I know I am a little late  in the season but I thought everyone could use a little eye candy, in between the last minute hustle and bustle!  I stopped by Terrain last week to take a quick look after a meeting. The weather was absolutely terrible but it was still beautiful. My favorite thing had to be these succulent topiary trees. I’m not sure exactly how they are constructed (may be with florist foam?) but they are certainly beautiful and I love the muted color range.

terrain-xmas1Their terrariums are always great. I liked that they had added bits of holiday decorations to them including pine cones, holly sprigs and in this case a small faux bird.


The outside was full of Christmas trees and amazing winter containers. When I see these containers I always think that I need to plant some holly. Of course by spring I always forget. Maybe this is the year I will remember.

terrain-xmas6I love the texture of this planter. The birch branches paired with eucalyptus, red twig dogwood, and some evergreens.

In case you would like to see the previous years at Terrain, here is 2012 and 2011.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend! I will be back Monday with this year’s holiday card.

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Our Busy House

October 25, 2013 — Leave a comment


I know, I have disappeared yet again! Life has a funny way, of throwing you off your game. I like routine, and while I was looking forward to the school year starting, I had not realized how full my life was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lovely life with a sweet family, but finding time to carve out for the blog hasn’t happened. I’m still trying to figure that out. I miss writing and sharing and I have felt a little lost. I remember someone telling me that with kids it just gets busier (and harder) the older they get. At the time I had a baby who wasn’t sleeping through the night and needed A LOT of attention, so it was hard to imagine that to be the case. Now I would partially agree. We don’t over schedule our kids, but there is still a lot going on. Between school, homework, soccer and spending quality time with the kids it is pretty exhausting (although I would say not as tiring as having a small baby). I also have kids who like to be where ever we are, even my 6 year old generally prefers to play right by us (i.e. I am constantly stepping on legos). I am trying to savor this time because before I know it he will be hiding up in his room, but there are times when I wonder whether I will ever have real alone time again. My brain has felt really scattered, like I can’t put a complete though together. So please try and bear with me as I try to get back up and move forward.newplantingbed1

So anyway back to the house and the garden and design…

I have managed to squeeze some gardening in the last couple of weekends thanks to some glorious weather and some strategically planned play dates. I decided last weekend to create the last piece of planting bed that I have been envisioning for a while. I mentioned my love of southern magnolias last time I wrote. Well of course after I searched out the perfect tree for the driveway and paid full price for the South Magnolia ‘Kay Parris’, I stopped at Home Depot  the next week and guess what they had? Southern Magnolia ‘Little Gem’. Curses! I had checked there the week before I bought my tree and they didn’t have anything like that. The only good thing was that the price was not that much less than the nursery, so I didn’t feel too terrible. Since then I have been stopping over to the plant section about once a week to see what they have and more importantly to check to see when everything would go on clearance. Every year around this time they will start marking all of the plants down (to clear space for the Christmas trees!). Well last Thursday was finally the day! 50% off all perennials, shrubs and trees! They were just putting the sign up when I pulled up on my lunch break. I quickly assessed the situation and got a cart. I probably squealed like a school girl.


There were still a couple of Little Gems in stock. I stood there starring at them. $35 was pretty enticing. So I kept trying to think where I would put another one. Eventually I would like to replace our bamboo with several of these, but that project isn’t happening any time soon. I finally decided to pick one up and figure it out after I got home. I also scored a couple of pear trees for $11 a piece for the side yard, a few small Nandinas and some really cute coral bells (Heuchera ‘Circus’).


Once I got home I spent some time moving my new tree around, trying to find a place for it. We have some more sun near our shed after some tree trimming (which removed a large portion of our old birch tree) and removing dead branches from the cedar.  I decided that it was time to add the planting bed next to the shed. And if I strategically placed the new magnolia I could provide an additional buffer to the street. In the diagram above you can see the view that I am trying to block. It is hard to photograph but the general idea is that when you are on the deck this will eventually provide some more visual separation between the backyard and the street and adjacent driveway. It also allows for the tree to be out where I can touch the leaves and admire the flowers in the spring.


