May 26, 2014

Not Quite Billowing and Encompassing, But On Its Way

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!


  1. Hi VW,

    If the bare soil is frustrating you, why not try some annuals to fill the spaces this year? When I first moved in I used them a lot until borders were full, just a thought and of course gives you more colour and will help you achieve that 'full' effect a little sooner.

    I think things are looking very good, and know exactly what you mean about the effect you're aiming for - I have it here, perhaps a little too much in some places. I wish I could give you some of my Alliuns, one small type in particular is growing everywhere. But the Bees love it so I'm loathed to cut it for vases or dig it up. It's just a shame the leaves on Alliums begin to die just before they bloom so it can look unsightly - mine does - but at least the blooms distract you from the dying foliage.

    1. Liz, I keep spending so much money on perennials, vines and bulbs - holy cow, alliums are expensive - that I don't feel I can shell out for some short-term annuals! And my kids help with the weeding so I can't just spread seed and expect the good plants to escape being pulled. I wish I could have some of your alliums too. If you think of a good way to toss them across the big pond separating us, plus the bulk of the US, let me know :-)

  2. It's looking lovely! I know what you mean about waiting for things to grow big. I've still got very young shrubs in most places, and need to put in a few more + some fruit trees. At least you have a vision for how it all will look in the end.
    BTW, I just got some free alliums and I brought home 2 bucket-fulls! I was able to find several places to tuck in a few. :)

  3. I'm in the "waiting for everything to grow" stage, too. Yours is looking lovely now!
    Also, I can relate to this end of May lag time between blossoms. My back flowerbed was packed full of flowers a few weeks ago, but at the moment I've just got a few. In another week, though, we should have roses, and mockorange. These are the times I go to the nursery just to see what is blooming now (and maybe bring a few of those home!)

  4. Your garden is really filling in so beautifully since you redid the back yard. It is amazing how fast plants can grow and look like they have always been there. It is all just beautiful. I love your yellow irises against the purples. Lovely.

  5. I like the yellow and purple combinations in your side garden. The yellow and purple iris combined with the Salvia and catmint are pretty, and with creepers in between the paving stones, the whole area look green. It makes me wish that my side garden area was a little bigger.

    You've got lots of layers in the back garden. I have the tall trees, and the perennial layer, but my shrub layer in between is slow growing, since there is so much shade (combined with a short growing season).

    Good luck with your fall bulbs planting. It will be fun to anticipate your next spring garden as you plant.

  6. would love to have you link your garden posts to Fishtail Cottage's garden party!!! (Thursdays ~ but I keep the party open thru the weekends) hope to see you! xoxo, tracie

    1. Thanks FC! I'll try to make it over sometimes. I always think I should do the Bloomsday every month, too, but usually forget. I figure I'm doing good to just post once a week here and try to read a few other blogs while still getting real life accomplished.

  7. Really beautifull, greeting from Belgium


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