Stacey is still hard at work on her garden. This fall she has planted a bunch of new shrubs for the large back planting bed and we are still discussing which grasses she should plant in the spring to help create some volume for her garden. She has spent a lot of this gardening season working on preparing the planting bed and starting to get some plants in the ground so next year will be a big year for starting to fill out the beds. Which leads to one of the hard parts about starting a new garden, being patient while waiting for the plants to grow and fill in! For a little inspiration I put this rendering together to show her how the planting bed will look once the plants have filled in and we add some grasses and a new tree. I think it will be quite lovely!

Garden Rendering, addition of new shrubs, grasses & a tree

Stacey's Garden from Last Week

The good news is that after all of her hard work the planting bed is ship shape and ready for more plants in the coming year. We also now have started to develop a plant list to work from. I think by next year at this time the garden will really be coming into its own.

View from the Driveway. Isn't the planting bed shape nice?

Here are a few of the pretty details from the garden. I am loving the use of red/purple plants, especially the blueberries (plus they are good to eat!) and the purple smoke bush.

New Arbor!

Stunning Blueberry Bush

Crabapple Tree

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Siteplan from back in April

Stacey has been hard at work on her garden this spring and summer. The planting bed has been laid out, cut, amended and mostly mulched. And she has been carefully adding plants to the beds as well as putting up an arbor. I went to go see it this past weekend and unfortunately forgot to take my camera! Unfortunately it is raining today, but I will go take some photos very soon.  But, we did discuss some options for the main planting bed. Currently she has a number of perennials, but there is a LOT of space to fill and it is still feeling somewhat empty (although this is where you need to be patient as the new plants start to grow).

Stacey's Yard Back in April

I think that some grasses are an excellent choice to fill in the back and middle part of the bed (we are concentrating on the area in the red dashed shape above). These will add height quickly but not be a barrier, as a large evergreen would. I think it would be nice to pair them with some medium size shrubs though to mix up the texture. I picked out a few that I thought would be a nice addition. These won’t get planted until the spring but I think it will be helpful to have a game plan now. I also think we will go with smaller plugs, since most grasses will do well this way and it really keeps the cost down. We are looking for 3-5 varieties (1-2 tall and 2-3 medium) in varying heights and colors. I am also looking for ones that don’t mind clay soil and are somewhat flexible about sunlight. Does anyone have any recommendations?  Photos are from Bluestem Nursery unless noted. Here are my picks so far:



Malepartus Maiden Grass, Flowers are 60"-80" Tall

Feather Reed Grass 'Karl Forrester', Flowers are 60"-80" tall


Korean Feather Grass, 32"-48" tall. Full sun to part shade.

Tall Moor Grass, 32"-40" tall. Sun to part-sun. I like the wispy plumes. These could be planted further forward since the actual grass is smaller.

Decotah Switch Grass, 36"-48" tall. It has a nice green and yellow color mix. Flowers are up to 54" tall.

Pink Muhly Grass, photo taken by my friend Kelly at a local park, 36-42" tall

Tufted Hair Grass, 24-32" tall. Soft plumes. Native but does self-seed.


Rheingold Globe Arborvitae: This could provide a nice contrast to the grasses. Tends to form 3'-5' globe shape. It is soft to the touch and a nice golden color. It is currently on clearance at Home Depot. Photo from Evins Mill Nursery

Evins Mill Nursery


Shade Garden this Morning

I thought I would highlight the plants that I decided to purchase at the Scott Arboretum Plant Sale and Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. I am much pickier than I use to be in choosing new cultivars to add to the garden then I use to be. Qualities that I am always looking for include interesting variegated plants in both green/white/yellow and green/red/purple and a mix of plants that do well in dry sun (front yard) and part shade/shade (back yard). I am also a pretty lazy gardener so I like plants that generally take care of themselves and don’t require a lot of trimming and staking (of course I have been known to make an exception for something I really like). The one major weakness I have is for plants that have a tropical feel. I LOVE giant leaves and exotic flowers. That has lead me to own a number of hardy hibiscus and my beloved big leaf magnolia ashei. I have also tried several banana musa basjoos without much luck getting them to succeed and a number of cannas (which generally need to be lifted and brought inside in the winter).

