular ‘Nearly Wild’, this rose bears strong resemblance to wild roadside roses, so much so that my mother-in-law asked if it was a volunteer in the garden.
I walked counterclockwise around the house, pausing first to take in the back border and patio terrace from the southwest corner of our lot. Very few plants remain from the garden as it existed when we purchased the house in 2000.
Turning around, I walked toward a grouping of containers that surround an arborvitae. This is an area of the garden that gets more sun since our neighbors removed the river birch closest to our fence, making it a great spot for some container color.
Turning the corner from the backyard, around the Baptisia that has marked this bend since before we moved here, I began to walk down the grass path to the southern shade garden. This path still gets enough sun to grow daylilies and coneflower, but some of the more light-hungry plants like Iris and David Austin roses are spindly and sparse.
I use containers to add more color in the shade garden, with coleus and begonia taking center stage.
More sun shines on the eastern edge of the maple canopy, allowing me to use annuals that can handle part sun to bring even more color into this part of the landscape.
Just on the other side of the garden gate is what we call the bedroom border, a garden divided by a narrow stretch of lawn that leads to the front yard. This area is somewhat subdued currently as the Knockout roses are in-between bloom cycles. For now, some containers, ‘Summer Sun’ Heliopsis, St. John’s Wort, and Stokesia provide a few bright spots in the green.
At the corner of the front yard, a small garden of daylilies, hosta, roses and peonies grow under the neighbor’s crabapple tree, hiding an electrical utility box from view. Directly across, I placed a group of containers where a birch used to grow next two four clumps of tall sedum. Kale, chard and nasturtium seeds are planted in two of the “empty” containers in this group, my first small foray into growing edibles in the front yard.
A trio of containers anchors the north end of the front border. I decided to use the logs from the two birches I cut down as border edges and to raise containers off the ground. With these containers, the bark also echoes the color of the pots.
A collection of containers dots the long, narrow mixed border on the opposite side of the driveway. This is by far the most colorful — perhaps eclectic — area of the garden, but it’s also the area that makes me smile the most as we come and go from home each day.
A wider view from across the street shows the relationship between the front yard, bedroom and driveway borders. This is the location for my next big garden project — a mixed edible/ornamental garden that will replace the entire front lawn. I’m hoping to break ground by tearing out the lawn in the next few weeks. Most of the existing plants will be moved and reused in the new garden.
Along the house, several annual containers are snuggled up against the existing borders and foundation, leading up to our front porch.
The containers on the porch are overflowing with color, blooms and foliage alike. Mindy regularly mentions how much she likes the porch containers this year, and I have to not-so-humbly agree. They’ve grown into a happiness-inducing explosion of color and texture.
The path around the side of the garage into the backyard is a bit of neglected part of the garden, but this time of the summer, Hemerocallis ‘Kwanso’ is putting on it double-daylily show for us and the neighbors to enjoy.
Through the garden gate and into the back yard, a transplanted ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea is blooming beneath the dappled willow. I’m planning to plant more ‘Annabelle’ under the willow next year.
The shady end of the patio garden is holding its own under the Littleleaf Linden. ‘Twist ‘n Shout’ and ‘Bella Anna’ hydrangea are showing their pink, while a grouping of yellow/orange daylilies blooms more towards the sunny center of the terrace.
Two of my “warm” containers are growing beneath the redbud at the northern end of the back border. The Zinnia and Lantana look great in contrast with the black and russet foliage of the ornamental pepper and coleus.
I ended my walk through the garden at the patio terrace. This is my favorite part of the garden, as I spend many a mornings enjoying my coffee and breakfast in the gazebo. It’s hard to believe this is only the third full summer for this garden. We hope to someday build a four-season conservatory (twice the size of the current gazebo) on the back of the house, but for now we’re enjoying our private backyard oasis.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the garden in its Sunday finest. If you live nearby, drop me a line. I’d love to give you a tour in person.
For now, I think I hear the weeds growing already.