Photo #22

backyard with paths (coastal Maine), midJuly 2009
backyard with paths (coastal Maine), midJuly 2009

Still on the theme of gardens, this is a garden at our house in coastal Maine. The weeping cherry and the two Alberta spruces in this photo were there when we arrived, as were the stone pathways, some arborvitae, a lot of not-wild roses (almost all died while we lived there), dozens of flourishing peonies, various varieties of lilacs, two quinces, a small stand of lily of the valley, azaleas, some spirea, bleeding hearts, forsythia, wisteria along the front porch, a raspberry patch, forget-me-nots, pussy willow trees, centaurea (bachelor buttons), monarda (bee balm), a couple of mature maples, a tall spruce, and a small wooded (dogwood, lilac, serviceberry, et al.) area on a ledge/hill, which abutted an acre of so of uncleared land owned by a church. The whole yard was fenced in, with white picket in the front and part of one side, stockade on the other side, and chain link in places where it wasn’t noticeable (one side and the back).

It was the first house I’d lived in that wasn’t a blank slate. That posed its own set of challenges for me.

Over the seven years we lived here, I think I eventually got a sense of the space, its micro-climates, its contours; and I moved and planted new perennials (and a few annuals) every year. There were some failures and discouragements: the roses the previous owners had planted died for lack of soil nutrients and TLC; I planted echinacea several times but it was always eaten by someone before it could grow very tall; the vegetable garden area was just too shady to yield much and groundhogs managed to get to most of it anyway before it was ready for harvest. I came to understand that the soil was basically a packed-down dustbowl, thanks partly to the roses, which apparently deplete soil, and also probably to lack of compost and attention to the soil over the years; over time I added humusy amendments with each planting, and eventually my reward was to find worms in some places when I dug.

In the part-shade space shown above, I planted some hostas, Japanese painted ferns, Rodgersia, yellow archangel (a lamium), 2 kinds of meadowsweet (filipendula). And nearby are two kinds of  brunnera (a favourite), pulmonaria, more hosta, tiarella, heuchera, Solomon’s Seal, ginger, snakeroot (cimicifuga or actaea racemosa), other lamiums, tradescantia, tricyrtis (toad lily), all kinds of astilbe. Variegated foliage, with plenty of white, is key for me to the shade area of the garden.

I created a new garden under the tall spruce in the front of the house, with low-maintenance and a sort-of (not quite) Mediterranean

front garden on hill under spruce, June 2009
front garden on hill under spruce, June 2009

idea in mind: many varieties of sedum, santolina (another favourite – I love its olive aroma), woolly thyme, anise hyssop, rosemary, lavender, other herbs, tall phlox (though it always mildewed),  columbine, dianthus (carnations), artemisia ‘Silver Mound’ (wormwood), and, for early spring, green wave parrot tulips in clumps and clusters.

In other beds and spots around the yard I planted hydrangea, Japanese and German irises, leucothoe, tansy (it really spreads!), meadow rue (thalictrum), meadow sage, salix integra Hakuro-Nishiki (dappled willow shrub), comfrey, many tulips, crocuses, daffodils and jonquils.

I can almost see it all now, with the bumblebees, honey bees, moths, butterflies, garter and black snakes, chipmunks, grey squirrels, dragonflies, hummingbirds, cardinals, cedar waxwings, chickadees, and other animals populating it and making it flourish.

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