I filled in the remainder of the planting bed with some of my new coral bells and some miscellaneous other plants and hostas. I’m not quite sure whether this falls into part sun or not. This area tends to get dry due to the large tree roots. I think it may take some experimenting to get the bed to succeed!

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend. I’ve got a long overdue date night scheduled with Mr. S!

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Garden Update: Fall Plant Picks

September 27, 2013 — 1 Comment


I have been busy in the garden the last couple of weeks. The cooler weather called to me and I decided to it was time to tackle my weed infested gardens and add a few new plants. It was the Scott Arboretum Plant Sale last weekend, so it was a good excuse to pick up a few plants. I also decided it was time to plant the Southern Magnolia near the driveway, which I have been thinking about for the past couple of years. Unfortunately the plant sale wasn’t going to have any so I headed over to Mostardis. Of course while I was there I picked up a couple of extra friends for the garden. I still have a good bit of work in the front garden (in front of the bay window), but I have at least started edging and weeding.

shadeplanter1As I mature as a gardener, I am starting to become much more selective about the plants that I buy. I am much more interested in foliage and creating a patchwork of beautiful patterns and colors, and much less concerned with the flowers. At the same time I am still learning about properly placing plants. I lost quite a few perennials to the wet spring and summer. So my goal moving forward is to not just look at sun verses shade but also look closely at the type of moisture requirements. I also now have a much better idea of how each of my planting beds functions. I am also trying to buy native plants where possible. I don’t think I would ever go to a completely native garden, but seeing how the birds and bugs love our garden, it has inspired me to give them a good habitat.


One planting bed that has changed over the years in this small bed adjacent to our driveway and the property behind us. Originally there were terrible prickly overgrown evergreen shrubs here. I pulled those out years ago and started with mostly annuals. The bed is pretty dry and gets a fair amount of wind from the adjacent street. Although this bed isn’t in our line of sight most of the time, it can be seen from some angles and if we ever put an addition on the house, it will be visible along with the van that parks there and street beyond. For the shorter term I planted some Rose of Sharron along the fence to provide a quick screen. However these aren’t evergreen and they self-seed way more than I would like. The only good thing about them is that they have a deep tap root so they don’t require watering. After contemplating multiple plants including traditional evergreens, I decided that a southern magnolia would be perfect, except that the traditional varieties are way too big!


I have always thought that Southern Magnolias are quite beautiful, but until recently hadn’t really thought of them as suitable for my yard. Fortunately there are a couple of smaller varieties that are suitable for our Zone 6B/7A climate. I had originally searched for a ‘Little Gem’ but one of the local nurseries had ‘Kay Parris’ (which is related to little gem) in stock in a suitable size (i.e. not tiny but could still fit in the car) so I took the plunge and planted it over the weekend. This one should stay in a suitable size with lower branches to be the perfect year around screen. From what I have been told, they are pretty sturdy trees and good in full to part sun and doesn’t mind dry soil. Yes!  And did I mention it should have beautiful white fragrant flowers in the spring? I have filled in the rest of the bed with some of the perennials that survived the weeds including some columbine, grasses and ice plants. I also added some Russian Sage that I got on clearance at Home Depot.


One surprise to me was how quickly my side bed has changed from full sun to part shade with the addition of the river birches. I guess it shouldn’t really be a surprise, but in the last year my full sun plants have really suffered. In the spring they start out strong but by midsummer a lot of my plants that normally thrive looked pretty sad. I see some lots of transplanting in my future! This bed is also quite wet during heavy rain. The one new plant I picked up for this bed is Eupatorium serotinum late flowering thoroughwort. This beauty is about 4′ tall and has white flowers in the fall. It is another native which the bees seem to quite like. It likes wet soil and is suppose to do well in full sun to part shade.

scutellaria incana

Another new plant I picked up is Scutellaria incana, hoary skullcap. It is another native that get blue flowers. It prefers dry soil and sun to part shade. I planted these beauties near by bamboo patch.


 Finally I picked this euphorbia up on clearance at a local nursery. I have had mixed luck with spurge. I managed to kill several beautiful purple ones over the summer. They are not particularly fussy about light requirements but they don’t like to get too wet. So my sideyard was not a good spot. This variety Cushion Spurge ‘First Blush’ is petite and pretty. It gets yellow flowers in the spring but I am smitten wit the green and white leaves with reddish edges. These will be planted in full sun in a much drier spot in the front yard. Hopefully they will do well there!

