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Garden Tour



(Updated March 2016)

imageAs you can see in the aerial view (from Google Maps), my house (circled in red on the upper right) is one of a cluster of houses on a dirt road in a rural neighborhood that, like most of the state of Maine, is heavily wooded. Except for the cleared area immediately around the house, most of my 1.5 acres of property is covered with trees.

The diagram below shows the cleared area around the house, with the various garden areas labeled. (Areas marked with dotted lines are planned elements of the front garden that do not yet exist.)



A Virtual Tour: The Garden of the Present

The first part of the garden you see as you approach my house is the circular bed that marks the turn from the dirt road into my driveway.  More than any other part of the garden, this flower bed changes moods as the season progresses,

Circular bed in June (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) … from soft pastels in June,
to strong contrasts in July, Circular bed in July (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Circular bed in August (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) to a predominance of yellow and white in August.

As you proceed up the driveway, there are old-fashioned orange daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) and Coreopsis verticillata (tickseed) naturalized at the edge of the woods to your right.

 Tawny daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) naturalized along the driveway (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Coreopsis verticillata naruralized along the driveway (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

When you reach the top of the driveway, you have two choices. You can climb a flight of stairs to your left up a fairly steep slope to the main entrance to the house, or you can proceed up a shorter set of stairs straight ahead that lead into the back garden.

The Back Garden

Back garden entrance in July (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Without doubt, the best part of my garden at present is the back garden, which you enter by taking the short flight of stairs at the end of the driveway and following the paver and gravel walkway. The back garden is primarily composed of three flower beds: the deck border, which runs along the full length of the walkway between it and the house, the blue and yellow border, which sits opposite the deck border along most of the walkway, and the fence border, which runs perpendicular to the walkway.

deck border July pastelsThe deck border is in the shade of the house for part of the day, so it is planted with shade-tolerant plants like hosta, astilbe, heuchera, and hardy geranium, as well as with Siberian irises, daylilies, goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) and a mass of Spirea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’ above the retaining wall at the sunny end of the border. The predominant colors of this flower bed are pink and lavender. Its appearance is soft and peaceful, and foliage is a major presence.

Blue and yellow border in high summer (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The blue and yellow border, across the walkway from the deck border, gets more sun and has more emphasis on flowers. Here, the blues of Iris sibirica, Tradescantia virginiana, hardy geranium, perennial flax (Linum perenne), Delphinium, and Platycodon grandiflorus (balloon flower) combine with several large groupings of yellow daylilies, with the yellows of Coreopsis verticillata, Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower), Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ and native goldenrod (Solidago), and with the chartreuse blooms of Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle).

fence border from deck

fence border closeThe fence border, is a smaller flower bed than the others, but serves a number of important functions, including screening the clothesline from the deck, creating a sense of enclosure in this part of the garden, and tying together the deck border and the blue and yellow border by repeating colors and plants from both. The fence also provides a place to grow climbing plants, including clematis and morning glories.

If you turn off the walkway that runs through the back garden and follow the stepping stones through the narrow neck between the blue and yellow border and the fence border, you will enter a quiet clearing that is surrounded by woods on three sides. At the back of that clearing, presided over by a pair of stately white pine trees (Pinus strobus) is the serenity garden.

serenity with bench

This is  intended to be a quiet oasis, closed off from the rest of the property and with more emphasis on foliage than on flowers. Compared to the other parts of the back garden, the serenity garden is relatively new and still in the process of becoming.

raised bed julyWhen the leaching field for my septic system failed in 2009 and had to be replaced, the excavation left the formerly secluded site of the serenity garden open to the driveway. To restore the sense of enclosure and close off the serenity garden from the clothesline area and the driveway, I created a 4’ by 12’ raised bed, planted with Amsonia (A. hubrichtii and A. tarbenaemontana ‘Blue Ice’) and hardy Geraniums (G. x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ and G. x oxonianum).