My shade garden near the garage is looking pretty good these days, so for that area I am looking for a few plants to up the texture quotient and lengthen the growing season.

My Selections:

Carex muskingumensis 'Oehme' (just planted)

Carex muskingumensis ‘Oehme’:
I picked up two of these (one for my mom) at the Scott sale. These carex are suppose to do well in part sun to shade, but like good moisture. I like their loose, slightly wild look. These are native to the central US and get 18-24″ high. I planteed mine towards the back of the planting bed.

Tasselfern, which is suppose to be an evergreen (just planted)

Tasselfern (Polystichum polyblepharum):
I have several varieties of ferns. This one should do well in part to full shade (and likes constant moisture).  I liked the idea of one that was an evergreen since I am trying to add more winter interest to the garden. I picked up two at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens this week.

Hellebore: Helleborus 'Golden Lotus' Strain of Winter Jewels (just planted)

Golden Lotus Hellebore in bloom (picture from Carolyn's Shade Gardens)

Hellebore (Helleborus ‘Golden Lotus’ Winter Jewels)
I am in LOVE with Hellebores! They start to bloom quite early and the blooms last for months. The foilage is also evergreen. When I saw the email from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens (thanks to Stacey forwarding it to me) offering some relatively new varieties I was VERY excited. After a lot of debate I decided on 3 of the ‘Golden Lotus’ variety since I thought a white flower would stand out  in my shade garden.

Muhlenbergia capillaris (waiting to be planted in the front yard)

Pink Muhly Grass (image from landscapedia)


Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
For my front sunny, dry garden I am looking for a few plants to fill the middle of the beds and provide some height and texture. I saw these grasses listed in the Scott Sale Plant Directory and decided to give them a try. Right now they don’t look very exciting, but fingers crossed they will do well and provide some beautiful foilage and its pink plummage next year. This is another native grass and will hopefully adapt well here. Apparently it does better in slightly warmer clients but fingers crossed it will be okay here.

What are you planting this fall?

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I love bulbs! So easy to plant and then they show up in the spring and provide lots of colors. Sure the leaves look kind of bad by the middle of summer, but they are hard to beat for that jolt of spring color when the weather is still a bit chilly out. So, here is a round up of what I am planning on ordering. Let me know if you want to share on the order since it is always cheaper to buy in larger quantities! I am planning a big order from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, my go to for most bulbs. They offer traditional bulb as well as some unique ones, and their selection and quality is hard to beat. I am determined to only buy bulbs that I have a place for, and stick to some more reliable varieties. I have had  mixed luck with some of the more exotic species.

I try to plant in October once the weather has cooled down, but have been known to be planting as late as early December. What is on your list?

Allium 'Karataviense' (mixed w/ heuchera)

Allium, 'Purple Sensation'

Allium 'Shubertii'

Allium 'Sphaerocephalon'


I have written about my love of alliums before. Here is what I am planning on ordering for my garden:

Allium ‘karataviense’: $39.50 for 50 ($.79 a bulb). I haven’t tried these but I LOVE the look of the combination above.

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’:$32 for 50 ($.64 a bulb). I have these in the front and side planting beds. I think some additional ones are needed for the backyard.

Allium ‘shurbertii’: $50.25 for 25 ($2.01 a bulb). These short bulbs are AMAZING. I need to move mine closer to the front of the boarded.

Allium ‘sphaerocephalon’ (drumstick): $24 for 100 ($.24 a bulb). Great for some summer color. I have some in my front yard. Stacey is going to plant some with her artemesia.

