My Spring and Fall Garden
When I began to garden seriously in Maine, one of my frustrations was having to leave my garden each August to return to teach in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. So when I found a house to rent in Gettysburg that allowed me to have a small garden here, I was thrilled. I first saw the townhouse property on a sunny morning in early May, and I immediately noticed the pink tulips blooming in a small flower bed (6’ x 4’) at the front of the house and a half barrel planter in the middle of the front lawn just crying out for some colorful flowers.
Before the ink was even dry on the lease, I had filled the half barrel with petunias, dianthus and pelargonium; and when I returned from Maine the following August, I planted some perennials in the front flower bed and some daffodil bulbs in a little 3’ diameter flower bed that a previous tenant had created by the patio at the rear of the house.
In the years since, I have turned this into my spring and fall garden. Spring bulbs begin to bloom here in April, when my Maine garden is often still under snow. I return here in late August to blooms of daylilies, morning glories, balloon flower and sedum that last well into October. The garden has expanded since I first saw it; the diagram to the right shows the various garden areas as they exist today.
The front flower bed is still a vision of pink in the spring, but instead of pink tulips, it features two varieties of pink hardy geraniums, a blue and pink flowered Pulmonaria with frosted leaves, and a show-stopping Dicentra spectabilis with a spread of close to 5’. In the fall, this same flower bed features three varieties of late blooming daylilies and Sedum ‘Neon.’
There are more flower beds at the back of the house. The small circle near the patio features daffodils and hyacinths in April, followed by some mauve volunteer columbines and blue siberian iris in May. In fall, this bed takes on a different personality with blooms of Hemerocallis ‘Orange Bounty,’ Platycodon mariesii, and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’ A 7’ x 2’ strip along the side of the patio that was filled with weeds when I moved in has been converted into an herb garden. In May, I sow morning glory seeds along the back of this area and get the vines started growing up twine attached to the fence; when I return in fall, it is to the pleasure of a fence covered in blue flowers.
During the first years I lived here, neighbors who rented the adjacent townhouse planted annuals in a 5’ circular flower bed edged with stones that straddled the line between our properties. When they moved out and the flower bed was left untended by the new tenant, I discovered my inner garden imperialist, unable to resist a flower bed just waiting to be colonized. With permission, I planted the stone circle with perennials and bulbs – some early blooming purple crocuses, a pale blue Phlox subulata that has now spread to cover the stone edging at the front of the flower bed, tradescantia, siberian iris, some reblooming daylilies, and some hostas.
A few years after I laid claim to the stone circle, I found another opportunity for garden expansion when my landlord took down two white pine trees at the pack of the property. When he mentioned a plan to sow some grass seed in the resulting clearing, I asked if I could create a flower bed instead. The result was the largest flower bed in this garden, covering an area roughly 13’ x 7’. In the spring, this part of the garden delights me with daffodils, bleeding hearts, the pale pink blooms of geranium ‘Biokovo,’ and a flowering viburnum. In fall, it features several late-blooming daylilies, dramatic hosta foliage, and the flowers of Sedum ‘Matrona.’
It still makes me sad to leave my Maine garden each August, but having a second garden further south allows me to extend the garden season at both ends. In Gettysburg, I can enjoy spring flowers a month before my Maine garden begins to bloom and fall flowers after frost has effectively ended the northern garden season.