The Front Garden

The back slope (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) If you go up the longer flight of stairs from the driveway, the main garden interest is the back slope to your right.  This is the oldest part of the garden and is dominated by a large rhododendron at the top that spills pink blossoms down the slope in late spring  and by wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) that have been encouraged to naturalize on the bottom half of the slope. Surrounding and interplanted with the rhododendron and strawberries are a pleasing jumble of hosta, Tradescantia virgininana, siberian irises (Iris sibirica), Coreopsis verticillata, daylilies (Hemerocallis), balloon flower (Platycodon), oregano, and chives.

In the past, the back slope stood alone, unconnected to the rest of the garden; but it is now being made part of my new front garden. When I had an addition built onto my house in 2014-2015, the construction required the removal of most of the plantings at the front of the house and provided an opportunity for completely rethinking the front landscape.

front garden before house with bare ground

Where the ground used to slope down from the front of the house to the road, a new L-shaped retaining wall now creates two levels, a relatively flat upper area around the entrance to the house and a lower area that slopes down from the wall before flattening out at the bottom.

hardscape bones Creating a new front garden for this space is a five-year project. In 2015, I laid concrete pavers to create a small patio and a series of connecting walkways at the upper level. I then created and planted four flower beds around these walkways:
The tiny blues border (planted in a variety of blue and blue-violet flowers), tucked in between the front door entry and the house blues border planted
planted watered porch border … the porch border
… the patio border patio border planted
lavender walk planted … and the lavender walk.

In 2016, I will create two larger plantings. First will be the side slope, which borders the long flight of wooden stairs up from the driveway to the entrance level of the house. This planting will repeat many of the plants from the back slope on the other side of the stairway. The creation of the side slope will complete the “entry garden,” a series of plantings (the back slope, the side slope, the blues border, the porch border and the patio border) that welcome visitors as they approach the entrance to the house. Once the side slope is done, I will move on to the last planting on the upper level, the fragrant garden, which will fill the space under the large bedroom window at the front of the house.

In 2017, I will begin work on the lower garden, probably by creating and planting the grassy path and the front slope.

In 2018 and 2019, I will complete the lower garden, including the creation of a fairly large planting of shrubs at the front corner of my property and perennial borders along the front of the property and along the side bordering the woods. The existing circular bed at the turn from the dirt road into my driveway will be incorporated into the new perennial border.

Future Projects: The Garden of the Imagination

Like all gardens, mine is always growing and changing, and I always have more garden project ideas than I can possibly carry out in the foreseeable future. Creating the new front garden will take much of my time for the next four years, but I am also imagining several other projects.

Now that my house has been reconfigured by the new addition, my study looks out to the woods on the long side of the house. Currently, this is the site of a temporary holding area where I moved plants from the front out of harm’s way before construction began.

holding area july 2014

These plants are being transplanted to the new front garden as it develops. Once that happens, I’d like to expand the size of this planting area to create another space for shrubs. I’m imagining a mix of native shrubs and some plants with early spring blooms that I will be able to see from my desk when Maine’s long winter has overstayed its welcome. I have two shoots of forsythia that I will include in this area, and I would love to try an even earlier-blooming Hamamelis vernalis  or Hamamelis x intermedia.  I’m also imagining a mixture of spring bulbs at the front of the planting. And I’m planning a narrow footpath between the planting and the house that will link the front garden to the back.

After that, I also dream about creating a woodland planting at the edge of the woods on the far side of the driveway. I have enough projects in the garden of the imagination to keep me going for at least another decade.

34 Comments leave one →
  1. Ann Marie permalink
    August 27, 2009 9:54 pm

    Cool blog Jean! Seems like a perfect way to share your garden and your love for gardening. Sadly, I can’t view your garden tour, I don’t have Power Point at home or at work, but , the pics I can see look great!

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      August 29, 2009 11:07 am

      Ann Marie, I’ll work on converting the garden tour to a more universally accessible form; thanks for pointing out the problem. (Oh, and Happy Birthday! :-))

  2. Deb permalink
    September 2, 2009 3:28 pm

    Jean, your gardens are lovely! I can see why you’re always eager to return home during breaks. Since I love blue and yellow together, this is my favorite. I’m sorry the season has been so miserable for gardening. Hopefully, autumn will be better.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      September 2, 2009 5:31 pm

      Thanks, Deb. Blue and yellow seem to be my favorite colors; my house is full of yellow and blue combinations, too. It is already feeling like autumn here (overnight lows around 40 F), and the weather has turned sunny and dry — great weather for gardening. I’ve finally begun work on digging the fence garden (which I really want to get planted before the season ends).