Nectaroscordum Bulgaricum

Nectaroscordum Bulgaricum: $24 for 50.  Not technically an allium, but very similar so I usually list these with the Allium. I LOVE these little bobbing flower heads. Plus the buds look beautiful before they pop open. They stand very upright at about 3′ high. Great for the back of the border.

Chionodoxa growing in my lawn

Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)

Chionodoxa ‘Forbesii’:$18 for 100. I am going to buy a LOT of these for the front yard and the back yard. The only problem with small bulbs like these is that I am always accidentally digging them up.

Tulip 'Flaming Purissima' Image from Plantswise

Tulip 'Turkestanica'


Tulip ‘Flaming Purissima’: $32.50 for 50. This is suppose to be a good naturalizing tulip. Tovah from Plantswise recommended these, so I feel like we must try some!

Tulip Turkestanica: $34 for 100. This is also suppose to naturalize. It is low growing with ground hugging foilage. These would be sweet in the front of a boarder, where later plants would take over in the summer. Back in the spring I was inspired by a display of some similar tulips at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

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Sketch Garden Plan

Fritz and Roxanne are new homeowners and have been busy taming back the weeds and overgrown plants in their backyard. They would like to start planting some perennials this fall so that next year they can start to enjoy some color in their backyard next year. The planting bed is part sun to part shade and against a large white fence. The current bed is about 2′ wide (although I would suggest over the long term widening to about 4-5′ minimum to give enough room to layer the plants). To get them started here I put together a list of some easy to take care of perennials, shrubs and bulbs. There is also one large existing rose bush in the middle of the bed (see #1).

Specs & Getting Started

Long narrow planting bed against a high white fence. Part Sun to part shade (afternoon shade). They have already cut back the trees and weeds. Here are a few steps I recommend to make the bed ready for plants:

1. If the soil is compacted, I recommend tilling the soil. You can rent different size tillers at Home Depot for half or full day. If the soil has a lot of clay in it I also recommend adding some sand and mushroom soil or compost to give the bed better draining and nutrients.

2. Cover the area with approximately 6 layers of newspaper (wetting as you go to keep them in place).  Overlap the pieces by an inch or two to provide a complete cover over the soil. Then mulch over this with about 2-3″ of wood mulch.  The newsprint will help keep the weeds at bay and will slowly decompose. By spring most of it will be gone and the mulch will begin to decompose as well. This will help the bed get some initial nutrients.

3. You can start to plant the new plants either before or after step 2. If you put them in after then you simply cut the newsprint in the areas where you are installing plants.

4. In the spring add another inch or two of mulch after the plants have come up to help keep the moisture in the bed and minimize the weeds.

5. Over the long term consider widening the bed, possibly in a curvy pattern to break up the appearance of the long bed.

Red Twig Dogwood

Purple Smoke Bush

One of my 2 original Butterfly Bushes

Ornamental Grass: Andropogon

Shrubs & Grasses

Fall is an excellent time to plant most shrubs. It gives them good moisture before winter sets in and by spring they are usually all ready to bloom. Plus at the end of the season you can often find them on sale.

2. Red Twig Variegated Dogwood: Excellent for part sun/part shade and it doesn’t mind soggy feet. It may get a little bit big for the bed, but I think it would be worth it. Offers multiple seasons of interest.

3. Purple Smoke Bush: This should do fine in part sun. You may need to prune it to keep it narrower. Can grow to be 10′ or more in height. Offers multiple seasons of interest.

4. Butterfly bush: These will grow quickly, and although it is known for full sun I have several that do just fine in part shade. In fact I have a couple sitting in a pot right now that I will bring over. Once these get big you need to cut them back in the fall or spring (to about 18″ or so), so they don’t get too spindly. The good thing is that their footprint is small. I recommend planting a part-shade plant underneath since its “feet” are not very attractive”. It will also attract lots of butterflies. It will offer blooms all summer.