What have you been planting lately and what are on your plant list?

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This past Sunday we took a little trip out to Yellow Springs Farm and Nursery to check out the Native plants and their well known goat cheese. The cheese was delicious, the goats were cute and the kids made friends with Rosco the dog.


First off we said hello to the goats, who were not surprisingly very friendly. They were waiting to be let out into the field for a snack.

YellowSpringsFarm2Rosco spent the time playing with the kids. He taught Sam how to play fetch. Sam followed this by saying that clearly he needs a dog. Of course I don’t think the 2 feline family members of our family would agree about that.

YellowSpringsFarm3Maisie took charge of the camera. Not a bad shot! It is always fascinating to see the world from a small person’s point of view.

We tried their delicious goat cheeses! I highly recommend them, if you can find them! I think I will have to place an order sometime soon.

As for plants I wasn’t looking for anything in particular for the yard, except a super hardy native street tree. We decided on an American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana). It may not be the most exciting tree, but it should be the right size, super sturdy, non-aggressive roots and it is native. They were really helpful and pointed out that this is widely used in the City of Philadelphia with good success. SOLD!


Our new tree is about 3 1/2′ tall. I think it should be a good size for planting in our diminutive grass strip between the sidewalk and curb. As much as a I love a big tree, I have had better luck with smaller specimens taking over time.


We also picked up a couple of beautiful grasses for the front yard. We picked out 2 varieties, both with reddish tinges in the fall. I think my favorite is Panicum virgatum ‘Shanendoah‘ with nice plumbs on top. It should get to be about 5’ tall.

LittleBluestem-prairiebluesThe second grass is Little Bluestem ‘Prairie Blues’ which will get to be about 3 1/2-4′ tall. The color on it is really amazing! I am going to try and fit them in around the nandina in the front yard. They should be happy there with lots of sun and relatively dry soil. Hopefully I can get all of this planted this weekend. The weather looks good, of course there are several small jungles of weeds laughing at me. They better watch out, because I am hoping that their days are numbered!

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

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Garden Inspiration

September 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

Did I mention that we live in the jungle? It didn’t start out that way but thanks to the SUPER wet summer and my lack of weeding and trimming, it is really feeling like we live in our own little jungle. Last Monday alone with got over 6″ of rain in less than 2 hours. It was pretty crazy! A store less than a mile from here had 5′ of water in their parking lot! Apparently it made the national news.


I have been remiss in actually taking very many photos of the garden, largely to avoid the ravenous mosquito population. Although with the slightly cooler weather I am starting to get the gardening itch again. While I don’t have a lot to show from here, I thought I would show you a few beautiful containers from Terrain for inspiration.


Hard Hibiscus, var. Disco Ball

While taking a peak at the garden in the last week I realize that I have lost quite a few perennials to mold and rot. You would have thought this would have been a good year for new perennials to take with consistently moist ground, but the water was too much for some of them! Our neighbors actually lost several street trees to disease related to the water.

Native Honeysuckle

Native Honeysuckle

Our Native Honeysuckle has over taken the back deck. We have been reluctant to cut it back because the hummingbirds LOVE IT. In fact we had a whole family spend their summer here, including a pair of babies. We never did manage to get a good photo, but it was so amazing to see them. It is about time for them to migrate, so we should be able to clear a better path to the backyard soon.

Joe Pye Weed and Coneflowers

Our Joe Pye Weed is just finishing blooming. It is such a pretty flower and the butterflies LOVE IT. I highly recommend Little Joe if you have a smaller garden.


Terrain always has amazing planters. They do such a nice job of mixing perennials, annuals and tender perennials (i.e. ones you can bring inside in the winter). I love this aqua planter.


This planter makes good use of several grasses (I really love the Japanese Blood Grass). Eventually these would outgrow their pots, but you could plant them like this for a summer and then move them to the ground in the fall. The succulents/sedums used here could be left in the pot over winter. I have started doing this in several of my planters with pretty good success.


Several varieties of saliva looks stunning in this urn. Of course saliva only blooms for about 3 weeks, so you would probably have to change it out, although it is another perennial, so you could just stick it in the ground after the pretty purple flowers have faded.


