Look At My Garden Grow!

I’ve mentioned on here more than once that I’ve been doing some heavy lifting in the yard this summer and I’ve had some requests to share some photos of the work. So today is the day — I’m going to take you on a little mini-tour!

First, a little background. My hubby and I put a lot of time into our yard when we first moved in over a decade ago and had grand plans to have lush and large gardens with veggies galore. But then babies and work and other things came up and we found ourselves struggling against the big Black Walnut tree adjacent to our lot. And we kind of let it all go. I don’t have “before” pictures, but just imagine 10years with no mulch or weeding or effort. It was an overgrown mess.

My good friend is a bonafide garden guru and last year we started talking about what I could do to fix things. Life got in the way for a while, but this summer she came up with a plan and then spent her share of time, sweat, and home-grown plants to get me going. And now — I’m not going to lie — I’m a little obsessive about it. The daily weeding, watering, and monitoring of each bed is something I really enjoy. The goal this year was to just clean up the most neglected parts right around the house.

We started with the front yard.

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Hmmm…

It turns out there is no good way to photograph this bed — lol! As you can see, it’s a little overtaken by lillies and I may have to thin them out sometime, but suffice to say it arches and is chock full of lillies and daisies and echinacea and bee balm. And although it’s currently a little unwieldy, it feels pretty true to my life and family and I really love it.

img_4087My friend contributed a number of awesome plants to this bed, including a snapdragon which just got its first bud. I can’t wait to see it!

Over the years, I’ve been splitting a single sedum plant I got as a housewarming gift to create an entire sedum border in the front yard. The plants are huge and healthy and I love the texture and when they pop with their lovely pink flowers. This year, for the most part we left all the sedum in place and added a few things here and there.

img_4082 This is one of my favorite spots in the gardens — my friend tucked these pretty flowers into this decrepit planter and they are such a fun pop of color. And do you see those big leaves to the right?

img_4073It’s rhubarb! We planted our rhubarb plants probably 8 years ago and where we had them they were just barely surviving. We’ve never been able to harvest from them. I showed it to my guru and she said, “let’s move those up front.” They looked like toast the first couple days, but they have BOOMED in a huge way. Boomed so much that I worry we should have given them more room. It’s just plain awesome. What a great problem to have!

Along the east side of the house, it was literally a heap of weeds and two big hostas.

img_4076It has been transformed. Neat & tidy and eventually it will be this full, gorgeous bed of hostas in loads of sizes, shapes, and colors.  There are a pair of kale plants in there, too…

img_4098 I randomly planted them 4 or 5 years ago from seed and they just keep coming back. I moved them both when we refreshed this bed and this one came roaring back.

img_4083Oh, and there are sunflowers here and there. Some are volunteers from the winter bird feeding, some are deliberate.

On the south side of the house my friend brought some amazing  organic tomatoes, peppers, and basils.

img_4078These are two of the tomato plants and looky here…

img_4103A nice big tomato is coming in!

Wrapping around our back deck is another troupe of sedum.

img_4080I have them lined up on all three sides — these are all split from some plants we got from our daughter’s 4K teacher. They’ve been a little slow coming around because they were wildly overgrown with weeds, but I pulled them all out, weeded, and replanted all three sides of the deck this summer. My lawnmower doesn’t bag clippings, but our neighbors have generously been sharing with us and I’ve been mulching my way around the house with each fresh load of clippings. If you hadn’t heard, our neighbors are awesome.

And this little ‘secret’ spot is heavily shaded by a giant forsythia, but I think of all that we’ve done this makes me the happiest.

img_4079It’s so simple and delicate. It probably look a little bare to you, but I love that’s it’s just a little tidy spot. I love the rich green of the hostas and the pinks and reds of the coleus. They don’t get much sun, so they are pretty tiny yet, but I really adore them.img_4077Oh! Another sunflower. This one was another plant from my friend. And last nigh, I realized this correlation with my spindle project…

9df99d67-3a25-4bea-a947-ca1b73efbbf7Incredible.

I realize to some my progress might be a bit underwhelming because there’s no proper mulch or stones for edging. It’s nothing too fancy, but did I mention my budget for this has been $0? I fully plan to thank my garden guru with some fiber when she gets back into spinning this fall and I’m sure I’ll be shoveling our neighbors’ walk come the winter snow to thank them for the clippings, but other than that I’ve been astounded by the changes that we could make that are 100% sweat and time. If you would have told me last year that I could clean up my yard and make it look mostly neat & tidy on this kind of a shoestring I would never have believed you.

These days, I’m a teensy bit behind in the weeding, but it only takes an hour or so to sweep through everything around the house. And I can and will enjoy making that happen. I’m sure I’ll check out how the pepper buds are coming along (I couldn’t grab a good photo as I have poor light at the moment) and how high the basils have shot up and how much the tomatoes have grown their decadent fruit. And I can’t help but find myself dreaming of going beyond the beds around the house. Perhaps I’ll take on a small veggie garden next year and start in on a creative adventure with the rest of the yard, my garden guru is certainly encouraging me and she has me completely and totally hooked. Perhaps… perhaps… perhaps…

It Goes Without Saying

This weekend my husband & I split the family up for mini-adventures — he a bit farther afield with my son on a father/son camping trip, me at home with my daughter for a mother/daughter slumber party. The boys made the drive to Maquoketa Caves State Park in northeastern Iowa to camp & explore the caves. aldo caveThey had a great time….

576597_10151404530597000_193836823_ngetting to know the wildlife…

aldo cavesAnd hanging in the caves.

My daughter had her last day of school, so when I picked her up at noon I offered to take her out to lunch. She asked if she could have a new book instead.

20130604-080547.jpgAs a mum, there is really no arguing with that counter offer.

