It is amazing how quickly the gardens change this time of year. In just a few weeks the perennials have made a lot of growth and the trees and shrubs have finished leafing out. So I am posting more wide views of the garden to show the progress.
I am starting with a couple of shots from the west garden, which was planted in 2010 and is more established than the backyard, which was mostly completed last year in 2013. The clumps of gold and violet iris are finally really big and pretty. Violet 'May Night' salvia (everyone should grow this plant) is just starting to bloom, while 'Walker's Low' catmint sprawls everywhere. The catmint should not be fertilized, but it's growing next to my roses so its roots soak up some of the fertilizer meant for the roses and then get floppy. Oh well.
This area just inside the gate is meant to be a sort of foyer. When the trees mature enough to create a ceiling and the shrubs grow large enough to feel like walls, there will be a comfortable sense of enclosure with hints of the view beyond to draw you into the garden. Now that the big elements are in place, I have plans to divide and transplant perennials along the edge of the path to add more color. My goal is for the mature garden to be billowing and full, just on the edge of overgrown, so you feel surrounded instead of just looking down at it.
Looking north from the gate, the maroon leaves of 'Royal Raindrops' crabapples contrast with all the green. They grow quickly, so it shouldn't take too much longer before the branches grow into each other to make one large canopy. I really like these trees, and the two weeks that they bloom each year are spectacular, but they do have some drawbacks. They require a lot of pruning because the branches keep growing too low and I have to remind them that they're trees, not shrubs. The other drawback to this tree is the thousands of tiny seedlings that are coming up from the thousands of cute little crabapples that are produced each fall. Even Preen hasn't stopped the problem.
This is the current unimpressive view of the main garden bed. I have been sitting in that chair in back while pondering on what else this focal area needs. There are plenty of perennials and shrubs for color later in the season, but I need more interest during April and May. Deep rose 'Don Quichotte' and purple 'Negrita' tulips bloom in April and are known to be reliable perennials, especially in a raised bed like this one. 'Renown' tulips are similar in color to 'Don Quichotte' but bloom in May and are also good perennials (not all tulips come back each year). 'Globemaster' and 'Purple Caila' alliums bloom in late May, while 'Ambassador' alliums bloom in June. Such a large area needs a lot of bulbs to fill the space, so I have a huge bulb order coming this fall from Van Engelen and Zonneveld. I'm not looking forward to all the planting, but at least it's very easy to dig in this imported soil.
The key to getting better photos of a young landscape is to squat, so you get less of the bare soil in the view. I have enough shrubs and perennials planted that in a few years the gardens will be very full, but it just takes time. Here is another shot looking toward the northwest corner, taken while scuttling about like a crab. Of course I have to point out the darling ruffled leaves of the 'Victoria' rhubarb in the back.
The 'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle is slowly making progress up the sides of the swing set and should eventually cover the whole thing. I have been using large black zip ties to hold the stems to the metal. When the trees mature to form a ceiling, the chartreuse 'Sutherland Gold' elderberries on either side of the swings grow to 9' tall and a little less wide (thanks to pruning if needed), and the 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum in the far corner reaches 6' tall and 8-10' wide, the bench will feel nestled into the garden instead of sitting out in the open.
Hopefully the same thing will happen around this bench as the dogwood tree behind it matures along with the surrounding shrubs and perennials. This bench faces the main garden bed, so next year it will be a perfect place to sit and enjoy the hundreds of tulips and alliums I'm going to plant this fall.
Why are the sides of the house so much prettier right now than the main focal points of the garden? Well, the west side is just more mature, and this east side has so many perennials packed into it that it already feels full. As a gardener friend pointed out with a chuckle, I'll soon have plenty of divisions to share. If you are in Spokane next spring and want to come get a few, just let me know!