Finally this stunning mix with the planter surrounded by grasses and annuals is right up my alley. The tall Hardy Hibiscus look great in the background (although in reality they enjoy a wet, almost boggy soil and wouldn’t do well in a pot if left to dry out).

We also made a trip out to Yellow Springs Plant Nursery and Goat Farm on Sunday. I will show you what I picked out soon.

What is still doing well in your garden?

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Things are  a little crazy around here. The air conditioning ducts are being installed around the house and we are frantically trying to keep going on the Master Bedroom closets. I am trying to decide if I can squeeze an Ikea trip in this week. Meanwhile  I am still working on planting some of my finds from this year’s Scott Arboretum Plant Exchange. So while the chaos continues I thought I would show you some of the beautiful container plantings that I have been admiring. Because who can’t use a little gardening eye candy!


On Mother’s Day we managed to make a quick trip over to Terrain (which was filled with well dressed mothers who were busy dining and shopping inside). Of course I was outside, checking out the plants. I did pick up a couple of interesting perennials but my favorite thing about visiting Terrain are their interesting plant combinations. I like the mix of perennials, annuals and even small shrubs and vegetables. This mix helps to keep the cost down and actually extends the season. In this amazing undulating planter above they have mixed a small grass with succulents, ground cover and a few annuals. I also like the addition of the small pebbles.


The show stopper were a pair of GIANT logs. This picture really isn’t doing it justice, but the carved out logs were stunning (and about 6′ long). I would imagine you would need a backhoe to get it into place, but it was really unexpected. Here they have actually planted some colorful lettuce w/ moss, ground cover and a few flowers. I’m not sure over the long term whether all of these plants would do well in the same amount of sunlight, but it was pretty cool.


After our little excursion we stopped over at Scott Arboretum to say ‘hi’ to the fish and so I could admire some of their amazing grounds.


In the front of their building they have quite a few containers in part shade. They have used a lot of perennials and they have done a beautiful job of picking ones with amazing texture and color. Above this coral bell (heuchera) had a silvery purple leaf. It was paired with a succulent and a small pine.


Another similar planter with more heuchera and a couple of blue pansy thrown in for added color.


This really makes me want to rethink some of my containers. Granted, both of these places have the advantage of greenhouses and staff to replace plants on a whim, but I will keep plugging away here. I like the idea of using small shrubs for a season and then putting them in the ground in the fall.

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The garden is in peak spring lushness here. I shot these photos earlier this week. Since then we have had  a nice rain and everything is even greener! Almost all of the plants are out but the leaves haven’t had a chance to be eaten by bugs (or bunnies) or scorched by the summer sun. I thought I would highlight a few of my favorite pairings and plants for offering texture.


Above is a partial sun area of the garden. The Virginia Bluebells are still looking lovely, which I like for their nodding blue flowers, but also for their nice oval leaves. Here they are paired with a Rheingold Globe Arborvitae and hosta. I bought the Rheingold on clearance at Home Depot a couple of years ago. I had another one which didn’t make it, but if I find these again for a good price I will definitely pick a couple up. The color and texture are really nice and they only get to be about 30″. So far it has also kept its “globe” shape really well.


This image is in my partial shade garden back by the garage. I really like how the Golden Spiderwort ‘Sweet Kate’ brightens up the bed. It tends to die back in the hot weather, but for now I am really enjoying it. It is paired with a Japanese painted fern, forget-me-knots, geraniums.


Another spot in the same garden with more painted Japanese ferns, bleeding heart and caramel heuchera. In the back are the lovely tall ostrich ferns, hosta and toad lilies.


Our garden mascot, the blue goat along with some brunnera. You can see that the painted Japanese fern makes are reoccurring appearance in this bed.


I picked up this Peony (Paeonia Japonica) a couple of years ago at a plant sale. It prefers shade and is doing quite well in my shady side yard. The red stems are quite lovely with the large delicate flower.


I think my favorite tulip remains to be the Viridiflora variety. I like how this one pairs with the hosta. These also seem to be fine in this partial shade location (they just bloom a couple of weeks later than their sunny friends).