  3. April 26, 2010 5:44 am

    I enjoyed this tour, Jean! I look forward to watching the new projects develop! We’re getting a LOT of rain these days in N.E. Indiana- gentle, but persistent drizzle. Good for the crops, lawns & gardens.

    • Jean permalink*
      April 27, 2010 3:02 pm

      Rebecca, Thanks for visiting. Revising this tour page is one of those things on my “to do” list that I haven’t gotten to yet. Blog projects seem to have this in common with garden projects — they develop more slowly than I imagine they will!

  4. October 26, 2010 8:06 pm

    HI, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your blog. I’m a passionate gardener on Long Island and came across your blog when I googled something like dowedswell delphs. I love these flowers and even bought seeds directly from the dowedswells this year. I have little plants and just got a few blooms on one plant today. Your photography is lovely and i truly enjoyed reading your writing.
    enjoy your lovely gardens and can I get updates to your blog?
    take care,
    zone 6/7 LI NY

    • October 28, 2010 6:56 pm

      Maureen, Thank you so much for visiting, and welcome to my garden. It sounds as though we are both fans of Dowdeswell’s Delphiniums. (Have you seen Terry Dowdeswell’s blog, The Upside Down Garden? There’s a link on my sidebar.) There are several ways you can get updates to my blog. If you scroll down the sidebar a little bit, you’ll see the word “Subscribe” and links you can click on to subscribe to either posts or comments. If you click on one of these, you will then get some choices about how you want to subscribe. You can also subscribe through a blog reader like Bloglines or Google Reader; I mostly keep up with my own favorite blogs using Google Reader. I’ll look forward to more visits from you in the future.

  5. Yanina permalink
    November 4, 2010 10:26 pm

    Hi! i m from argentina, my english isn t so good. I hope you would understand my comment.
    I a medicine woman, i work in the communities and in the school, to prevent disease, and to improve health.
    Ireally love flowers, green colours, trees, animals.. one face of nature.
    Savage nature make me feel astonished.
    nature and the garden make me feel peace, be peace, Its so beatiful that i fell on his knees.
    And my cat, is so magic, that i can t believe. Its humor, its soundos, its so relaxin, quiet while you touch. I v never seen so beatiful cat.
    sociologia difficile but beauty.

  6. April 7, 2011 5:40 pm

    Wow, Jean. The circular bed is truly a masterpiece of seasonal interest. Nice work.

  7. sequoiagardens permalink
    April 10, 2011 5:28 am

    Hello Jean! I remember so clearly reading this post – and yet I’ve not previously left a comment… But I know this first inspired me to go to google and see if I could base a garden map on GoogleEarth – and then I discovered that the useless view I knew had been updated and was now very useful!

    • April 14, 2011 11:58 am

      Jack, You weren’t imagining things. I first posted this as The Big Picture: An Overview of My Garden in January, and you did indeed comment on it. I then copied much of that post to this page to replace the out-of-date and unsatisfactory “garden tour” that was previously posted here.

  8. Gone Tropical permalink
    November 3, 2011 9:23 pm

    how wonderful, I love your gardentour! Your garden looks so perfect 🙂

    Happy Gardening,
    (I must add a gardentour to my blog soon)

  9. May 26, 2012 10:58 am

    Wanted to drop a comment and let you know your Feed is not functioning today. I tried adding it to my Bing reader account and got absolutely nothing.

  10. June 3, 2012 6:13 am

    What a great idea for a garden tour! Must add a yard mini-tour to mine as well. Good luck on your future projects, I’m sure they’ll turn out just as beautiful as your existing garden.

  11. ninagarden permalink
    August 29, 2012 5:42 pm

    What a beautiful garden! I love the blue and gold flower combination.

