My favorite corner of the garden


The office garden has become my favorite corner of the landscape. It was the last garden I designed this summer, the one that kept calling my name even though I knew the days were too hot and my budget too thin.  I wonder if it’s because I saw it all the time, through the home office window, while I enjoyed my morning coffee, or grilled on the back patio.


Snow blanketed the ground when I first saw this nook. A mound of rocks hinted at some sort of water feature. The woody stems of the previous year’s mint invasion lined the foundation. I could identify some of the plants, but didn’t know what to expect once spring arrived.


I didn’t plan to do much more than mulch. The existing plants grew lush and green, most chosen by the previous owner for their affinity for water. Iris, daylilies, and water sedge stood out along the lawn edge, while the mint absolutely dominated near the house. Mulch it and leave it be, I said a hundred times to myself. Let’s see what it does on its own. Plus that old fountain — and the mint — is going to be a real @%#$ to remove.


I didn’t listen to my internal warnings. I kept seeing the potential of what could be. On a hot, humid August morning, I attacked the mint. After an what seemed to be an endless cycle of grab, pull, grab, pull, I had a pair of wonderful smelling gloves and, more importantly, a clean slate to draw a new garden.


By that afternoon, I transformed the mint forest into a mixed perennial, rose, and ornamental grass border and unearthed the stepping stone path. One advantage to planting in August is that plants are a lot more affordable as garden centers start to clear their inventory for fall. The two roses I planted — ‘At Last’ and ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ — were $4 clearance steals.


The fountain side would have to wait a couple of weeks for its makeover. My mantra morphed into grab, toss, grab, toss as I removed the stones covering the fountain. The basin slid cooperatively out of the ground after I bailed gallons of standing, putrid water from it. The deep hole that remained made an excellent receptable for the turf I’d removed from another part of the garden. I covered it with several inches of new topsoil and got to planting.

I chose an ‘Expression Double Delight’ hydrangea as the centerpiece and surrounded it with grasses — Miscanthus ‘Little Miss’, Panicum ‘Cloud Nine’, and Pennisetum ‘Vertigo’ — and a number of other annuals and perennials. While I liked the look of the water sedge, it was spreading rapidly outside the bed, so I removed it all including its spawn in the lawn.


This new garden was really thirsty, especially since August really decided to be August. By 1pm, this part of the yard is in direct sun and gets hot. The hydrangea would let me know, almost daily, when it was time to drag the hose out for a drink.


I didn’t dig out the mint, so the remaining roots continue to send up new shoots — which I’ll likely continue to fight for seasons to come.


I’ve truly savored the results of the work that went into this garden, from inside the house and out. The combination of colors and the contrast of texture are pleasing from almost any angle. It’s beautiful in its first season. I’m looking forward as it matures and grows in future years.

The full design, including plant varieties, is available on my garden guides page.