There are those who say Americans don’t know how to garden. Not true, although the climate here is not as temperate or favorable to some plants as countries that enjoy the warming influence of the other side of the Gulf Stream, and the typical American neighborhood doesn’t look as landscaped as European ones. Someone once remarked that Europe looked “finished”. American is far from being finished and someone with the itch to play with landscaping materials will find plenty to do.

Here is this week’s gardening activity. It started with a problem area, the north side of an entrance.


front garden before

Turning the soil proved harder than it looked.  It was one huge mass of intertwined roots, with a couple of eight or ten inch concrete blocks buried a few inches down, maybe part of an old porch support.

The next problem was where to obtain free plants.  Hostas start at seven bucks for the ordinary kind and go up from there.  It’s not my property and I don’t have a budget to work with, so I’ll have to be creative. Time to start another project.

Here is the back yard of where I used to live, that I still take care of in exchange for storage.  Looks a bit overgrown.  Maybe time to trim things and divide a few plants. Before I started in on this area, maybe three years ago, it was a poorly growing lawn.  I added a border with plants that I either bought or were gifts from my mother’s yard, and rejuvenated the lawn.


back yard before

After it’s been cleaned, I have an entire trash bag full of hosta, iris, daylily, and ornamental basil left over.


back yard after

I water it thoroughly, edge the bricks with a spade, and throw some Miracle-Gro foliar feeder on it for good measure.

Then it’s back across the street to install the plant divisions in the problem area, with a little peat moss mixed into the soil under each plant.


front garden after

In the front, a row of shade-loving hosta, the ordinary kind with white on the outer leaves. These grow rapidly and there are always enough to divide–in a year one plant will yield two more plants.  In the middle, a blue leaved hosta and a yellow leaved hosta, interspersed with impatients.  The yellow ones looks identical to green hostas until you put them in the sun, then they turn yellow.  Impatients grow well here, in either sun or shade, although they do a little better in the sun.  In the back are irises and a jade plant, both survive in shade. The soil here is sandy–this was once the bottom of a prehistoric Lake Michigan that was much larger–and the soil drains quickly.  Ideally the soil should have four inches of peat moss dug into it, or even compost, but again, I don’t have a budget for this project.  Instead I had a little Miracle-Gro infused peat moss left over from some other project and mixed it with the soil under each plant. Hopefully that will help it retain moisture around the root.

The real purpose of a garden like this is to get perennials established so you don’t have to plant annuals every year.  Realistically, gardeners die or move away, but a good established perennial bed will look good even without care.  Even though it’s the skeleton of perennials that make the garden, it’s the flowers that people notice and comment on.  I find if I include some showy flowers, nobody has much comment about the rest of what I do and I am allowed to proceed without impedance.

front garden longshot

It’s still a little straggly right now, but in time everything should fill in nicely until it looks something like this, but without the rampaging morning glory (yes, this was a mass of weeds before I took over):

front garden comparison

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