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New Front Garden, Year 7: The Woodland Border

October 1, 2021

front garden diagram w woodland borderAt the beginning of September, only two years behind schedule, I finally finished creating the last piece of my new front garden, the Woodland Border. This is a small flower bed (about 120 square feet) on the far side of the grassy path, bordering the woods between the shrubbery and the rain garden.

woodland border site1

I worked on a design for this during the winter and revised it in the spring. The plan called for a mostly native planting, including some plants (e.g., Geranium maculatum) that were in my nursery bed awaiting new homes,many purchased for this planting from Prairie Moon Nursery and local nurseries (e.g., Thalictrum diocum and Phlox divaricata), and a few (e.g., Fragaria virginiana and Viola blanda) that grow wild on my property and could be transplanted here. I also included some non-native stalwarts (Hemerocallis citrina, Iris sibirica, Hosta) that grow well in my garden; I had divisions of these on hand, and I thought they would thrive in this partly shady location.

imageMy original plan was to prepare the soil during the month of June and get plants installed by the end of that month, but June 2021 turned out to be exceptionally hot in Maine – too hot for the kind of heavy work needed for this job (which included cutting down some stray tree saplings and digging out their roots). The result was that I didn’t get to work on the Woodland Border until early August.

woodland border site2I amended my native loamy sand with organic matter (compost and dehydrated cow manure), doing 12 square feet at a time, throughout the month of August. Amending 12 square feet typically took me 2-3 hours of work time, and I did this an average of three days a week throughout the month. I let the amended soil settle a bit while I went away for a week at the end of August, and then put plants in the ground the first week in September. Early September is a good time to plant in my climate; it is usually cool enough not to stress plants, but there is still enough time for new transplants to grow their roots before frost.

woodland border plants spottedIn my world, a planting in the ground never ends up exactly the same as a planting on paper; the realities of three-dimensional space require adjustments to the two-dimensional design. When it was time to plant, I first set out nursery plants in pots, measuring the space between them in my plan and making adjustments as needed. Then I added some divisions dug from my holding area. At this point, it was clear that the planting would not hold all the plants in my design, so I put the spotted plants in the ground and then saw where I could fill in gaps with non-native plants from the nursery bed. I ended up including one daylily and two Siberian irises, but left out spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). Finally, I finished the front edge of the border by transplanting wild strawberries and violets growing elsewhere on my property.

woodland border planted

This finished planting looked even more bedraggled than is usually the case. But in the weeks since I put these plants in the ground, almost all of them have sent up some new growth, boding well for their health in the  year ahead.

After seven years of work, it is a relief to have all the beds and borders of my new front garden in place. There are still some finishing touches to work on next year, including adding grass seed to the (not very) grassy path and finding a replacement for the decrepit faux-wishing-well cover over the well pump. Then it will be time to get back to work on my seriously neglected back garden.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Pat Webster permalink
    October 1, 2021 11:37 am

    Bravo, Jean. Even if it took longer than you expected, the job is done. Well done, too, it seems. So congratulations! And isn’t it wonderful that there are still projects waiting to be done. For me, anticipation is a large part of the pleasure.

    • October 10, 2021 5:35 pm

      Thanks, Pat. It feels good to get to the end of this big project. But, of course, since the garden changes faster than I can work on it, there is always more to be done. I spent this afternoon weeding out self-sown plants of Monarda punctata which have become rather too much of a good thing on the front slope.

  2. October 1, 2021 3:15 pm

    Another year or so – and that bed will have filled in to perfection. That is the most exciting time, seeing your ideas happen.

    • October 10, 2021 5:36 pm

      Diana, There’s always so much anticipation in that first year of a new flower bed, as I wait to see which plants will do well and which ones will not.

  3. October 1, 2021 5:23 pm

    I always appreciate the forethought you give to your garden plans, as well as their complexity. congratulations on making it happen!

    • October 10, 2021 5:39 pm

      Thanks, Kris. There are some plants here that grow wild on my property and along the side of the road in my neighborhood, some that grow well in other parts of my garden, and some that I have no previous experience with. It will be fun to see how they do next year.

  4. October 3, 2021 2:53 pm

    LOOKING GREAT! It will look even better when in flower and they start spreading out. GREAT JOB!

    • October 10, 2021 5:40 pm

      Thanks, Belmont Rooster. In a couple of years, I won’t be able to remember how far apart those plants looked when I first put them in.

  5. October 4, 2021 1:43 pm

    Hello Jean, I know the feeling when it’s taken years and years to work through and area and then to finally have it completed. I was in shell-shock for a few days after the final border. Now that the hard work is done, you just need to sit back and wait for it to grow, develop and fill out! Preparing the soil is really taxing, did you manually fork-in or have a tiller/rotavator of some sort?

    • October 10, 2021 5:47 pm

      Hi Sunil, It does feel good! Because my native soil has so little organic matter in it (It’s one step up from beach sand on the soil diagrams), I do a version of double digging to prepare a new flower bed. I dig the soil out of a 6 sq. ft. section about a spade deep and transfer it to my wheelbarrow, removing roots and weeds as I go. Then I loosen up the soil under the dug out section and fork in half my soil amendments (usually a mix of compost and cow manure). Then I mix the other half of the soil amendments with the soil in the wheelbarrow and return it to the ground. I pace myself, putting in 2-3 hours at a time three or four days a week. It’s heavy work, but it gets good results.

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