April 28, 2010

April in Spokane and Progress on Front Makeover

This spring I've been enjoying the petite blooms of small bulbs, like the 'Flore Pleno' snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) above. I didn't plant any full size tulips or daffodils last fall. Instead, I went for small bulbs that produce plenty of color en masse without leaving large, difficult-to-camouflage leaves to die back for months after blooming. Chionodoxa, mini-daffodils, and several types of crocus made the list. I've been so pleased with the results that I'm going to continue the plan for next spring.

Other than the bulbs, my garden is mostly full of emerging leaves. Above is Nepeta '6 Hills Giant', and below is Heuchera 'Green Spice'. The spring coloration of the heuchera leaves is really interesting, and really different from its summer look.

We finally put the shutters and new lights up on the house. We also spread bark, planted a tree and put matching pots on the porch. I love the way bark helps polish up the beds while the plants are still filling in. Below is a picture of what the front looked like when we moved here in 2007.

Now you can see the house in its current state. 'Emerald Blue Cushion' phlox are blooming along the front of the beds. In past weeks I've planted a bunch of 'Big Blue' liriope, 'Abraham Darby' roses (OK, hubby did those), rose colored daisy-type chrysanthemums, 'Giggles' dahlias, violets and lewisia.

I still need to plant some 'Green Tower' boxwoods, 'Pink Double Delight' coneflower, 'Rozanne' geranium, 'Clemantine Blue' columbine, and plenty of annual 'Twinny Peach' snapdragons, 'Victoria' salvia, 'Vintage Pink' petunias, and blue fanflower (scaveola) to fill in while the perennials and shrubs are still small. We also need to pull a lot of weeds - apparently our new dirt came with plenty of weed seeds. But I've been paying my kids to pull weeds so I can enjoy the fun of planting. I always knew there was a good reason for having children!

April 13, 2010

What are Gardeners to Rocks and Mountains?

This gardener is a committed plant-lover, but I confess to falling head-over-heels for boulders lately (my apologies to Jane Austen for misquoting her in the title - are you a fan, too?). The attraction isn't hard to figure out. In Spokane, most of my favorite plants are fair weather friends. But stones strut their stuff even in the coldest, stormiest weather. That's why I included a dozen boulders (plus all the flagstones) in the new front gardens.

The photo above shows my favorite - a basalt column. It will look better with plants billowing about, but I like it even now. I thanked my husband for buying me a big, pretty rock that I don't have to wear on my finger and that I won't have to worry about losing.

We bought the stones from Sunrise Ridge Rock, a local landscape rock company. My children and I had a grand time discovering the different types of stone at their rock yard. It was like a strange farm, with rows and rows of giant boulders growing instead of crops. We gathered a few bumps and scrapes before deciding to just look at the rock piles instead of trying to climb on them.

After a considerable amount of hemming and hawing, I picked the perfect boulders for our yard. I had brought samples of our stone facing to make sure they blended together. I found basalt with shades of grey, rose, plum, brown and orange.

Above is a shot of some adorable miniature daffodils ('Small Talk') and blue-violet chionodoxa with the stone facing on the house in the background. You can see how well the colors of the stone facing work with the colors of the boulder in the picture below. Bingo - finally a piece of the project that turned out just right.

I love these boulders in the sun or in the rain, and I bet they'll be lovely in the snow. Hopefully some of them will gather moss eventually (funny, the stones with moss or lichens already growing on them were three times as expensive at the rock yard). I've complained before about all the river rock that keeps coming out of my flower beds (apparently this area used to be a river bottom), but now I'll have some rocks to gush over.

So, are you in love, too?

April 5, 2010

Makeover: Cramped Porch to Welcoming Wide Steps

We are about 90% finished with the renovations to the front of our home and landscape, so I'm going ahead and posting some photos. The problem is, the 'before' photo (above) was taken when the plants were pretty and green, while the 'after' photos (below) still show winter landscape. I think you're supposed to do it the other way around, to emphasize how much better the changes look. But I tried to even things out by applying some photoshop trickery to make the 'after' photos look vintage and glowing . . . what do you think?

Here are the steps that Susan Morrison, the landscape designer behind Blue Planet Gardening, kindly suggested for our porch. You can see from the top picture that our small porch used to feel very cramped and dark, but the steps and stone column open it up and better balance the Giant Garage on the other side of our house. You might notice that the pink dogwood tree is no longer on the southwest corner of the porch - after watching it fry for 3 summers, hubby moved it to the east side of the house. I'm crossing my fingers that it survives. We're replacing it with a 'Kwanzan' cherry tree to match the other two trees in the front yard.

So has anyone else found that renovation projects never go quite as planned? It seemed like there was a little problem or two with each part of the project. The new concrete pad isn't quite level (should have asked for references). So the steps couldn't be quite level. The old composite decking was really faded, so the new planks don't match. Don't even get me started on the strange gutter setup - that's going to get changed eventually. We saved siding from the sides of the house when the masons added stone facing there and used it to replace the gingerbread accent siding above the garage. It doesn't quite match, as you can see, but new siding would have been even worse since it wouldn't have been faded at all. Hopefully the summer sun on our southern exposure will even things up over time. Fade, baby, fade!

The photo above nearly screams for plants to cover the bare dirt. Getting the rest of the plants in place will really make things look better. We have new lights and shutters sitting in our garage, but hubby has been too busy with other projects to put them up yet. Lately health problems have been slowing me down in the garden and on the computer (my posts might be sporadic for a while here). So all projects are moving along at a snail's pace.

This last shot shows the west garden with its new flagstone path and stone column. When we moved in, that west side was just a spot for the leftover plants that I didn't want in the front. But right now it's the garden that I'm most excited about, especially since our kitchen window looks out that way. I can't wait to enjoy looking at vividly colored blooms on either side of the flagstone while doing piles of not-so-enjoyable dishes.
Thanks again to Susan for the great steps idea. I hope to post pictures of the 100% finished project eventually . . .