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Dreams of a New Front Garden

April 23, 2015

house with bare groundWhile I wait for the snow to finish melting, I have been enjoying the mild weather by beginning spring clean-up in flower beds that are already free of snow and by wandering around the front of my property dreaming about the new front garden I plan to create there. As you can see, almost all the plants were removed before construction started, so I am essentially beginning with a blank slate.

entry garden iris siteCreating a garden here will be a multi-year project, and right now I’m focusing my dreaming and planning on the area above the retaining walls. The new front entrance, on the side of the house facing the driveway, will be surrounded by an entry garden consisting of several flower beds. In the space between the front steps and the house, I plan to reinvent the planting of Siberian irises that grew under the old front window. Because the new space is somewhat larger than the old iris bed, I will be able to extend the bloom season by combining Siberian irises with tradescantia (in shades of blue and white) and with one variety of a later-blooming companion plant (still to be chosen).

entry garden border sitesOn the other side of the front steps, a narrow walkway (mostly hidden by the remaining snow pile) leads to a small patio (8’ x 8’) at the top of the retaining walls. This walkway will separate the remaining two flower beds of the entry garden, the porch border and the patio border. I haven’t yet decided on the plants for these flower beds, but the planting will be in shades of pink, white and lavender, and I want to include plants tall enough to provide a sense of enclosure in the garden as one approaches the front door.

fragrant garden siteAlong the front of the house, a large area under the bedroom window and bounded by the side of the front deck at one end and the corner of the house at the other will be the site for my new fragrant garden. My dream is to have wonderful fragrances wafting into the bedroom through open windows on summer nights. This garden will include both woody perennials (shrubs) and herbaceous perennials and needs to be very carefully designed. I will begin work on this design this year, but I don’t expect to actually get the ground prepared and plants in until next year.

lavender walk siteIn addition to the entry garden, I do hope to get one other garden area completed this year: the lavender walk. I have long wanted to grow lavender, and this dry, sunny area along the top of the retaining wall seems like a perfect place for it. The lavender will be planted along both sides of a second walkway leading to the patio. On the side in front of the deck, which is just around the corner from the porch border, I would like to interplant the lavender with some pink flowers, perhaps Echinacea purpurea. On the retaining wall side, I would also like to combine the lavender with one or two other plants, but I am not yet sure what those will be.

Before I can begin to dig and plant any of these garden areas, the hardscape will need to be completed. All the walkways and the patio, which were prepared by the excavators with compacted sand and gravel, will be finished with one-foot square concrete paving stones. I am hoping to find enough money in my budget to hire someone to do all or most of this work. (I can do it myself if I have to, but it takes me forever and is hard on my back.)

I have lots to think and dream about as I wait not very patiently for the snow to finish melting and the ground to dry out.  Having a new front garden to dream and plan is exciting!

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2015 7:39 pm

    The most powerful fragrances I’ve created in my garden have come from dwarf Korean lilac and hardy pink dianthus.

    • April 27, 2015 8:41 pm

      Allan, Thanks for the suggestions. Lilac and dianthus are definitely on my list of plants to include. I find the Korean lilac scent a bit too overpowering, but I love traditional lilacs, and I have a small lilac that I intend to move from another part of the garden where it doesn’t get enough sun to bloom.

  2. April 23, 2015 8:20 pm

    Your garden design plans sound wonderful, Jean! It will be such rewarding work, as little by little, your garden dreams materialize. I will come visit often to watch your gardens grow! Happy springtime! ♡

    • April 27, 2015 8:43 pm

      Dawn, I’m really eager to get started on this. I know I can’t do everything at once, so I’m setting priorities on which parts of the new garden are most important to me. I had hoped to get the fragrant garden done this summer, but I realized that I want to take more time on design with that large area, so waiting until next year will give me the time I need.

  3. April 23, 2015 8:41 pm

    I love the process of designing a new garden and getting it planted…It should be such great fun.

    • April 27, 2015 8:47 pm

      Charlie, I love the beginning part of the process (design) and the end (getting the plants in the ground). The middle part of getting amendments dug into the soil is more tedious — but I’m convinced that gardening is like painting in that preparation is 90% of success.

  4. April 23, 2015 11:06 pm

    Some of the most fun I’ve had in the garden involved designing and planting the front garden of our current house after removal of our lawn last year. I hope you enjoy the process as much and I look forward to seeing the work as it progresses.

    • April 27, 2015 8:50 pm

      Kris, Your posts about your new front garden inspired me to think differently about how to incorporate lawn. I had been thinking about a central lawn surrounded by perennial borders on the lower part of the garden; but now I’m planning a wide grassy path instead.

  5. April 24, 2015 7:53 am

    I loved seeing all the photos of your new front entrance. It is beautiful, your builder did such a good job. Snow flurries twice yesterday and then down to almost freezing last night and tonight—winter continues.

    • April 27, 2015 8:52 pm

      Carolyn, We had a few snow flakes blowing around in the air here over the weekend, but they didn’t amount to anything (well, at least not in this part of the state). Winter must be officially over here because my neighbor who does the plowing for us in winter delivered his bill yesterday.
      My builder may not have brought the job in on time or on budget, but the quality of the work is excellent. Maybe you can come to see it in person during the summer.

  6. April 24, 2015 9:10 am

    Jean, so excited to watch your progress. I know it can be overwhelming to plant on blank slate, but your ideas are well-thought. When I landscaped my zone 10 garden, I began with the hardscape, then the more permanent/structural plants, and then the decorative stuff. Best of luck!

