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Looking Forward: Plans for the New Front Border

March 26, 2020

In this time of pandemic anxiety and social distancing, gardening can provide a wonderful sense of normalcy and connection to nature. It’s too soon for me to begin working in the garden (with several inches of new snow this week), but spring is definitely on the way. I have been completing late winter pruning and walking through the garden each day looking for new spring growth. Soon I will be able to get to work on spring clean-up. Since we’re having an early spring, my goal is to get all the seasonal garden chores done by mid-May to clear the decks for work on the new front border (part of my multi-year front landscaping project).

Last year, I made a list of plants already on hand to go into this border. Some of these are part of the current Circular Bed, which will be dismantled and incorporated into the new, much larger front border. Some of the plants on my list have been in my holding area since I moved them out of the way of construction more than six years ago. I also have some plants on hand that were gifts from gardening friends, divisions of their own plants.


Earlier in the winter, I sat down with this list of plants, created a diagram of the new front border space, and went to work on a design. First I put in the shrubs that are already in place – one clump of lilacs kept from the old planting, and the beach plums (Prunus maritima) and northern bayberries (Morella caroliniensis) I planted along the property line last fall. Then I added another shrub, the native pasture rose (Rosa carolina) that has been biding its time in a pot.  As I began to put in the other plants on my list and to move them around on the diagram, I could see some gaps, which gave me a good excuse to peruse the winter plant catalogs and order a few more plants.

This is probably not the final version of this design.  I find that plantings always look different in three-dimensional space than on a two-dimensional diagram, and I will surely tweak this as I put plants in place. It’s also likely that some combinations will not work as well in actuality as they do in my imagination and will get moved around after a year or two. Nevertheless, this design gives me a place to begin. Now I just have to wait for the gardening season to truly begin.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Pat Webster permalink
    March 26, 2020 3:15 pm

    Seeing your diagram is exciting, Jean. Like you, I’m eager to get out and start working. Just came back inside from another tramp around, trying as much as possible to stay off the soggy ground. Things are definitely warming up and buds are starting to form. Hooray!

    • March 27, 2020 10:14 pm

      Pat, One advantage of gardening on soil that is one step up from beach sand is that it is almost never soggy. Today, I saw the first tips of hyacinth growth poking up through the surface of the soil. Is spring early where you are, too? The early spring has been a blessing in all the pandemic craziness.

      • Pat Webster permalink
        March 28, 2020 10:19 am

        We’ve had snow, rain, sunshine; warm days and cold ones — i.e., a typical spring! More seriously, it seems a little earlier than normal but not much. I judge by the day I first spot a daffodil in bloom. The earliest so far was April 15. I doubt I’ll see any that early this year.

  2. March 26, 2020 5:13 pm

    When I got my beach plum seed from Long Island in New York, I got the impression that it is less than a desirable species within the native range. I really did not know that it was planted intentionally. I want to see what the small fruit is like. Why is it in your garden? Is it for the birds?

    • March 27, 2020 10:36 pm

      Hi Tony, It’s in my garden because several native plant sources that I consulted recommended it. Here’s what Mark Richardson and Dan Jaffe say in Native Plants for New England Gardens: “Beach plum (P. maritima) is well-known in coastal areas but is significantly less common as you move inland. It thrives in sandy soils under the blazing sun and shrugs off salt spray without difficulty. If you have the right area in which to plant a beach plum (sunny and well drained), don’t miss the opportunity — the flowers are almost as beautiful as the plums are tasty.”

      • March 28, 2020 2:41 am

        Well, they seem to like it. That is reassuring. I would grow it anyway, but it is nice to hear that some of those who know it like it. I already like mine, even though I do not know what to expect from them. I like my Eastern red cedar too, even though they are not held in high regard among those who live with them.

  3. Kris Peterson permalink
    March 27, 2020 10:11 pm

    You’ve done a beautiful job with your plan, Jean (literally and figuratively), I wish I’d plotted out my beds as meticulously. It certainly would have assured better repetition of individual elements. Best wishes.

    • March 29, 2020 3:06 pm

      Kris, I have poor spatial reasoning skills, so it is absolutely essential for me to plot things out on graph paper. In this case, I had seriously underestimated how many plants would fit in this new border, which allowed me to solve the problem of not enough architectural structure by adding more large plants (Baptisia, New England asters, and peonies). And I’ve always loved to play with crayons, so once I’ve committed to creating a two-dimensional plan, adding color to that plan is irresistible.

  4. March 28, 2020 2:31 pm

    I love this plan, especially the mix of native plants and cottage garden favorites, especially the combo of daylilies and butterflyweed.

    • March 29, 2020 3:10 pm

      Thanks, Jason. It will be interesting to see how that drift of butterflyweed with the adjacent clumps of daylilies in various shades of red and orange actually look when they are in bloom. Happily, daylilies are among the easiest of plants to move around, so if I end up with some unpleasing combinations, I can swap out some daylilies for others.

  5. March 31, 2020 5:01 am

    Hello Jean, you’re so organised, I envy the meticulous planning that I can’t seem to bring myself to do. I’m looking forward to seeing this “grow” from a plan into a full border. I also find it hard to believe when you say “several inches of snow on the ground” and “spring is on the way” in the same sentence!

    • April 1, 2020 2:19 pm

      Sunil, LOL. Spring snow is distinctly different from winter snow. Winter snow falls at any time of day or night and stays on the ground for weeks or months. Spring snow almost always falls overnight and is usually gone by the end of the day. In a place where there is usually snow on the ground for five or six months of the year, these distinctions matter!


  1. The Front Border | Jean's Garden

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