Lastly I wanted to highlight Euphorbia or spurge. I picked up mine at the Scott Arboretum plant exchange, where there always seems to be plentiful quantities.  It was one of those plants that I wasn’t that into but I was looking for something that would do well in deep shade under the pine tree and I also put some in a partial sun position as a filler plant. The sap is poisonous, so I have been careful to keep it behind other plants to minimize the chance that the kids will get near it. And the verdict, the one in deep shade hasn’t bloomed but did fine all last summer in the dry weather and the one in partial sun look like this! I am thinking I might pair it with the Virginia Bluebells, although it is a lot more aggressive than the bluebells and could overwhelm it.

This weekend is the Scott Arboretum Plant Exchange, one of my favorite events of the year. Who knows what beauties I will find this year. Stay tuned!

What is blooming in your garden?

P.S. My AC contractor is suppose to be here later today with the Air Handling Unit for the Third Floor. I am so excited!



I guess all it takes sometimes is a week of warm weather to get everything growing! This past week has been pretty epic in terms of how fast everything has grown and started flowering. We also managed to finally install the vintage chimney pot in the garden. I am planning on putting some sort of pot on top, although I haven’t found anything suitable yet. We found a date of 1916 on the top. In the meantime I will spend my time imagining the big chimney that this sat on.


Lungwort (Pulmaria) ‘Majeste’

My lungwort has been blooming like crazy. It could actually use some dividing. I love the mix of blue and purple flowers on the ‘majeste’ variety. The whiteness of the leaves is also nice later in the season. The only downside is that when you transplant them, they are really unhappy for a few months. By the fall they usually are regrowing nice new leaves, but they spend the summer looking half dead.

Virginia Bluebell

Virginia Bluebell

The Virginia Bluebells have a similar flower to the lungwort, but are quite a bit larger. These are a favorite of mine. They have been slowly expanding in several clumps in my side garden (in part-sun). They leaves are a really nice vivid green and I really like that they are a native plant.



Another native that I actually planted at the same time as the bluebells is the trillium. Both of these were planted as ridiculously small root stock that took a full year to come up (I had actually abandoned all hope). The trillium is really a lovely little jewel in the shade garden. They don’t last very long, once the heat of the summer sets in they will disappear until next year. The leaves on the trillium are really quite beautiful.  I bought both of these on ebay from a place in Tennessee (whose name escapes me). There appear to be several sellers now selling the Trillium and Virginia Bluebells.


Another shade plant that has shown up out of no where are my Bleeding Hearts. They were literally a few inches tall last week and now the larger ones are over 18″ high with flowers. I don’t usually choose pink flowers, but I will always make an exception for these shade loving plants. Mine have also grown large enough to divide and I have been adding them to several of my planting beds.


Kerria Japonica with Lunwort ‘Majeste’ below

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my Kerria Japonica. It is a bit of a weed (it sends out little runners) but it gives such a good show this time of year. I like to cut it back a little bit later in the spring, but right now I am enjoying this at both my back gate and side gate. This plant will grow in almost full sun to shade. The only down side of the sun location is that the flowers bleach out.

What is blooming in your yard?

To take a peak at all of my garden blooms click here.



Spring is finally here! We have reached the week in the spring where EVERYTHING makes an appearance. Granted it is still mostly little tiny sprouts and buds, but it is so nice to finally see all my little plant friends coming out of the ground. The weather has been warm for several days now, so everything is coming up fast. We were even able to be outside without coats! I managed to get a little bit of mulch down and part of the first round of weeding is complete. I was comparing this week to last year and we are almost a full month behind (granted we were a month ahead last year).


The daffodils have been in bloom for about a week now. Most of ours line our front steps, which is always a welcome appearance. I am actually thinking that I may divide several bunches this year, as the bunch is quite large and dense. That should allow them to multiply more, which is always welcomed. I may move some to the rear of the yard, to help add some additionally early spring blooms, especially since the squirrels and bunnies have eaten my crocuses even faster this year.


Also in the front yard is the Chionodoxa. Most of these are planted to the right of my front steps. They are there to replace the purple flowers from the vinca.


