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New Front Garden: Year 3 Progress Report

August 7, 2017

imageI’ve been in a bit of a slump this year with my new front garden project, without the clear goals and timetables for reaching them that are typical for me. I thought the gratification of getting the Side Slope (below) and Fragrant Garden plantings created in year 2 would give me momentum, but this year’s projects just don’t excite me in the same way.

side slope year 1

My 5-year schedule called for completing the Clover Path and the Shrubbery this year. The Clover Path may not engage me in the way that creating perennial borders does, but it is a critical structural element in the front garden design. The Clover Path provides an entry point into the lower garden from the driveway; it connects the lower and upper parts of the new front garden, and it frames the Front Slope, the Shrubbery and the front and side perennial borders. The widening of the path at the curve by the Shrubbery also creates room for a small seating area, a destination in the lower garden.

clover path in progressSo I have been slogging my way through the Clover Path project and expect to get it done this month. In late spring, I laid out the borders of the path using a garden hose and some pieces of rope. I have been removing existing vegetation (unless it is clover!) and tilling in some compost. I had hoped to get the top half of the path prepared and seeded before the end of June, but other garden chores captured my attention and energy. Thinking I had until fall to get this done, I was working at a leisurely pace – until some research on planting clover revealed that, unlike grass seed, clover must be sown in spring or summer, no later than mid-August. This unexpected deadline lit a fire under me, and I hope to get the soil preparation and seeding finished in the coming week. Nevertheless, because my late timing is pushing the envelope, I have bought extra seed so that I can re-seed next spring if necessary.

My other planned project for this year, a planting of shrubs at the west front corner of my property has been delayed. I am scheduled to take a course on “Selecting Native Woody Plants for the Maine Garden” at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in mid-October, and I realized that it made no sense to design and plant this shrub border before taking the class. My goal now is to prepare the soil for planting this fall, design over the winter, and plant next spring. I have made some progress on this, getting trees limbed up to let more light into the planting area and beginning to pull up some of the existing vegetation.

rain garden siteAnother project has been added to my agenda for this year. I’ve decided to create a small rain garden to collect runoff from the roof at the corner of the house by the Fragrant Garden. I don’t really need a rain garden, since my very sandy soil drains quickly; but I am hoping that by creating a depression where rain water will collect, however briefly, I will be able to grow some plants that require more moisture than my conditions generally provide. (I am dreaming of a ‘Quickfire’ hydrangea.) Because this is a small area (about 25 square feet), I should be able to get it done quickly, preferably within the next 4-6 weeks. I have already added a flexible extension to the downspout to channel the water in the right direction. Next is to dig the depression, amend the soil, and put in plants.

I must admit that I am pushing myself to complete these projects in order to stay on track and get to the year 4 project that I find much more interesting – creating the Front Slope planting. (Indeed, I have already begun some preparatory work on this big garden area.)

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2017 1:47 pm

    Sounds like a lovely retired life. Know there are always delays and side projects — but what I do know about you is that your gardens will be spectacular.

    • August 8, 2017 7:45 pm

      Kevin, I’m in no danger of becoming one of those people who can’t figure out what to do with themselves in retirement. (I’m guessing that no gardeners are in that group!) I don’t know about spectacular; I’m noticing that while I’m busy creating this new front landscape, the older parts of the garden are looking a bit neglected.

  2. August 7, 2017 2:41 pm

    Jean, your progress is impressive. The clover path sounds quite wonderful and I think you are very wise to wait before designing the shrub border. How I envy you, being able to take such interesting courses. We have nothing similar nearby.

    • August 8, 2017 7:51 pm

      Pat, When I thought about sitting in class in October and realizing all the bad choices I had made with the just-completed shrub border, I knew I had to put it on hold. I agree that the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden courses are a wonderful resource. Because the classes are short and intensive (usually all day for two consecutive days), people do come from a distance to take them. One man who has been in a couple of different classes with me, for example, comes up from Annapolis, Maryland for them. I could imagine you finding it worth your while to come down to Maine for a few days to take something like Bill Cullina’s “Horticultural Ecology” course (offered for two days in early September).

  3. August 7, 2017 2:58 pm

    Your side slope is looking wonderful already, Jean. I can appreciate the “slog” aspects of some garden projects – I felt much the same way about pulling out our lawn, laying paving, and planting flat after flat of thyme, but it did make a huge difference in the garden’s appearance. I hope you’re able to complete the clover path within your new timetable. I’ve 2 major garden projects in my queue but both are on hold until the worst of summer’s heat is behind us so I have to keep my impatience in check awhile longer, which is a different kind of challenge.

    • August 8, 2017 7:54 pm

      Kris, I think all jobs worth doing include some aspects that are a slog, but that you push through to get to the parts you love. (When I was teaching, the “slog” part was grading papers.) I’m making steady progress on the clover path. Two more days of soil preparation and then I can seed this weekend.

    • August 8, 2017 8:46 pm

      p.s. Your blog won’t let me comment at all today Kris — just sends me into an endless loop of “previews.” (Usually, I have to get through those picture tests that I have so much trouble with; but today I can’t even get to those.)

  4. August 8, 2017 4:53 am

    Unfortunately retirement does not mean more time to do all those jobs. I have found that it is easy to start taking on new responsibilities and new hobbies with the result one has less free time. Certainly some of my garden projects keep getting delayed due to some unexpected event.

    • August 8, 2017 8:13 pm

      Steve, Retirement does mean that I can spread big jobs like this out over more days and weeks than I did when I was working — which is good because my body will no longer tolerate the kinds of 8-hour days of hard physical labor that I engaged in 20 years ago!

  5. August 8, 2017 12:50 pm

    Hello Jean, I though we had an aggressive schedule but it sounds like yours is punishing with the time constraints on when classes are taken and windows for seed-sowing. We haven’t made any new borders in our garden this year as the plan is to sort out the rear-half. Unfortunately, I under-estimated just how much work was required so we’re behind on this and I’m not sure what we’ll manage to finish before winter!

    • August 8, 2017 8:14 pm

      Sunil, I could spread out this big landscaping project over more years — but I’m coming up on my 70th birthday and figure I had better get it done while I am still able to!

  6. debsgarden permalink
    August 9, 2017 12:03 am

    Wow, three years! It doesn’t seem that long to me, but look at your progress! i admire your organization, and I am confident your final plans will be completed on time. And then, no doubt, you will start plans for another project!

    • August 10, 2017 9:06 pm

      Deb, LOL, I do, of course, have ideas for another project after this one. And then there are those older flower beds in the back garden that are beginning to look a bit forlorn and in need of renovation.

  7. August 9, 2017 8:37 am

    Jean, I also admire your organization! You have put a lot on your plate, but organizing and focusing are the hallmarks of achieving goals. You are so correct about waiting to take the course before planting the shrubs. I planted gardens on my property and then took the Master Gardener course. I had to undo a number of things and there were some mistakes I couldn’t take back because shrubs and trees had grown too large to be transplanted. I’m looking forward to watching your garden develop further. K

    • August 10, 2017 9:09 pm

      Kathy, It’s one thing to make mistakes with perennials which are relatively inexpensive and can usually be moved easily. Shrubs are a whole other matter!
      I’m definitely a “slow and steady wins the race” tortoise type, which means that I usually achieve my goals.

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