We ended up doing a lot of gardening. We started by filling our over-the-rail planters with petunias.

20130604-081102.jpgMy daughter got to pick the colors, so we got pink.  Of course.

Then my girl was over-the-moon to be set free with the hose to ‘clean off’ our deck so I weeded and weeded some more and set up both of our rain  barrels. We rounded out our day with lots of reading & strawberry frozen yogurt sundaes in bed.20130604-080538.jpg

My girl really LOVES to read. And I will say she was very excited to get to sleep in the big bed with me. I was reminded that not only does she like to snuggle even more than the dog, she snores and talks in her sleep. Somehow this 40lb person took up 3/4 of a queen sized bed & woke me out of a dead sleep at 3am  with her talking. It’s all worth it though. She’s pretty fantastic.

It was a happy homecoming when the boys returned, tired and bearing lots of laundry from their spelunking expeditions. We celebrated being freshly reunited by sitting down to a very basic, but filling spaghetti dinner. There is nothing like being apart — even for just a couple days — to make the simple act of being together feel extra special. I am grateful for my little family, the time we have to spend together, the adventures we get to have both near & far, and the bonds we share. It goes without saying, but sometimes saying it is important, too.

Tug of War

This last weekend was the first we’ve had that was truly spring-like. Warm & sunny all in the same day. Twice in a row. Needless to say it was incredible & we stayed very busy. On Saturday, the kids & I biked to the library for the first time this year & ate popsicles and played outside until they were exhausted. It was perfect!

Sunday is usually our family day, but this week my husband volunteered to cover part of a shift for a co-worker who had a make-up game to coach. We decided to each take a kid — my husband taking my daughter to work with him leaving me to hang with our son.  At my boy’s request, we started our day by taking our Moose to the dog park. It was very wet from all the rain we’ve had this spring, but wet shoes dry and labs sure do like the water! As soon as Moose saw open water he bounded into it with glee — it was so fun to watch the sheer joy of this pup on his first swim of the year.

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This isn’t the best photo, but you get the idea.

Less fun is the endearing way he is compelled to run back to us after each dive and shake off right next to us, but it is the lone curse of this dog — that I will be wet and filthy pretty much all summer long. He’s lucky he’s so cute & sweet!

20130429-135946.jpgReally, could you be upset with this face?

If the happy dog wasn’t enough, my son & I each managed to almost step on a snake at the park — one Common Garter snake & one Brown snake. My son is crazy for snakes, so these close encounters equaled major excitement for us.  Apparently the dog park had something for everyone this gorgeous Sunday morning!

After a stop for ice cream & a tour of the local pet store we arrived back home & my son opted to ride his scooter for a while. I wandered through my yard & gardens partly to make a mental to-do list for this spring, partly to see what perennials were popping up. I am always excited when my perennials begin sprouting for the year — many of them I have received as hand-me-downs & cuttings from friends that I have split & distributed throughout the yard over the years. In this way, it’s not just lovely plants waking up — like so many things in this life these plants remind me of special people & times in my life so I hold each of them very dear. I snapped some photos to share, of course.

20130428-183126.jpgHyacinth that my husband bought for me a couple anniversaries ago.

20130429-114729.jpgRhubarb that we planted when my daughter was a toddler.

20130429-114743.jpgThis lilac was one of the very first things we planted in our yard when we moved in. It has struggled — as do many things in our yard thanks to a giant black walnut tree on the property line (it isn’t ours — we love the shade, not so much the toxic roots & leaves).

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We have loads of gooseberry bushes which produce fruit prolifically. Mind the giant thorns though — my son kindly removed one from my leg before I noticed and promptly charged me $1 for the service. I happily paid as I surely would have been in a lot of pain shortly had he not caught it. Besides, he’s saving up for a pet tortoise… or snake… or a trip to Central America.

20130429-114827.jpgThese are daylilies and irises are from an dear friend who shared loads of plants with me when she remodeled her backyard.

20130429-114843.jpgAnd our honeysuckle vine that has overtaken an arbor that arches over our front walk. It blooms beautifully — sometimes twice — & the hummingbirds love it. It needs some pruning though, to be sure!

I was delighted to see lots tulips I transplanted coming up in their new locations as well as a sedum I split to multiple new spots last fall. I started a rather large-scale landscaping project with this plant last fall. It was originally just a lone potted sedum given to me as a house-warming gift and now it is about a dozen thriving plantings — hopefully more later this year. I can’t wait to finish this project, it’s going to look lovely, I just know it! I already took care of pruning back our plum and quince trees as well as our cherry bushes. I tidied up our daisy & tiger-lily bed (although they will probably need to be split, too). Mostly just the larger scale mulching project, switching over to summer-time bird feeders, and bringing out our over-the-deck-rail planters remain. I have some ideas for raspberry patch expansion & a mini-wildflower field, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself!

In the meantime when I’ve not been working in the gardens, I’ve been clicking away. I’ve finished some swatches for an upcoming class as well as my MerryKAL Chrimstas ball for April. I’ve also been cruising through the final leg of my Sixareen Cape. All this nice weather has made me think about a project I just barely started last month though… Bristol Ivy’s Kit Camisole in Quince & Co. Sparrow.

20130429-144429.jpgI love the timeless features of the design & so far I’ve been very impressed with Quince & Co’s linen. I haven’t used much linen in my day, but this one is quite lovely — soft and not prone to splitting.

 We are expecting more rain & cooler weather again the latter half of this week — it seems despite all the springing around us Mother Nature is still a bit torn between winter & summer — the tug-of-war we call spring. I am torn as well… quite torn, actually. In the time I’m not working in the garden should I finish up my cool weather knitting (I feel so close!) or spring into the warmer weather items so they are ready for summer? Or maybe just plug away at both? I think there will be a tug-of-war on my needles, too.