An ongoing battle for me is to remove the vinca front the front yard (I have almost removed it from one side but in the meantime the other side has been OVERTAKEN by it). It is VERY aggressive, but I have had a soft spot for it due to the purple flowers. It is actually one of the first things I wrote about when I started the blog. So 2 years later, I think the chiondoxa is a good choice, although I need A LOT more. The good news is in their second year blooming they have definitely come back stronger. I was a little disappointed last year, so much that I didn’t order any this past fall. Now I know that I need to order several hundred more (fortunately they are cheap and easy to put in since they are so small).


Speaking of purple flowers, my lungwort just started flowering. It is a favorite of mine, variegated leaves and purple flowers. The only caveat is that it doesn’t like full sun, so it isn’t an option for my front yard. This is another plant that I will be dividing this season. It actually looks terrible when you do it and you think it might not make it, but then it come back the next year all happy.


I thought I would leave you with a picture of the main shade garden. You can see it is still looking a bit sparse. It should really fill in the next couple of weeks, but it is hard to be patient. I also think it is good reminder how hard it is to have a garden that looks good all year around.  Just look how it looked last year at this time…


What is blooming in your yard?

To take a peak at all of my garden blooms click here.

I will be back with some progress on the upstairs hall soon!

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I was suppose to get this post up yesterday, but well it didn’t happen. I did manage to get out into the garden very late in the afternoon to shoot some photos though. I realized that I need to get out there to do some weeding and mulching soon. My neighbors were out last weekend prepping their beds! Now I just need some warm weather (it is actually snowing outside at the moment). I thought I would show the sad state of the yard right now. The grass needs some MAJOR help. And the planting beds are looking bare at the moment. I’ve been trying to think of ways to add year around interest and even have 3 miniature heavenly bamboo to put in (which have been overwintering behind the shed). It is interesting to see how it compares to last year. We are definitely not as far ahead. Last year the daffodils were blooming (and I would say we have another 2 weeks before that will happen).

But on to the plants that are currently making me smile…



The snowdrops are usually the first bulb to bloom in late winter. I actually think that they may be behind schedule. They often bloom in February but mine just started blooming in full last week. Most of mine are transplants from around the yard (I think this is the only “free” plant that came with the house). I think it survived because it can grow in the lawn. The only downside to them is that I inevitably dig a bunch of them up by accident since they die back fairly early. Although I think that may help with the multiplying, as I usually spread out the bulbs when  I do come across them. If you look closely at the picture of the backyard you can see them scattered in the side and rear planting beds.  In the picture above you can see them with some geraniums which managed to overwinter without much complete dying back.


While we are on the subject of crocuses, here is the Barr’s Purple. I LOVE the color and they are suppose to be squirrel resistant but something likes to munch on them in my yard (yes I am looking at you bunnies!). I planted a lot of them in the fall of 2011. Then I admired them last spring and watched them disappear over 3 days, completely munched off. What I don’t understand is if you head over to Swarthmore (the next town over) you see lawns filled with crocuses. I guess maybe the bunnies haven’t made their way over there. hmmm….


For the first time my Golden Lotus Hellebore is blooming! I picked it up from Carolyn’s Shade Garden in the Fall 2011. I bought 2. It looks like I only have 1 left and it didn’t bloom last year.  I was pretty excited to see in now though! It is currently facing away from the house, so I had to really lean down to get this shot. It is a double hellebore and is quite pretty in person.


My regular hellebores which are a mix of white and white with a purple edge are also blooming. This patch, which came from a friend, started off fairly small but has turned into quite a nice grouping. I have even spread some of the seedlings around. Unfortunately the seedlings are still too young to bloom, but they seem to have settled in nicely.


I wanted to show off the leaves of these tulips. This is Red Riding hood from  Brent and Becky’s. I bought these probably 6 years ago or so from them. It produces small red flowers that sit low the ground, but the leaves are really the star. I’m also impressed that they have come back so well, since most tulips tend to die back after a few years.


Finally I will leave you with a picture of the heavenly bamboo (nandina ‘Gulf Stream’) in the front yard. I planted these in front of the bay window back in the Fall of 2011. They have filled in so nicely! My plan actually worked!  And as a bonus they max out at 30″ tall, so no pruning required! I still need to do some more planting around them, but It is nice to have year around color here.

What is blooming in your yard?