  12. October 20, 2012 11:39 am

    Interesting garden. I was looking for the location of a sign reading 44th Parallel along Geary Street in Albany Oregon that I recently saw but can not re-locate. Our unit is too small for much of a Garden however our Village has a “back 40” for individual rents.

  13. August 6, 2013 6:55 am

    What a well-planned and well-tended garden! Your tour has given my much pleasure this rainy morning in South Carolina. I adore Maine but haven’t had an opportunity to visit in several years. Color seems to be sharper there and this comes across in your photos. You have a deft touch with texture too. My shady landscape doesn’t lend itself to flowers, so yours are satisfying to see.

  14. December 19, 2013 1:06 am

    Greatt Work Jeans You mantaining a Garden very well nice images.

  15. February 3, 2014 12:42 am

    Hi Jean! I love the color combinations! Also, I like how pine needles mulch the plant bed!

  16. February 6, 2014 9:41 am

    Jean, what a lovely garden tour, including the updates! I know you are so excited about your addition and the new gardening opportunities it will present. I look forward to watching it evolve via your blog!

  17. February 7, 2014 2:40 pm

    This was a fun tour. I love seeing what you are doing with your house and gardens. You are quite ambitious! Do you still plan to have a fragrant garden under your bedroom window?

  18. March 2, 2016 2:37 pm

    I can enjoy seeing the bits I remember you telling us about, as they happened.
    Big and busy plans for the future!

    • March 4, 2016 9:48 pm

      Diana, Always big plans for the future! I used to think that if I washed out of academia, I could go to work as a 5-year planner for the USSR — but they folded before I had a chance to try it out. 😉

  19. March 3, 2016 10:35 pm

    LOVE the blue and yellow border. Those Delphiniums are fabulous, I’m afraid to even try growing them.

    • March 4, 2016 9:50 pm

      Jason, I was a serial delphinium murderer before I created a dedicated space to meet their needs (e.g., a sweeter soil than is typical for my garden) and before I discovered Terry Dowdeswell’s New Zealand delphiniums. Even so, these are short-lived plants that do well in some years and not in others. I never know in spring how many plants will have survived the winter and how many will need to be replaced.

  20. March 4, 2016 9:52 am

    Jean, I’m always impressed with your ability to plan and create diagrams. You have inspired me to do more planning so my garden isn’t so willy-nilly. I can see from your photos your planning pays off in beautiful borders!

    • March 4, 2016 9:51 pm

      Thanks, Kathy. Planning and organizing things seem to be my major life skills. 😉

  21. Amy Ward permalink
    May 10, 2016 8:05 pm

    Jean- I just found your blog. I am a youngish (ok 35 year old), brand new gardener, with two young children (read, not enough time to do all I want!) and I am inspired by your ability to keep patches blooming for the whole season! That is what I am working on at the moment. My garden looks great through mid-June and then I have almost nothing in July and early August. This blog, and your beautiful gardens are inspiring me start in on the next one (or six projects)! Thank you for sharing.

    • May 10, 2016 9:56 pm

      Amy, Welcome to my garden! Thirty-five is definitely youngish from my perspective on the far side of 65 :-). When I first started gardening, I had that same experience of everything blooming in June and early July — and then nothing. I first expanded my blooming season by visiting a local daylily nursery after all my daylilies had finished blooming and buying plants that were still in bloom. Over the years, I kept adding plants that bloom later (including sedums, asters, and phlox this past year). I don’t know how big your garden is, but two things that helped me were (1) identifying plants that like to grow in my garden and then planting different varieties of them that bloom at different times (e.g., early to late varieties of irises and daylilies) and (2) not trying to make every flower bed bloom from early spring until late fall, but letting different areas of the garden take center stage at different times in the season.

  22. March 17, 2017 11:24 am

    Hi Jean,
    Your gardens are beautiful.I love your back garden!
    LookING forward to seeing more of your garden project ideas. 🙂

  23. April 22, 2017 3:19 pm

    Just lovely!

  24. Pat Leuchtman permalink
    January 18, 2021 11:07 am

    What a great tour! You have given me an idea for a talk I have to give in March. Just great!

    • January 18, 2021 11:58 am

      And thanks for the reminder that I need to update this page. A lot has happened since March 2016!

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