5. Ornamental Grasses: There are a lot of grasses out there for sale in all different sizes. I would recommend a couple of variegated varieties. These would provide some nice texture and break up the length of the bed. I would stick to ones that are in the 3′ to 4′ height range. A couple of examples are Andropogon gerandii Big Bluestem, Turkey Foot or Achnatherum calamagrostis – Spear Grass, Needle Grass, Silver Spike Grass. These only require cutting back to the ground in the spring. You may want to wait until spring to plant these.

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica): Bamboo like leaves w/ beautiful red berries in the winter. Is okay in sun and shade.

Hydrangea: Another shrub that does best in part sun-part shade. It provides a long season of blooms in the summer, but looks a little sad in the winter. Only requires pruning when the size gets too big. There are also smaller versions available. I also like the “endless summer” version that blooms all season long.

Purple Columbine


Stella De Oro Daylily

Shasta Daisy

Coneflower or Echinacea

Autumn Joy Stonecrop


I have divided the perennials into 2 categories. Ones that will have beautiful flowers and ones that are mostly there as a backdrop but provide a long season of texture. I have tried to give a list of plants that will do well in part sun to part shade. I recommend planting these in groups of 3 and 5 (except for some of the larger hosta which can be planted individually).


Columbine: For the spring time Colombine are some of my favorite. They are available in a ton of different colors. You can even grow these from seed quite easily. Depending on availability these may be easier to find in the spring.

Cranesbill (Hardy Geranium): These low growers have nice leaves and form nice mounds. The flowers also come in many pinks, purples and blues. This is another spring bloomer. These are good for the front of the boarder.

Daylilies (i.e. Stella d’Oro): These daylilies form grassy mounds when not flowering. Some varieties also rebloom. They also can be divided after just a couple of years giving you more to spread around. These bloom in early summer and often rebloom for the rest of the season.

Coneflowers and Shasta Daisies: Their preference is for full sun but I have some that do fine in part sun. These are good reliable summer bloomers.

Stonecrop (i.e. Autumn Joy): These workhorses are bulletproof and flower in the fall but their foliage looks good for the rest of the season. These are an excellent fill plant. These are also really easy to divide.

Lambs Ear




Coral Bells (Heuchera)



Lambs Ear (I prefer the “big ear” variety such as ‘Helene von Stein’): So soft and pretty. They just require a trim in the spring to clean them up.

Amsonia hubrichtii: Grows similar in size to a smaller grass and has lovely soft foilage. It also has blue flowers in early summer and turns yellowish orange in the fall.

Hosta: In shader spots or under larger shrubs in a sunnier bed these are great workhorses of the garden and come in a ton of variegated varieties. These are also another plant that you can divide after a short period of time. It is nice to get a mix of a couple of varieties with different leaf shapes and variegation.

Brunnera (false forget me knots):  For shadier spots these plants have lovely blue flowers in the spring but they are best known for their hear shaped leaves that last for the rest of the season. These multiply quite well.

Coralbells (heuchera): I love these part-sun to part-shade plants. The leaves come in pretty red, caramel and green leaves. I have found good deals on these at Home Depot over the last couple of years.


Allium Purple Sensation



Daffodils: What can I say, easy to grow, pest resistant, doesn’t mind some shade. Ideally plant where the leaves can be hidden after they fade.

Allium (i.e. Purple Sensation for spring and sphaerocephalon for summer): These purple beauties are also pest resistant (they are a member of the onion family) and are nice and tall. They also look good as the seed head dry. Plants closer to the rear of the planting bed.

Chionodoxa (i.e. Forbesii): Low purple or blue flowers. Flowers in early spring. Plant large groupings in the front of the bed. Should pair well with the cranesbill.

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Stacey's Garden from last week. Look at how far she has come!

Marked out Garden from last month.

Original Site Plan from March with adjusted shape in red.