    • April 27, 2015 8:55 pm

      Kevin, I’ve never been a gardener with a big overall vision or plan, so it works best for me to divide the garden into sections and focus on one section at a time. The areas I’ll start with this year don’t really need any big architectural plants, because the house and patio provide the architectural backdrop; so I get to choose perennials (the most fun for me) right away.

  7. April 24, 2015 2:30 pm

    I think if I were in your situation I’d be fighting the urge to get an extension cord and a hair dryer and melting the rest of that snow by hand so I could get started on those gardens!

    • April 27, 2015 8:57 pm

      LOL, Chad, this is a very funny image. Gardening in this climate requires some patience; it’s not just waiting for the last of the snow to melt (almost gone!) but also waiting for the soil to drain (which, with my sandy soil, doesn’t take long). While I wait, I have lots else to do and am getting out on every nice day to work on spring clean-up of established flower beds.

  8. April 26, 2015 1:56 pm

    Hello Jean, I’m very excited for you starting with a blank canvas as that’s the same boat I’m in. I’m a little ahead (no snow here) and have started digging the borders that I outlined last year. I look forward to reading about how you progress with the various beds surrounding the hose, I just know it will look beautiful!

    • April 27, 2015 9:00 pm

      Sunil, It sounds as though you are about a year ahead of me. I find the prospect of a whole new garden both daunting and exciting. My plans never come out quite the way I envisioned them; but I don’t mind a 3-4 year period of moving things around around and revising until I get the effect I had imagined.

  9. Molly permalink
    April 26, 2015 3:05 pm

    Sweet dreams Jean. Sounds like you will be kept pretty busy. Have fun putting into action those great dreams of yours.

    • April 27, 2015 9:02 pm

      Molly, This should keep me busy for several years! I tend to approach big jobs very methodically. So I will divide this into parts and then work on each section until the plants are all in the ground. It will be a lot of work, but fun work!

  10. April 26, 2015 5:40 pm

    I love your dreams and plans…the colors and some of the plants like the lavender walk…and a scented garden sounds heavenly Jean…

    • April 27, 2015 9:03 pm

      Donna, I’ve been imagining that scented garden for years, and I’m really looking forward to executing the dream — and then inhaling deeply 🙂

  11. April 26, 2015 5:50 pm

    We too need stepping stones for a path thru our sand.
    Then he has the long task of laying them in place.
    I get to dream about which plant goes where with who …

    • April 27, 2015 9:07 pm

      Diana, I need an ungardener to get all those stepping stones into place for me! I may have to hire one, so that I can get to the fun part of getting the plants in place more quickly.

  12. debsgarden permalink
    April 27, 2015 12:03 am

    A lavender walk! My dream! Too humid here, but I will surely enjoy yours. Planning a new garden is daunting but so exciting. I look forward to seeing your dreams come true.

    • April 27, 2015 9:18 pm

      Deb, I’m excited about the lavender walk. I knew I wanted to include lavender, but it was only when I was outside walking around the new addition that I saw this was the perfect place for it. The lavender walk will be a kind of memorial garden to my mother, who always wanted to grow lavender but just didn’t have the right conditions for it.

  13. April 27, 2015 6:19 pm

    I too am planning a whole new garden. I am not as patient as you. I will set up some holding beds for plants I am bringing with me, as well as community plant sale plants, but it is my desire to plant my small hell strip and plant some not too small trees and shrubs in the back yard. My plant lists are a mile long and I can hardly wait to dig – at the same time I try to be sensible.

    • April 27, 2015 9:23 pm

      Pat, I have a 9′ x 15′ holding area that is crammed full of plants that I moved out of harm’s way in late summer of 2013, along with some that I moved from my Gettysburg garden. Some of those plants will get used in the areas I’m planning to work on this year, but most will have to wait in their holding area a bit longer. Fortunately, I have my whole back garden that is already established and needs to be cleaned up and prepared for the new garden season — which is helping to keep me from being too impatient. Otherwise, I might have to do what Chad (above) suggests and get out there with a hair dryer to get the soil dried out and ready to be worked! 🙂

  14. jacumba permalink
    April 27, 2015 10:15 pm

    Ah the excitement of starting a new garden! As much as I love a space that’s well weathered and with mature plants and reminders of decisions made two decades ago, there’s something amazing about a blank sheet of earth. I can see you’ve been doodling on that blank sheet, and I’m looking forward to see how it fills in!

    • May 4, 2015 8:43 pm

      Jacumba, It is exciting. Unfortunately, I have to get the hardscape completed before I can begin digging and planting, and messing around with concrete pavers is not work that I enjoy. I’ll have to let the anticipation of new flower beds keep me moving through this preparation.

  15. May 2, 2015 10:11 pm

    It’s interesting to look back at a space and wonder what we’d do different if we had the chance. But now you do and it will be fun to start a new piece of art, for that is what our gardens are. Sweet peas would be great along a trellis in your fragrance garden.

    • May 4, 2015 8:44 pm

      Tammy, Thanks for the great suggestion for the fragrant garden. I’m adding it to my idea list.

  16. May 12, 2015 10:03 pm

    Jean, how lovely of you to leave a comment on my blog after I’ve been away so long. I just don’t have anything to write about the rest of the year. Your plans look just great. I read somewhere that walkways are the perfect place to plant lavendar, because you brush up against it while you walk and that releases more of the scent. ive always loved the idea of that!

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