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I started this garden many years ago in an attempt to beautify a spot once overrun with old shrubs and weedy growth. Mainly unattended for a few decades this area was in need of a complete makeover. It started out as a potager with high hopes of growing wonderful things, but was too dimly lit for such expectations, now it is pure flowers and a place of wonder.

I once heard that a garden takes twelve years to feel like it has become. Plants grow, they die and with many changes that has gone on here that is probably true. After eight years transforming this area the garden is starting to show its maturity.

One thing that has eluded me in the art of the perennial garden is the sense of architectural design. Not so much the use of structures but the architecture of herbaceous plants that add texture and depth of character to a garden. If you view the garden in terms of black and white you will see how this design concept makes sense. Take photos of your garden and put them into black and white. When you take out the color distractions you will see the bones of the garden.

A whole world of plant possibilities and combinations are better understood this way. Hostas and astilbes are a great example, each with their own unique forms and foliage textures.  With digitalis blooming in the mix a black and white photo would look stunning. Flowers are important as they are beautiful, but the foliage of herbaceous perennials and shrubs are the workhorses of a garden.

The end of May is when the garden shows off the glories of spring. Blooming abundantly are the alliums and tree peonies. Such an explosion of bloom, the garden is transformed literally overnight and for a short week the blooms will have vanished as fast as they have appeared.

Here are the views of the garden at this time of year. Some of the shots were taken at dusk when the colors of the garden are richer and a bit mysterious.


In anticipation of bloom, allium ‘purple sensation.’

Horticultural ufos.

The Korean Lilacs are about ready to join in.

Golden Bleeding Hearts


Tree peony blooms. A color choice that was unexpected, but still beautiful.

Tree peony in full bloom.

Vines quickly overtaking the stonework with amazing vigor.

This garden was designed to have two large flower shows, one in the spring and later in the fall. Ever see gardens so full of flower power that it really is a wondrous sight, and then spends the rest of the summer devoid of excitement? It does take a large garden to have masses of blooms going off like clockwork for the entire season, annuals help, but I prefer perennials because next year the garden will be filled with even more flowers. Decide on the times you are most likely to enjoy your garden and plan accordingly. I like to be out in the garden in the spring and in the fall, just as the garden is flourishing.

Here is what is going on in the garden to date.  A cooler spring does signal more blossoms, but a longer wait is expected. Make frequent outings to your garden to enjoy the flush of spring growth.

I do enjoy bleeding hearts for their old fashion qualities and heart shaped flowers. These in the garden are the standard variety; I may plant some of the newer types with golden hues and paler flowers.

We can all over do it with hostas. They are such an easy plant to use as an edging in the garden and are usually indestructible. Since hostas come in an array of shapes, sizes and green to yellow shade combinations there is a lot of interest a garden can have if filled with one type of plant. The shade garden is mostly filled with hostas, so each year I experiment with different ones. Since the ‘standard’ hostas originally planted many years ago on the property were so massively planted, I use them to frame the beds. It gives a nice finish to the garden.

Larger strains of alliums produce very attractive foliage with graceful curves.

Each year’s flush of allium blossoms is a grand delight in the perennial garden. I do have some concern for them this year. Smaller buds may signal that they need dividing as I mentioned in the past.

The peonies are doing well, the two types of peonies that are planted here bloom at different times. An early blooming type paeonia officinalis ‘Rosea Plenta’ will produce sumptuously full and richly colored, double rose-pink flowers.  A late spring bloomer paeonia lactiflora ‘Lady Alexander Duff’ will display large showy flowers that are gorgeous.  If you want larger blooms snip off the side buds just under the main bud. They are there in case a sudden spring frost takes out the main flower bud, so wait until signs of a hard frost has past.

Ferns show their best qualities when they unfurl.


At last a chance to see what has happened in the garden since the first snowfall last winter. It has been such a snowy winter that the garden is just starting to show signs of growth. The same time last year the perennials were nearly a foot tall. I always like to get out into the garden and see how the garden has weathered. Taking a good look I can take note on what needs repair, accessing the winter’s damage to the plantings and a good check to see how much needed cleaning is required. It will be a few weeks before we can really enjoy the warms days of spring. Let’s see what I have found.


One of the stone benches with pebbles and debris from the roof during snow removal.


Here the stone floor in the shade garden is in need of a good cleaning, of course more debris from the roof.


Most of the snow from the roof was put in this particular spot away from the more densely planted sections of the garden. An amazing sight as the snow nearly covered up this cherry tree.

Interesting snow melt formation.


When the kitchen garden was converted into a perennial flower garden, an access path was installed. It seems some stone edging will give this path more definition.


Alliums in this garden are the first to signal spring has arrived. Each fall I seem to plant a few dozen more alliums and I eagerly await spring for the anticipation of hundreds of drumstick blooms to fill the garden en masse. Bulbs that have been planted a few years back are about ready for dividing. I will mark the clumps that need separating and dig them up in late summer.


One of my favorite perennials to emerge in spring is the herbaceous peonies. I don’t know if it’s the color or that peonies are one of my favorite flowers. With each spring the clumps spread wider and grow with more vigor.


A stately tree peony.

If you don’t have one in your garden you should, the blooms are gorgeous. These are rather large shrubs that top at five feet high and a mature tree peony will bear up to eighty large blooms. Last spring this peony produced fifteen blooms, in height it only has grown two feet.


The sedums are starting to sprout, like miniature brassicas. I noticed that some of the sedums need transplanting last year. The best time to transplant will be in the early part of April.


The Lycimachia punctata ‘alexander’ is spreading rather nicely between the hydrangea shrubs. I had planned on transplanting them into another part of the garden to give them more sun, but this year the rabbits chewed down a lot of the shrubs. The hydrangeas will need heavy pruning that will give the lysimachia more sunlight. Along with the chewed lilacs they will have to wait until after bloom to be neatly shaped.


It seems every year the winter’s wrath takes it out on some part of the front hedge. The first snow fall was wet and heavy, when this happens it’s a good idea to knock the snow off any shrub to maintain their shape. This winter as we all know was one of the snowiest and with all of the snow from the street being piled high onto the hedge the damage was inevitable. This photo is what happens when a plow does not know what lies beneath the snow.


This is another part of the hedge that was flattened from last year when a tree was being removed and fell right onto the shrubs. This part I know will be replanted as soon as the nursery opens up for business. 


  Last spring this trellis was built as a privacy screen. It has held up rather well and with last fall’s meticulous clean up, it is ready for planting as soon as the weather warms.


Another view of the trellis. Three barrels support a large trellis eighteen feet wide and seven feet tall.


An urn, barren after being cleaned of its winter greenery.

Each fall potted perennials are over wintered from various parts of the property in the garden. Here moneywort is planted into the ground and allowed to rest and be protected from the harsh winter temperatures. As planters, urns and pots are ready these are dug up and potted for the summer. Sometimes treated as an annual, moneywort is a beautiful trailing perennial that if allowed to mature will flower. Many of you may know this; moneywort is also a great ground cover.

Soon the garden will truly start to look alive. Don’t be bogged down by imperfection, a garden will tell you how it wants to be. Plants live, they die and yes, rabbits get hungry too.

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