Stacey has been hard at work removing sod, loosening the soil and picking out plants. She is going to start planting today!  There are 1700 sf of garden to fill! Go Stacey Go! For a more detailed description click here. I also have started a pinterest board of the current plant selection. The kids and I are going to try and ‘help’ this morning. We will see how that goes!


Pinterest Love

May 25, 2011 — Leave a comment

I know I am just about the last blogger/designer in the world to start to use Pinterest, but now that I have started to use it, I LOVE IT. The website lets you “pin” your favorite things from the web. It stores the photos and the link that it came from. I find as I am working on a design or just trying to make a decision about an accessory, it is useful to have everything in one place. You can also search other peoples boards and follow them.

You can check out my constantly changing boards here:

Send me an email if you want an invite to join for yourself (I didn’t have an invite so it took about a week to become a member).

Here are a couple of screen shots from my current boards:

Window Box Board


Front Porch Board

Kid Friendly Storage Ottomans

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Sorry I didn’t post on Friday but Saturday was the Plant Exchange at Scott Arboretum (on the Swarthmore College campus) and I was trying to frantically divide some hosta (and spend some time with the kids). If you live in Delaware County and like to garden it is worth joining Scott Arboretum for the Plant Exchange alone (they also offer some great gardening classes and lectures)! There are a bunch of detailed rules but the general idea is that you bring your extra plants to share. For every 3 you bring you get a ticket. With those tickets you can buy plants. Then all of the other plants are $1 (excluding some larger trees and shrubs). There is lots of lining up and rushing around, but I find it very exciting! Plus I get to see many of my gardening friends and neighbors. If you want to see an old woman fight you for a plant, this is the place. ; )  It is not good for those who wish to ponder about plants (although there are experts there for helping to describe different plants). For those with new gardens to fill it is especially excellent!

This is the first year that I wasn’t trying to fill a new planting bed, so I ended up with less than I have previously brought home (29 plants for me, 3 for my mom). But I was also there to help Stacey find plants to fill her new (1700 sf) planting bed. I think she ended up with about 70 plants, including some large shrubs.

Some plant highlights:

For Me: Ostrich Ferns (there were lots and I snagged 5 for the side yard), Shasta Daisies (a childhood favorite of mine), Aster (a shorter purple variety), Magenta Cranesbill Geraniums (to go with some that I got last year), Jacobs Ladder, Jack-in-the-Pulpit & Japanese Irises

For Stacey: Shrubs including Bayberry, Sweetspire Itea, Plum, hydrangeas and several evergreens. Perennials including Cardinal Flower, Shasta Daisies, Asters, Variegated Crane’s Bill Geraniums, Japanese Irises, Variegated Honeysuckle, and Redux.


Although Stacey’s plant list is still in progress I thought I would share a few of the selections and some pretty pictures.


Shasta Daisy


Japanese Iris



Autumn Joy Sedum



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Updated Plan. The red line shows the modified location of the Phase 1 bed.

The red line and green show the proposed bed. The orange line shows the original location from my plan.

We are still working on the final plant list. In the meantime, Stacey is working on clearing the ground. She has a hand sod remover tool and has been slowly taking the grass away.  She is considering getting the big guns out and renting a big sod remover.  Gotta love big power tools! The grass will soon be replaced new beds of wet newspaper, good soil, possibly more newspaper and finally mulch in preparation for the new plants.

I headed over to finalize the shape of the circle for the back bed (Phase 1). The original plan shows a 20′ diameter half circle. Stacey had done some preliminary markings with a 15′ diameter. In the end, we went with an 18′ diameter centered on the future patio. In addition to aligning with the patio, this will allow her to leave an existing post and use it for a bird house.  This does leave the area closest to the driveway a little in flux (maybe a gravel edge) as the planting be might be too wide in this area.

One thing I have found with landscaping as opposed to other forms of home improvement is that you often have to tweak the layout a little bit on site until it feel just right.


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